2019: The Discoveries

Every year I make it a mission to find as many films I have never seen and watch them. Pretty simple, huh? That being said, I usually find that I like about half of those films each year, with a handful of that half being films that I will eventually talk about at the end of the year. This list is comprised of that handful of films and I want to talk about one last time before moving on to next year's discoveries.

When you hear "zombie musical" you would probably expect zombies to join in on the singing but Anna and the Apocalypse doesn't stoop that low. The film features a cast that we actually like, songs that are catchy, and the effects that are worthy of a real zombie film. There are some scenes here that will make you and scenes that will make you cry. This is definitely one of the better films I saw all year.

Basket Case 2 and 3 are very different films with 2 being more horror and 3 being more comedy. Both films are really good though and are great additions to the franchise. I remember seeing both of these films in the video store and not renting them because I could never find the first film. Now, both films can’t hold a candle to the original but I don’t think that Frank Henenlotter wanted them to. We get more Belial so that is enough for me.

Having grown up on the Universal Frankenstein as well as The Monster Squad version as well, it took me forever to track down a copy of this Hammer effort for a reasonable price (of course, I found numerous copies, both dvd and blu-ray for nice prices AFTER I bought the one I have). I am glad that I did find a copy as this is a really great film. We have Peter Cushing playing Frankenstein as he tries to figure out how to create life. Cushing is, as always, great. We also have Christopher Lee as the monster and he gets some great scenes of serious depth. This was Hammer’s first foray into adapting horror classics and this was a great film to start out on. Hammer would go onto make tons of horror flicks of varying quality for the next 20 and some odd years.

Who doesn't like backwoods slasher movies? This one is probably the craziest I have seen yet. There is really not too plot here, just an excuse to get people into the woods so our killer can dispatch of them in some truly nasty ways. I was not expecting the film to be as gory as it is, which is a plus. I had a lot of fun watching Don't Go in the Woods and you probably will too.

I avoided High Tension due to the negative reaction to the film when it was released in the US in the early 2000s. I am mad that I listened to everyone because this film is pretty damn good. Sure, the ending makes the film not make sense anymore but everything leading up to the reveal is excellent with some top-notch gore effects. I am glad that people saw the film and that it allowed Alexandre Aja to have the career that he has had because he has given us some great horror films.

The second Dolemite film is even crazier than the first film. The first film always felt like a test run to see if what Rudy Ray Moore had in his head would translate to film and The Human Tornado was him going buck wild. The film has some pretty great action, some of the funniest reactions to death, and one of the funniest sex scenes I have ever seen.

“Oh my God. You were an 80s kid and you are only now seeing The Karate Kid for the first time?” This was my wife’s reaction when I told her that I had just watched The Karate Kid for the first time. It's true. It wasn’t until 2019, 35 years after the film was released, that I saw the film for the first time and let me tell you, I had a great time with it. The film is brilliantly told, has one of the greatest characters in the form of Mr. Myagi, and its an underdog story so it works for me.

I don’t think that it is possible to hate any Don Dohler film. Well, those who were around during the video stores days can’t at least. There is a charm to the films of Dohler that can’t be denied. This is a man who just wanted to make movies and that is what he did. Each of his films has its charms, but his masterpiece is Night Beast. This is a film that features an alien from space who comes to earth to have a laser battle with humans. There is other stuff that happens in the film, but you can’t deny that this film shows just how much Dohler loved lasers. For a $14,000 budget, this is pretty impressive.

Night of the Demon is a film that I had never heard of before I found a copy on blu-ray at my local Half Price Books. Always on the lookout for new (to me) horror, I read a little bit about the film and then bought the blu-ray. Boy, is this a great flick. Its got a skeptic who will probably be a believer by the end, a cult, and a cool looking monster that we don’t see very often. The black and white photography gives the film an even creepier feel then if the film had been shot in color. This is a film that people need to see.

I was a skeptic. I didn’t want to believe. I watched the first Paddington out of boredom one day and fell in love with it. I described it as “pure joy” to anyone who would listen. Everything about the film is perfect. The acting, the comedy, the thrills. Just everything worked for me. Hell, I was impressed as hell. I ran out and bought the second film as fast as I could, expecting it to be a pale imitation of the first film, only to discover that it was just as great. Again, everything worked for me with the charm being the biggest thing. If there was any film on this list that I would recommend above any other, it would actually be the Paddington films.

Here’s another “I had never heard of this” film that belongs on this list. The Prey was a slasher film that was shot in between Halloween and Friday the 13th, but was released a few years later during the slasher boom of the early 80’s. This is a film that got slammed when it was first released as being a Friday the 13th wannabe, but was made before that film came out. The Prey isn’t a film that has the best death scenes or even the best villain, but what it does have is a lot of character and one of the best slasher kills of all time. This kill isn’t all that gory, but it is set up and pulled off perfectly. Be sure to watch the theatrical version as the other versions have a backstory that is told in full (and by “in full” I mean a 25-minute backstory that just goes on and on and on.)

After watching J.R. Bookwalter’s directorial debut The Dead Next Door, I really wanted to see what else he had done. Luckily, he was just about to release his next film, Robot Ninja, on blu-ray. Robot Ninja would have been the perfect film for me during the Video Store Days as it is made for teenagers who love comic books, horror, and action films. Robot Ninja is a comic book film that did justice to the way that comic book films would be made in the future. The material is taken seriously (to a point) and gives a great hero and an equally great villain.

Roger Corman made a lot of films during his very long career and while most of these films were aimed at an adult audience, he always made a few films that could be viewed by almost everyone. Rock ‘n’ Roll High School is a lot of fun with some truly great music. It also features one of the happiest performances I have ever seen in P.J. Soles’ The Ramones superfan. Soles emits joy all throughout this film and it is something that modern films are sorely missing. Everyone else is great as well, but Soles really carries this film and is clearly happy to do so.

The first Shaft film is a blaxploitation film that holds up just as good today as it did during its initial release. The film became iconic for its theme song, but there are many cliches that can be found here that are found in films today. Shaft is a wonderful character and the film is thrilling and exciting. It is also really well shot. The 2000 Shaft, directed by the late John Singleton, is a sequel, and the fourth in the series. The film is really good as well and doesn’t fall into the comedic traps that the 2019 Shaft fell into hard. Singleton treats the character with respect and gives Shaft a great story to investigate.

Oh, man. How did this one pass me up? Well, it did and it didn’t. The film had been a legend for many of the Video Store Days. You could get the film on the bootleg market, but there was no official release until the mid 90s when New Line Cinema released the film on VHS in its original aspect ratio. I would go on to buy this VHS and then never watch it. I was coming into my own as a martial arts film fan so I honestly have no idea why I didn’t watch this film, which I owned, until this year. That being said, this film is the very definition of a grindhouse film. There is an anti-hero that we are rooting for even if it is just because we want to see how he is going to kill the next person. There is a scene in the film where a woman is being raped. Sonny Chiba, who is being chased by the bad guys, just so happens to climb into the window where the assault is taking place. Chiba sees what is happening and then proceeds to rip the rapist’s dick and balls of and then shoves them down the man’s throat. There are many more scenes this brutal spread throughout the film. Needless to say, but I can’t recommend this film more highly.

I saw the 2009 Tony Scott version of The Taking of Pelham 123 way before I saw the original. This film takes place during the grim and gritty New York in the 70s and the grit adds to the film’s aesthetics. The film is very well directed and moves at a great pace. There is also Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, and Hector Elizondo giving this film a lot of weight to carry through to the end. The film is definitely a 70s thriller and that is alright by me. I really had no idea how this film was going to turn out and I am glad that it was as good as it is.

Ah, the two Bills vs the two Ices. That is how the film was marketed, at least where I was from. During the early 90’s, when rap was at its highest, no one in their right mind would have thought that Ice Cube and Ice-T would star in a film together, let alone a studio picture directed by Walter Hill. The film is a siege film with the two Bills finding a bunch of gold hidden in a derelict building that drug dealers use for deals. The two Bills are trapped inside the room with the gold while the two Ices are trying to get into the room because they too want the gold. Like any good siege film, there are scenes of the two Bills trying to get out of the room, taking on of the gang members hostage, and yelling. Man, there is so much yelling. Needless to say, this is one hell of a film and one that more people should check out.

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