In the near-perfect final scenes of Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Bill (played by none other than stone-faced, living Easter Island statue David Carradine) holds court in his hacienda, and introduces his final monologue by saying, quite simply, "As you know, I am a great fan of comic books."
I, too, am a great fan of comic books. But I am also a great fan of horror movies, especially the kind that have been inspired by the Netflix Insurgency. You see, time was, a horror movie that went straight to DVD was guaranteed to be of the babe-slashing, misogynistic, predictable "BOO!" variety. The major franchises were similarly hideous - let us not forget Jason X (AKA "Jason In Space"), which was odious but also so self-conscious of its odiousness that it attempted a brazen sort of postmodern tongue in cheek that fell flat as a rug.
Thanks to Netflix's predator-drone marketing, a crop of what I've been calling "artisan horror" movies has emerged. There are many of them, some peddling the same slasher B.S. (although with panache), but some following a more H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, "keep 'em guessing" kind of philosophy. And they are fantastic, in both the popular and literal sense of the word.
This genre I'm calling Kafka Horror, because the stories have no clear earthly resolution, but they convey an atmopsheric sense of dread and menace that is far more intense for the consenting adult than some cheap torture porn flick or slasher (although those genres have their place in the horror ecosystem).
Tonight we honor a few I think everyone can enjoy - if they can slow down, enjoy the ride, and watch these films to the (bitter) end.
You want atmosphere? Here is your atmospheric horror. There is astonishingly little gore, it doesn't harp on the "Blair Witch" thing any more than it does on an eerie Area 51 or Wizard of Oz vibe. I won't give anything away, but let me tell you, the music of the 1940s has absolutely never been as terrifying, even when grandma asked you to dance to Benny Goodman at a wedding.
The Violent Kind (2010)
This one was hard for me to nominate, because for the first forty or fifty minutes of the film, it's a standard biker-brawler type movie. If that's your thing, hell, light it up. But around minutes 50 - 55, a whole new movie emerges: one dealing with witchcraft, genuine black magic...hell, I'm giving too much away. If you can make it that far based on fairly thin characters, the rest of the movie is SOLID GOLD. Again with the "atmosphere" thing, and again, there's nothing even close to a clear cut, "good guys win bad guys lose" take on things, which I frankly find annoying in any movie.
This is one film that I can say something about that I can rarely say: if you give it nothing but the first two to three minutes, you will be hooked.
When "horror" gets too big for it's britches, it becomes "a psychological thriller," or "psychological horror" (shorthand for "my, how smart it is!'). I will tell you nothing about Pontypool other than that the sense of place and atmosphere are flawless, it has intriguing things to say about radio, and, if you want a big fat spoiler, it also deals with one of the pet theories of my favorite drug addict and genius, William S. Burroughs. As Burroughs said:
From symbiosis to parasitism is a short step. The word is now a virus. The flue virus may have once been a healthy living cell. It is now a parasitic organism that invades and damages the central nervous system. Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try halting sub-vocal speech. Try achieving even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word. (From The Ticket That Exploded, 1962)
Thanks, Salt City Sinner, For Your Waste Of Nerdy Time!
If you have nominations, please let me know. My list is subjective, but I do believe there's a renaissance of mid-to-low budget horror films going on all over that warrant attention and, in many cases, respect.
It's a damn sight better than another Chipmunks movie.