Hello geeks & freaks, stoners and other fans of the weird world of B-movie horror and science fiction. For years I’ve been giving friends movie lists of films they should watch, often for selfish reasons; I gain great satisfaction observing their excitement of discovery, with the hope that they too will pass along these cinematic treasures. Often hilarious, sometimes disgusting, occasionally insanely creative, these films may not be perfect, but they are rarely boring (at least to those of us that are a little warped). Under the influence of the magical herb cannabis, they lend themselves to wonderful memories of evenings of movie nights with friends, laughing hysterically, grabbing forearms with fright, and being scared shitless en masse.
My goal is to tantalize with enough information to pique your interest, but without giving away too much of the story. These movies are listed in no particular order.
Brain Damage (1988)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter. Possibly one of the greatest films ever made about addiction. Bizarre, hilarious, graphically violent, one of the great ‘sleepers’ of the 80’s. Please send my regards to the main character, Aylmar, a centuries-old, turd-like, talking parasite, that produces an addictive, wildly hallucinogenic, blue juice. Crazy fun. Buy it or stream it on Amazon. Here’s one of many clips that you can enjoy on YouTube.
Q: The Winged Serpent (1985)
A truly spectacular monster movie, written and directed by one of the great early independent American filmmakers, Larry Cohen. Many familiar faces: Michael Moriarty, Candy Clark, David Carradine, Richard Roundtree. In my opinion, the best piece of acting I’ve ever seen from Moriarty. Carradine, as usual, is stiff as a sheet of cardboard. Q stands for Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god. Watch as Cohen, on a miniscule budget by today’s standards, terrorizes Manhattan with a giant, flying lizard. And this ain’t no vegan bird-god. This one streams on multiple services: Amazon/Shudder, YouTube, VUDU, Google Play, and iTunes.
God Told Me To (AKA Demon) (1976)
Written & directed by Larry Cohen. The strangest of all Cohen’s films. Tony Lo Bianco plays a NYC detective that is drawn into a series of murders by different perpetrators that are oddly connected. Look for a chase scene through the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The cop is a young Andy Kaufman. Cohen was able to shoot the scene for free during the actual parade by convincing Mayor Lindsay that he was filming a historical documentary about the parade itself. Ingenious and ballsy when you can’t afford to stage a parade and pay all those extras. If you can explain the totally bizarro ending, please call me and fill me in. Streaming on YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Lair of the White Worm (1988)
Directed by Ken Russell. Familiar faces: Hugh Grant, Amanda Donahoe, & Catherine Oxenberg. Based on a Bram Stoker novel, this movie took me by surprise. Campy horror fun, with fantastic editing, costuming, and perfect over-the-top acting by Donahoe. Rather than give anything away, just watch it. Warning: extremely sacrilegious towards Catholicism. Looks like the DVD is out-of-print but you can still buy copies on Amazon (click on the image to the right) or eBay. Streaming on YouTube, Amazon, VUDU, and Google Play.
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Screenplay by Clive Barker, starring David Dukes. Taking place in Ireland, a menacing creature is accidentally released from his underground prison. Not the greatest production quality, but this movie really got under my skin. Look for a few exceptional scenes; Rawhead’s release at the beginning of the film, the monster making eye contact with Dukes’ character from far away on a hill, and Rex relieving himself on an apostate priest in a lovely baptismal moment. The ending is all about girl power, but I find it to be a letdown, given everything leading up to it, but the film is still worth viewing. DVD is out-of-print (click on the image to the right and check out the outrageous prices on Amazon.) BUT, it’s streaming for free on YouTube – apparently since 2013.
Altered States (1985)
Another special film directed by Ken Russell, the novel & screenplay written by none other than Paddy Chayefsky. Chayefsky is the only writer in the history of the Oscars to have won 3 individual Oscars for Best Screenplay.
Altered States stands as a landmark film for special effects. The story ain’t bad either. Mix 1 part brilliant scientist and philosopher played by William Hurt, with 3 parts powerful hallucinogenic drug borrowed from an ancient indian tribe somewhere in South America, crossed with a sensory deprivation tank buried somewhere in the bowels of an old building on a college campus, and, how could the movie possibly be boring? Well, actually at times, in the first 30-45 minutes it can be a little ‘talky,’ but stick with it, the last hour of this film is visually amazing. You’ll recognize quite a few actors. One of the earliest uses of CGI in film history.
If you’re interested in reading more about the history of the making of this film, it was filled with controversy. Russell and Chayefsky fought constantly, and the writer eventually had his last name removed from the credits. The writing credit reads Sidney Aaron, Chayefsky’s first and middle names. Look up Altered States on IMDb to read more and select ‘trivia’. DVD is out-of-print but you can find very reasonably priced copies. Streaming on YouTube, Amazon, VUDU, and Google Play.