The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is easily the finest drama I’ve seen since I started this website. I am a bit biased as I’m a big fan of Ian Holm. Most people know Holm’s supporting roles, particularly as Ash in Alien. Its a pity he didn’t get more lead parts because he was flawless in this film. Sir Ian does a bit of a monologue at around 39 minutes into the movie that blew my mind. I very rarely hit pause because an actor just knocked it out of the park, but that’s exactly what happened. The film is excellent beyond just it’s lead. It looks great, the script is perfect, and it has a fantastic, reverb drenched, ambient score too. I give The Sweet Hereafter my highest recommendation.

A Blu-ray was released by New Line Cinema but it appears to be out of print.

Samsara (2011)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is a collection of awe-inspiring footage shot in 25 countries, over five years, with no dialog. You’ll see everything from man-made and natural wonders to some of the worst places on earth. You also get a wide variety of beautiful creative expression and grim human stupidity. Watch this one big. No phone. No tablet. No laptop. BIG. Samsara is a visual learning experience.

FYI – If you enjoy this film, you should really check out the pioneer of this kind of documentary, Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Also, the people behind Samsara made a very similar film in 1992 called Baraka that’s nearly as good.

Available on Blu-ray from MPI.

Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu | imdb | trailer

Here’s a very well-made, history-based, dark, jungle adventure. Well, two adventures. Part of it involves a search for what they refer to in the movie as Caapi (William S. Burroughs called it Yage). If you’ve seen any of the Italian cannibal exploitation movies, this is their grown-up, arthouse descendant (with a bit of Altered States mixed in).

Available on Blu-ray from Oscilloscope.

Vengeance (1970)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

John Boorman’s Point Blank was a very influential movie. It informed the fractured storyline of Oldboy. It also inspired the look and feel of Vengeance. That makes this movie lean more towards an art film than Five Elements Ninjas. What will bring you down to earth from the fancy heights of cinema is the straight-up, no frills english dubbing by all the same voices that looped the other Shaw Brothers films around the same time. I was hoping there would be the original Chinese dub available to take that cheesy edge off, but that option was not available. In spite of that minor flaw, this is a very good, artsy, dark martial arts movie that I personally found quite enjoyable. It’s got a bit more drama than fists a-flyin’ but I give it high marks for it’s look and style.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

Holy Hell (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The story of an an 80’s New Age cult where the dark truth about their leader gradually reveals itself. This isn’t Jonestown level crazy, but it’s pretty damned compelling. Psychedelic VHS footage abounds! The film takes a while to get to the nitty gritty, but it’s worth the investment of time. I recommend you mute the godawful song at the end.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

The Photographer of Mauthausen (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This movie revolves around World War 2 Spanish prisoners in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Here’s another history-based drama that tells an interesting story I was totally unfamiliar with. The lead actor is Mario Casas from The Invisible Guest, who does a fine job. As you will imagine, this film is very dark. It is also, at times, brutally graphic. There are moments that feel a bit cheesy, but overall it’s an effective movie that I fully recommend.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine (2017)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

I felt the the need to lighten the mood a bit. Back in the ‘90 a friend brought over a VHS tape produced by Big Brother magazine. It included my introduction to Johnny Knoxville, in which the future movie star shot himself in the chest with a bulletproof vest on. They never showed that bit on the MTV.

This documentary has a lot of the same raunchy craziness as Jackass. It is also an interesting perspective on the history of the skateboarding days of the early ‘90s thru to the early ‘00s. If you’re not easily offended, Dumb is a lot of fun.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Deep Red (1975)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here’s another highly regarded Dario Argento giallo film. It’s a strange one in the sense of it’s highs and lows. The highs are some very artistic sequences and murder scenes, reinforced by the very first soundtrack appearance by the mighty Goblin. The lows are that the film is extremely convoluted, and sometimes excruciatingly slow. Don’t be discouraged. It is absolutely worth the effort to get to the crazy ending.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

A Twelve Year Night (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a very good historical drama about the struggles of a group of political prisoners in Uruguay. It is just as grim as the name indicates. I have to give credit to Netflix for making a lesser known piece of history available to a wide audience. A Twelve Year Night features solid acting performances and some excellent sound design and soundtrack work. Highly recommended.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have a beautifully filmed, very sleazy, but excellent giallo. This was part one of Massimo Dallamano’s “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy so, yeah… not for sensitive viewers. The film features one of my favorite cult actors Fabio Testi, as well as the debut performance of Camille Keaton (pictured above), and music by Ennio Morricone. Solange is essential if you’re interested in the giallo subgenre. You might need to take a shower after watching, but it’s worth it.

FYI – My favorite Morricone music is from this era. If you’d like to hear more, check out the album Crime and Dissonance. It’s flat-out amazing.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.