Prior to co-creating Icons Of Fright.com back in 2004, I spent several years working at various Tower Records locations across Long Island, NY. And while I shifted into different positions over the years before finally settling into the art department, I always gravitated towards being involved in some capacity with the movie section. In the days long before we could craft our “top 10” recommendation lists on the Internet – back then, it was a big deal to get asked to curate an end cap in the video department! I took this very, very seriously and selected a handful of “cult” VHS titles to populate my “section” with. Any time I myself would visit a video store, I’d often love to skim through what titles would be on the staff picks section, so I had to make sure my selections were good ones.
The reason I brought up Icons Of Fright is because when I finally did meet my fellow co-creator on the site Michael Cucinotta, one of the first things we talked about was how he remembered my movie end cap at Tower Records in Massapequa and wondered, “who the hell is this Rob G guy that likes Dario Argento’s OPERA?” Keeping in that spirit, I wanted to recommend a handful of “cult” movies, most of which are just outside the horror genre, but nevertheless, are all awesome movies you should definitely out. Argento’s OPERA is not on this list because by now, most people, especially ones that frequent horror websites already know his work, but in keeping with that spirit from those days, most of these selections were in fact on my end cap. Along with a few fun discoveries in the passing years. Make note, here’s 10 cult movies you have to check out!
ROMEO IS BLEEDING
There was a period there where Gary Oldman was on fire with his movie role selections and could do no wrong. Between the crazed drug dealing pimp Drexl in TRUE ROMANCE to the pill popping police detective in THE PROFESSIONAL, there was one bizarre flick he did right in the middle called ROMEO IS BLEEDING. In it, he plays a detective named Jack Grimaldi who begins a deadly love affair with the gorgeous, yet malipulative Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin). Basically, this movie tagline says it all. “He’s a cop. She’s a cop killer. This is not your average love affair.” There’s a lot of familar faces in here including Michael Wincott, Annabella Sciorra and Juliet Lewis and it was directed by Peter Medak, who helmed THE CHANGELING and SPECIES 2! Twilight Time recently just put out a new limited edition Blu-Ray of this wacky, over-the-top love story, so now is as good a time as any to discover it.
Back in 2000, long before actor Eric Bana had made the transition into American Hollywood films, he portrayed real life crime legend and personality Mark “Chopper” Read in this wild, bio-pic. Well, sort of. It’s not a bio pic in the traditional sense, but reminds me a bit of what Nicolas Winding Refn did with BRONSON 8 years later. At the helm is writer/director Andrew Dominik, who would go on to direct THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES and KILLING THEM SOFTLY, both with Brad Pitt, so it’s always fun to go back and look at an early film from promising talent. This one was an adaptation of Read’s own autobiography “From The Inside,” which he wrote while in prison. There’s some pretty brutal, yet darkly funny bits to this story, including the part where one of Read’s friends and fellow inmates attempts to shank him in prison, from which he of course survives and when Read cuts off his own ears to remain bad-ass. Fascinating performance by Bana who went method with the role and gained a tremendous amount of weight to properly portray the real life “Chopper.”
LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN
Mere words can not do this insane movie justice. From the director of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST Ruggero Deodato, comes this bonkers buddy cop action movie (referred to as an Italian “poliziotteschi” film) where they actually shot these crazy stunts through the streets of Rome with no permits! Basically, there’s two good looking cops with a penchant for violence when it comes to dealing with criminal scum, who show up to crime scenes and cause a lot of damage. They also share a strange sense of humor and are often a bit too close for comfort, if you know what I mean; especially for two dudes that come off like womanizers. You should check out my full review of the film from my Amoeba Music blog, but in short, if you want a movie with some jaw dropping action and violence, check this out. If the title doesn’t sell you on it, I don’t know what will!
THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD
In the wake of PULP FICTION’s massive success, everyone was looking for the next Taratino-esque movie to capitalize. Everyone has their favorites from the era, but one of mine is THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD. First off, the cast! Andy Garcia is trying to lead a normal life, retired from the mob, when he’s pulled back in by Christopher Walken in a scene stealing performance as the wheelchair bound “Man With The Plan.” He needs to assemble a team and pull off a “piece of work,” so he pulls in his old associates played by Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn and the slightly off-his-rocker Critical Bill played by Treat Williams! As can be expected, the whole job goes to shit and now the entire crew is marked for death at the hands of hitman Steve Buscemi! With only a few days left, Garcia aims to settle the score and take care of a little business. Not only are there so many great actors all across this movie, but it’s become one of my most quotable films of all time. My high school friends and I still say things like, “give it a name,” “itty bitty titty” and “boat drinks” to this day. Highly recommended.
Speaking of Christopher Walken, what if I told you that he’s pretty much the Godfather in this movie? And his right hand man is Denis Leary? And then a group of kids consisting of Henry Thomas, Sean Patrick Flanery, Jay Mohr, Jeremy Sisto and Johnny Galecki kidnap him in order to use his connections to find their missing friend’s sister? This is another fantastic crime/drama who-dun-it with a solid cast across the board, some amazing one-liners and (sadly) the one and only time where Walken and Leary got to be on screen together. Less you know, the better. You can find the DVD of this for less than $7 bucks on Amazon. Worth your time!
THEY’RE PLAYING WITH FIRE
Let’s set our sights on some stuff that takes horror genre elements and then “perverts” them. And I can think of no better example than the 1984 sleaze classic THEY’RE PLAYING WITH FIRE. In it, a student gets seduced by his English teacher. Oh yeah, his English teacher is Sybil Danning in her prime!!! But their love affair is complicated. She’s still married and suddenly, a murder at her house throws their relationship and poor Jay Richard’s life into chaos! But things get even worse. About half way into the movie, it literally becomes a “slasher,” complete with a masked killer (who at one point sports a Santa outfit, hence becoming a “Santa killer”) and a mystery you won’t see coming! That all aside, here’s a movie where Sybil seduces a younger man, bringing all our adolescent fantasties to life! While the DVD is now long out of print, hang tough, friends. The fine fiends at Kino Lorber are playing a Blu-Ray release later this year. Because high def Sybil is always welcome.
This 2003 quirky horror flick comes from writer / director Michael Davis who also helmed the bat-shit crazy SHOOT ‘EM UP with Clive Owen! But before that, he did this cool little flick about two friends driving across country that pick up a female hitchhiker and then get terrorized by a mysterious man in a monster truck! But what if the driver of the monster truck is a monster himself? A road trip “slasher” movie that features a monster driving a monster truck? It’s also got a lot of humor and some fun surprises in store for you.
Richard Elfman directs this campy 1998 vampire horror comedy in which Casper Van Dien is a vampire that stumbles on a mysterious new female vampire in town (played by the goregous Natasha Gregson Wagner). Who needs Transylvania when you can settle up in the Hollywood hills with bloodsuckers like Udo Kier and Kim Cattrall? Hot on the trail of the new young vamps is Dr. Van Helsing (played by Rod Steiger) who has assembled a new crew of vampire hunters by recruiting some Los Angeles gangbangers. It’s a wild and rauncy ride when you visit Los Angeles for a tale of “modern vampires.”
For better or for worse, Linda Blair will always be associated with her infamous role as young Reagan in the horror masterpiece THE EXORCIST. And while over the years, she had playfully poked fun at her most well known part, she fully embraced the comedy of it for the 1990 spoof REPOSSESSED! Basically it’s THE EXORCIST but with Leslie Nielson as the Father performing the ceremony. Granted, it’s been years since I’ve seen this, but as a kid, I found it hysterical. Does it hold up? Well really, exorcisms should be funny, right? Especially when they also include Ned Beatty!
Last but certainly not least is this somewhat lost 2003 Swedish film SLIM SUSIE. Back when Ain’t It Cool News used to do their weekly DVD round-up, I saw this mentioned and the paragraph description was enough to get me intrigued. It was a blind buy and it turned out to be a quirky, fun and bittersweet comedy heist film in the vein of things like TRAINSPOTTING and THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Which is funny, because the town drug dealer is obsessed with movies and references THE USUAL SUSPECTS, as well as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and several other “cult” movies. In fact, our lead Erik decides to leave town after the final reel of PULP FICTION is missing from their local theater. He wants to move to a town where they actually can afford to show the complete film, so he leaves his little sister Susie behind to move to the big city. But when Slim Susie goes missing, he comes back to try to figure out exactly what happened to her and stumbles upon an unexpected heist gone wrong. For those of you that watched the original GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO movies, Michael Nyqvist who appeared in those is also in this. I absolutely love this movie, and if you appreciate eclectic movies that celebrate cinema, you will too.