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January 5, 2010

The Midnight Movies The Mike fell in Love with in 2009

Yeah, that's Love with a capital L. It's that time of year when everyone starts putting up end of the year lists (and it's my blog's one-year anniversary!), but for my purpose at FMWL, it's not enough for me to point out movies that came out this year. After reading an excellent post from Larry Blamire, director of The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (WHICH I LOVE!), I got the idea to list some midnight movies I fell for during the first year of my blog lifetime.

To start, I'm gonna ignore 2009 and focus on the Horror and Sci-Fi Films I thoroughly loved watching this year. They might not be Citizen Kane, but they're awful homey:

Beware! The Blob (1972, Larry Hagman) - Yes, it's the "sequel" to The Blob, and yes, it's THAT Larry Hagman. Look, you all know how I feel about blobs. This has to be on the list.

Bloodsuckers from Outer Space (1984, Glen Coburn) - Ultra cheesy flick features a wind that turns everyday small-town Texas folk into zombie-esque bloodsuckers. This is what the B-movies of the '50s would have looked like during the glam '80s, for better or worse.

The Car (1977, Elliot Silverstein) - A few years before John Carpenter brought out Christine, James Brolin faced off with THE CAR. Like most '70s horrors, this is smarter and more plot driven than you'd expect, if not slightly ridiculous.

Cold Prey (2006, Roar Uthaug) - If nothing else, I've never seen a slasher film with a director who's name was cooler than Roar Uthaug's. Plus the Norwegian title is Fritt vilt, and that's cool. Oh yeah, the movie's fun too.

Gorilla at Large (1954, Harmon Jones) - A series of brutal killings happen at a traveling carnival, and appear to be the work of the show's man in a gorilla suit...wait, isn't that supposed to be a gorilla? It's like a live-action Scooby Doo, with Technicolor and a cast of no less than Anne Bancroft, Cameron Mitchell, Lee J. Cobb, Raymond Burr, and LEE FREAKIN' MARVIN.

Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969, Robert Parrish) - Thoughtful, intriguing sci-fi flick that's more than a cash in on 2001 A Space Oddyssey's popularity. Full review's on the site somewhere.

The Last Starfighter (1984, Nick Castle) - I don't know why I never saw this before. Clearly someone abused me by keeping it from me. When I did finally catch it, I was glad to find I loved it for more than just its connections to the first three Halloween films. (Director Nick Castle played The Shape in H1, Lance Guest starred in H2, and Dan O'Herlihy starred in H3: Season of the Witch.)

The Masque of the Red Death (1964, Roger Corman) - This might become my favorite Poe/Corman/Price film with time. It's definitely the best looking, partially thanks to cinematography by a young Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Walkabout). Price is at his best.

Monster Beach Party (2009, Jay Andrews) - OK, I know I said I was leaving out 2009, but damn, this movie has to be mentioned. Also known as Monster Beach Party A Go Go or as Stomp! Shout! Scream! it's a valiant attempt to lovingly spoof the mid 20th century beach party horrors that I love. If I had money, I'd back a remake of this in a second. We need more Skunk Ape vs. Hot Chick Band.
Night of the Creeps (1986, Fred Dekker) - I'd seen this long ago on a worn out VHS tape (are there any VHS tapes left that aren't worn out?), but finally getting a revisit on DVD was a revelation. Though it can't meet its hype (or Dekker's The Monster Squad), it's definitely one of the '80s best horror comedies.

Phase IV (1974, Saul Bass) - Saul Bass is one of the most respected men in film for his work on graphic design and title sequences (see Psycho or Vertigo for proof), but he directed only one film - this little sci-fi thinker about a research station dealing with an ants. The film looks great in mixing footage of real ants with the secluded setting, and Bass' visual style mixes perfectly with the subdued script.

[REC] (2007, Jaume Baleguero & Paco Plaza) - I've reviewed this already, but as far as I can see it's the winner of the "handheld horror flick holy grail." Short and sweet, if you like your horror intense and gory. And who doesn't?

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008, Darren Lynn Bousman) - Another flick I've reviewed, but it stands as the most surprising love of mine from this year...and is probably the film I watched most in 2009. Testify!

The Unearthly (1957, Boris Petroff) - So, this is probably one of the worst movies I saw this year, and I can't say much about it that MST3K didn't already say. But it was so much fun to watch John Carradine be evil while future 50-Foot Woman Alison Hayes worries and Tor Johnson proclaims "TIME FOR GO TO BED!" I mean, it's B-movie heaven.

Who Can Kill a Child? (1976, Narciso Ibanez Serrador) - On shock factor alone, this movie might be the most memorable I've seen this year, and it also helps explain what's up with Eli Roth. It's literally 107 minutes of a couple being terrorized by a throng of angry, violent children. What's not to love?

Those are the Horror and Sci-Fi flicks I fell in love with in 2009...but wait, there's more. As an added bonus, I'm throwing out comments on nine Non-Horror/Non-Sci-Fi movies I fell for in the past year. And they start with this amazing image:The Anniversary (1968, Roy Ward Baker) - I can't very well mention my site's anniversary without bringing up The Anniversary. A full review's here somewhere, so I'll just say that Bette Davis plays a psycho, ultra-maternal, cyclops. BOOM.

The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970, Sam Peckinpah) - I love westerns, and I love Peckinpah, and this thing was just beautiful. Jason Robards' lead performance is perfect, and David Warner's here too. Sweet.

The Baron of Arizona (1950, Samuel Fuller) - Vincent Price tries to swindle the U.S. out of the state of Arizona in this drama. Let me say that again. Vincent Price tries to swindle the U.S. out of the state of Arizona. I can't make that up.

Born Yesterday (1950, George Cukor) - I'm a sucker for old school rom-coms, but I'd never gotten past the awful Melanie Griffith remake until this year. I'm glad I finally did, as Judy Holliday is fantastic.

The Fallen Idol (1948, Carol Reed) - Instantly preceding Reed's The Third Man, The Fallen Idol holds its own as one of the most beautiful black-and-white films I've ever seen. The plot's been recycled since, but has never been done better.

A Matter of Life and Death (1946, Powell & Pressburger) - Finally released on DVD by Sony, the Archers' WWII drama takes place between the worlds of the living in the dead, and shows us by balancing gorgeous settings and photography in both technicolor and black-and-white. Probably the third best new film I saw this year...but more on that later....

Vibes (1988, Ken Kwapis) - OK, look at that picture above. It's a nerdy Jeff Goldblum dancing with Cyndi Lauper. How can you NOT want to see that movie? What if I told you it had Peter Falk too, and was kind of a mix between Ghostbusters and Romancing the Stone? Don't tell me you're not in - this is the easiest sell on the list.

With all those films mentioned, I hope you can find at least something on this list that interests you. If not...well, I guess it's time for me to list my Two Favorite Movies that I Saw for the First Time in 2009!
First Runner-Up: Lonely Are the Brave (1962, David Miller) - Look at Kirk Douglas. That is bad-ass, folks. Here he stars as a man on the run from the law (played by no less than Walter Matthau), simply because he's tired of the way society's changed. While first glance puts the film in the western genre, this is actually a gripping drama about how difficult it can be for generations to adapt to the expectations that surround them as cultures evolve and they're ways become obsolete. Douglas had long proclaimed this to be his best film, and I'm inclined to agree based on what I've seen.

And, my favorite movie that I saw for the first time in 2009 is...........
That's right: MOON. It's from 2009, it's directed by Duncan Jones, and it comes out on DVD next week. I assure you, there'll be a full write-up on it then.

Thank you all for reading, and I can't wait to talk about FMWL's second anniversary next year! As always, let me know what you thing, and here's to happy viewings!

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