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.

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.

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.

The Gift (2000)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Sam Raimi is very hit of miss for me after Evil Dead 2. This one I really enjoyed. Yes, even more than A Simple Plan or Drag Me To Hell. What we have here is a well-made horror mystery with some downright disturbing moments. I think what I like best about The Gift is that is that it is unique among Raimi’s work. It’s also pretty original among horror and suspense films period. While not prefect, it’s a damn good movie for sure.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Season of the Witch (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am a big fan of George A. Romero (through Land of the Dead anyway) but missed this one until just now. I think this will be hard for some folks to get into because of the fashion of the time and the average looking actors. Please trust me, it’s worth looking past all that and just enjoying this mild, but very good, nightmarish horror thriller. It’s got a lot of depth to it. Even after a few drinks I noticed multiple possible angles going on. I have to admire Romero for making this film. Watch Season of the Witch with a little patience and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

Neruda (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a bio-drama about poet Pablo Neruda‘s escape from arrest by the Chilean fascist government. I didn’t know what to expect, but the skillful performances and elegant cinematography really made it an enjoyable experience. Pablo Neruda seems like he was a pain in the ass redeemed by artistic genius. It comes as no surprise that he was friends with Picasso.

Not available on Blu-ray.