Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Underrated Horror - Outlaw Vern ""

Friday, October 25, 2013

Favorite Underrated Horror - Outlaw Vern

Underrated horror list by Vern of
I'd like to thank Rupert for inviting me to do a list... except that would be a total lie, because I asked him to let me do it! I love these lists and wanted to do one. So thanks for saying yes, Rupert.

I'm always excited to tell people about VISITING HOURS, the best thing I've come across in my annual Slasher Search quest for a good '70s or '80s slasher I haven't seen before. But I see that Jeff Nelson beat me to that one. I found it on VHS but you guys have it easy now. Take advantage of that double feature DVD with BAD DREAMS and give it a shot. Now here's my list, in chronological order:

DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE (1979) - Directed by Joseph Ellison
Maybe everybody already knows about this great PSYCHO riff, but if so why don't they talk about it more? It's about a weirdo named Donny (Dan Grimaldi) who comes home to find his abusive mother dead one day and decides to take advantage of the situation. That means playing his disco music real loud, jumping on the furniture, stuff like that. Oh yeah, and kidnapping girls, burning them alive with a blowtorch and then keeping their bodies around as his companions who he thinks are laughing at him. Like in CARRIE there's tension from the presence of nice people who are legitimately trying to help this doomed person. But it reminds me the most of MANIAC (which actually came out a year later) because we're deep in the sick world of this lunatic and then all the sudden he goes out into the world and onto the dating scene and he somewhat passes for a normal guy. As disturbing as the burning scenes are the most uncomfortable part might be when he has a salesman help him pick out a cool outfit.

The rest of my choices are going to be from within the last decade, as a reminder that sometimes they still make good ones.

HIGHWAYMEN (2004) - Directed by Robert Harmon
I remember seeing the trailer over and over for this forgotten Jim Caviezel movie. It looked like a generic studio serial killer thriller, but it turns out to be something much weirder. Caviezel plays a man whose wife was killed by a psycho who travels around the country purposely running people over in his '72 El Dorado. Now Caviezel has dedicated his life to chasing the killer in his orange Barracuda, talking to him on a CB, investigating the crime scenes he leaves behind, trying to catch up with him. The mood is very grim and serious and it's full of surreal touches like Caviezel having a trunk load of prosthetic arms (long story) and the car being such an extension of the killer's body that he's practically a cyborg. It makes sense that it's from the director of The Hitcher.

DEAD IN 3 DAYS (2006) - Directed by Andreas Prochaska
Dimension Extreme packaged this Austrian slasher movie like it was some kind of J-horror remake, putting the emphasis on the threatening text message of the title, but it's something a little odder than that. A group of kids go dancing to celebrate finishing their final exams, and one of them goes to the restroom and never comes back. His girlfriend (Sabrina Reiter) can't seem to convince anybody to take her seriously, but she knows the group is being revenge-stalked, and has to figure out why and by who. The characters are much more relatable than in many slashers, so when the horror shit goes down the emphasis is on tension and wanting them to get away, not on fun-kills (although there's one or two good ones). I like how the movie plays with your sympathies. They're much more remorseful for past sins than the kids in I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, so the ultimate horror is looking their attackers in the face, seeing no possibility of forgiveness, and wondering if they deserve it.

There's a sequel to this, and I'm not sure how that works, but I've been told by more than one person that it's even better than the first one. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any release of it with English subtitles.

P2 (2007) - Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Now that the Maniac remake from director Khalfoun and writers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur has been well received, maybe people will notice that team's earlier overlooked horror gem. Rachel Nichols from the first GI JOE movie stars as a woman who gets locked inside her office parking garage while leaving work on Christmas Eve (the title refers to the section she's parked in) and tormented by a stalker who seems convinced that he's innocently courting her. It's a clever cat and mouse slasher-thriller full of inventive, contained-space action and problem solving, a great villainous performance and an extremely resilient Final Girl.

When this came out I was curious but never heard anything about it. Turns out that was because nobody saw it - it was at the time the lowest gross ever for a movie opening on more than 2000 screens (a record since crushed by DELGO and OOGIELOVES IN THE BIG BALLOON ADVENTURE). A few years later when I got around to it I couldn't believe no one had ever recommended it to me before. If you don't watch it now at least try throwing it into your Christmas horror rotation this year.

BEREAVEMENT (2010) - Directed by Stevan Mena
This is a moody, artfully directed slasher with alot of TEXAS CHAIN SAW influence. It's about a girl who goes to live with her uncle after the death of her parents, finds a kidnapped kid living in a slaughterhouse and gets into trouble. It took me completely by surprise because it's got some great left turns, strong atmosphere and pacing and interesting themes about adoptive parents and cycles of abuse, but it's a prequel to the fairly crappy MALEVOLENCE (I originally rented it only for completism). I'm not gonna lie and pretend that the stunning looks of the lead, Alexandra Daddario, don't help. But she's also really good in it and is given a much more credible Final Girl character than in TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, the official Leatherface movie she later starred in. It's also great to see Michael Biehn as her gruff but well meaning uncle. There's at least one way I wish it would've stuck to the standard slasher formula a little more, but I guess you can't fault it for having a little bit of originality.

honorable mention: BAD MOON, COLD PREY, DAYBREAKERS, HALLOWEEN REMAKE II (theatrical cut with less arguing and better ending), THE HILLS HAVE EYES REMAKE, THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (I don't care what society says, Brando is incredible in that), THE LOST, ORCA (the JAWS of JAWS ripoffs), SILENT HILL, STORM WARNING, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS (the sort-of-remake by Tobe Hooper)

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