Movie Suggestions

5 Horror Films…

…you should see right now.

So not everyone loves horror films, so some people will avoid these suggestions. I have a love/hate relationship with them. I love to be scared yet most scary movies are simply just bad movies, so the pickin’s is sometimes slim. If you love being scared as much as I do, I present to you some films that walk that fine line between being scary and being a watchable. My rule of thumb is if I would watch the horror movie more than once, then it was worth my time. (Exception being Paranormal Activity, which for some reason I watched twice.)

Some of these movies are not your typical horror films and some are totally well-known classics, so hopefully this list does not simultaneously confuse and bore you.

[REC]: I saw [REC] with no idea of what to expect or any idea what it would be about. This is kind of how I want you to watch it as well, but I suppose by even writing about it, I’m giving you some preconceived notions about the film.

Hopefully you have not seen the American re-make, Quarantine, because I’m sure it’s not as good. I’ve never seen it and that’s my inner movie snob talking, but c’mon, rarely does the American remake surpass the foreign original. I digress. I watched this movie with 2 other people and we were all delightfully terrified throughout and came to a breathless consensus when it was over that we had just witnessed something awesome. Don’t want to give too much away. Just trust me when I say this is my favorite horror film ever.

Other horror films with subtitles: The Orphanage, A Tale of Two Sisters, Let the Right One In, The Host (But really only watch the opening, the rest is too long)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: More of a black comedy, this strange little gem employs all the well-known conventions of backwoods hillbilly slasher films but puts a twist on events that make you laugh and cringe at the ensuing bloodshed.

The film pits a group of typical partying, pot smoking vapid college kids against Tucker and Dale, two loveable good old boys who are excited for their first weekend at Tucker’s ‘vacation home’. Things spiral out of control as the body count rises and Tucker and Dale are left scratching their heads. One strange thing about this film is that it was released only via Netflix, so if you don’t have it, find a friend with a subscription and enjoy!

Other black comedy horror films: Young Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, The Orphan (Not really a comedy, but I laughed the entire time)

The Descent: This movie appeals to my personal fascination with caves. Whenever possible, I begged my family to go visit roadside cave attractions and my mother indulged me with various trips to local caves (thanks, Ma). The Descent is a solid B-movie.  This film really doesn’t need a whole lot of set up, and I appreciate that they don’t really try. One character has a semi-meaningful storyline, but the rest I don’t even want to know their names– I just want to see them go spelunking.

Yes, there’s gore and icky creatures but what I found most terrifying is the complete sense of claustrophobia in the scenes of the women navigating the cave system. You almost don’t need the things that go bump in the night to make this film scary. But you do have them, and it makes for an enjoyable, creepy excursion.

Other horror B-movie guilty pleasures: The Strangers, Friday the 13th, Event Horizon

The Changeling: Haunted houses creep me out. I thought my house was haunted when we first moved in 2 years ago but it ended up it was just unemployment cabin fever, I hope. Anyway, The Changeling is about a man stricken with grief who moves inadvertently in to a haunted house which contains a terrible secret. The house is a mammoth gothic structure with gorgeous interiors and creepy secret passageways which almost just makes the movie for me.

The storyline has twists and turns which keep things interesting and having George C. Scott as the main character means this movie will at least have excellent acting. This movie is a product of slower storytelling than today’s thrillers, so mood is everything when watching.

Other horror films with creepy things happening in houses/structures: Insidious, Them, Poltergeist (Duh.)

Freaks: Considering my love of circus sideshows since middle school, it should be no surprise to those who have known me a long time that I would be interested in this 1932 classic horror film. In a world where now CGI would likely be used on actors portraying circus freaks to avoid political incorrectness, this film employed actors who actually worked on the sideshow circuit to portray the characters. Its the type of film where you question whether you should be watching it at all in the name of good taste. Considering it was banned in many places upon release, even depression-era critics questioned its good taste, so you know it’s shocking.

The film skirts that uneasy place of sympathetically presenting the ‘freaks’ as normal, emotional human beings and making them out to be monsters, which leaves the viewer questioning what the message was exactly supposed to be.  My favorite character hands down (no pun intended) is the limbless Prince Randian aka ‘The Living Torso’. The scene in which he lights a match and his own cigarette all with his mouth is pretty amazing.

Other black and white horror films: Night of the Living Dead
*of course there are a ton of b/w horror films, I just wouldn’t particularly suggest them.

As always, please be a responsible when watching these horror films. Dim the lights, pull up a blanket, and view with no more than 3 other people who do not attempt to chatter the fear away.

Fellow horror movie fans–suggestions? Feedback?

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Categories: Favorites, IMHO, Movie Suggestions, Spooky Oooky! | 4 Comments

5 Documentaries…

…you should see right now.

This is the start of me chronicling my movie recommendations. I am doing this because I talk about movies too damn much anyway in every day conversation so hopefully this will curb that habit. Also, my mother always laments that I need to write my recommendations down and this will force her to read my blog. Hope you enjoy the suggestions and please leave your own in the form of comments if you– like me–are a documentary junkie.

American Movie: Anyone who knows me well has probably been shown this movie, by me. It’s actually a requirement of our friendship. This documentary is about a B-movie horror film obsessed man and his quest to make his own horror masterpiece. Mark Borchardt is a loser– he hasn’t finished anything in his life (including high school and military service) and likely hosts a cocktail of mental issues which, from an outsider’s stance, have very obviously hindered any real progress in his life.  He is accompanied in his quest to actually finish something by a rag-tag group of loser friends, weirdos, community play actors, and his family.

Mike Schank has forever changed the way I pronounce 'vah-kah'

The characters are just too priceless here– particularly his friend, Mike Schank who has been on one too many acid trips. Mike’s sweet disposition and desire to be sober is a perfect foil to Mark, who has endless energy and a bit of a mean streak.  The plot revolves around the making of Mark’s grand B-movie horror masterpiece, “Coven”, which Mark mispronounces as “c-OH-ven” throughout the entire film.

Other documentaries about people obsessed with pop culture: Darkon, King of Kong, I Think We’re Alone Now

Little Dieter Needs to Fly: By now many people know of Werner Herzog’s documentary, Grizzly Man, and may have seen Rescue Dawn with Christian Bale, the movie which is based off this documentary. After seeing both the documentary and the dramatization of the story, I must say the documentary was far more compelling.
The doc recounts the story of Dieter Dengler, a German born man who dreamed of being a pilot all throughout his childhood. That dream became a reality when he moved to the United States, joined the military, and was sent to fly planes in Vietnam. In Vietnam he was shot down, captured, and forced on a harrowing death march to his final internment site, where he was tortured and starved.  There, he and his fellow prisoners planned an escape from the camp. When he was found he was 85 pounds.

Dieter reenacting his capture. Craziness.

Of course this documentary has all the Herzog-ian touches—Werner’s strange and deliberate narration that sometimes makes you wonder how much the director is projecting on the to the storyline and strong real-life characters who are amazingly candid. Dieter is an incredibly interesting person– extremely bright and admirable. He actually goes back to where he was captured to re-trace his steps, which is amazing considering all the traumatic memories surely conjured up by the reenactment of his ordeal.

Other Werner Herzog documentaries: Encounters at the End of the World, Grizzly Man

How to Draw a Bunny: This documentary about pop artist Ray Johnson describes him as the most pop famous artist you’ve never heard of. As the layers are peeled back on this Warhol contemporary and you’re not sure if you admire his quirk and genius or are thankful you don’t have it. Interviews with artists who knew him such as Christo, Chuck Close, and Roy Lichtenstein reveal their bemused appreciation for his eccentricities and art pieces consisting of collages, mailed art and performance art. The lines between his life and his work are so non-existent that even the seemingly carefully constructed circumstances around his death make you wonder if it was his final performance piece.

The enigmatic Ray Johnson.

Other documentaries about art/art history: The Rape of Europa, The Art of the Steal, My Architect  

Marjoe: Marjoe is the story of Marjoe Gortner, a man who was raised by evangelical ministers who marketed him as a novelty child preacher throughout the Bible Belt.  As he grows older, he continues to preach, but secretly he is a non-believer. This film follows him through his final tent revival tour, giving the viewer a front and center view of the Pentecostal revivals Marjoe leads. We see how the preachers rifle through bags of money after their performance and explain all the different ways to ‘move’ people to donate to their ministry.

Marjoe's permed hair is strangely attractive. Maybe that's just me.

Despite the fact that Marjoe is essentially defrauding his fellow worshipers, he is an extremely likable and watchable protagonist who claims he never knew any other way. The scenes of Marjoe leading the revivals are fascinating yet respectful of the Christians in attendance.

Other documentaries exploring religion: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Jesus Camp, Religulous

The Cruise: This documentary follows the stream of consciousness of Timmothy Levitch who is a strange mixture of Woodie Allen, Ira Glass, and my favorite Art History teacher, Professor Cunnally (You probably haven’t met him, but trust me, it’s spot on).  He is extremely eccentric and works as a double-decker New York city bus tour guide. His grandiose statements about the city around him mixed with his obvious love of the place make him incredibly entertaining to watch. I would love to be one of his passengers. This is a really hard movie to describe, but trust me, it’s worth it. And if I haven’t intrigued you, then maybe this trailer will. After all, isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?

My description does not accurately portray the awesomeness of this film. Go see it.

Other documentaries about eccentric people in New York/the East Coast: Bill Cunningham New York, Grey Gardens, I Like Killing Flies

Do you have any favorite documentaries? I would love to hear suggestions and comments about the docs above!

Categories: Arts and Culture, Favorites, IMHO, Movie Suggestions | 3 Comments

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