Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Michele Eggen ""

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Michele Eggen

Michele Eggen started writing about horror films in 2010 on her blog, The Girl Who Loves Horror. She now contributes her writing to the sites Wicked Horror and Ghastly Grinning in between trying to cram as many movies into her brain as she can. Twitter: @micheleneggen Letterboxd:

Dead Calm (1989)
I pulled this movie out of a bargain Blu-ray bin and it was an instant buy for me once I saw the cast list of Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman, and Billy Zane. Neill and Kidman play a married couple who have lost their young son in a car accident, and are trying to recover by taking a vacation on their yacht. They come across a sinking boat and take in the sole survivor, Zane. For someone like me who loves movies with minimal cast and location, Dead Calm is right up my alley. The whole movie is just these three people on two boats in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which is perfect not only for driving up the suspense, but also for letting the actors shine in their roles. It is really a wonderfully constructed movie where everything has a great setup and payoff - especially the final scene, which had me cheering.
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Outrage (1950)
I came across Outrage while doing some research and was very intrigued by the film's history. I saw that it was directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (a name I had of course heard of but had never seen any of her films before), and that it was one of the first films of the post-Code era to deal with the controversial subject of rape. Watching it almost immediately after first reading all this, I found out that these points are not the only things that make Outrage such an impressive film. The way that the subject matter and character are handled make the movie still incredibly relevant almost 70 years later. There is great sympathy for the character's experience, and there is more focus on her rather than on the idea of revenge or another similar narrative. This is also one of the first films roles for actress Mala Powers as the main character, and her performance absolutely sells the message the movie is trying to get across.

The Big Knife (1955)
Another movie totally in my wheelhouse by taking place in one location with a small cast, The Big Knife came to me via a great new Blu-ray from Arrow. This is also the second appearance of Ida Lupino on my list, but this time as an actress. The main character is played by Jack Palance, and it was amazing for me to finally see him in one of his earlier roles, having only really known him from his work in the 80s and 90s. He's wonderful here, playing a man not really in control of his own life, under the constant influence of everybody around him. He's facing a separation from his wife and yet wants a separation from the film studio that runs his career. Adapted from a stage play, The Big Knife uses dialogue to tell the entire story, yet it is completely intriguing and never boring.
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Stormy Monday (1988)
I have Arrow to thank for a lot of great releases over the years, and here's another one. Stormy Monday is a colorful, romantic, jazzy noir film with an incredible cast. Sean Bean (who, spoiler alert, actually doesn't die in this film!) is a very different character than I've seen him as before, a pretty sweet guy inadvertently caught up in the shady dealings of other people. A red-headed Melanie Griffith, an actress I've always adored, is his love interest. Things get very convoluted for these two as they have to deal with the likes of Sting and Tommy Lee Jones. I love the moodiness and atmosphere of Stormy Monday. It's a movie I had never even heard of before but so was grateful for the chance to experience it.
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Highway to Hell (1991)
I remember catching about 15 minutes of Highway to Hell on Comet TV early in 2017, and I just knew I had to see the rest of it soon. Chad Lowe and Kristy Swanson are a travelling couple who end up in a strange other dimension where Swanson is kidnapped by a zombie Hellcop to become a bride of Satan. But honestly, don't let this crazy premise fool you into thinking that this is just another silly B-movie. It is certainly a quite odd and fantastical little flick, but it's also smartly written with lots of witty references thrown in here and there (for instance, the "Good Intentions Paving Company"). Watching it is such a fun ride because you never know what kind of weird creature or character you're going to encounter next, and it is just such a joy from start to finish.
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Mute Witness (1995)
Mute Witness is one of those great underrated films of the 90s that I wish I had seen sooner. I finally blind bought the DVD and was blown away at the quality of the film, technique-wise and storytelling-wise. I love that the protagonist is a strong, sympathetic, resourceful heroine. I love that there is a gritty realism to the story and setting, but that there are also doses of totally unexpected comedy to lighten the mood. I love the exciting ending, which also has one of the best callbacks I've ever seen. There's so much suspense and such a sense of urgency through the whole story, with twists and turns all over the place... I loved every second of this movie!
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