Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '89 - Sean Whiteman ""

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Underrated '89 - Sean Whiteman

Sean Whiteman is a writer/filmmaker living in Portland, Oregon. His most recent shot-on-VHS short, BRAMBLE ON, played the Portland International Film Festival and the Portland Underground Film Festival. His new script (a paranormal police horror) called: BLUE LIVES SPLATTER.

Underrated '86 picks
Film Discoveries of 2016
Underrated '87 picks
Film Discoveries of 2017
Underrated ‘88 picks
Letterboxd and Twitter: @seanwhiteman 
instagram: bombnumber20

Before I begin extolling the virtues of my selections I’d just like to backup Brian’s BREAKING IN and MIRACLE MILE picks. Those are two of my very favorites and they represent the tippy-top shelf of 1989. They also both utilize some deft plotting and seriously tender humanity.

Now, here’s what else I was digging!
Bride of Re-Animator (dir: Brian Yuzna)
I will not be shackled by the failures of your God.”

Stuart Gordon’s IMDB page is overflowing with dynamic and super fucked-up titles (he’s kinda the Michael Jordan of excess). His joyous lack of restraint is the trademark of his style and the original RE-ANIMATOR is one of the best horror debuts because of this reckless disregard for decency. So for me to say that I prefer this sequel, directed by his good buddy Brian Yuzna, should illustrate the amount of reverence I have for the tempestuous imagination on display in the follow-up.

The gang is back and this time Jeffrey Combs’ Dr. Herbert West has decided to tap into his inner creativity. At one point he’s accused of doing nothing more with his mad science than partaking in genetic “doodling.” It’s an apt term because the grotesque creations that are unveiled in this movie feel like insane notebook margin doodles come to life (largely by SOCIETY’s practical effects maestro Screaming Mad George). It’s a world exploding with “wouldn’t it be fun?” suggestions brought to life. This is a creative canvas which includes reanimated finger and eye-ball hybrids, arms stitched directly to legs, and dogs being reconstructed using human body parts. David Gale also returns as the decapitated “head” villain from the original and the physical arc he goes through ends up in some truly inspired places.
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Fright Night Part 2 (dir: Tommy Lee Wallace)
Okay, Mr. Vincent, you can go kill your vampire now.

Here’s another exploding-with-glee sequel to a beloved original. The pivot from where Rowdy Roddy McDowall’s Peter Vincent character is at in this film, compared to the first, is very rewarding. To see him so self-assured, knowing he has finally lived up to the fearless vampire killer character he had created for himself is inspiring (especially compared to William Ragsdale’s Charlie, who is trying to repress the events of the first film from his psyche). We’re looking at the portrayal of a life-fulfilled, and McDowall emits a joyous energy in a pure-glee grin factory of a performance.

The vampires are represented in a calm way that gives weight to their mythic status and they exude the same self-assured sexiness that Chris Sarandon did in the first. The bad guy squad doesn’t have a single scrub either, they all contribute special work. Julie Carmen is great as Sarandon’s sister, out for eternal vengeance, there’s a glamorous roller skater, Jon Gries as a charismatic werewolf sorta dude, and an insect-devouring Brian Thompson rounds-out the crew. It all culminates in a pretty stellar climax that’s filled with some ingenious and gruesome effects work. A really special follow-up.
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Hider in the House (dir: Matthew Patrick)
“If someone were to attack my house then I’d have to defend myself.”

Gary Busey takes-up secret residence in a house owned by Mimi Rogers and Michael McKean. That should probably be all the information you need to let this recommendation stick (thankfully, the movie doesn’t fail the promise of the premise). I’d personally place it above BAD RONALD and CRAWLSPACE in the hiding-Henry sub-genre.
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Parents (dir: Bob Balaban)
What does your father do for a living?”
“I don’t know.

Oh fuck! This movie is a super-shredder. I watched this to fill in the gaps on some ‘89 titles I had neglected and my preconceived notions about what tone this movie would operate under were wildly misguided. I thought there’d be a campy aesthetic which would lean more on the comedy than the menace (probably based on having seen Bob Balaban’s MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK previously) but this movie made my blood curdle with its tonal aggressiveness.

The casting was also incredible, particularly the main kid (Bryan Madorsky) who nobly acts as the audience avatar through the precarious parental situations with a series of increasingly severe and hilariously-worried facial expressions. It felt like an arthouse horror movie written by someone with a truly diseased family tree. Two severed thumbs way-up!
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Lady Terminator (dir: H. Tjut Djalil)
It says here all three of these guys died with their cocks bitten off.”

If you’re leaning toward wanting to check this one out, based on the quote from above, then that impulse will be rewarded.
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The Borrower (dir: John McNaughton)
This is your punishment, the worst sentence we could pass. You’re a human being now.

An alien criminal is sent to earth as punishment and it must swap-out its head in order to stay alive (in an episodic fashion that echoes THE HIDDEN). It’s an underrated and underseen classic in the horror picaresque canon.
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The Banker (dir: William Webb)
"Now I've got you right where you want me."

Robert Forster is a cop on the trail of a banker who moonlights as a slasher in this nastly little precursor to AMERICAN PSYCHO. Seriously, Bret Easton Ellis owes this movie a percentage of all profits he’s ever earned from that book. This stylish and nasty thriller reminds us that capitalism, as always, remains the creepiest villain in cinematic history.
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She-Devil (dir: Susan Seidelman)
You give men what they want, and then they don't want it anymore.

Linda Hunt and Roseanne have a real tender friendship at the center of this one. These two are a buddy duo I never would have expected but they work some real charming together. Meryl and Ed Begley Jr. are good but it’s Hunt and Rosie’s bond that make this movie good for a rewatch or two. I like a comedy that prioritizes friendship > romance.
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Slipstream (dir: Steven Lisberger)
It's over! It's finished! End of chase!

It’s like WATERWORLD but with wind and it features Bill Paxton as the goofball leading man opposite JURASSIC PARK’s “clever girl” Muldoon as an android. There’s a sly wit and lyrical quality that keeps the movie afloat during the clunkier stretches. Once you get past those initial “it ain’t an all-time classic” barriers, you’ll realize how much of a blast you can have by giving yourself over to the poetic breeze.
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Little Monsters (dir: Richard Greenberg)
Who put piss in my apple juice?

Apologies to those of you who are too old/young to have this film land in your cinematic sweet spot. Your parents really fucked-up by not letting you be born during a more optimal period of the 80’s. I also understand if you’re scoffing at me highlighting this one, certain people are vocal about trashing a certain tier of movies (similar targets include HOOK and THE GOONIES). But I watched your boomer-baby classics (DAD!) and I didn’t disparage your formative affection for those (nor do I disparage contemporary kiddos cinematic appetites), so just let me vibe-and-die with LITTLE MONSTERS in peace.

I think the flashpoint for criticism lands on Howie Mandel’s head. His performative energy resembles a can of Jolt Cola after it shotgunned a Red Bull. His schizophrenic prepubescent sense of humor alienates the adults but I’d argue that it’s the perfect energy to resonate with if you happened to be young-at-fart when you first watched it. I was honored to giggle at the impish delights this movie offers. Fred Savage as always, is a wonderful performer for a high-concept scenario and it was empowering to see him take command of his monster situation at an age when I was still probably reluctantly fearful of what might reside underneath my own bed.

Ric Duccomon, Frank Whaley, Margaret Whitton and Daniel Stern all buy-in to the concept to a degree that lends lived-in cohesion and iconic performances to some pretty outrageous elements of the script. By the time the Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere” needle drop hits song hits at the end, I’m usually moved to tears. Don’t be a dick, just let me have this.

Ones I’ve Written About Already But Still Wanna Boost: My Twentieth Century / Cameron’s Closet / Nightwish / The Mighty Quinn / Blood of Heroes
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MY TWENTIETH CENTURY is near the top of my personal “deserves a Criterion” release list, CAMERON’S CLOSET is a cutie-pie horror classic, NIGHTWISH is a line-drive dream-vibe delivery vehicle, THE MIGHTY QUINN is that rare noir that emits a warm breeze of calm rather than the cold wind of cynicism and, I know this is controversial, but I prefer BLOOD OF HEROES to all other post-apocalyptic sports movies where they stake dog skulls on spikes to score points (it’s an optimistically-dystopian miracle of a movie, just what we need in these troubled times).

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