Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place (2004)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | opening credits 

I have never posted about a series before, but this one is just too good to not share. Dark Place might be my all-time favorite comedy series. It’s essentially an ‘80s horror parody co-starring The IT Crowd’s Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade. Watch first few minutes. If you enjoy the opening theme song / credits montage, you’ll love this one-season series.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Mosul (Drama – 2019)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent action drama, based on the true story of the Iraqi SWAT team (check out the documentary of the same name / subject). It’s gritty and violent for sure, but the characters and performances make Mosul rise above a cheesy action flick. Netflix has delivered a fast paced movie of very high quality. I wish they’d try harder to repeat that.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Yes, the original is an untouchable masterpiece. Yes, this sequel is goofy. Yes, Gunnar Hansen is conspicuously missing, and Tobe Hooper really should have pushed for him to be in the film. That should all mean that this movie is garbage, just like every TCM property made after. Fortunately that is not the case. This is an insanely fast paced, gory, funny horror film. Dennis Hopper is fantastic, and the “Namland” sets are awesome works of art. You will need to endure a lot of overacting, but damn I love this movie. Oh and that corpse puppet is made from the remains of The Hitchhiker.

The domestic Blu-ray is out of print (but you can get the Arrow UK disc here).

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American Movie (1999)

Streaming on The Criterion Channel | imdb | trailer 

CRITERION CHANNEL?!?! Yep. This is a one-off, special recommendation that was intended for the book version of Anomalous Cinema. The Criterion Channel just added this film to their lineup for July, so I figured I might as well just share what I wrote. I have a feeling that Criterion will be releasing it on disc very soon. The streaming version looks MUCH better than any previous edition of the film I’ve seen before.

Mark Borchardt is a struggling filmmaker, and a documentary crew follows him as he completes his first fully-realized short feature. When this movie was initially released, it was an independent hit, but it fell into obscurity for the last ten years. Director Chris Smith has gone on to direct the very good Netflix documentary Fyre, and produce the massively over-hyped series Tiger King. I have seen American Movie multiple times, and it never gets old. It’s funny as hell, touching, thought-provoking, and a serious statement about someone fighting to make their art. I am also partial to it because it reminds me of the days helping my friend Isaac Williams make his first feature The Mind in 2006-7. I was a part-time boom operator, PA, and did the original score. If a shooting day went by without a quote from this documentary, followed by much laughter, I would be shocked. This documentary is must-see Anomalous Cinema.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Blood Sabbath (1972)

Streaming on YouTube (Sorry! It was on Amazon Prime last week.) | imdb | trailer (VHS Promo – YouTube sign-in required)

A young man stumbles upon a coven (Mark Borchardt pronunciation required) of witches and mayhem ensues. By all normal standards, this is an awful movie. By Anomalous Cinema standards, this is a delightful movie. I will refer you to the superior Stephen Thrower review in his book Nightmare USA. If you don’t have access to that book, all you may care about is that Dyanne Thorne from the notorious Ilsa film series co-stars, and is awesomely cheesy. Here are couple of interesting points Mr. Thrower didn’t mention: 1) The lead “young man” is played by Anthony Geary, better known among some of you older folks as Luke Spencer on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital. 2) The Priest is played by Steve Gravers, whose voice many cult movie folks will recognize immediately as Blackwolf from Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards. Additionally, I found the music to be effectively creepy for such a low-budget affair. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a “so bad it’s good” movie, I believe you need to experience Blood Sabbath.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Lady Vengeance (2005)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

This is the final part of Park Chan-Wook’s loose “Revenge Trilogy” (although it can be watched on it’s own). A woman seeks to right the wrongs of her false imprisonment, and her child being taken away. This film didn’t get as much attention as Oldboy, but it’s arguably just as good. Dark, poetic, funny at times. Oh yes… it’s also brutal as hell. 

The domestic Blu-ray is out of print.

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Small Town Crime (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a solid crime thriller with some good, at times extremely graphic, bursts of action. The cinematography looks great as well. Saturated colors and deep shadows are featured. It’s nice to see Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Walking the Edge, Alligator, etc) given lots of screen time. Small Town Crime is an enjoyable dark film, with a lot packed into 90 minutes.

Available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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River’s Edge (1986)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Metalhead teens are in turmoil as one of their group has killed his girlfriend (very loosely based on a true case). This film has a particularly important place in my heart. However if you’re not sympathetic to outsider metal kids, or at least a big fan of ‘80s drama, or Dennis Hopper, you may want to skip it. Back when I first saw this on a VHS tape rented from the local grocery store, I had already been one of those jean jacket wearing thrash nerds for a while. That and my natural love of dark subject matter quickly made me fall in love with River’s Edge. The soundtrack LP is killer, mostly thanks to early Slayer, but it also features the best song by Hallows Eve, and a fantastically not-metal Wipers song that you can barely hear in the film. I wish someone would have thought to include some of the amazing and hilarious dialogue on the album. If you like this one, check out director Tim Hunter’s previous film Over the Edge. It’s not quite as dark, but has a similar troubled kid angle, and it was mostly filmed in the suburban Colorado city I grew up in. Hunter went on to direct episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (and a ton of other forgettable stuff). All the performances here are perfect, but Crispin Glover steals the show. If you’re a fan of his you already saw this years ago. Also I must admit that the locations used probably planted the seed for me moving to the West Coast. There’s a few houses in my neighborhood in Portland that could pass for ones in the film. A few years ago I went to a River’s Edge screening and Q and A with Daniel Roebuck who played killer teen John / Samson. He told a ton of great stories, shared a slideshow of his own on-set photos, and more. He mentioned that he and other cast members spent a lot of time with co-star Hopper, mostly asking for stories about the filming of Apocalypse Now. When the audience question round came up I asked him for details. The one tidbit I hadn’t ever heard before was that Martin Sheen’s brother was a stand-in on Apocalypse when he had a heart attack. There are probably a couple of moments of the final film where you’re seeing Joe Estevez as Captain Willard. Anyway dude, River’s Edge rules, and is also the only fictional time capsule of what American metal kids were like back then. You might want to look up the short doc Heavy Metal Parking Lot for a more realistic (and hilarious) picture. We weren’t all THAT stupid… but yeah, it’s a mostly accurate representation.

Bonus: Vice did an Oral History of River’s Edge a while back. Don’t read until you’ve seen the film. 

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is out of print. More info here.

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The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

It seems impossible, but this film successfully blends a violent western with a bit of dark comedy. It all looks beautiful as well. The Sisters Brothers is deliberately paced between shootouts, and runs on the long side, but I was never bored. Recommended weirdness.

Available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox.

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The Five Venoms (1978)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I avoided recommending this one (aka The Five Deadly Venoms) until now as it’s very well known among martial arts fans. Anything I saw on TV regularly as a kid may even be too obvious. However, I think a lot of younger folks may have missed this classic Shaw Brothers film. It’s got all the crazy fight choreography you’d expect, and the majority of Shaw’s greatest stars, plus a mystery angle with a very dark edge. There are some parts that even look like a Mario Bava film. Maybe hold off on watching something in the Netflix Top 10 and check out this fun piece of Anomalous Cinema.

Available on Blu-ray from Celestial Pictures.

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