Blue Sunshine

FIlm, 1978

Blue Sunshine is a bad movie that sometimes ends up on people’s Best Cult Movies of All Time lists, provided those lists go up to like 100. It’s attained that status based on three strengths: 1) A brooding, distant and most of all weird performance by the lead actor, Red Shoe Diaries director Zalman King. It’s not clear to the layman whether his inappropriate staring or absurdly idiosyncratic yelling counts as acting or not, but I’m assured it’s a misguided attempt at trying to be Marlon Brando. 2) Typical bad movie stuff like baffling dialogue and strange people wandering around in the background. 3) Every now and then in the movie, someone gets their wig yanked off, and their eyebrows disappear, and they get super-strength, and they go on a killing spree.

In The Mouth of Madness

Film, 1994

I was pretty mad at you, Ashley Hansen, for telling me to watch this movie when I saw John Carpenter’s name in the opening credits and has ever-present self-composed electric guitar score blaring behind it. But, thankfully, the hallmarks of what ruin Carpenter’s work for me ended there. There was a narrative arc, rather than a bunch of events mashed together, and the score was distinctly un-Carpenter. It maintained one of his best strengths, however- cool monsters. I’d never seen Sam Neil be a cocksure playboy before, and it turns out he’s pretty good at it, especially in this paranoid horror setting. The movie taps into the main strength of it’s inspiration, H.P. Lovecraft, which is an exploration and, ultimately, a validation of insanity. That’s a powerful idea and, I realized as I was watching this movie, the only thing that really scares me anymore. What if a crazy thing that someone says, the type of thing you always dismiss, has some validity? Alien encounters, ghosts, all types of visions. Taking them seriously for even a brief second can be a terrifying prospect. Think then how absolutely horrifying they must be then for the people who think they are real. Would it be so hard for some of the reality they live in to come creeping into yours? Are you so different?

The Naked Kiss

Film, 1964

Quite a trick here- Fuller spends the first good chunk of the movie, in which a woman’s illicit past claws at her as she attempts to leave it behind, humming along as normal as far as appearances go, but what he’s really doing is building a delicate house of cards. When it all falls down watching each one float by is really devastating. The lead actress is the film’s secret weapon. Her hypnotic naturalism overcomes any choppy editing or bad lighting to help the film establish a totally believable and absorbing word. Absolutely killer opening, great music and fun pulp language.

Mother (2009)

film, 2009

Mother has all the hallmarks of its fantastic director, Bong Joon-ho; a cast of cartoon characters rich in their humanity that boost its fascinating premise, moments of baffling and powerful imagery bordering on the surreal and tonal shifts that take you from stark hilarity to heartbreak in a flash, all while maintaining a believable and relatable atmosphere. This particular film is a crime drama about, as the title suggests, mothers. The film tests a mother’s fierce loyalty and propensity to protect her child, qualities that are the salvation (then ultimately revealed to be the damnation) of the crimes perpetrated. One of the most remarkable things about the film is that, because if its breadth of tone, you genuinely have no idea how the mystery is going to be resolved (until your own perception and allegiances are eventually turned on you). It’s a tricky game that Bong pulls off with ease, and we can only pray that he never moves to Hollywood so that he can continue playing it.

The Fifth Cord

Film, 1971

The Fifth Cord is a bad movie. It’s only gripping a couple of times (a creepy phone call and a chase sequence or two), the characters are basically sexy Italian lamps and when I found out whodunnit I couldn’t find a way to make it more interesting than “So that’s the guy who killed all those people in that movie I just watched”. But it’s still worth watching. Why? The photography is so stunning that it carries the entire movie. The color, composition and weird visual tricks makes each shot look like a carefully orchestrated photograph and make watching this boring thriller enjoyable. The way that buildings and objects are used to fill the frame is very geometric, Koyaanisqatsian even. So if you’re in the mood to watch a dude with a killer ‘stache and sick ‘chops interrogate a parade of gorgeous Italian women whom he sometimes propositions and sometimes slaps amidst a backdrop of mesmerizing tacking shots of 60’s Italian architecture and furniture, then you couldn’t do much better than The Fifth Cord. Or maybe you could, like I said it isn’t very good. 3

El orfanato

Film, 2007

The Orphanage was marketed completely appropriately; It’s a Guillermo del Toro film that’s not by Guillermo del Toro. It’s in the same vein, but not as good. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t good, or is completely devoid of it’s own personality, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what to expect. At best it has some very effective sequences, at worst it can be overwrought to the point of distracting sillyness. 3


Film, 2008

Baghead succeeds where almost every single other Hollywood production of it’s nature fails; it has genuine, likable characters and invests you in them in a way that pays off when the horror stars. And while it is pretty light on the horror and pretty heavy on the characters, the whole thing is so well done that you’re never left wanting for the other. But my favorite part of all? It’s not an ironic take on the slasher genre, it’s an actual take on the slasher genre. Check your Hollywood production expectations at the door. 4


This is a scenario of a movie’s long shadow working against it. I’m sure this movie would have been a whole lot more effective if I had seen it in a theater in 1978. But since this trailblazing film was released it’s imitators have topped and worn out all of it’s tricks, leaving not a very interesting movie. It’s tough holding a work’s own success against it. Do I blame the Sex Pistols personally for ruining punk? No. But that doesn’t make it any easier to listen to their albums. Also, John Carpenter’s music is rediculous. There is something to the music in this film that is genuinely unnerving, and I can understand why it’s been copied so much, but it’s in like EVERY scene. Three girls walking down the street and talking about the big dance, a scene that’s not even attempting to build tension, doesn’t need the creepy score. 2/5

Fissures (Ecoute le Temps)

I really dig the way this movie unfolds it’s story- giving you seemingly random moments of it’s characters and leaving it to you to assemble the narrative (as opposed to coming up with some convoluted way of bringing you up to speed). It’s also a brilliant idea for a supernatural thriller, and perfectly suited for the medium of film. 4/5