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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First Love (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

I believe this is the most recent Takashi Miike movie that is currently streaming in the USA. It has a unique look, no fake grain but all the detail. I’d call it video crafted with care. The sets look amazing. The production designer is a genius. Every interior scene looks almost like an art installation. As you’d expect, there are some very entertaining action sequences amid the strange comedy / drama too. First Love also features one particularly freaky knob turn. In the end I was very happy to have watched this weird, but modest movie. Miike keeps being Miike, and I love it.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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You’re Next (2011)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Most trailers that look like this one equal a garbage film. That is 100% not the case here. You’re Next is a very entertaining combo of horror, action, and comedy. Simple. Watch and enjoy. The cherry on top is that the Mom is Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and From Beyond.

Available on Blu-ray from Lion’s Gate.

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I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

This is my favorite comedy of the late ‘80s. Written, directed, and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans, it’s essentially a parody of ‘70s Blaxploitation Cinema. The good news is that it works even if you’ve never seen one of those films. Sucka has got some of the very best Black Action stars too. Isaac Hayes, aka Truck Turner, is particularly funny. Yep, this film is very offensive, so if you were born after 2000, be warned… your head might just explode while viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

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Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

This film marks the beginning of the end for Hammer Studios. They had hoped it would be the first in a series of movies to rescue the company from it’s financial decline. That was not to happen. Kronos failed to do well enough in the theaters to help. Luckily it’s now gained a bit of a cult following. This one is not as impressive as my favorite Hammer films, but absolutely worth watching. It is fast-paced, and not missing much of the late-period Hammer naughtiness and violence. Vampire Hunter is on the cheesy side, so make sure to enjoy it with an open mind, and your favorite psychoactive substance.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

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The Hospital (1971)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Crazy. Awkward. Stupid at times. Lots of “overacting.” Totally inappropriate by modern standards. At least two full-blown George C. Scott yelling rants. A very ‘70s sexual assault that is somehow also consensual. Oh, and it’s a comedy! In the end, a challenging, but quite amusing example of Anomalous Cinema. I also enjoyed seeing Diana Rigg (The Avengers, Theater of Blood, etc.) and Richard Dysart (who we all know best from The Thing).

Blu-ray available from Twilight Time.

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Dredd (2012)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

In a bleak future, Judge Dredd is a brutal super-cop who teams up with a trainee to take on a drug gang. I learned a major lesson with this one. I was so staunchly against big budget Hollywood movies at the time that I didn’t even contemplate seeing it in the theater. Huge mistake. Not only is it absolutely amazing, it was in 3D. Not the static, pointless, 3D either. We’re talking the lovingly crafted kind. Now I pay much closer attention, and don’t automatically dismiss any movie in a genre of interest before doing my research. 

I’m kind of depressed now. What were we talking about? 

Oh yes… Dredd

It’s one of the very best action movies made in the last 20 years. There was talk of making it into a TV series. Didn’t happen. There was also a petition to make a sequel. Nope. Well, at least we have Dredd. It’s a thing of pitch black beauty.

Available on Blu-ray through Lionsgate.

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Bloody Sunday (2002)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

On January 30, 1972 British troops opened fire on a civil rights protest in Ireland. This is a well-made dramatization of the events. From what I have read, it is historically accurate, minus a few minor errors. Bloody Sunday is just as grim and violent as you would imagine, but important viewing for everyone.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Ran (1985)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is Akira Kurasawa’s samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was a twelve year old Japanophile back when this came out, and begged my mom to take me. It was not at all what I expected. I was probably hoping for something closer to Revenge of the Ninja. However it left an impression on this future cinema nerd for sure. This is a deliberately paced, epic drama, with some impressive fight and battle sequences. The title translates to “chaos,” and there’s a lot of that too. Other than the fact that this is a nearly perfect work of filmmaking, there is one part that makes this absolute Anomalous Cinema. A pitch black post-battle sequence that is so morbidly beautiful that it absolutely blew my mind the last time I watched the film. The imagery, along with Tōru Takemitsu’s fantastic score, make for one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever experienced. I feel sorry for my mom, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when she took me to see Full Metal Jacket. I’m positive she regretted that choice.

Blu-ray available from Lion’s Gate.

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My Best Fiend (1999)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is one of my all-time favorite documentaries. Werner Herzog does an in-depth study of his relationship with Klaus Kinski, and the actor’s life beyond when they worked together. The man was insane, but also supremely talented. If you want to see what Kinski was capable of when he was actually enthusiastic about the project he was working on, check out Andrzej Żuławski’s L’important c’est d’aimer (currently streaming for free on Kanopy and Hoopla, also available to rent). Klaus was almost never enthusiastic, yet even in his many borderline-cameo appearances in low-budget cult films he stole the show. The man had some special kind of magic going on. At the end of My Best Fiend there’s an outtake with a butterfly that maybe the single best thing I’ve ever seen captured on celluloid. This is MUST SEE Anomalous Cinema.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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