Emily runs the lovely Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense Blog and is the other part of the Feminine Critique Podcast(which I do recommend). She watches many many movies and always finds a good deal of interesting stuff!
On Twitter: @Deadlydolls & @FemininePodcast.
Sam Raimi's take on Spiderman has always left me rather cold. It flirted with humor but preferred a semi-serious approach, a tone that holds up terribly in recent years' open-faced Avengers' series or the gritty darkness of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. That in mind, I was happily surprised to find Raimi's lesser known attempt at creating a superhero to be a grand old time. Making his own myth, Raimi captures the perfect balance of tragedy and adventure by finding the perfect mood to tell an old tale of a genius scientist (Liam Neeson!) whose irresponsible girlfriend (Frances McDormand!) accidentally leads him to be horrifically scarred and hunted by an evil real estate developer (Some Guy!) and his ace henchman (Larry Drake!). There are plenty of gaping plotholes and minor flaws to go around, but as a popcorn flick, Darkman sure is tasty.
13. Murder By Death(1976)
I grew up with Clue playing on loop in my house, so it was only natural that I would adore its predecessor. With a beyond awesome cast that includes Alec Guinness, Peter Falk, Peter Sellers, Elsa Lanchester, the fabulously dry Maggie Smith and, whaddya know! Mrs. Peacock herself, Murder By Death is a joyous little parody of murder mysteries.
12. The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas(1982)
If the nuclear war was imminent and I somehow ended up in charge of which great minds and talents were allowed to wait it out in the nation's official bomb shelter, my first pick would be, without hesitation or doubt, Dolly Parton. That blond bundle of positive energy and songwriting talent never fails to make me feel good about the world, and that sense is omnipresent in this film adaptation of a popular Broadway musical. The songs are a blast, the humor, affectionately bawdy, and the cast—which includes a thong-clad Burt Reynolds and the late Charles Durning in an Oscar nominated cameo turn—seems to be having as good a time as the audience.
11. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People(1963)
I had heard whisperings that this should-be cult classic was not nearly as silly as it title suggested. Hard to believe, as even after watching this hauntingly eerie Japanese gem, I STILL can’t say “Mushroom People” with a straight face. That aside, this is a groovy little oddball about a random group of wealthy Japanese vacationers who wash up ashore an abandoned island, only to eat some mysterious fungus and, well, BECOME MUSHROOM PEOPLE. It’s REALLY good, but damnit, YOU try saying MUSHROOM PEOPLE without laughing.
10. What’s the Matter With Helen(1971)/The Killing Kind(1973)/Whoever Slew Auntie Roo(1972)
One of my 2012 joys was discovering a fairly little-known filmmaker who seemed to be interested in the same concepts and stories that I find so fascinating and underserved in cinema. Curtis Harrington worked hard in the '70s and seemed to reap little fame or reward. Thankfully, he still managed to leave behind a bevy of movies that have aged extraordinarily well, from the fairy tale horrors of Whoever Slew Auntie Roo to the Oedipal portrait of The Killing Kind. Much like Pedro Almovador, Harrington had a wonderful affection for middle-aged actresses, giving juicy roles to the likes of Debbie Reynolds, Shelly Winters, and Anne Southern, all playing flawed mothers paying for their parental shortcomings with interest.
9. Death Dream (aka Dead of Night)(1972)
Bob “Black Christmas” Clark applies the oft-told tale of The Monkey's Paw to a sad little horror film about a mother refusing to let her son die in Vietnam. What follows is one of the most tragic genre films I've ever seen, making the horror all the more painful and effective.
8. Dead of Night(1945)
Same title, VERY different film. This one's a 1945 anthology that lays plenty of groundwork for decades worth of horror cinema, complete with an excellent wrap-around story, twist ending, and a fine variety of horror types (ghost story! comedic haunting! possession!). Dead of Night also seemed to establish the awful law of anthologies that states every multi-part film must involve a killer doll segment. In this case, we get a truly terrifying ventriloquist dummy driving a young Michael Redgrave insane. And a 30-year-old me hiding under the covers.
7. The Conversation(1974)
Something tells me that if you read Rupert’s blog, you already know The Conversation is something special. I’ll just echo that here.
6. Long Weekend(1978)
It's no secret that I love me some Nature Strikes Back! attitude in my cinema, but The Long Weekend is something much deeper than your typical(ly wonderful) Frogs or Food of the Gods. This moody Australian thriller uses the basic setup of an animals attack movie to tell a much more horrifying tale of an unhappily married couple who treat each other, themselves, and the environment with equal disdain, only to learn the penalties of which in a nightmarishly is-it-real? finale. Part The Birds but more parts Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Long Weekend is beautifully shot and stacked with two brave, unflinching performances. It's a film that has sat with me long after the credits rolled.
5. Rear Window(1954)/Body Double(1984)
I’m not proud to say I’d never seen Hitchcock’s Rear Window, but I’m happy to have followed up that viewing with a film that offers an affectionately sleazy homage. Both are winners…just in different ways.
4. The Incredible Shrinking Man(1957)
What separates the Richard Matheson-penned The Incredible Shrinking Man from a batch of Bert I. Gordon films with the same or opposite premise? Primarily the fact that director Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man feels less like a drive-in movie and far more like a philosophical analogy regarding the modern American man. Sure, there’s a big spider battle at its climax, but this sci-fi gem relies less on action than the questions it asks of the universe. Heavy stuff, dude.
3. Babe: Pig In the City(1998)
When Babe became the juggernaut hit (and Oscar nominee) of 1995, it was only natural to expand the franchise with a quick cash-in. What's so astonishing about Babe 2: Pig In the City is how that's exactly what director George Miller DIDN'T do. Where Babe was sweet, Babe 2 is subversive, broadening its universe in a way that’s almost, I don’t know, existential? Though it flopped in its debut, Babe: Pig In the City now stands as one of cinema’s richest, most unusual and CERTAINLY most unexpected sequels of all time. Plus, when in doubt, there are monkeys dressed like humans.
2. Come and See(1985)
When it landed on TIME's 100 Essential Horror Movies list earlier this year, many a genre fan scratched his or her head wondering why they had never heard of this Belarusian tale. Its inclusion as a 'horror' film might seem at first glance arguable, but once you sit through this gut-wrenching story of a simple 14-year-old boy witnessing the true terror of war, Come and See proves itself far scarier and more disturbing than anything involving werewolves or serial killers. This is the kind of film I'll probably never watch again, and yet in one viewing, I also know I'll never forget it.
1. Singin' In the Rain(1952)
As a lifelong fan of musicals, it's pretty shameful that I had never thought to view one of the genres most universally declared treasures. I knew going into this 1952 classic that the songs would be fun and the dancing amazing, but what I didn't realize was how absolutely FUNNY the script would prove to be. Much like The Wizard of Oz, Singin' In the Rain is far more than just an American landmark or great compilation of scenes: it's a charming, timeless, well-acted, and wonderfully done movie from top to bottom. I watched it a month ago and I’m still smiling.
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