The Act of Killing (2012)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

So there’s this documentary where real-life Indonesian death squad members re-stage their crimes for the camera, including lavish song and dance numbers. No really, this exists, and is probably the most Anomalously Cinematic doc made in the last 15 years. I try to avoid Oscar nominated films here, but this is just too perfect to not share. I caught myself with my mouth hanging open several times while trying to absorb the multiple levels of crazy on display. I give The Act of Killing my strongest possible recommendation. Also check out director Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow up The Look of Silence, which is not as over-the-top, but well worth watching.

Available on Blu-ray from Drafthouse Films.

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Bully (2001)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Larry Clark got his start by taking photos of fellow juvenile delinquents, which made up his fantastic book Tulsa. After years as an acclaimed art photographer, he directed the agonizing, but highly regarded film Kids, about the same topic, set in ‘90s New York City. Later he made Bully, which is based on a real life murder perpetrated by, you guessed it, juvenile delinquents. This is Clark’s best film by far. It pushes almost EVERY button, so sensitive folks should flat out avoid it. Bully is so shocking that I am honestly impressed that it has been made available on streaming services in our current “trigger warning” times. In spite of its controversial content, this film managed to receive a lot of critical acclaim at the time of its release. Unfortunately Larry Clark did not continue making films of the same quality. He’s following his obsessions with smaller movies, which I admire, but Bully shows all elements falling into place to make a near-perfect film.

RIP Brad Renfro. I wish we could have seen what movies you’d go on to make.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Video Dead (1987)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am a bit biased about this film, as my first experience was in at a revival screening just a few years ago. Seeing a previously missed, good older movie, on celluloid is one of favorite things in life. That means that I like this silly horror movie a little more than I should. I found it to be very amusing from start to finish. I laughed out loud multiple times, and not at unintentionally funny scenes. The Video Dead also has some effective makeup FX and low-budget set pieces. Give it a try, but keep your expectations low.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory (bundled with Terror Vision – which is also a lot of fun).

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Memories (1995)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am super picky about anime. Something about the genre usually turns me off, with the exception of films like Barefoot Gen, Ninja Scroll, Perfect Blue and a small handful of others. I just added Memories to that short list. It’s an anthology of Katsuhiro Otomo stories directed by three anime heavyweights: Kōji Morimoto (The Animatrix), Tensai Okamura (Ninja Scroll / Ghost in a Shell), and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). The whole film is very cohesive and filled with detailed, and psychedelic sci-fi animation. Do you happen to live where weed is legal? Bonus for you.

Available on domestic Blu-ray but it’s out of print / selling for $$$.

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Jallikattu (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am happy to share another excellent movie out of India (you may recall that I recommended Tumbaad not long ago). This story revolves around a rampaging Water Buffalo, but it’s a lot more interesting than that might make you think. Human folly is on full display, with scenes ranging from hilarious to quite dark. There are a few slow moments, but overall this film is awesome, and beautifully shot. The soundtrack is damn good too. Jallikattu is available on Prime, in 4k no less.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

If you can’t get past the primitive look and FX of Star Trek: The Original Series, read no further. You will not appreciate Planet of the Vampires. I grew up watching TOS and still love it, so this movie was very enjoyable. If you’ve seen any of Mario Bava’s early, fog and color drenched work, imagine it as a feature-length Star Trek episode. That with way more experimental electronic music, far better uniforms, and a proto-Alien (1979) feel. Except wait a second… Bava made this BEFORE Star Trek ever aired. Yes this movie is cheesy, but I love it, warts and all. I also have a feeling that blood on the crew’s insignias might have a deeper meaning. That or Mario just thought it looked cool.

Blu-ray available from Lorber Films.

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‘71 (2014)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The Troubles are the setting of this very original action / drama. The balance of those genres is well handled, and everything is beautifully filmed. The film’s tension is enhanced by a powerful, bass-heavy, John Carpenter-meets-Godspeed soundtrack. This is pretty dark stuff, but well worth your time.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Peeping Tom (1960)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The following was my first Patreon post, and will be in the upcoming Anomalous Cinema book. I was so happy to see that this film is streaming in 1080p HD, I just had to share it here too. Enjoy.

Mark is a sad, but somehow lovable, serial killer with a unique murder technique. You might not think that would be the plot of one of the very best films ever made, but it is.

The first time I saw this was on a terrible VHS tape. The colors were washed out and the movie was cropped from it’s original aspect ratio. I liked the story but wasn’t impressed. A couple of years later I got to see a restored 35 mm print, and the difference was unbelievable. The saturated colors alone made such a huge impression. Seeing it properly presented made it one of my all time favorite films.

I really want to avoid talking about specific format releases on Anomalous Cinema, but I will ignore that for this one movie. The reason is the Criterion Collection DVD. I bought a copy shortly after seeing the film print, and it’s really an amazing release. The extras include a long documentary on Leo Marks, who wrote the screenplay. What a revelation that was. Marks is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever learned about. We’re talking William S. Burroughs level interesting. I was so fascinated by Leo Marks I read his book “Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker’s War, 1941-1945” even though it has nothing to do with Peeping Tom or movies in general.

My experience with this one has been a gradual revelation. Peeping Tom remains a film that I’ve watched over and over, which is very rare for me.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Tumbbad (2018)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I’ve been wanting to feature an Indian movie for a long time, but nothing has struck me as good enough. I was going to direct you to check out Veerana: Vengeance of the Vampire / Purani Haveli: Mansion of Evil but that Mondo Macabro disc is selling for crazy collector prices now (maybe try a torrent search). Anyhow, Tumbbad was a real pleasure to find as it’s easily the best Indian film I’ve ever seen, of any genre. It’s super dark, and there’s very little of the silly humor that plagues most Bollywood films. Most important, it is genuinely creepy. Some of the CG isn’t quite up to current standards, but don’t let that keep you away. This is an excellent film with a damn good soundtrack to boot. Oh and by the way, smoking is injurious to your health.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am not a snob about remakes. I just approach them with a ton of caution (I refused to see Suspiria based on reviews). Sometimes remakes are amazing, like The Thing or The Hills Have Eyes. This one is a damn good “reimagining” of the original 1974 film. I love that movie, but this Pelham is enough of it’s own story to complement the original. When director Tony Scott (RIP) was good, he was better than most big-budget directors, and this is among his better films. Give this a shot when you’re in the mood for a fast-paced action thriller.

Blu-ray available from Sony Pictures.

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