Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2018 - Michael Viers ""

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Film Discoveries of 2018 - Michael Viers

Michael Viers is an independent filmmaker, podcaster and editor from Milwaukee, WI. He likes to brag that he used to edit videos for Troma Entertainment and is texting buddies with Lloyd Kaufman, but no one really cares. Check out his Instagram every month for a selection of four hand-picked film recommendations.

You can listen to his podcast THE SHAME LIST PICTURE SHOW on Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, LibSyn and Google Play.


Shame List Picture Show 
Woo! This is my third year doing this and is always the highlight of my year. I get more excited to discover new films than I do making a list of my favorites of the year. 

For anyone that listens to my podcast, it’s no surprise Vinegar Syndrome is all over this list. They’ve been sponsoring my show since very early on and I see so much cool stuff because of them. I’m not sucking up, I just have seen a lot of good stuff from them. 

Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog (Don Chaffey, 1961) 
This might be the most surprising choice on my list as I’m not usually a huge fan of dog films, but this one is different. I’m a sucker for classic Disney (especially under the radar titles) and Leonard Maltin was hosting this on TCM so I gave it a whirl. 

GREYFRAIRS BOBBY is a charming film about a little a skye terrier that sadly loses his owner to sickness. Bobby (the dog) constantly tries to break into Greyfriars Cemetery to be next to his owner’s grave, but the mean old caretaker shoos him off. As the film progresses, the man that owns a nearby restaurant takes care of the dog but as Bobby keeps trying to break in, the caretaker to the cemetery also starts to fall for the little pup. Thus begins a battle of who has the right to care for the dog. It’s pretty standard feel good fodder, but what truly sets the film apart is its fantastic look and set design. Every set, character and bit of clothing feels like it came straight from a Hammer horror film and it really helps create a unique look and feel to the film. I love when a film’s sets look like real locations and real locations look and feel like sets. I believe Tim Burton once described this as “natural surrealism”. I’d also be hard-pressed not to mention a fantastic performance by Laurance Naismith as Mr. Traill, the man that owns the restaurant. Him and his mutton chops steal the film.
Amazon Button (via
One On Top of the Other [Una sull’altra] (Lucio Fulci, 1969) 
Lucio Fulci’s name is synonymous with ultra-violence, but before he was known as the “Godfather of Gore” he made a lot of comedies… that is, until this film. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO, Fulci wanted to “dabble” in the giallo/suspense genre and would in the process become one of the most prolific names in Italian horror. The film, also known as Perversion Story, has a pretty chaotic plot involving a Doctor whose looking to expand his clinic, but he’s also having an affair with a trendy photographer. It gets more unusual though, because we find out the Doc’s wife dies and leaves him a rather large insurance claim, but it all seems fishy. A mysterious phone call send the Doctor to a strip club where the club’s most popular dancer exactly resembles his late wife. The film is crazy, it’s stylish and it really allows Fulci to flex his director muscle. Fulci was such a confident director, but his work is sometimes overshadowed by the excessive gore and general weirdness that his films have. This is a really well crafted, compelling film that’ll really leave you wanting to revisit this director’s work. I’d also like to give a shout out to the cinematographer, Alejandro Ulloa, as I personally feel this film was one of the best photographed films in Fulci’s career. 
Amazon Button (via

Shot (Mitch Brown, 1973) 
This won’t be the first time you see a Vinegar Syndrome release on my list, but through them I’ve seen some of the weirdest stuff I can think of. I never heard of SHOT, aka DEATH SHOT but knew I needed to see it. Their description mentioned it was a regional exploitation film made by a bunch of students in Chicago in the ‘70s, which is all I needed. I’m a sucker for little, home grown films like this. The plot of the film isn’t too deep, but this isn’t a plot driven film. It’s about two Detectives that have been asked to take down the local drug kingpin. There’s more going on throughout, but that’s the basic premise. The film is a wonder to watch because while it’s very low budget, it feels like it’s got a bigger budget than it does. All the directing and cinematography is very confident, the performances (which was almost exclusively non-actors) is shockingly good and the stunts were legitimately awesome. SHOT isn’t for the people looking for a deeply thought-out, SERPICO level crime film. It’s for the people who want to see DIRTY HARRY made with $15,000 by a couple of college students. 
Amazon Button (via

White Line Fever (Jonathan Kaplan, 1975) 
A year ago had you asked me if I would be super into the subgenre of Semi-Truck exploitation I’d say no… but after seeing this, CONVOY and DUEL I can’t get enough. Something about trucker culture in the ‘70s felt so cowboy like, which is probably why I responded so much to WHITE LINE FEVER as it was Jonathan Kaplan’s goal to make a “western with trucks”. Carrol Jo Hummer (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a newly married man looking to strike out on his own and become an independent truck driver, but corruption from the big trucking companies makes his exploits harder than he expected. I loved this film and I had such an amazing time with it. Jonathan Kaplan took a Bmovie plot and made something that’s earnest, exciting and really fucking good. JanMichael Vincent was fantastic in this film and while I’m not usually a big fan of his, I want to track down more of his films and see if my opinion on him will change. If you’re new to the “trucker film”, hunt down WHITE LINE FEVER. 
Amazon Button (via

Hard Times (Walter Hill, 1975)
A film I’ve heard a lot about but wasn’t until this year that I was able to track down a copy of this film. Like most people, I’m a sucker for Charles Bronson because he’s got such a unique persona that while he’s not a great actor, he steals every scene he’s in. It’s a shame this is the only time Charles Bronson and Walter Hill ever worked together. The film is set during the Great Depression and is the simple tale of how a vagabond named Chaney (Bronson) becomes a prize fighter for a grifter named Speed (James Coburn). It’s a brutal film, especially for the time period, and while it’s a very macho film Bronson gets to flex that acting muscle a bit showing his character has a soul and a personality. Very often Bronson was cast just to play Bronson, but in this film, he really embodies his strong, silent yet soulful character. It’s an amazing film. 
Amazon Button (via

Blood Hook (Jim Mallon, 1986) 
What? Vinegar Syndrome released an ‘80s slasher film set in my home state of Wisconsin directed by one of the producers of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000? Why yes, I WOULD like to see that film. Let’s be real, there’s no chance I wouldn’t have liked this film. It ticks ALL my sweet spots, so I’ll admit I’m a touch biased. It’s a damn slasher film based around “Muskie Madness”, a huge fishing competition in Northern, WI. Oh, and to make it better? Yes, the killer DOES use a giant fish hook to kill people. It’s fantastic. It’s over-the-top, it’s cheesy and it’s bloody. If you’re not really a fan of slasher films this might not be your jam, but if you want a weird slice of Wisconsin in a 90min movie, check it out. I’d say do a double bill with this and another WI set horror film, BLOOD BEAT. 
Amazon Button (via

Vice Versa (Brian Gilbert, 1988) 
“Let’s do FREAKY FRIDAY but with dudes.” “Brilliant!” Okay, kidding aside, I really loved this movie. As I joked, the plot is basically FREAKY FRIDAY as it centers around a father and son switching places with each other. The father (Judge Reinhold) spends too much time working and ignores his son (Fred Savage). Sure, there’s a subplot about an ancient Buddhist statue that causes the body swap, but the core remains the same. The “magical” element being what caused the body swap is definitely one of the more interesting additions to the film and the way their body swap was shot was super cool as well. However, the stand out is really Reinhold and Savage playing each other. Not since FACE/OFF have I seen two actors really trying to be the other. Savage is very mature for his age and has shown this side in other films, but it really feels like Judge Reinhold is loving every second of being a kid. 

Also, my wife pointed this out, Judge Reinhold is essentially playing the Scott Calvin character in THE SANTA CLAUSE (which he was in) where he’s the father who spends too much time working and not being with his son until something magical happens. Kind of amusing. 
Amazon Button (via

Dial Code Santa Claus aka Deadly Games [3615 code Pére Noël] (René Manzor, 1989) 
I love Yuletide horror films, so it’s no shocker this film made my list. It’s been a title I’ve been tracking down for a bit, but because of my nagging a local theatre (shout out to the Times Theater in Milwaukee, WI) some friends worked with the theatre to book the film from the American Genre Film Archive. 

This film was a trip, man. Patrick Floersheim plays one of the creepiest on-screen Santa Claus I’ve ever seen. The film, at its essence, is about a young boy genius who still believes in Santa Claus. His mother warns him not to stay up waiting for Santa Claus or else Santa would be upset, so the boy of coarse doesn’t listen. Here’s where the film gets nuts; a deranged man dressed as Santa breaks into the boys house and he must defend his home using a series of crazy traps. 

It’s a crazy, weird, fun film and it’s got so many similarities to HOME ALONE (which came out two years later) that the director tried to sue the filmmakers. It’s a must see. 
Amazon Button (via

Star Time (Alexander Cassini, 1992) 
Another Vinegar Syndrome release, but this film was positively haunting. Not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it does enough right with its evocative music and images that a lot can be forgiven. The film is about a young, television obsessed guy named Henry who can’t fathom how he’ll continue his life once his favorite sitcom is cancelled. Henry has plans to kill himself, but when the mysterious Sam Bones convinces him not to, Henry and Sam become close. Sam takes on a familial role with Henry which leads to Henry committing murders on Sam’s behalf. The film is the directorial debut for filmmaker Alexander Cassini and is fascinating. Part slasher, part social commentary and part art house film, STAR TIME is a film I can’t quite get out of my head and I’ve got a strong urge to revisit. 
Amazon Button (via

Frank (Lenny Abrahamson, 2014) 
As per usual, I try and always add one contemporary film that some people might have missed. FRANK was such a surprising film. Shockingly great music, very dry humor and a charming Michael Fassbender. The film is centered Jon, an aspiring songwriter that’s frankly not very good. Jon saves the life of a keyboardist for a band called Soronprfbs and through a twist of fate ends up joining the band. However, the band is odd. Their music is all weird, indie experimental rock and their lead singer, Frank, hides behind a giant papier-mâché head. Jon attempts to get the band noticed, which Frank is appreciative of until it starts working. The film takes the thematic elements from every great music film and turns it on it’s head. Fassbender is fantastic as the mysterious Frank but the film features great performances from both Domhnall Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The film WAS on Netflix for a long time and went super under the radar, but I feel no one ever talks about the film. It’s 100% a discovery and feel the audience that follows this page would love it. 
Amazon Button (via

Honorable Mentions 

No comments: