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September 14, 2011

Midnight Top Five - The "Modern Horror vs. Not-So-Modern Horror Double Feature" Edition

One of the great things about horror movies - and I'm trying to say this seriously - is that they're so darn repetitive.  I'm not saying remakes and sequels and not being original are good things in and of themselves.  What I am saying is that a great terror comes in many shapes and sizes.  Something that scared us as a child can still scare us as an adult - but the way it scares us or the thing about it that scares us or the intensity of the scare changes with time.  And the fact of the matter is that horror movies have been asking us to be afraid of the same things for decades, they just do it in different ways.
So, when the friends of FMWL over at Pussy Goes Grrr - a one of a kind blog that often brings the goods - introduced me to their "Juxtaposition Blogathon" (and after I looked up juxtaposition at to make sure I didn't say something dumb), I started thinking about just how often some of the horror movies we see these days share traits with horror movies that have come before them.  And how, a lot of the time, the older horror movies seem to have fallen by the wayside.  The result? Five unique "Double Feature" pairings that just might rock an evening in your future.

Let's get to it.
The House of The Devil & The Devil Rides Out
We start with two of my favorite movies to talk about here at FMWL, one of which was my first Midnight Movie of the Week pick and another that was a MMOTW pick soon after and might be my favorite horror film of the last decade.  There's an obvious connection that can be made due to their names (HINT: It's "The Devil"), though Old Scratch doesn't actually show up in either film.  
Despite the absence of a traditional devil, the hooks that bring the films together include big ol' houses filled with Satanists, some moon mumbo jumbo, and a fresh faced young girl (Jocelin Donahue in the latter, Nike Arrighi in the former) who is the key to completing some kind of ceremony.  A lot of people say that men have advantages over women in this world, and if it's true then it certainly seems that not being the target of a Satanist cult is one of the more posh advantages us dudes have.  Sorry ladies.  
The biggest difference between the films - besides the more than forty years that passed between them - is that one offers a tall veteran actor (Christopher Lee) as a powerhouse hero, while the other offers a tall veteran actor (Tom Noonan) as a subdued catalyst of evil.  But hey, I still love both films to death - and anyone looking for a couple of cult-based chillers could do worse than starting with these two.
Feast & The Being
I'm not sure if a lot of other people do - I rarely hear anyone talking about it - but I love the heck out of Feast.  It's a totally ridiculous and over the top gorefest that normally wouldn't even cause me to look twice, but there's something about it that just stops me every time.  It doesn't subscribe to any kind of reason, Hollywood expectations are certainly thrown out with the bath water, and it's the rare film where you really feel like any of the characters could die...except you really don't, because there's one girl who's way too hot and way to prominent in the film to die.  Pretty sure there's a graph out there that proves being high on those scales is the best way to survive a splatter flick.  If not, there should be.
It should be noted that Feast does slightly break from this with the character played by my favorite Twitter Crush, Jenny Wade. I'll let you see what I mean in the flick.
Though Feast is pretty one of a kind in its madcap lunacy, its mixture of slimy creatures and and off the beaten path setting makes me want to pair it up with another splattery flick, the barely known 1983 flick The Being.  Despite the presence of some known names - Martin Landau and Jose Ferrer show up - this small town Idaho based tale of toxic mutation is pretty forgotten these days.  Which is totally sad when you consider the fact that bearded/flannel shirted producer William Osco takes center stage while using the alias  Rexx Coltrane.  He's worth the price of admission alone.
Neither of these films will really scare you too much - though there's a fantastic scene with a toddler, and Easter Egg Hunt, and a mutant in The Being - so get ready for plenty of monster based silliness, some horrible acting, and a whole lot of splatter.  If you're prepping for a gore-based cheese movie night, these two should bring the thunder.
Rogue & Alligator
Yes, I realize that Rogue is a movie about a crocodile and Alligator is (obviously) a movie about an alligator.  Go ahead and tell me the difference, I'm gonna forget it soon (again) anyways.  The point is that these two fellas have big chompers, are greenish, and can take a man down faster than he can say "Hey, what's the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?"  So you gotta pay respect.
Greg McLean's Rogue seems to teeter between getting more or less respect (based on who you talk to) than his debut feature Wolf Creek.  That's more of a statement about just how divisive that film is (I dug it, if anyone cares), but Rogue suffers from no such schism.  This is a very competent and very consistent thriller that pits man against nature, and the director does a great job of pitting folks who didn't plan on an adventure against the toothed killer.
Someone else who didn't expect to face off with a reptilian killer is the always fantastic Robert Forster, who stars in Alligator as a detective who investigates the possibility that a 36 foot gator lives in Chicago's sewers.  Since the streets of Chicago don't provide as much watery goodness as the Australian outback, Alligator is a more talkative film than Rogue, complete with a script from indie darling & Piranha/The Howling scribe John Sayles.  But both movies provide maximum teeth gnashing, and they should be good friends despite their killers' scientific differences.
Snakes on a Plane & Venom
If gators/crocs aren't your thing - I'm not sure why they wouldn't be, but whatever floats your raft, man - then perhaps you'd be more interested in some cheesy snake action.   It boggles my mind that it's been more than five years since Snakes on a Plane happened, and I'm still kind of sad that the movie has fallen through the cracks a bit in the years since its release.  I'm not exactly sure why the people who were so excited about a movie called Snakes on a Plane were so quick to turn their backs on a film that acted like it was called Snakes on a Plane, but I still think it's a ton of fun.
Some have complained that Snakes on a Plane spent too much time setting up the silly reasons for the snakes being loose on the plane, and I will give them a bit of a pass on that one.  Aside from the unstoppable Samuel L. Jackson and that lady from ER - who stand out mostly because of their experience in the spotlight - most of the people in Snakes on a Plane just aren't that interesting.  But, then again, the movie has a ton of SNAKES on a PLANE.
If you're looking for something more ambitious (just take a look at the movies mentioned on that poster!) which features more characters and less snakes, there's always the 1981 chiller Venom.  It offers only one snake - a black mamba that's super crazy - but gives us one of the best b movie casts ever.  Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed, Michael Gough, Sterling Hayden, and Susan George all become pawns in this tale of a kidnapping gone wrong via snake, and the film is better thanks to their presence.  In the end, Venom (like Snakes on a Plane) is a pretty silly affair - but if you put the two together you should have enough interesting characters and more than enough snakebit action to make for a fulfilling evening.
Drive Angry & Race With The Devil
In cinema, you simply can not keep a good devil down.  Earlier in this list we were worried about the houses he was in, then him riding out, and now we have two films that involve getting away from Beelzebub and his followers on the open highway.  
I've already written a biased and glowing review of Drive Angry here, but I should repeat just how fun it was to see a modern film take on such a grindhouse idea with such disregard for Hollywood expectations.  Nicolas Cage teams up with writer Todd Farmer and director Patrick Lussier to present a film that recognizes how cheesy it can be (William Fichtner's performance as "The Accountant" should prove that entirely), but the plot's usage of Satan as an omnipresent force and willingness to juxtapose what Fichtner and Cage know against a silly southern cult of "Satanists" puts Drive Angry in an interesting horror related spot.
If you want to see more reputable actors take driving around a cult landscape seem more serious, I recommend pairing Drive Angry with the 1975 hit Race With The Devil.  Though the film is most famous to me for being used in The 'Burbs and features a supremely anti-climactic ending, Race With The Devil is almost certainly what Drive Angry would have looked like 35 years ago in a RV - except that Peter Fonda and Warren Oates are running from the cult and not toward it. And if Drive Angry is a little too self aware for y'all, then Race With The Devil's super serious tone should be plenty pleasing.
And there you have it.  10 movies for the price of five.  Maybe you don't want to watch them as double features - I suppose I could have nominated the likes of Venom and Race With the Devil as substitutes - but I hope you'll at least consider some of these films that preceded their more famous recent counterparts.  If nothing else, they should remind you that the same horrors can come at you from all sorts of different angles.
Happy viewings, Midnight Warriors!

1 comment:

R.D. Penning said...

loved House of the Devil, but still haven't seen The Devil Rides Out.

Feast is in the top 10 Horror movies I have seen in the last 15 years. The rest of the trilogy gets to be a little too much, but is still lots of fun. Once again I need to watch the counterpart. I don't think I have ever seen The Being.

Rogue was fun, but I have to bite my tongue. Wolf Creek makes my top 10 biggest let downs in the last 15 years. I will wait to see where McLean goes from her before I judge him further. That being said... Alligator is one of my favorite movies growing up. It would ALWAYS be on USA's Up All Night, and I watched it every time.

I still watch Snakes on a Plane on a monthly basis, so Obviously I love the movie. It is just awesome because it doesn't take itself serious. As a film it knows it is being ridiculous and tries to outdo itself at every turn. I love it. Yet again... I haven't seen Venom... You are killing me Mike.

Hold the horses... here is a turn around. I have seen Race With The Devil and its awesomeness, but I have yet to see Drive Angry. Cage always makes me question watching a film. Sometimes he is awesome, but mostly... he just makes bad movies.

well there you have it... I always took pride in knowing that I would always love the originals, and the horror films of the 70's and 80's over today's movies, but after this I realize that I am just like everyone else. Thanks for making me feel like an ass Mike.