In addition to making my way through a lot of films in the Great Chronological Slasher Franchise Project (which I will post an update on shortly), I also dug into a nice mix of purchased Blu-rays, gifted DVDs and streaming offerings in 2018! To my surprise and delight, I actually came across some movies that have become favorites easily making their way into my collection. You gotta hit that jump to find out what they are, though!
I began the year with a few nice purchases from Scream Factory of I, Madman and Phantom Of The Paradise, two films I’d never seen, but had heard great things about. I was super happy with both blind buys!
I picked up I, Madman for two reasons. First, it’s directed by The Gate‘s Tibor Takacs (a film I adore) and second, it’s about a woman working in a book store who winds up being stalked by the evil character in the book she’s reading! You get that and so much more in this 1989 flick that felt familiar and comforting but also scary and surprising. I was super drawn in by star Jenny Wright and wanted her to be okay, but wasn’t sure if she would be! I loved this movie and even showed it to my horror-loving buddy Rickey when he was up for Thanksgiving. I consider this to be one of the best horror discoveries I’ve made in recent memory.
From there I moved on to Brian De Palma’s 1974 symphony of craziness Phantom Of The Paradise. I don’t remember the plot of this film nearly as well as some of the others, but I do remember being enraptured by the experience.
It’s your basic Phantom Of The Opera story but with all kinds of crazy music, sci-fi instruments, a prison where inmates make toys and all the old school film references from BDP you can handle. Oh and it stars Paul Williams, who is creepy as all heck and also clearly rocking some kind of Dorian Gray deal where he never ages. I will be revisiting this one again shortly.
I also decided to make my way through some of the DVDs I’ve had sitting around for a while, specifically S. William Hinzman’s Flesh Eater from 1988. If you’re not familiar with this one — and I wasn’t until the aforementioned Rickey passed me a copy — it comes from the guy who played the Cemetery Zombie in Night Of The Living Dead. He decided to make a movie about his character from that film getting reawoken and going after a bunch of college(?) kids partying in the woods on Halloween. I won’t put this one in the forgotten classics section of my brain, but it was a fun, wild experiment that mixed in slasher and Evil Dead elements with fun results.
On a related note, I watched another film with strong Evil Dead nods in Demon Wind. In this one, which I saw on Amazon Video by way of Prime, features a college kid calling on his friends to help him find out what happened on his family’s property that killed his grandparents and scarred his father back in the ’50s.
The Evil Dead comparisons are big, but I actually felt like this one had more of an emotional center than that film because it was firmly based in family and friendship. I mean, this dude’s friends drove to the middle of NOWHERE (in pairs) to help their pal and that basic idea really hit me. It was a weird year. The demons themselves also looked pretty great, so I give Demon Wind a thumb’s up.
Like the Evil Dead symmetry of the past two films, I also watched two horror movies about horror fans. First up was 1982’s Trick Or Treats about a horror fan kid who feels like a mash-up of Friday The 13th franchise stars Franklin and Tommy Jarvis, but on speed. By the way, his room is AWESOME!
He’s being watched on Halloween and keeps playing tricks on his very gullible babysitter, which is not great timing because his dad — who his mom had committed to an asylum in the first scene — is making a return trip home. It gets crazier from there.
The better of the bunch was definitely Fade To Black from 1980 written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman, the co-writer of Teen Witch! This film follows a film super-fan who’s obsessed with classic Hollywood, not just horror flicks. After enduring abuse at the hands of his aunt, he finally snaps and kills her, leading to his psychological break that fuels his spree.
Oh, by the way, he doesn’t just off people, he dresses up like famous film characters to get the job done, committing fully to the role. Along the way, he falls for a woman who he thinks looks exactly like Marilyn Monroe. More accurately, he seems obsessed with the idea of her instead of the actual human being he’s with, hinting at his severe mental breakdown and clear obsession with film. I actually had a tough time being okay with this dude becoming the killer because I could relate to him so much, especially in my younger days. I think it’s an important film if it helps obsessives look in the mirror a bit and re-evaluate their intense love of something that can’t love them back. Whoa, that got deep.
By far, the best older horror film I experienced this year was Brian Yuzna’s 1989 gloppy masterpiece Society. I’d heard about this one a lot on Shock Waves, but didn’t get around to watching it until this year when I saw it appear on Amazon Video back in July. I’m pretty sure I’ve thought about it a few times a week since then.
Here’s the plot description from IMDb, which is pretty spot on: “An ordinary teenage boy discovers his family is part of a gruesome orgy cult for the social elite.” Said boy is played by Billy Warlock (Dick’s son) in a very Michael J. Fox sense that made him super endearing. He’s on a mission to figure out what’s up with the rich people in his town, leading to an amazing feat of special effects mastery called The Shunting at the end of the film which is maybe the most insane 20 minutes I’ve seen.
Society hits on a lot of themes that I like seeing in film ranging from a “I know something crazy is happening, but no one believes me” plot to a scathing indictment of rich people. Oh and also all that glop plus a perfectly assembled cast (you immediately want bad things to happen to the class president and his preppy minions). I loved this film and plan on keeping an eye out for another Arrow sale so I can grab the Blu-ray.