Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Zack Carlson ""

Friday, February 6, 2015

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 - Zack Carlson

In his spare time, Zack teaches children how to imitate James Hampton and still has aspirations to be the next Clayton Rohner. I think he's got a shot.
In addition to that, he's also co-poobah (with Joe Ziemba) of the truly wonderful BLEEDING SKULL Video label (which you should really look into):

Zack has been contributing lists to this series for eons now and I highly recommend that you watch every single film on each of these lists. This weekend:

Zack Carlson's Top 78 movies of 2014

2014 A.D. was the year that Hollywood's most unanimously praised film starred a computer-generated talking raccoon. Let's all observe a moment of silence. 



The following ten movies hail from a better era, and were each a massive discovery for me over the past twelve months. Some were masterpieces, others disasterpieces, but all are unique enough to endure forever:

10) BLOOD CIRCUS (1985)
Dir. Santo Rigatuso
My longtime platonic life partner Lars Nilsen already had this one on his 2014 list on this very site, so I'll keep things brief: Blood Circus is a lethal assault on the human species; an unconquerable negative-IQ test that annihilates the viewer from the opening second. Aliens eat Russian bodybuilders while wrestling promoters transform into werewolves. Children stare fearfully at the probing camera while the same hollow shriek blares over the soundtrack hundreds of times (no exaggeration). It's a massive accomplishment in artless, lawless, impossibly redundant filmmaking hysteria, and it all grew from a scam perpetrated by Maryland's master swindler/oddball Santo "Gold" Rigatuso. Santo was an infomercial star and fake gold slinger who must have shoveled a mountain of 14-karat bullshit to get this megalomaniacal passion project off the ground. Never released in theaters or on video, Blood Circus is an experience that will permanently alter you at a molecular level. ONLY FOR THE BRAVE. 

9) D.T. - DAWG TERRITORY (1988)
Dir. Chuck Schodowski
Sports are garbage. But that doesn't keep me from enjoying the fine on-screen skills of talented actors like Brian Bosworth in Stone Cold or the comedically gifted O.J. Simpson in the Naked Gun trilogy. When will his star stop rising? Anyway, all this time, I somehow neglected to notice the true heroes of the off-Hollywood gridiron: The Cleveland Browns. Yes, that's right... the entire team. Apparently, the Browns — who I'd admittedly never heard of until I got this video — were so popular with the late 1980s youth of Ohio that their manager convinced them to star in a series of narrative adventures that would be sold on VHS at their home games. Of the three I've been able to track down so far, the greatest by far is D.T. 
Browns player Bob Golic befriends an alien named D.T. The tiny doglike creature loves levitating and eating Hershey's Kisses. It's all fun and games until he's targeted by The Alien Queen, and the Cleveland Browns must mount a pulse-pounding laser battle to rescue both D.T. and the earth itself. It's an incredible display of impassioned non-acting, and D.T. — played by Cleveland's midget furniture mogul Lil' John — is genuinely squeezable. More importantly, the movie is a seemingly awful doomed idea that's so free of irony that it instead ends up a genuine triumph at every level. 

8) JUNGLE TRAP (1990)
Dir. James Bryan
After directing seventeen feature films over two decades, drive-in auteur James Bryan (Don't Go In the Woods) grabbed a camcorder, eight friends, and shot a supernatural South American horror movie... in his back yard in Van Nuys. Working with his perennial collaborator Renee "Lady Street Fighter" Harmon, Bryan's final contribution to cinema (so far) is his most resolutely unique, as a murderous voodoo cultist dooms a college class by sending them to a jungle hotel run by shapeshifting cannibalistic ghost savages. While the plot sounds like the babblings of a freshly tazed hobo, the execution is as ideal as it is surreal. Unfortunately, the home video market had fallen victim to its own excesses, and Bryan was unable to find a distributor interested in handling his latest masterwork. Heartbroken, he shelvedJungle Trap without ever editing it or adding a musical score. When Joe Ziemba and I watched it early last year, we realized it demanded to be seen by all adventurous viewers, so we're detonating a Kickstarter campaign to get it properly scored and edited. Fingers crossed.

Dir. Gene Saks
I was lucky enough to see this in 35mm as part of an all-day Walter Matthau movie marathon thanks to iron-hearted movie warrior Neil Wilson. In it, The Great Grump plays a freewheeling dentist dating a hippie half his age (Goldie Hawn in her first proper film role). His secretary (Ingrid Bergman) respects his orthadontin' skills but is revolted by his paisley-chasing ways, and the three of them spiral into a comedy of errors spiced with go-go dancing and suicide attempts. The performances are all spot-on, propelled by the type of rock-solid comedic screenwriting that vanished with the advent of whatever it is that has reduced our species into illiterate walking turds. 

6) HEAT (1986)
Dir. Dick Richards
Big big thanks to the mighty Phil Blankenship for sharing this major Burt Reynolds achievement. Frankly, I'd avoided Heat because I figured there was no way on earth that it could compete with the thunderous rage of Malone. But dagblammit, the '80s action iteration of King Burt done dood it again. Here, he's a sad sack skip-tracer/bounty hunter always aiming for the one big payoff to escape his gambling addiction and the icy grip of Las Vegas. He inevitably ends up over his head with the wrong crew of jabronis, leading to multiple segments of man-on-Burt violence and — eventually — the reverse. The film also features the single greatest lightbulb-kicking moment ever captured on camera. That's a promise.

5) NIGHT FEEDER (1987)
Dir. Jim Whiteaker
A relentlessly bleak and massively enjoyable shot-on-video darkwave horror blast from the leather-clad armpits of the Bay Area. This gore-scarred creature-fueled whodunnit culminates in one of the most rewarding slasher reveals in camcorder history, but the journey is every bit as powerful. Especially when the singer of coal-hearted gothpunk combo The Nuns stares directly into the camera and croons: "You SLIT your WRISTS... you fuckin' BITCH..."Night Feeder was completed at the tail end of San Francisco's robust new wave era but was only ever released on PAL-format VHS in Poland. It's a misanthropic, slightly nasal battle cry and one of the best homemade horror films you'll ever see, hands down.

4) FINAL SCORE (1986)
Dir. Arizal
The legendary Robert Mitchum was an iconic combination of enigma, charisma and alcoholic miasma. Each character he played was instilled with immeasurable depth. In fact, he gave so much of his unique talent to his roles that he left none in his own DNA. But that didn't stop his son Chris from pursuing a screen career. Despite his apparent struggle with Asperger's syndrome, young Mitchum managed to carve out a niche in overseas exploitation films, beginning in Europe and reaching a manic apex in the lawless action output of the South Seas. Allying with the mysterious director known only as "Arizal," Mitchum turned out Lethal Hunter and Final Score, the latter of which is absolutely the most hateful, explosive, irresponsible revenge film on the planet. To avenge the brutal murder of his wife and son, Mitchum basically spends 70 minutes wiping out half the population of Indonesia. His arsenal includes guns, knives, fire, cars, elbows, boats, a train and a super-powered rocket-launching motorcycle. Final Score was a massive hit in its home country, but the planned second installment never materialized. Probably because they'd already dismembered and/or blown up every stuntman within 800 miles to make this one. 

Dir. John Boorman
(Loosely) based on a (kind of) true story, Boorman's melodramatic epic follows rainforest land developer Bill Markham (Powers Boothe), whose 8-year-old son is kidnapped by tribal natives at the forest's edge. For the next decade, Markham devotes himself to scouring the continent's darkest jungles to reclaim his boy. Meanwhile, the blonde, blue-eyed child has assimilated into the tribe, and been taught to fear — and, if necessary, kill — the "demons destroying the great forest." Rather than wallow in family matters, The Emerald Forest slides into darker territory, including cannibalism, prostitution and full-scale jungle genocide. Boothe is impossibly skilled in his performance, gradually exchanging his character's career-dad demeanor for desperate savagery. 

Dir. Gary Weis
As if The Emerald Forest and our daily lives weren't enough, here's more evidence that white people screw up everything. This impossibly well-crafted documentary covers the pre-gentrified South Bronx of the late '70s, ostensibly focusing on street gangs while slyly providing a broad portrait of New York living in the final hours before the '80s. Celebration, violence, lifelong friendships, premature death and everything else are explored with sympathy rather than detached cultural curiosity. A movie by humans about humans for humans. Having just returned from New York less than 24 hours before I typed this, I'm sad to report that there are very few actual humans left in the area. There was a real clean Chipotle, though. 

Dir. Craig Denney
A mindlessly/fearlessly narcissistic thrillride that plays like writer/director Denney had six minutes to live. The Astrologer is a chaotic affront to traditional storytelling, dragging its felonious protagonist -- Denney himself, naturally -- to all corners of the globe on a budget of 80 bucks as we follow his inexplicable rise and inevitable fall. This was Denney's only film, and he exhibits all the on-screen charisma of a wet Cheeto, but he was so assured of the feature's success that he personally bankrolled multiple 35mm prints to meet the predicted demand. The prints weren't around long enough to gather dust, as the heartbroken director destroyed all but one of them immediately after the box office receipts and reviews rolled in. And in that rage-fueled instant, his face illuminated red by the leaping flames of the dumpster, he likely uttered the following lines from his own failed masterpiece: "GOD IS DEAD. SHIT ON LIFE."

1 comment:

George White said...

How does Mitchum have Asperger's?
I have it too.