Top Five: Horror Flicks with Cult Followings
Whatcha doing the weekend of August 27th - 29th? Well, scratch that. We're all going to go see the above movie at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Stop reading and watch the clip. Not enough to whet your appetite? Go read this review, complete with what have to be the world's greatest animated GIFs. Calling this movie bat-shit insane questions the ability of the words "bat-shit" to adequately describe anything. The trailer itself might just be the craziest thing we've ever seen: The first third looks like a relatively straightforward horror film; the second third looks like a gum commercial; and the final third is just balls-to-the-wall lunacy. The most sane thing about this film is that it's based on an idea from the director's seven-year-old daughter. That's the most sense any of it makes, and if the trailer and review doesn't make you want to see it on the big screen, then you may want to check your veins for embalming fluid, because you're dead inside.
House isn't the only horror film to gain a following based chiefly around its weirdness, though. Here are some other cult-classics that excel in the horrifying-surrealism department.
Un Chien Andalou (1929) A 16-minute short film from acclaimed surrealist director Luis Buñuel and his friend Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou (translation: An Andalusian Dog) was perhaps the earliest and most influential example of surrealist cinema. If you think it's going to be cheesy and dated because it was shot in the 1920s, think again. Art students are still trying to come up with shit this weird. It opens with a guy sharpening a straight razor. He walks outside and places it threateningly near the eye of a woman, who appears catatonic. The film cuts to a shot of the full moon bisected by a narrow sliver of cloud, and just as you're thinking, "Oh, they're not going to actually show the eyeball slicing," bam, they totally do. Believe it or not, the thing just keeps getting weirder for the next 15 minutes. The above clip is a silent version, but when it originally played, it had musical accompaniment. Nobody seems sure about the specific music used, but we recommend experimenting with the Requiem For a Dream Soundtrack.
Bad Taste (1987) The above clip is all you really need to know about Bad Taste, distilled into 24 seconds. It was a film that tried to out-Troma Troma, the studio responsible for gross-out horror-comedies like The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High, and some argue that it succeeded. Filled with violence, gore and hilariously bad dialogue, the film about aliens that invade Earth and use humans as meat for their fast-food franchise more than lives up to its title. Bonus: It was directed by future Academy Award-winner Peter Jackson. Yes, the man who was responsible for the first real cinematic treatment of The Lord of the Rings made this. We've all got a past. Yours isn't this awesome.
Naked Lunch (1991) Before David Cronenberg directed critically beloved films like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, he was primarily known as a horror director--and a brutally weird one, too. His earlier horror films like The Brood, Dead Ringers, and especially The Fly, were notorious for their dark, twisted plots and their disgusting use of various bodily fluids. Cronenberg finally reached the apex of his weirdness trajectory, however, with Naked Lunch. Based on the loosely autobiographical novel by William S. Burroughs, which many editors claimed would never be published, and which was largely censored and banned once it was, Naked Lunch would seem unfilmable for anyone but Cronenberg. It follows an exterminator who gets addicted to bug poison, kills his wife in circumstances alarmingly similar to Burroughs' real-life wife's death, starts working for the government, and interacts with various outlandish creatures like it's no big thing. Most of the novel and film might not even be real, let's put it that way. The film remains the only example of a surrealist-horror-noir we can remember, and thanks to Cronenberg, it's rather brilliant. Peter Weller - yes, Robocop himself - stars.
Audition (1999) If you rent Audition not knowing anything about it, you might be confused. "I thought this was supposed to be a horror movie," you might think as the first hour-or-so of the film unfolds like a mild, pastoral romance. Films don't really pull the ol' bait-and-switch much anymore, so when it happens here, it's so jarring you might get whiplash. The film takes a hard, hard left into horror territory about halfway through. Remember From Dusk 'Til Dawn, when it suddenly turned from a road-heist movie into a vampire flick? Audition veers harder. Apropos of nothing, we see a young lady, auditioned earlier by the film's protagonist, waiting by her phone for a call. A burlap sack in the background moves and makes human noises. She vomits into a bowl and feeds it to the multiple-amputee living in the bag. The film reverts back to normalcy up until the last 15-20 minutes, which spiral rapidly into some of the most excruciating torture ever filmed. This movie is basically a series of kicks to the nuts.
Eraserhead (1976) Eraserhead is, as far as anyone can tell, a nightmare put to film. Its main character, the man with the ridiculous pompadour, suffers through excruciatingly oppressive social interactions before being presented with what looks like a peeled gopher and told it's his infant son. The thing screams. And screams. The main character's entire reality deteriorates. Above is a little sample of the kind of thing that happens to him. Dante tried to scare people with his visions of hell, but nothing in Inferno matches the sheer dread of Eraserhead. Like most of David Lynch's films, you won't know what the hell's going on, but you won't forget what you've seen. It gets under your skin in a big way.
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