Films I Saw is a self explanatory monthly column dedicated to cataloging each and every film I saw within that month. Each film will be given a grade and a mini review.
Sep. 1—Hands on a Hard Body (1997)
Twenty-four contestants compete in an contest in order to win a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck. The last person to remain standing with his or her hand on the truck wins. A glorified marketing gimmick, the contest gets far more intense as the hours turn into days and sleep deprivation turn the contests into zombies. Filled with memorable characters that perfectly lend themselves to a narrative film (Robert Altman actually tried remaking this years later) and legit stakes that pull you in and keep you engaged, Hands on a Hardbody is, as one of the participants said, “…a human drama thing.”
Sep. 2—Only You (1994)
A childhood incident involving a Ouija board has convinced Faith (Marissa Tomei) that her true love is a guy named “Damon Bradley.” Years later, Faith is about to marry another man and Damon Bradley calls to wish them all the best. Seeing this as destiny literally calling, Faith blows off the wedding and follows Damon to Italy. While there, she meets the charming Peter Wright (Robert Downey Jr) but can they fall in love if she still believes that she is intended to be with someone else? A delightful romcom that could be about anything and you’d still fall in love with it because of the 1000 watt charisma of its leads. It’s an enjoyable slice of emotion porn who’s charm far outweighs its contrived premise.
Sep. 3—No One Lives (2012)
A gang of ruthless highway killers kidnap a wealthy couple traveling cross country only to shockingly discover that things are not what they seem. No One Lives is the Punisher vs the hillbillies from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but without the cannibalism and a chainsaw wielding family member. Although it delivers on its premise and has a great lead performance, it’s one of those films that’s ripe for a remake.
Sep. 4—Deadline (1984)
After a series of tragic events occur that are inspired by his work, a screenwriter for horror films gradually loses the ability to distinguish between his fantasy world and the real world, with disastrous consequences. With his world crumbling around him, he’s determined now more than ever to meet his deadline, even if it kills him. A more cerebral version of Evil Ed but without that films entertainingly over the top gore, Deadline gets points for its original concept that was ahead of its time but it’s far too light on the scares or deaths to recommend.
Sep. 5—Dark Waters (1993)
Remember that episode of the Simpsons where Poochy joins Itchy and Scratchy? There’s a scene where Bart, Lisa, Nelson and Milhouse are watching the cartoon and at some point a fireworks factory is mentioned and after a long period of time with nothing but Poochy and no fireworks factory, Milhouse exclaims “when are they gonna get to the fireworks factory!” He then proceeds to cry. Replace the fireworks factory work a Cthulhu monster and that’s Dark Waters.
Sep. 6—True Believer (1989)
A burnt out former civil rights lawyer who now specializes in defending drug dealers teams up with a lawyer who just graduated from law school about five minutes ago on a case of a young Korean man who, according to his mother, has been in jail for eight years for a murder he didn’t commit. The performances are pretty good, the story is fine and Woods’ ponytail is amazing. It’s a straight down the middle legal potboiler that your father will love.
Sep. 7—Evilspeak (1981)
Bullied by classmates, a pudgy military-school student decides to fight back by using a computer to summon demons and cast spells on his tormentors. Anyone who likes, loves or has fond memories of this film, only likes the last 10 minutes. They must’ve convinced themselves that those handful of scenes last longer than they actually do because the other 80 minutes are nothing but boring misery porn. It’s an unpleasant film that drags on and on until you pray to God or Satan to end your suffering.
Sep. 8—It Chapter Two (2019)
What the fuck happened? Whether you like the first IT or not, you have to admit that effort was put into that film to make it scary. Now, whether you think it was scary or not, is based entirely on personal preference but the fact remains, it was a horror film made with the intent to scare you. I have no idea what the goal of this film was. It undermines every scare with a joke, it’s entirely too long (why is Henry Bowers in this? He does precisely nothing and adds nothing to the plot), the tone is wildly inconsistent, the structure is repetitive, most of the plot is made irrelevant by the end and the final confrontation is laughable. If it wasn’t for Hader and Ransone, this film might be unwatchable.
Sep. 9—Arcane Sorcerer (1996)
Shunned by his church, a seminary student takes refuge with an excommunicated priest who teaches him wizardry and black magic. A favorite of Del Toro’s, Arcane Sorcerer is a well made dark fantasy that’s never scary but what it lacks in frights, it makes up for in ambience. I have a sneaking suspicion that if it was released in 30 years earlier, we’d all be calling it a masterpiece.
Sep. 10—Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989)
A family and a criminally underutilized Bruce Campbell are caught in the middle of a vampire gang fight set in a western town. Nothing about this film works. It’s not an action film, it’s not a comedy and it sure as fuck isn’t a horror. The big twist at the end is that David Carradine’s character is actually Dracula. That underwhelming non-reveal is the only interesting thing that happens in this film. That’s how little happens in this film.
Sep. 11—Chasing Sleep (2000)
A college professor (Jeff Daniels) awakens to find his wife missing. He calls her friend but she hasn’t seen her. He calls her work but they said she left hours ago. Did she leave without telling him and if so, why? Did he murder her and forget due to his black outs? Was it her lover? Or is there something more going on? Maybe something….supernatural. Chasing Sleep is a surreal psychological thriller that owes a debt to films like Jacob’s Ladder and the Machinist, as well as the work of David Lynch. Like a child pulling the wings off of a butterfly, the film takes perverse glee in playing with the main character’s sanity, twisting and turning reality until you’ll eventually start to question how much of what you’re seeing is actually real. It’s a dread induced nightmare that’ll stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
Sep. 12—The Demolitionist (1995)
A murdered police officer is brought back to life by a cold-hearted scientist to serve as “The Demolitionist”, the ultimate crime-fighting weapon in a city overrun by criminals and internal corruption. It’s Robocop but with tits. It’s miles away from being good but it does make for a great drinking game. Take a shot every time a genre legend shows up and you’ll be wasted by the 30 minute mark.
Sep. 13—Hellfest (2018)
A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorizing a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it is all part of the show. A slasher that offers very little outside of its great premise. The characters aren’t memorable, the kills are uninspired, the killer is kinda lame and there’s no nudity. Having said that, it is still a slasher and since its been forever since I saw one, I admittedly forgave a lot of its shortcomings.
Sep. 14—Minutes Past Midnight (2016)
Minutes Past Midnight is a collection of 9 short films which are: Never Tear Us Apart, Awake, Crazy For You, The Mill At Calder’s End, Roid Rage, Feeder, Timothy, Ghost Train, and Horrific. The first is a forgettable tale about a cannibal family, the second is boring story about a zombie kid, the third is an almost charming comedy about a serial killer who falls in love that’s too unbelievable to take seriously, the fourth is a gorgeously animated gothic fable that’s far and away the best of the lot, the fifth is an immature action parody about a killer hemorrhoid that’s kinda terrible, the sixth has something to do with a kid’s favorite TV character coming to life to murder people (I don’t remember it at all), the seventh is an interesting tale of a musician who discovers a demonic entity in his apartment who will grant him instant inspiration for his art but at a deadly price, the eighth is a chilling ghost story that easily could’ve been a full length feature and the ninth was a fun Evil Dead inspired horror comedy about a man combating a chupacabra. Since there’s such a huge disparity in quality between shorts, I suggest just watching the good ones separate.
Sep. 15—Demonwarp (1988)
George Kennedy and a group of teens walk around the woods avoiding a bigfoot until a bigger threat unexpectedly shows up. Between the hammy performances and cheesy effects, there’s enough material here to make a million croissants. It’s not good but it’s a great good bad movie if you know what I mean.
Sep. 16—The Baby’s Room (2006)
On the first night in their new house, a couple hears a weird voice coming from their child’s baby monitor. Writing it off as interference, the couple throw the monitor in the trash and decide to get a camera that allows them to monitor their child instead. On the second night, they discover someone else in the house who sits next to the baby’s crib every night. More effective than a dozen Paranormal Activitys, The Baby’s Room is a chilling ghost story that’ll leave you on edge.
Sep. 17—Fido (2006)
A satirical black comedy set in an alternate 1950’s, Fido has a simple premise: the dead have been converted into servants for the upper middle class and act as everything from butlers, to manual laborers and even pets. The film explores every implication of its ingenious set up and manages to tackle heavy metaphors without feeling preachy and has a genuine heart that never feels tacked on or disingenuous. Seeing as how this is essentially Leave it to Beaver but with zombies, I want to live in a world where this was a hit and we got similarly themed zombie films inspired by other 50’s properties like the Honeymooners or Dragnet but I instead live in a world where World War Z exists.
Sep. 18—Patrick (1978)
Getting a film recommendation from Tarantino is the literal definition of a gamble. It’s a 50/50 split between being a total hidden gem that’ll become one of your favorite discoveries or an ok film that has something really good about it only he can see. Since he’s a huge fan of Ozploitation, he’s raved about Patrick for years and years and while I can see what he likes about it (the slow escalation of dread, creepy tone, great jump scare at the end), it’s a film that’s a bit too slow for its own good. With a tighter pace, it would be much more effective.
Sep. 19—Deadly Lessons (2006/2014)
A mysterious college professor, Simon Conjurer guides a group of dysfunctionals on a journey of self discovery, as they become the focus of a murder investigation when Simon is framed by his rival, Dr. Crazx, a Pulitzer prize winning psychiatrist with an unsavory vendetta and a knack for twisted mind games. Of all the insane vanity projects made by egotistical directors who’s reach far exceeded their grasp, this one is easily the most competent. It’s not good by any stretch of the imagination but unlike Birdemic or The Room, it is watchable. The performances aren’t unbearably bad, the direction isn’t incompetent, the sound isn’t terrible, the script isn’t that bad and the effects, while laughable, aren’t the worst thing in the world.
This will never hit the same levels of infamy like Samurai Cop or Miami Connection but it does share a lot of the same WTF DNA as those films. It might not be as terrible as those films on a purely technical level, it is just as baffling on a decision making one. The film feels as if someone created an algorithm to create the perfect LIFETIME movie and then handed that script to a delusional loon with a messiah complex. It’s absolutely fucking bizarre and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.
Sep. 20—The Accidental Husband (2008)
When a radio love guru convinces a fireman’s fiancée to dump him the week before their wedding, he sets about teaching her a lesson for interfering in other peoples lives that she knows nothing about. He has a friend use his computer skills to create a fake marriage license between the two and comedic hijinks naturally ensure. There are few things more interminable than a romcom on auto pilot. All the leads are sleep walking through their roles, the script is hackneyed and lazy and nobody has any chemistry with anyone. Every actor in this deserves better.
Sep. 21—Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)
Zach Galifianakis and his oddball crew take a road trip to complete a series of high-profile celebrity interviews. Basically cameo the movie, Between Two Ferns is his web series stretched out to feature length but with pointless filler in between the interviews and with each interview being cut down to one or two questions. It’s the type of comedy where the bloopers end up being the best thing about it.
Sep. 22—Burial Ground (1981)
I believe it was Lucio Fulci or Bruno Mattei who said “in Italy, we only make Zombi 2, not Zombi 1.” Meaning there entire film industry is built off of knock offs and not originals because why risk wasting money on an unproven commodity when you know your audience will see anything that’s even remotely similar to something they already like. But at a certain point, the directors stop copying American blockbusters and they just copy the Italian knock offs. Zombi 2 became as ripped off as the film it was ripping off which which resulted in a market filled with inferior copies of the same exact movie until you end up with a film like Burial Ground, which is barely a movie at all. It’s nothing but prolonged chase sequences where someone runs from a zombie until the zombie inevitably catches them. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Oh and there’s also weird incest vibes, so there’s that.
Sep. 23—Descent into Darkness: My European Nightmare (2013)
Starting off like a Borat-esque hyper comedy where the director/lead gets into hilarious misadventures in Paris, the film takes a hard turn after he loses all of his money through either drugs, parties, alcohol or getting mugged. Slowly descending into madness, Prakov keeps getting worse and worse until he’s an insane homicidal maniac. It’s the closest we’ve got to a film about Richard Chase and if you know anything about that serial killer, you know exactly what to expect—nothing but insanity and ultra violence.
Sep. 24—Confessions of a Serial Killer (1985)
After being arrested, a man begins confessing to the brutal murder of over two hundred women. He recounts in great detail the multitude of his victims, randomness of his evil and the origins of his murderous desires. Appalled at these revelations, the police can’t be sure whether to believe him or not until he shows them some polaroids and helps locate a body and then another and another… Told primarily through flashbacks, Confessions of a Serial Killer is an unflinching look at a deranged mind that’s loosely based on real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, the inspiration behind the similarly grim Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Sep. 25—Der Samurai (2014)
Set on the edge of a dark forest and the very periphery of sanity, Der Samurai is a twisted dark fairytale about a young cop, a wolf terrorizing a village and a loon in a dress cutting the heads off of people with a katana. Is the killer a human manifestation of the wolf? Or a manifestation of the repressed cop? Or are all three the same? An orgy of slasher influences, werewolf tropes, ronin flicks and postpunk alienation, this is unhinged lunacy at 100mph. Or as the kids say “a whole ass mood”.
Sep. 26—1922 (2017)
Unceremoniously dumped onto Netflix with little to no fanfare, 1922 is easily as good as the streaming service’s other King adaptation Gerard’s Game but somehow it got lost in the shuffle while the former was a big success. A ghastly slow burner that stacks minor incident upon minor incident until they tally up to something major. Like the best of King’s adaptations, the film is a reminder that the author’s biggest strengths lie in his ability to build tension, create atmosphere, and tell a direct and brutal story, which 1922 is and then some. It’s as mean slice of Americana that’s rotten to its core and I mean that as a compliment.
Sep. 27—Borgman (2013)
A vagrant (Jan Bijvoet) enters the lives of an arrogant upper-class family, turning their lives into a psychological nightmare in the process. Since the film is ambiguous, it’s never made clear whether the vagrant is a flesh and blood human, a demon, a twisted allegory or if he’s actually real at all. He might just be the manifestation of their deteriorating marriage. The film offers many options and no answers, but odds are you’ll be too invested in his fiendish plans to care.
Sep. 28—Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)
Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is the type of movie that if it was released 20 years earlier, would’ve been a huge video rental. You would’ve rented it because of the cover and would’ve recommended it to your friends because Robert Englund was in it and because the third act is pretty much nothing but monster killing mayhem. But much like a carnival or a circus, the fun would be short-lived. Years would pass before you’d think about it. Not the film per say, but your old movie renting days and how you’d watch any schlocky horror movie if there was blood and even the slightest possibility of nudity. You’d get nostalgic about the old school and how they “don’t make ’em like they used to” and would lament the death of video stores. You wish times were simpler, when there was less options and the hardest decision was whether you were getting the film with the cool looking monster or the busty babe packing heat. You miss those cheesy films with the great covers and practical effects. If any of that applies to you, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer is the movie for you.
Sep. 29—The Canal (2014)
A film archivist’s life and sanity begin to crumble after he is given an old 16mm film reel with footage from a horrific murder that occurred in the early 1900’s. As he begins to unravel the mystery behind the murder tape, he slowly discovers that his house was the site of the murders and that history is about to repeat again. If you look up this film, half of the comments/reviews will be about its terrible poster and the other half are dismissals due to its strong resemblance to Sinister.
The first group is right, the poster is garbage but the second group are obnoxious douche-bags that more than likely also dismiss Tarantino because he copies other directors. I have no idea whether the director of this was influenced by Sinister or was even aware of it and frankly, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, any movie can copy or rip off any other film as long as it’s good. And since The Canal is great, I don’t care where it got its influences from. It’s a handsomely made film that’s well shot, well acted and has tons of well crafted jump scares. It also has one of the best endings of any horror of the last ten years.
Sep. 30—Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (2017)
Set in Basque Country, Spain in 1843, a police constable arrives at a small village in Álava to investigate a mysterious blacksmith who lives alone deep in the woods based on the testimony of an orphaned girl who discovered that the reclusive blacksmith is keeping a demon imprisoned in order to avoid paying his debt to the Devil. A treat for the eyes, Errementari is as beautiful as it is delightfully satanic. The demon is wonderfully designed, the woods are filmed to be as menacing as possible and the blacksmiths shop looks like an orange tinted hellscape of sparks and liquid metal. The whole film feels aesthetically similar to Tony Scott’s Legend but darker and more creepy. When Del Toro talks about eye protein as opposed to eye candy, this is the kind of film he’s talking about.