Horror

497 Movies You Oughta See

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Before we get to the actual list I pray you to indulge me for a bit as I give you the backstory behind 497 Movies You Oughta See.

Ever since I started writing movie reviews and people were good enough to read and enjoy them they’ve been asking me a question: “I would love to watch more Westerns/Comedies/War Movies/Horror/Whatever but I just don’t know where to start.” It occurred to me that if I drew up a list of movies in various genres that it would be a good starting point for folks to at least dip their toes in a genre they had little or no knowledge of.

The first incarnation of this list was “250 Movies You Oughta See” that I pretty much drew up on my own. There were some folks who put in their suggestion here and there but most of it was me. And that list I drew up two or three years ago. Since then we’ve seen a lot of movies come out. It occurred to me that it was time that I revised the list dramatically.

And this time I decided that I would open it up and ask members of the BETTER IN THE DARK Facebook group for their input. And boy, did I get it. But I’m really glad I did. I got a lot of movies I wouldn’t have even thought of. And with such a wide and diverse group I was confident I would get an equally wide and diverse range of movies. Which is exactly what I got.

Couple of things. I want to stress that this is not and I repeat not a “Best Movies” list. It’s a “Oughta See” List. Which simply means that these are movies that I and others think you Oughta See because we think they’re pretty damn good movies. But we’re not saying that they’re the best in a given genre so let’s get that out of the way and done.

And it will do no good for you to jump up and down screaming that your favorite Science Fiction or Crime Movies isn’t here. The first and foremost purpose of this list is for fun. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive list of every single movie in every single genre. The best way I would hope that you guys use this list is to scan it and jot down the names of movies that sound good or you’ve been planning to see or that you’ve heard of from friends or movies you just want to take a chance on watching. Okay?

And now, here’s where I thank those BiTD friends who helped me put together this list. And here they are:

Mark Bousquet. Tobias Christopher. Zoe Collins. Kelen Conley. James Dye. Gordon Dymowski. Michael Franzoni. Erik Fromme. Lucas Garrett Don Gates. Orenthal Hawkins. James Hickson. Lonni Susan Holland. Chris Johnson. Matthew Laub. JD Mathis. Tom Moses. Chris Munn. David Olfers. Adam Orchekowski. David A. Pascarella. Arthur Ratnick. Jeffrey Rist. Andrew Salmon. Kenneth Smith. Parker G. Stanfield. Sean Taylor.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for your time and your suggestions. Some of them were phenomenal. Some were downright dangerous. Others provocative and while still others hilarious. But all are appreciated and I don’t take your participation lightly.

I have run my mouth sufficiently so now it’s time to present the list at last. Enjoy and I hope that this list will enable you to enjoy movies that you would not otherwise have even heard of. Good night and God Bless.

 

COMEDIES

9 TO 5

A Christmas Story

Airplane

Amazon Women On The Moon

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Animal House

Arsenic And Old Lace

Beetlejuice

Better Off Dead

Blazing Saddles

Bridesmaids

Cannonball Run

Clerks

Clerks II

Clue

Down Periscope

Ghostbusters

Johnny Dangerously

Midnight Run

Mother, Jugs & Speed

Murder By Death

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Office Space

Oscar

Sleeper

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Smokey and The Bandit

SuperTroopers

The Blues Brothers

The Bride Came C.O.D.

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

Tropic Thunder

UHF

Young Frankenstein

EPIC DRAMAS

A Clockwork Orange

A Face in The Crowd

A Raisin in The Sun

As Good As It Gets

Becket

Ben-Hur

Black Narcissus

Boogie Nights

Casablanca

Citizen Kane

Germany Year Zero

Gladiator

Glory

Imitation of Life

Jaws

Legends of The Fall

Lolita

Master & Commander

Nothing But A Man

On The Beach

Raging Bull

Rocky

Schindler’s List

Seven Samurai

Shawshank Redemption

Spartacus

Taxi Driver

The Bad and The Beautiful

The Grapes of Wrath

The Lion In Winter

The Ten Commandments

The Third Man

Titanic

To Have and Have Not

To Sir, With Love

Troy

Twelve Angry Men (both versions)

Gone With The Wind

Cape Fear (both versions)

Falling Down

FANTASY

Dragonslayer

Excalibur

Jason And The Argonauts

Ladyhawke

Merlin

Star Wars

The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen

The Empire Strikes Back

The Green Pastures

The Neverending Story

The Princess Bride

The Seventh Seal

The Sword And The Sorcerer

The Thief Of Bagdad (1940)

The Wizard of Oz

Time Bandits

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)

SPORTS

A League of Their Own

Brian’s Song

Cool Runnings

Eight Men Out

Field of Dreams

Friday Night Lights

He Got Game

Hoop Dreams

Hoosiers

Necessary Roughness

Pride Of The Yankees

Remember The Titans

Rudy

Slapshot

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars And Motor Kings

The Sandlot

The Wrestler

When We Were Kings

White Men Can’t Jump

CHICK FLICKS

An Angel At My Table

Bright Star

Clueless

Dirty Dancing

Fried Green Tomatoes

He’s Just Not That Into You

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

How To Marry A Millionaire

Love Story

Pretty Woman

Sense and Sensibility

Spice World

Steel Magnolias

Terms of Endearment

Thelma & Louise

The Bridges of Madison County

The English Patient

The First Wives Club

The Notebook

The Piano

The Proposal

The Red Shoes

Under A Tuscany Sun

The Way We Were

Waiting to Exhale

What Women Want

When Harry Met Sally

SCIENCE FICTION

12 Monkeys

2001: A Space Odyssey

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Alien

Children Of Men

Close Encounters of The Third Kind

Back To The Future Trilogy

Blade Runner

Dark City

Dr. Cyclops

Enemy Mine

eXistenZ

Forbidden Planet

Gattaca

La Jetee

Metropolis

Moon

Planet of The Apes

Robocop

Serenity

Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan

Sunshine

Soylent Green

The Blob (both versions)

The Bride of Frankenstein

The Fountain

Westworld

ACTION/ADVENTURE

300

48 Hours

Aliens

All Through The Night

Beverly Hills Cop

Big Trouble In Little China

Die Hard Series

Dr. No

Enter The Dragon

Equilibrium

Escape From New York

Indiana Jones Series

Jurassic Park

Lethal Weapon Series

King Kong (Original & Peter Jackson remake)

Mad Max

National Treasure

Passenger 57

Predator

Raiders of The Lost Ark

Sahara

Silver Streak

Tango & Cash

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The 13th Warrior

The Fifth Element

The Hidden Fortress

The Last Dragon

The Road Warrior

The Terminator

WESTERNS

3:10 To Yuma (both versions)

Barbarossa

Bend In The River

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid

Cat Ballou

Dead Man

Duel at Diablo

El Dorado

Forty Guns

Hidalgo

High Noon

Lonesome Dove

My Name Is Nobody

Once Upon A Time In The West

Open Range

Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid

Quigley Down Under

Ride The High Country

Rio Bravo

Silverado

Stagecoach

The Angel and The Badman

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

The Magnificent Seven

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Missouri Breaks

The Outlaw

The Professionals

The Quick And The Dead

The Searchers

Valdez Is Coming

Vera Cruz

The Virginian

The War Wagon

The Wild Bunch

The Wrath of God

Two Mules For Sister Sarah

Tombstone

True Grit

Unforgiven

MUSICALS

1776

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

A Hard Day’s Night

Cabin In The Sky

Cabaret

Chicago

Dreamgirls

Godspell

Grease

Guys And Dolls

Hair

Hairspray

Jailhouse Rock

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

Jesus Christ, Superstar

Little Shop of Horrors

Mamma Mia

Moulin Rouge

Pennies From Heaven

Showboat (1936)

Singin’ In the Rain

South Pacific

The Apple

The Music Man

The Sound of Music

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Victor/Victoria

Wattstax

West Side Story

The Wiz

WAR MOVIES

Apocalypse Now Redux

Band of Brothers

Blackhawk Down

Fixed Bayonets!

Full Metal Jacket

Hamburger Hill

Inglourious Basterds

Kelly’s Heroes

Letters From Iwo Jima

M*A*S*H

Paths of Glory

Platoon

Red Tails

Saving Private Ryan

The Big Red One

The Bridge Over The River Kwai

The Dirty Dozen

The Hurt Locker

The Steel Helmet

The Thin Red Line

Three Kings

Tuskegee Airmen

We Were Soldiers

Where Eagles Dare

HORROR

American Werewolf in London

Angel Heart

Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Cabin In The Woods

Candyman

Carrie

Carnival of Souls

Dawn of The Dead

Demon Seed

Event Horizon

Halloween

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

Insidious

Let’s Scare Jessica To Death

Night of The Hunter

Night of The Living Dead

Nightmare on Elm Street

Phantasm

Poltergeist

Psycho

Stir of Echoes

Suspiria

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

The Beyond

The Birds

The Black Cat

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Changeling

The Crazies (both versions)

The Exorcist

The Haunting (1963)

The Invisible Man

The Island of Lost Souls

The Last Man on Earth

The Thing (both versions)

Trick ‘R Treat

ODDITIES

Battle Royale

Barton Fink

Big Fish

Blue Velvet

Buckaroo Banzai

Brazil

City of Lost Children

Crash

Day Watch

Dogma

Donnie Darko

Edward Scissorhands

Eraserhead

Heathers

Hudson Hawk

Ichi The Killer

Identity

Inception

Liquid Sky

Miracle Mile

Mulholland Drive

Naked Lunch

Night Watch

Oldboy

Repo Man

Six String Samurai

Speed Racer

The Big Lebowski

The Cell

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

The Point

The Thirteenth Floor

Time Bandits

Videodrome

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

CRIME

A Rage In Harlem

Bonnie & Clyde

Charlie Varrick

Cotton Comes To Harlem

Detour

Double Indemnity

Donnie Brasco

Drive

Ghost Dog: Way of The Samurai

Goodfellas

Heat

High Sierra

Hoodlum

Jackie Brown

King of New York

L.A. Confidential

Last Man Standing

Little Caesar

Memento

Miller’s Crossing

New Jack City

Ocean’s Eleven (both versions)

Once Upon A Time In America

Pickup on South Street

Pulp Fiction

Scarface (both versions)

Shadow of a Doubt

Shaft(1971)

Silence of The Lambs

Sin City

The Big Sleep

The Conversation

The Departed

The Godfather Trilogy

The Italian Job

The Maltese Falcon

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

The Thin Man

The Third Man

The Usual Suspects

Touch of Evil

Zodiac

SUPERHERO

Batman (1969)

Batman (1989)

Batman Returns

Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

Batman Trilogy

Blade

Blade 2

Captain America: The First Avenger

Darkman

Danger: Diabolik

Dick Tracy

Doctor Strange

Dredd

Hellboy

Hellboy and The Golden Army

Hulk

Incredible Hulk

Iron Man

Iron Man 2

Meteor Man

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow

Sky High

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 2

Superman

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

The Avengers

The Incredibles

The Phantom

The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941 serial)

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl

The Rocketeer

The Shadow

Thor

Unbreakable

V For Vendetta

Watchmen

X-Men

X-Men 2

X-Men: First Class

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

ANIMATION

A Boy Named Charlie Brown

Akira

American Pop

Antz

Beauty and The Beast

Chicken Run

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Cool World

Despicable Me

Fantasia

Fantastic Planet

Finding Nemo

Fire & Ice

Ghost In The Shell

Grave of The Fireflies

Happy Feet

Heavy Metal

How To Train Your Dragon

Iron Giant

Laputa: Castle In The Sky

Lilo And Stitch

Mulan

Princess Mononoke

Rock and Rule

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

Spirited Away

Steamboy

Streetfight

The Aristocats

The Castle of Cagliostro

The Jungle Book

The Lion King

The Triplets of Belleville

The Tune

Toy Story

Toy Story 3

UP

Waking Life

Wall-E

Wizards

SPY & ESPIONAGE THRILLERS

Hunt For Red October

In Like Flint

North by Northwest

Taken

The Good Shepard

The James Bond Series

The Jason Bourne Trilogy

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The Professional

Ronin

Safe House

Salt

Sneaker

Spy Game

Three Days of The Condor

Spione

The Keep

1983

Paramount Pictures

Directed and Screenplay by Michael Mann based on “The Keep” by F. Paul Wilson

Produced by Howard W. Koch

Say the name Michael Mann to any reasonably informed movie fan and they’ll most likely rattle off the titles of movies such as “Thief” “Manhunter” “Heat” “Public Enemies.” He’s built up a solid reputation as a director of crime thrillers. As well he should after being the executive director of such classic crime dramas as “Miami Vice” and “Crime Story.” He’s rightfully acclaimed as being one of the best directors actively working today and rightly so. The man knows how to direct a movie. Waitaminnit. Back up and bit. Let me amend that. The man knows how to direct crime thrillers and dramas. I finally got around to watching THE KEEP and while I’m not going to say it’s a totally worthless movie I am going to say that after watching it I know why he’s never made another horror movie. It’s the work of a terrific director, no doubt. But a director who let his art house aspirations for the work get in the way of making a fun horror movie that could have given viewers the screaming fits. Instead, THE KEEP may give you the yawning fidgets.

Certainly the set-up is a fascinating one. A detachment of German soldiers led by Captain Woermann (Jurgen Prochnow) comes to a village located in the Dinu Mountains. The only strategic value the village has is that Russian soldiers could slip through the pass and that’s what the detachment is there to prevent. Overlooking the village is a huge Keep that Captain Woermann takes as his base despite the warnings of the caretaker and his sons who look after The Keep.

The German soldiers are quick to notice the hundreds of crosses embedded in the walls which the caretaker insists are worthless nickel but are actually silver. Two soldiers manage to pry one cross out of a wall, loosening the bricks behind it. Thinking there is more treasure hidden, they crawl inside. Well, you know what happens to noisy folks in horror movies who go where they shouldn’t.

Pretty soon, the soldiers are dying horribly and a detachment of stormtroopers led by SD Sturmbannfuhrer Kaempffer (Gabriel Byrne) arrive to back up Woermann, thinking that it’s simply partisans trying to throw a scare into the Germans. Woermann knows better. He indicates a mysterious message on a wall of The Keep and the village priest advises them to get Professor Cuza (Ian McKellen) out of the local death camp as he’s a noted Jewish historian and linguist and might be able to decipher the message. Cuza’s daughter Eva (Alberta Watson) has accompanied her father and is saved from being raped by two of of the stormtroopers by Radu Molasar (Michael Carter) the demonic entity imprisoned within The Keep. Molasar makes a deal with Cuza: if Cuza will recover a talisman that Molasar needs to regain his full power, Molasar will destroy the Nazis. Seems like a pretty good deal all way ‘round. But nobody as yet knows about a mysterious stranger with glowing purple eyes on his way to The Keep (Scott Glenn) who shares a destiny with the demon trapped inside…

Sounds pretty good, don’t it? I thought so as well and I wish I could wholeheartedly recommend THE KEEP but the fact of the matter is that I can’t. But let me put it this way: If all you’re interested in is mood and atmosphere thick enough to cut with a bayonet, gorgeously creepy sets and stylish cinematography then you’ll want to give THE KEEP at least a try. The movie looks great, no denying that. But great looks do not make a horror movie and this movie has none of that at all. What Michael Mann is going for here is art house, not grindhouse and as a result, there is nothing in the least bit horrifying or scary about THE KEEP.

I did like the appearances of Molasar, especially in one scene that is for my money the best special effect in the movie where it appears to Cuza as a creature of living smoke that freaks the old dude out completely and at the end of the movie Molasar has metamorphosed into a form that looks like he could be a distant, darker skinned cousin of The Engineers from Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.” And the score by Tangerine Dream is marvelous all the way through, especially during a scene where Cuza is racing through the bowels of The Keep with Molasar’s talisman clutched in his hands.

But that’s about it. This is the movie that contains what I think is perhaps the worst performance I’ve ever seen from both Scott Glenn and Gabriel Byrne. Especially Glenn. I couldn’t tell you who he is or what his deal is other than he’s got glowing purple eyes and a stick he carries around with him in a case he won’t let anybody touch. But apparently those glowing purple peepers come in handy for something because five minutes after meeting Eva they’re bumpin’ uglies. And it happens just as I describe. Really. They meet, exchange one minutes worth of dialog and whoomp, there it is.

So should you see THE KEEP? It’s available for streaming from Netflix and if you subscribe then I don’t see the harm in checking it out. You can have it playing in the background while you’re folding laundry or scraping your bunions or whatever and not worry about missing a thing. It’s a pretentious exercise that sacrifices everything that a good horror movie should have. Visually, it’s always engaging. But that’s really all the movie has going for it. Watch at your own discretion.

96 minutes

Rated R

And Soon The Darkness (2010)

2010

Studio Canal/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Directed by Marcos Efron

Produced by Chris Clark, Lizzie Friedman, Karen Lauder and Deborah Marcus

Screenplay by Jennifer Derwingson and Marcos Efron

Based on the 1970 motion picture “And Soon The Darkness”

In the first thirty seconds of the 2010 remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS we see a bound, near naked woman doused with water and then whipped with a live electrical wire until she collapses into unconsciousness.  That told me right there that the writers and the director of this remake were going to throw out everything that the writers and director of the original had done to make their movie unusual, unique and suspenseful.

This version of AND SOON THE DARKNESS follows the basic plot of the original, transferring the setting from rural France to rural Argentina and making the girls American instead of English..  Stephanie (Amber Heard) and Elle (Odette Yustman) are part of a bike tour of that country.  They decide to split off from the group and go their own way for a bit, intending to catch a bus the next day and rejoin the group. They stay the night at a hotel where Elle persuades Stephanie to come with her to hang out at the local bar.  Stephanie’s promiscuous behavior gets her the wrong kind of attention and she’s rescued by Michael (Karl Urban) another American staying at the hotel.

The next day, while biking, Elle wants to stop by a riverbank and sunbathe.  Stephanie reluctantly agrees.  After a couple of hours, she’s ready to go but Elle still wants to hang out there.  This leads to an argument and Stephanie angrily rides off, leaving Elle alone. After she cools off a bit, she returns to the riverbank to find Elle gone, only her cell phone still on the ground where she had been sunbathing.

Now, unlike the original where we never learn the fate of the kidnapped girl until the last ten minutes of the movie, the remake has no problem letting us know that Elle has been kidnapped by the guy she was foolin’ around with in the bar last night.  He’s the muscle of a gang who snatches girls and sells them across the river to a white slavery ring in Paraguay.

Stephanie frantically tries to get help from the local police chief, Calvo (Cesar Vianco) who poo-poohs away Stephanie’s urgent pleas for him to form a search party.  “A search party?” Calvo says with a chuckle.  “Where do you think you are? America?”

Stephanie finally gets help from (surprise, surprise, surprise) Michael who has been in Argentina for six months looking for his girlfriend who also disappeared. Together they decide to track down Elle themselves and maybe find Michael’s girlfriend as well.

Like I said earlier, everything that made the first movie unique has been ruthlessly stripped away to leave only a standard middle of the road thriller than doesn’t thrill at all. The way this movie unfolds and the way the story is told in such a blatant fashion I can easily imagine a group of suburban white families pooling their money together to finance this movie for the sole purpose of showing it to their daughters: “See? See? This is what happens when you go to foreign countries, get drunk and fool around with boys who don’t speak English!”

That nasty subtext is very strong in the movie and I also didn’t like how the script goes out of its way to depict Elle’s carefree indulgence in drinking and promiscuity as justification for what happens to her.  And unlike the original, many of the locals speak English.  Part of what added to the feeling of paranoia and isolation in the original was that none of the locals spoke any English.

Karl Urban does his best with what he’s given and like the professional he is, he comes out of this movie with the acting honors.  Karl Urban is on my list of actors who even if they’re trapped in a really shitty movie more than pulls his weight and delivers a good performance and he does so here.  And I’m glad that I saw Amber Heard in “Drive Angry” before seeing this movie as I might well have passed up watching that highly superior movie if I had watched AND SOON THE DARKNESS first.  If you want to see Amber Heard in a really good movie, go watch “Drive Angry” and leave the remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS alone.  It’s a totally unnecessary remake that does not entertain one little bit. Go watch the 1970 original if you want to see a really good thriller.

Rated R

91 minutes

 

 

And Soon The Darkness (1970)

1970

EMI Films

Directed by Robert Fuest

Produced by Albert Fennell and Brian Clements

Written by Brain Clements and Terry Nation

AND SOON THE DARKNESS is regarded as a minor cult classic of 70’s British horror movies and now, after finally seeing it for myself I can see why.  It’s a neat, effective little horror/suspense movie that gets the job done with a subtle, intelligent script and solid acting.  It’s my kind of horror movie as the situation is one that could plausibly happen and the characters behave as I can see actual people in such a situation would act and as such I can take the movie much more seriously than say, the brain dead 2010 remake of AND SOON THE DARKNESS.  But that’s another review.  Let’s get back to this one.

Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice) are two young and very pretty English girls on holiday, biking through the French countryside.  They’re best friends but they have very different idea of how they want to spend their holiday.  Jane’s insistent they stay on schedule and she’s constantly consulting her stack of maps and checking their time against their itinerary.  Cathy wants to slowpoke it, take their time and enjoy the local color.

Part of that local color is Paul (Sandor Eles) a handsome young French man who catches Cathy’s eye in a café the two girls stop at briefly to get directions.  They go further on up the road and Paul passes them on his motorcycle, only to stop at a roadside cemetery.  In a blatant attempt to kill time and wait for Paul to catch up to them, Cathy insists that the girls stop to sunbathe at the side of the road.  This leads to a quarrel where Cathy tells Jane she’s fed up with being bossed around and that she’s going to have some fun.  Jane leaves Cathy and continues on by herself, stopping at another café a little ways up the road.  After a while, when she’s cooled off, she goes back for Cathy.

Except Cathy’s gone.  Jane finds her bicycle but except for that, there’s no sign of Cathy at all.  Jane frantically searches for her with no luck.  She runs into Paul, who claims to be a police detective and offers to help.  He certainly is more willing to do so than the local gendarme (John Nettleton) who treats Cathy’s disappearance with a laid-back casualness that frustrates Jane to no end. The locals are of no help because Jane doesn’t know any French and so can’t tell them what’s wrong.  And then it turns out that Paul has disturbingly graphic knowledge of a girl who a couple of years ago was raped and murdered near the same spot where Cathy disappeared…

If you have any knowledge of the careers of the writers and director of this movie then you know these guys aren’t amateurs.  Robert Fuest directed the two classic “Dr. Phibes” movies.  Brian Clements was a producer and main script writer of “The Avengers” as well as writing so many other classic British TV series and movies such as “Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter” which he also directed.  Terry Nation created The Daleks and if I have to tell you who they are then you’re in the wrong place.  He also created several notable British science fiction TV series including one of my favorites; “Blake’s 7”

Add to this the considerable acting talent of Pamela Franklin who starred in what I consider the second best haunted house movie ever made; “The Legend of Hell House” and was a standout in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brody” where she played the intellectually and sexually precocious Sandy. Pamela Franklin had a good career back in the 60’s and 70’s and if you see her name in the credits of a movie, watch it.  She’s a fine actress with terrifically expressive eyes who knows exactly what she’s doing in front of a camera and it’s a treat to watch her work.

The movie also is fun to watch because despite the title, 100% of AND SOON THE DARKNESS takes place during the daytime in broad daylight.  The events of the movie play out in the course of one day and just because it all takes place during the daylight hours doesn’t make it any less scary or suspenseful.  Increasing the suspense is Jane’s inability to communicate with anybody except the two people she suspects of having taken her friend.  It’s a smart move by the director to not subtitle when French is spoken and so as the audience we can share in Jane’s growing frustration and paranoia at her situation.

So should you see AND SOON THE DARKNESS?  I recommend so highly.  It doesn’t have graphic violence or gore but if you’re looking for a nifty little horror/suspense thriller that will keep you guessing right up until the end of the movie, this is for you.  It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix so enjoy.

PG

99 minutes

Better In The Dark #59

BETTER IN THE DARK #59

BLACK GLOVES ARE FOR MURDER: THE GIALLO STYLINGS OF DARIO ARGENTO

The Guys Outta Brooklyn go continental as we examine a quintet of giallo films by the man who helped originate the genre, Dario Argento! From the insanely plotted but compelling TENEBRAE to the insanely plotted and craptacular TRAUMA to the clip show love letter DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK?, Tom and Derrick examine the handiwork of this seminal Italian director. Plus Tom gets an excuse to trot out another accent, how the “Three Mothers” trilogy is like “Kill Bill” and a word from our sponsor, The Argento Decapomatic! You know it’s all like a dream brought on by too much Ziti Fra Diablo, so get to clicking!

http://www.betterinthedarksite.com/episode-archives/eps-51-60/

Silent Rage

1982

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Michael Miller

Produced by Anthony B. Unger

Written by Edward D. Lorenzo and Joseph Fraley

Chuck Norris is best known today for that Internet phenomenon known as “Chuck Norris Facts” which attribute all kinds of superhuman feats and godlike acts of toughness to him.  I think that if Bruce Lee were still alive or if Jim Kelly were still active in the movies and martial arts, they would be the subjects of that meme and not Chuck Norris.  But there’s no denying that for most of the 1980’s Chuck Norris was one of the most prominent action stars of that decade, faithfully cranking out one movie after another for Israeli filmmakers Menahem and Yoram Globus and their Cannon Films.  Matter of fact, it seemed as if Chuck Norris had a new movie coming out every week, so quickly was he making them.

I’m pretty sure I saw SILENT RAGE back in the day as during the 80’s I went to the movies at least twice a week and I’ve seen just about every Chuck Norris movie made during that period.  Yes, even “Invasion U.S.A.” and “Firewalker.”  But for every stinker he made, Chuck Norris also came out with some pretty damn good ones that still hold up today such as “Lone Wolf McQuade” and “Code of Silence.”  And then there’s the movie we’re talking about now; SILENT RAGE which for my money is the goofiest movie Chuck has ever done.  He never made one like it since, which is a shame because there’s a lot I like in this one.  The best way to describe SILENT RAGE goes like this; imagine if “Halloween” had starred Chuck Norris instead of Donald Pleasance.  SILENT RAGE blends martial arts and science fiction with the slasher movie genre better than you might think.

One bright sunny day in a small unnamed Texas town, mental patient John Kirby (Brian Libby) loses it and takes an axe to the family he’s been living with.  He’s subdued by Sheriff Dan Stevens (Chuck Norris) after an extremely brutal fight where John Kirby demonstrates his superhuman strength fueled by his bloodthirsty psychotic rage.  It isn’t until he’s beaten up half a dozen cops, broken his handcuffs and kicked his way out of a police car that somebody finally gets the bright idea it might be better to shoot the shit outta this sucker and get it over with.

John’s psychiatrist Dr. Halman (Ron Silver) shows up and takes the body back to the hospital.  Amazingly, John is still alive even after being shot numerous times.  Halman’s boss, Doctor Spires (Steven Keats) sees this as an opportunity to try out his experimental drug.  Spires believes he can genetically modify a human’s DNA so that a human’s natural healing process will perform an at accelerated rate.  Spires pumps John full of his homemade funky cold medina and indeed, John’s wounds heal themselves in seconds.

Halman isn’t so sure this is such a hot idea.  He recommends that Spires destroy John Kirby before he gets loose as there is no way to cure or curb John’s homicidal rage.  And now that he is for all intents and purposes, indestructible, he’s the perfect killer.  Quite naturally, Spires doesn’t see it this way and in fact, thinks that he can use John to get rid of a few obstacles in his way to being rich and famous and that includes not only Dr. Halman but Sheriff Stevens as well.

SILENT RAGE is quietly astonishing to me in that I could easily believe this started out as a straight up-and-down slasher movie because so many of the tropes of the genre are put to use.  You’ve got your indestructible killer who can seemingly appear and disappear.  And is apparently psychic since he can anticipate where and when his victims are going to be. You’ve got your sympathetic characters who get killed while trying to do the right thing.  You’ve got your false scares where you think the killer has jumped somebody only to be followed by the actual scare.  You’ve got your indestructible killer being put down by a hail of bullets only to get back up and resume his killing.  And you’ve got your idiots who even after they’ve seen this guy get shot and get up numerous times still insist on turning their backs on him.

What sets this apart is of course, Chuck Norris, who has no business being in the slasher genre yet amazingly plays all of this absolutely straight.  We do get to see him use his martial arts skills on a barroom full of rowdy bikers but that’s only the warm-up for the fight we really want to see: Chuck against this unstoppable killer who can’t be hurt or killed.

In order to eat up the running time until this final conclusion we get the subplot with the rowdy bikers and Chuck’s romancing of Dr. Halman’s sister (Toni Kalem.)  What’s really interesting about this romance is the strong suggestion that Stevens simply banged her for fun and just walked away without a word.  That’s a far cry from the usual Chuck Norris character who is virtually saintly in his dealings with women.  I also can’t remember a Chuck Norris movie where F-bombs were tossed around so carelessly and so many bare boobs were shown.  Chuck even gets a sex scene in this one.  Now, we’re not talking swinging from the chandelier here but let’s face it, in most Chuck Norris movies, romance and/or sex isn’t a priority.

Even the casting is eclectic for a Chuck Norris movie.  I’ve mentioned Ron Silver and Steven Keats.  Now, you may not be familiar with Steven Keats by name but go Google a picture of him and I bet you’ll slap yourself upside da haid and go; “I know that guy!” William Finlay who plays The Phantom in Brian DePalma’s “Phantom of The Paradise” is in this one as is Stephen Furst who we all know as Flounder from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and Vir Cotto on “Babylon 5”.  There’s also Lillette Zoe Raley whose name you don’t know but who provides the movie with its best special effect.  If you see the movie you’ll know what I mean.

So should you see SILENT RAGE?  I certainly think so.  If you’re a Chuck Norris fan you probably already have seen this but if you haven’t, give it a try.  The sheer goofiness of seeing Chuck Norris in a slasher movie is worth your time.  I know I wasn’t bored and I don’t think you will be either.

Rated R

103 minutes

Altitude

2010

Darclight Films

Directed by Kaare Andrews

Produced by Ian Birkett

Written by Paul A. Birkett

 For the longest time I have believed that “Cursed” the werewolf movie starring Christina Ricci and Joshua Jackson was the worst movie I have ever seen.  Prior to that, the champ was “The Blue Lagoon “starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.

Well, not that I was looking for it but I’ve found one worse than the both of them. All hail the new champion: ALTITUDE.

Five friends board a light aircraft, looking forward to a weekend of partying.  The pilot is Sara (Jessica Lowndes) who has recently got her license.  Within five minutes we know that she’s The Level Headed One.  Her boyfriend Bruce should have a sign on him that reads The Character With The Big Secret That Explains Everything since he’s so twitchy right from the first minute we see him that there’s no surprise later on when he does turn out to have The Big Secret That Explains Everything.  Mel (Julianna Guill) is an aspiring filmmaker who has the annoying habit of sticking her camera in everybody’s face.  Since Sara has claimed The Level Headed One title, this means that Mel is designated The One Who Comes Unglued When Things Go Wrong by default.  Sal (Jake Weary) is The Obligatory Dickhead while Cory (Ryan Donowho) is The Rock Steady Heroic Type.

Due to a freak accident, the plane flies into a storm, climbing higher and higher because the elevator mechanism that controls altitude is jammed.  What’s even worse is that Sara stupidly took off with the gas tank half full and the plane will run out of fuel in an hour.  First thing Sara suggests is that they throw everything out of the plane to lighten it and thus make the gas last longer and the second thing she suggests is that somebody climb out on the outside of the plane while they’re flying at top speed through a storm at twenty-four thousand feet to manually unjam the elevator mechanism.

I did tell you that Sara was The Level Headed One, right?  Right.  On we go.

It’s Cory who goes outside as he argues that his free rock climbing experience makes him the logical choice.  Beats the hell out of me how weekend rock climbing qualifies him to even attempt such a thing but hey, I didn’t write this brain dead mess.  The expected happens and Cory is lost.  But not before the others see what looks to be a huge, tentacled monster in the storm, following them.

Now here’s my beef with ALTITUDE: I dig the idea of a Lovecraftian monster living in the storm and terrorizing the plane.  But I also dig the idea of these four remaining people trapped in the plane turning on each other, becoming more paranoid and freaked out.  The problem with ALTITUDE is that it can’t make up its mind which movie it wants to be.  So it tries to be both and as a result, ends up being neither as it resorts to a final “surprise ending” to explain everything that even M. Night Shyamalan wouldn’t have dared try pulling off.

What can I say good about the movie?  I did actually like how inventive the cinematographer was in filming the actors inside such a confined space as 90% of ALTITUDE takes place inside a small passenger plane.  Even though there’s not much space to work with, I never felt as if I were looking at the same shot over and over again.  I did like Jessica Lowndes and admired her ability to sell her character and quite frankly, she’s the reason I hung in there with the movie until the end.  An ending that quite honestly left me sitting there with my mouth open as I could not believe what happened in the last fifteen minutes of the movie.

If you’re at all curious to see ALTITUDE, it’s on you.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

90 minutes

Rated R

Ganja & Hess

GANJA & HESS

1973

Kelly/Jordan Enterprises

Directed and Written by Bill Gunn

Produced by Chiz Schultz

If you’ve been reading my reviews here at The Ferguson Theater or listening to me pontificate over at Better In The Dark then you know full well that one of my particular bugaboos is how African-Americans are so poorly represented in horror movies.  Despite its reputation as a ground breaking horror movie that has a black man as the lead character, I can’t get behind the original “Night of The Living Dead” on that basis.  Oh, it’s a superior horror movie, I don’t dispute that.  But every decision Ben (Duane Jones) makes gets somebody killed.  Ironically, he survives the night by doing exactly what another character suggested at the beginning of the movie: he goes into the basement and stays quiet.  Earlier on, Ben had rejected that plan and insisted everybody stay upstairs while he nails all the windows and doors shut, keeping every light in the joint burning like its New Year’s Eve.  Naturally, every zombie for miles is attracted to the light and noise.  You know the rest.

When it comes to blacks in horror movies I always point to “The People Under The Stairs” and “Anaconda” in which not only does the brother (Ice Cube) live to see the end of the movie but a Latina as well (Jennifer Lopez).  Those two movies are superior examples of black leading characters in horror movies.  I’d also add the two “Blacula” movies, “The Omega Man” “The Beast Must Die” “Sugar Hill” (which is actually more of a superhero movie than horror) “J.D.’s Revenge”and “Candyman”

And then there’s GANJA & HESS.  It’s a vampire movie unlike any other vampire movie I’ve ever seen.  I’ve heard about this movie for years but it has been notoriously hard to find.  Once again I have to bow in respect to Turner Classic Movies and their Saturday night “Underground” as they have repeatedly come through in airing long forgotten movies I had given up all hope of seeing.  But hey, they aired “The Apple” and for that alone, they had me. They regularly show GANJA & HESS so keep an eye out for it there.

Duane Jones from “Night of The Living Dead” is starring in this one  He’s Dr. Hess Green, an archaeologist and geologist whose particular field of expertise is the ancient and long dead African civilization of Myrthia.  He’s breaking in a new assistant, George (Bill Gunn) who seems to be borderline manic depressive as he’s given to these long rambling stream-of-consciousness conversations that really aren’t conversations as he’s the only one talking.  Hess mainly smokes and listens to him in silence.  No doubt wondering if he shoulda checked out this cat a little more in depth before hiring him.  The camel that breaks the straw back is the night when Hess finds George sitting up in a tree, drinking wine and contemplating suicide.

That same night, George attacks Hess, stabbing him with a bone knife from Myrthia.  George kills himself afterwards but Hess amazingly has not died.  The bone knife has infected him with the curse of vampirism.  But it’s not the type of vampirism we’ve come to know from other movies.  Hess can be seen in mirrors.  He walks around quite comfortably in daylight and rather than shunning churches and the cross, he keeps crosses in his house, employs a minister as his chauffeur and actively professes his Christian beliefs.  But the bloodlust is there and to satisfy it, Hess is forced to steal from blood banks and prey on lower class street people.

The situation is complicated by the unexpected arrival of George’s wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark) who is broke and demands that Hess produce her husband so that he can give her the money he promised.  Instead, Hess offers her George’s accommodations in his palatial mansion.  It’s not long after that they begin a sexual relationship that develops into love and marriage.  It’s then that Hess decides to turn Ganja into a vampire like himself.  And that’s when things really start to get strange…

What sets GANJA & HESS apart from any other vampire movie for me is the clash of African blood rituals and American Christianity depicted.  Hess is plagued by visions of a Myrthian queen (Mabel King) but at the same time he is drawn toward Christianity as a means of curing himself or at least of saving his soul.  Ganja’s influence drives him in a new directly as she is motivated solely by material possessions.  It’s an amusing scene when she first meets Hess and assumes he’s a servant.  If and when you see the movie, observe how fast her attitude changes when she realizes that Hess is wealthy.  For her, wealth covers a whole lot of multitude of sins.  Even murder and vampirism.

But be advised that this is a movie shot on the cheap.  There obviously wasn’t much money to spend on this.  But that works in the movie’s favor as if has a gritty, realistic feel that adds to the horror, especially during one of the movie’s more powerful scenes where Hess kills and feeds on a whore and her pimp.

Marlene Clark walks off with the acting honors and well she should.  By the time she did GANJA & HESS she had already racked up numerous roles in blaxplotation films and TV shows.  What I like about her in this one is her naked lust for material wealth that in itself a form of vampirism.

So should you see GANJA & HESS?  Now that’s it’s also available on DVD I certainly think you should.  It is slow moving in spots and almost blatantly surrealistic at times.  But it’s a powerful exploration of the vampire that I found engaging and highly interesting and I’m betting you will, too.  Enjoy.

110 minutes

Rated R

Jenny Ringo And The Monkey’s Paw

2011

A Chris Regan Production

Written and Directed by Chris Regan

Produced by Andrea Regan

You do this reviewing thing long enough and eventually people will start assuming that you know what you’re talking about.  For better or worse.  Occasionally you may even get people who have made films on their own asking you to look at their movies and give an honest review of what you think.

And that’s where the rubber meets the road so to speak.  Oh, they’ll always tell you to give them an honest review and tell them exactly what you think.  But they don’t really mean that.  Seriously, they don’t.  Heed my words, people, for I pass this way but once.  And so, I tend not to review movies made by amateur/aspiring filmmakers the same way I do the professional movies.  I don’t take delight in kicking around like a decapitated head any artistic endeavor somebody worked long, hard hours on just because it doesn’t speak to me.  So if I think an amateur movie really isn’t any good, I’ll email the filmmaker privately and tell them why I think their movie didn’t work for me.

And then, you get a nice little gem like JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW that I can recommend wholeheartedly.  No, it’s not going to make your teeth whiter or fatten your bank account.  But I do think it will give you some chuckles, one or two belly laughs and leave you with a smile on your face at the end and that’s not a bad return on the investment of thirty minutes of your time.

Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) is fed up and disgusted with her slothful flatmate Gavin (Lukas Habberton).  The lazy no-good sits on the couch all day long zoning out thanks to cheap grass and “Friends” reruns.  Meanwhile, the flat is turning into a garbage dump.  Jenny takes off for two weeks to a Wiccan retreat and returns to find two strangers doing the horizontal bop in her bed.  Quite naturally she demands to know who they are and where they came from.  They strangers introduce themselves as Jeff Awesome (Scott Haney) and Candy Gorgeous (Dominque Bull).  And the names do fit as they’re quite awesome and gorgeous.  They’re ever so nice and smile all the time.  But they won’t leave.  And that’s not as placid as it sounds.  Trust me.

So where did they come from, Jenny wants to know.  Gavin simply holds up a monkey’s paw.

Uh oh.

Is there any one of you reading this who doesn’t know the story of “The Monkey’s Paw”?  I hope not because then you really need to shut your computer off and go pick up a book.  The rest of the short film breezes by as Jenny and Gavin try to figure out a way to circumvent the three wishes Gavin has already made to get rid of their unwanted houseguests and put everything aright.

I liked JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW a lot.  It’s a British production and I’m a big fan of British humor.  And the humor here comes from the situation that the characters find themselves in and their interacting with each other.  It even gets in quite a bit of characterization and tenderness as in the scene where Gavin explains how he feels about Jenny and how that influenced his wishes.

Rosie Duncan is great as Jenny.  She’s got a Catherine Tate vibe about her I found adorable as I’ve got a huge crush on Catherine Tate.  Somehow Rosie Duncan manages to make sarcastic snark sexy.  Between her and Dominque Bull they more than fulfill my eye candy quota.  Lukas Habberton brings a world weary goofiness to Gavin that cracked me up.  Scott Haney and Dominque Bull are really good as the really nice friends who really, really don’t want to leave.  They manage very well to communicate with their eyes and their smile that there’s something not quite right with this pair.  They’re not so much smiling as baring their teeth nicely.

So should you see JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW?  It isn’t a multi-million dollar production but director Chris Regan makes the most of what he’s got to good effect.  And he even throws in a musical number as well.  The actors look good and they give their characters personality.  It bops along at a breezy thirty minutes and there’s the promise of further Jenny Ringo adventures which I’m looking forward to seeing.  Good job, mates.

JENNY RINGO AND THE MONKEY’S PAW is available for viewing online at Vimeo  for those who bounce on over to www.jennyringo.com and sign up on the mailing list.  Enjoy.

http://vimeo.com/36578486

Better In The Dark #118

Episode 118: GATEKEEPERS OF CHILDHOOD NIGHTMARES–THE AMERICAN HORROR HOST TRADITION (Special Guest: Lord Blood Rah)

The Guys Outta Brooklyn return to their upbringing when they welcome modern-day horror movie host Lord Blood Rah to discuss the origins, history and resurgence of the American Horror Movie Host tradition! Of course, this being a guest host episode of Better In The Dark, it soon morphs into a freewheeling discussion of the state of horror movies in general. It’s almost two hours of fun and frights in the BiTD manner! Plus the forgotten blaxploitation mummy epic, why Dr. Frankenstein always has the upper hand when other mad scientists host tea parties, and why it might be a good thing that Guillermo delToro isn’t adapting Lovecraft. It’s time to cut up that giant ameba, so get to clicking!

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