Things to Come (1936)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I avoided this film for a while, but damn it’s really something special. The story is the unfolding of a century from war and chaos, to utopian innovation. I was already a fan of H.G. Welles adaptations since I was a kid, I’ve read some of his books as an adult, but I never really understood the breadth of his imagination until seeing this movie. Welles wrote The Shape of Things to Come in 1933. If it’s anything like The War of the Worlds, the book is FAR better than the film. In spite of that, to SEE how ‘30s filmmakers applied Welles’ ideas is truly stunning. Things to Come has a far more spectacular look than I would have thought was possible before WW2. In the beginning of the film everything appears like you would expect. As the story moves forward in time, it all becomes more and more wonderfully bizarre, and just keeps getting weirder. The grim war years are particularly something to behold. Bottom line, if you are a science fiction fan, this is essential viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

You’ve seen the original 1978 version right? If not, fix that immediately. There was a time when I said that was my favorite movie of all time. I still love it. I am very cautious about remakes, but I saw this version in the theater when it came out and immediately enjoyed it. This is a “reimagining” done right. Zack Snyder and James Gunn took the same very general plot and did something new with it. They don’t use the same characters or location, which is key in honoring the source material. This Dawn is not better than the original, but well worth seeing. Here you have some serious fast-paced, violent, and intense horror. The CG looks a wee tiny bit dated, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me much. Oh yeah, I recall that this and 28 Days Later caused all these nerds to complain about fast moving zombies. They apparently forgot about Return of the Living Dead which was made in 1985. I hardly watch zombie flicks these days, but I don’t care how fast they move as long as the movie is good.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

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I Know What I Saw (2009)

No high resolution image was available, so I improvised – ha ha.

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Most shows and movies about UFO / AEP sightings are unwatchable cheese. They use spooky music, melodramatic narration, and very little actual evidence. Well, this is the polar opposite, in fact I Know What I Saw is a very convincing documentary. The quality could be a little better, but honestly the information is so compelling it doesn’t matter. This film focuses on intelligently presented details from reputable sources. I’m not going into further detail, but if you want to remain a UFO skeptic, do not watch this movie.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Under the Shadow (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

You may have noticed I am not a fan of PG-13 movies. Well, this is an exception. Under the Shadow is a very creepy horror film set in ‘80s Iran during that country’s war with Iraq. Your city being bombed regularly is bad enough, but throw an evil spirit into the mix and you have serious trouble. Sounds like some full-blown Anomalous Cinema right? This is a unique film that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope to see more quality dark horror movies come out of Islamic countries in the near future.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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I Saw the Devil (2010)

Streaming on Hulu and Kanopy | imdb | trailer

This is a very good South Korean horror / crime thriller from the director of the excellent A Bittersweet Life. Many folks love his film The Good the Bad the Weird too. The bad guy is the original Oldboy himself Choi Min-shik. Do I really need to say more? Nah.

Available on Blu-ray from Magnolia.

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The Haunted Palace (1963)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I somehow missed this excellent Vincent Price horror flick until recently. The title is inspired by Poe, but the story is actually a loose version H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” In fact, this marks the first ever Lovecraft screen adaptation. If you’re a fan of any of the Roger Corman Poe flicks, you’re going to enjoy The Haunted Palace. This is creepy, classic, atmospheric horror.

MILD SPOILER ALERT: There is a brief monster reveal that is honestly laughable (think Star Trek – The Original Series), but that little blemish does not ruin an otherwise awesome movie.

Available on Blu-ray as part of The Vincent Price Collection from Scream Factory.

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Athena (2022)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a solid action / drama with beautiful camera work and an artsy, almost documentary feel. Centered around a low-income housing block, it’s cops vs activists vs gangs vs well-meaning Muslims. They’re all interconnected and it’s a crazy spectacle from start to finish. There has been criticism that Athena is all style and little substance, and it does have a few flaws. However I was thoroughly entertained and thought that the various plot lines were worked out by the end of the film. Yeah, the director could have made a powerful social critique, but he just ended up making a damn good, fast-paced, great looking film.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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District B13 (2004)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

A cop and a former hooligan join forces to stop a disaster. District B13 remains one of the more over-the-top action films I’ve seen in the last 20 years. It’s also on the cheesy and unrealistic side, but if that doesn’t scare you off… buckle up. This movie isn’t even 90 minutes long and the pace is insanely fast. You won’t know what hit you.

Available on Blu-ray from Magnolia.

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On the Count of Three (2021)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

Two friends are fed up with the world, enter into a suicide pact, and whacky hijinks ensue. Jerrod Carmichael directs and stars in this entertaining buddy / black comedy. His co-star is the excellent Christopher Abbot (Possessor, Catch-22). This movie is fast paced and as dark as can be, while remaining legitimately funny throughout. You have to be a bit of a creepy weirdo to appreciate On the Count of Three, but that’s what makes it Anomalous.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Italian Cult Film Sub-Genres & Beyond

I recently received a question from Anomalous Cinema enthusiast Max P about Italian cult films. It wasn’t specifically about sub-genres, but I got onto the topic in my reply, and could not find a simple online article covering the subject. I am trying to fix that here.

NOTE: As I have said, I am not a “real writer” on the the topic of cinema. PLEASE comment, or email me, to suggest changes, improvements, and/or edits to this article.

Italians are well known for creating film sub-genres primarily motivated by cashing in on other popular movies. “Oh, The Road Warrior and Escape from New York were successful? Let’s do a cheaper version, and make some quick money.” Occasionally this made for some very entertaining films like 2019: After the Fall of New York. Here are the main Italian Film Cult Sub-Genres, with examples linked to imdb. If I am particularly fond of the example, it is in bold.

Three Arguably Original Italian Sub-Genres:

CANNIBALNOT FOR THE SENSITIVE VIEWER! Jungle adventure films that began firmly in Italy with The Man from Deep River (not recommended, it is slow and overstuffed with animal abuse). Most of these films are very nasty and only for die-hard cult film fans. This is primarily because of horrible real-life animal killing for the camera. Italian cannibal films are often sexploitational, naively racist, and a little bit violent, to full-blown G-R-O-S-S. Examples (all by Ruggero Deodato): Jungle Holocaust (a good starting point), Cut and Run, and the most notorious of them all, Cannibal Holocaust. The latter is particularly nasty, but honestly borders on art film quality at times, if you can stomach it. Thankfully Grindhouse Releasing added an “animal cruelty free” play option to their discs. The Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack is also stunningly beautiful. You should definitely check out Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox as well if you appreciate Deodato’s cannibal films.

GIALLO – Giallo is Italian for yellow, like the covers of cheap murder mystery paperbacks. They are a spin on Alfred Hitchcock-type mysteries and horror thrillers. Some are quite tame and heavy on the thriller, while others are more like slasher horror films. The stabby ones range from mildly to EXTREMELY violent. Gialli are often erotic, and/or psychedelic as well. Examples: Blood and Black Lace, Tenebrae, All the Colors of the Dark, House of the Edge of the Park, and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin.

PEPLUM (often referred to as Sword and Sandal) – Peplum is a reference to Ancient Roman / Greek clothing. This sub-genre was inspired by films like Ben-Hur, and the excellent Jason and the Argonauts (1963). I am saying this is arguably an original Italian deal, as they added their own action-packed twist. Examples: Hercules, The Colossus of Rhodes (the first film by Sergio Leone) and Hercules in the Haunted World.

Here are the other major sub-genres to the best of my knowledge:

NAZI EXPLOITATION – Nazi-themed films inspired by The Night Porter, that spun off into the sleaziest and most ridiculous concentration camp trash because of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. In case you’re thinking, how AWFUL, well… the bad guys always get their just desserts in these flicks. Examples: Salon Kitty, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, and Women’s Camp 119.

NUNSPLOITATION – Naughty nun flicks inspired by Ken Russell’s excellent film The Devils. Examples: Flavia the Heretic, The Killer Nun, and Images in a Convent.

POLIZIOTTESCHI – Italian crime films influenced by The French Connection and Dirty Harry. There’s a good documentary called Eurocrime! if you want a full rundown. Examples: High Crime, The Big Racket, Contraband, and Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man.

POST-APOCALYPSE – As mentioned above, films influenced by The Road Warrior and Escape from New York, that also sometimes mixed in elements of The Warriors. Examples: 2019: After the Fall of New York, Endgame, and 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

SPAGHETTI WESTERN – I don’t need to explain this one right? Well, if you like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, check out these examples: The Great Silence, Cut-Throats Nine, and The Big Gundown.

ZOMBIE – This movie craze happened because of Dawn of the Dead, and should be self-explanatory. Examples: Zombie, Burial Ground, and Nightmare City (yeah, yeah, they’re technically not zombies, but CLOSE ENOUGH).

There’s are also Macaroni Combat (WW2), Post-Star Wars, Post-Exorcist, and Animal Attack films that I am not even getting into. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out crazy sub-genre mashups like Cannibal Apocalypse, and the arguably terrible films Conquest and Zombie Holocaust.

Do yourself a favor and just watch films by director. Most Italian filmmakers touched on several of the above sub-genres. I suggest Mario Bava (his son Lamberto made some decent movies too), Enzo G. Castellari, Joe D’Amato, Lucio Fulci, Umberto Lenzi, and Sergio Martino. Proceed with caution, all of them made some AWFUL films. I recommend using imdb ratings and critic / user reviews to avoid the stinkers.

And BEYOND….

What about Italian cult movies after 1994 or so? There are almost ZERO good spaghetti cult films after Dellamorte Dellamore. That film’s director, Michele Soavi, went on to work in TV, including the very good Uno bianca, and three episodes of the well-received Rocco Schiavone. Dario Argento keeps making movies, but they all range from meh to suck after Tenebrae in my opinion. Well, Jenifer and Sleepless were not bad.

The only good stuff I’ve seen come out of Italy in the last 25+ years are their mafia / crime related movies and series. The best feature film example is Gomorrah, and it is a serious movie with no exploitation elements.

I am familiar with two decent Italian crime series, but they’re mostly drama. When the action kicks in they can be great, but you have to sit through a lot of talking. I watched quite a bit of Suburra: Blood on Rome, but fell off watching it (because of all the TALKING). That series is on Netflix – I recommended the movie version on Anomalous a long time ago, but they took it down. The other series was Romanzo criminale, but again, I stopped watching because there was SO… MUCH… TALKING. Additionally, there’s a series based on the movie I mentioned earlier, Gomorrah, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Here’s a list of a BUNCH more Italian crime series. That must be why there are no great spaghetti cult sub-genre films after 1994. All the damn money goes to criminale shows! What a pity.

Again, please educate me if there’s any glaring gaps or errors above.

Thank you and buona visione! -Jonathan Canady

If you are a fan of Anomalous Cinema, please consider supporting this site by donating any amount (even $1.00 is appreciated) via Venmo @vergeoflight / Cash App $vergeoflight / or Paypal at this secure link. A Paypal account is not required. Thank you.