This is a 90’s genre masterpiece. It’s a highway update of The Lady Vanishes, with a great Kurt Russell performance.
Horror fans already know this one. It’s the most iconic of Argento’s earlier works. Don’t expect much of a narrative: this is all about mood, elaborately staged deaths, and one of the greatest soundtracks of all time.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 40th Anniversary
If you haven’t seen the 2014 restoration of the greatest horror film ever made, you’re in for a treat. It preserves the raw, grindhouse aesthetic but really pops off the screen. Many previously washed out visual details have become legible, and the surround sound mix is more immersive than ever and highlights the incredible score.
After De Palma’s success with Carrie, he was thought of as “the telekinesis guy” and was asked to helm this Kirk Douglas project. It’s a very different beast than Carrie: it integrates the telekinesis theme with a Jamesonian paranoid geopolitical aesthetic. It’s a pretty divisive movie, often considered by De Palma fans to be one of his best, but also widely disliked. I personally can’t relate *at all* to anyone who dislikes it. It’s an overwhelming pleasure for me. Pauline Kael famously wrote about the ending, “One can imagine Welles, Peckinpah, Scorsese, and Spielberg still stunned, bowing to the ground, choking with laughter.”
I assume most people have seen this, but this assumption has often proven incorrect. Definitely, definitely, definitely see it if you haven’t. It’s lightning in a bottle, with an alternate S&M dimension and no sympathetic characters. Clive Barker’s three masterpieces (this, Nightbreed, and Lord of Illusions) are unlike anything else in the cinematic horror genre. His imagination is truly one of a kind.
Old-fashioned werewolf movie, with a blind military veteran as the protagonist. I love it. With its legit practical effects (!) it stands head and shoulders above all the shitty CGI werewolf movies that we’ve been inundated with since CGI became a thing.
The African Queen
Back in the days before streaming, I used to watch this pretty much every time it was on Turner Classic Movies. You’ve got salty old riverboat captain Humphrey Bogart and overbearing church lady Katherine Hepburn, you’ve got a WWI adventure story, and you’ve got a classic screen romance. I pressed play the second I saw that it had appeared on Netflix, and it was as comforting as ever.
Cold in July
Trigger warning! Super dark, extremely compelling, twisted, unusual revenge movie starring Dexter and the late, great Sam Shepard in one of his last film performances.
Ken Russell’s hallucinatory 1980 freakout has aged well. This is one of the boldest, most original studio films of the era.
Latter day Greg Araki pastiche. Really fun and super weird. It’s hard to say too much without giving away plot points, but it’s a like a combination postmodern college sex comedy and cult sci-fi sorta thing.
Weird as fuck high concept chamber horror. An apocalyptic zombie virus spreads through… certain uses of language.
Wildly underrated. If you feel like freebasing some Nicolas Cage, this is your movie. The sequel, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, is less campy but also great. It has less Cage amazingness but Neveldine and Taylor’s virtuoso kinetic style is on full display.
Undervalued Tobe Hooper classic with a delightful Robert Englund performance. Hooper’s manic-hysterical aesthetic plus a demonic industrial laundry machine.
A damn kids’ movie, directed by legendary avant garde British auteur Nicolas Roeg. I loved it as a kid and I love it even more today. I’m not a parent so I don’t really know but it seems to me like the shift towards sanitized, feel good kid’s movies is an awful development. So many movies I watched as a kid gave me nightmares and kept me up late nervously wondering might be in the closet, and it was wonderful. This was definitely one of them.
Ultra tight high concept thriller. Ryan Reynolds buried alive!
In the Mouth of Madness
John Carpenter’s Lovecraft-inspired surreal mindfuck. It holds up very well 20+ years later. This one should be accessible to people who don’t generally love horror.
Takashi Miike genre extravaganza. One of two remakes he did of 60’s samurai movies. A team of 13 elite samurai confronts an army of hundreds to assassinate the shogun’s sadistic half-bother. It has that Miike touch of ultra-depravity, but it’s also a rousing and immensely enjoyable few-against-many action spectacle in the tradition of The Seven Samurai.