Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Jack Criddle ""

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Jack Criddle

Jack Criddle is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, editor, and audiovisual jack-of-all-trades. His recent credits include work as a key P.A. on a forthcoming Wilco concert film by Brendan Canty and Christoph Green, and as editor of flower arrangement videos for In the rare moments when he's not working, he enjoys movies, cooking and a good book, and can be reached at, or at @southboundsix on Twitter.
The Leopard Man (1943)
This lesser-known, South-of-the-Border Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur collaboration is every bit as effective at Cat People, and even features Dynamite, the same black leopard performer as its predecessor. While ostensibly about tracking down a murderer who kills in the style of an escaped big cat, it becomes a moody and mysterious exploration of guilt and redemption, and the boundaries between civilization and savagery. Of course, it wouldn't be Val Lewton without great, scary set pieces involving an invisible menace, and early death of a young peasant girl, taken straight from "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," is both chilling and heartbreaking.

Theater of Blood (1973)
Vincent Price was in several movies that involve bloody and inventive revenge against a group of people who wronged him. While The Abominable Dr. Phibes is the best in this subcategory, Theater of Blood is certainly the funniest and most "meta." Price plays ham stage actor Edward Lionheart, who re-creates the most famous deaths in Shakespeare's tragedies as he successively murders the theater critics whose bad reviews drove him to a presumed suicide. UK genre maven Douglas Hickox filmed the entire picture on location, with a real, dilapidated music hall theater standing in for Lionheart's hideout. Price is clearly having the time of his life with the role - performing the Bard's soliloquies as he blows a raspberry to his own critics - perhaps the ultimate wish fulfillment for a typecast horror star.

Popcorn (1991)
Helmed by Porky's actor Mark Herrier, though allegedly partly ghost-directed by Bob Clark, this film is really quite special - a deeply affectionate celebration of movie-love packaged as a teen slasher flick. Film major Jill Shoelen (who is gorgeous) and her classmates are stalked by a Charles Manson/Kenneth Anger-esque murderer/avant-garde filmmaker during a student-curated all-night horror movie festival. The fake movies they screen include a B&W b-movie about an electrified man-monster (with a funny, unbilled Bruce Glover), a giant mosquito film, and a Japanese, English-dubbed enviro-horror programmer, all with accompanying, William Castle-esque tricks that turn lethal at the hands of the killer. Popcorn calls to mind Joe Dante's Maninee, Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse, and the Scream series, and is a real treat for horror fans.

Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (2002)
In the hands of Canadian auteur Guy Maddin, a performance film of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's adaptation of Dracula becomes a fantastic art film that functions as a critique of the themes of Bram Stoker's story. Maddin employs the visual grammar of silent films, German Expressionism and movie musicals, shooting in crisp B&W video, and moving his Steadicam around almost as the dancers. The story's themes of xenophobia, misogyny and Victorian English sexual repression are underscored even as Maddin delivers one of the finest adaptations of the text ever onscreen. Think of Pages from a Virgin's Diary as Coppola's Dracula done much about a thousand times better, on the budget of that film's catering tab.

The Dead (2010)
A life-long passion project for TV commercial filmmaking brothers Jonathan and Howard J. Ford, The Dead is a uniquely bleak and downbeat zombie film that harkens back to Romero's original. Taking place in Ghana and Burkina Faso, Africa, it details a zombie outbreak on the continent as seen by an American mechanic and an African soldier searching for his son. The filmmakers use the scenery to beautiful effect, even as the grasslands and deserts serve as a locale for a living dead-infested hell on earth. Most refreshingly, the film is almost totally devoid of any humor, tongue-in-cheek, or winking postmodernism - instead offering a truly frightening, thrilling, and realistic treatment of the of the zombie genre.

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