Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Falling Through the Cracks: Ten Films That Time Forgot

There's a lot of movies out there that have simply vanished throughout time. Usually when this happens it's because the movie is so awful that no one wants to remember it's existence. Sometimes, however, you'll find a hidden gem on a VHS tape shoved away in some bleak corner inside a thrift shop.
Here are ten examples of films that I feel deserve a little more recognition.

1. THE QUEST (a.k.a Frog Dreaming/The Go-Kids)
At the height of Henry Thomas' ET fame, he starred in this Australian feature from Director Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead-End Drive Inn/Night of the Demons 2). The Quest is a touching coming of age film, about a young boy searching for the truth about a lake monster known as Donkegin, a creature birthed from Aboriginal legend. He and his summer pals try to find out what's really lurking underneath the waters at Devil's Knob national park. Like most Australian flicks The Quest is extremely well-made, John R. McLean's cinematography is breathtaking, and the music score by Brian May (Road Warrior/Freddy's Dead) is haunting in it's rich composition. This is a film well-worth searching for on VHS as it is currently not on DVD.

Eyes of Fire is a really bizarre ghost story that has many surrealistic elements to it. The plot concerns an adulterous preacher leading his followers into an isolated wilderness that is inhabited by evil spirits and a tree witch. The film takes place during the late 1700's and this gives the movie a kind of folklore/campfire feel to it. The score by Brad Fidel (Terminator 1&2) is eerie and unnerving and the strange optical effects surrounding the visuals gives the movie it's own unique style. Eyes of Fire was unofficially released on dvd in Portugal, but that version is long out of print. It's a shame that the director Avery Crounse, has made nothing this good since. His only other two features were the lousy Invisible Kid and the soap opera drama Sister Island. I guess he's just one of those one-hit wonder directors like Kevin Smith (Clerks-Let's be honest, he's never made another good movie).


I know what your all thinking, how on earth can I like this film? It tanked in the box office, Vonnegut disowned it and the critics hated it. Well, that's all fine and dandy, but in reality, this is a quite fascinating feature. Vonnegut is virtually unfilmable to begin with, but I really felt that this film did something different than the book, but in a good way. The madness that permeates this motion picture is truly unstoppable. If you ever want to see Bruce Willis at his most intense, or have a dying wish to watch Nick Nolte in drag-then this is the film for you! With it's awkward editing and drug-like visuals Breakfast of Champions reminds me of a cross between Natural Born Killers and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  

Porn director Stephen Sayadian (Cafe Flesh/Nightdreams) made his first "mainstream" film with this bizarre sequel to the silent classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The film works well with it's low budget and scarce set design, creating a truly oddball universe for one to dive into, reminding one of Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone. Written by Jerry Stahl (Alf) during one of his heroin-induced rampages.

The only way to really describe Voyage of the Rock Aliens is that it's like being injected with the 1980's. Every scene, character, and costume just bleeds the era. Voyage is one of the most ridiculous and outrages musicals ever made. It has psycho's with chainsaws, beach party nonsense, a giant orange sea monster, a battle of the bands, and of course goofy Devo-style aliens with synthesizers. I think my favorite part of the film was watching Craig Sheffer (Nightbreed/Hellraiser: Inferno) dance around with cougars and female dancers dressed up like rejects from Cats, while singing about "The Nature of the Beast." I actually spent 50 dollars on the out of print soundtrack featuring Pia Zadora and Rhema (because the songs ARE that amazing). If you liked Shock Treatment (the much better sequel to Rocky Horror), then you'll love Voyage of the Rock Aliens.

A strange movie from New Zealand in which an anthropologist goes missing while searching for a lost tribe of Maori. His twin brother goes searching for him and finds himself wrapped inside a vortex of supernatural mystery. The movie is rich in atmosphere and contains a creepy feel throughout. Director John Laing (who went on to helm Power Rangers episodes) creates an unusual suspense/thriller that is not to be missed (if one can find a copy).


Simple Men is director  Hal Harlty's best film. All of the director's trademarks are present; awkward silences, cyclical dialogues, and characters that act like they just got out of a mental institution. While Hartley's other films like Amateur and Trust were great movies, Simple Men is an extraordinary film. The plot concerns two brothers; one that's a con artist, the other a college kid, searching for their revolutionary father who's been missing for twenty years. The performances by the leading actors are quite mesmerizing, with Martin Donovan (Saved) stealing the show as the eccentric fisherman, Martin.

Who would have known that mild-mannered actor Bob Balaban (A Mighty Wind/Altered States) would have such a twisted mind as a director, as Parents is truly one of the most demented horror-comedies I've ever seen. Young Micheal believes that his parents have been cannibalizing the neighbors and seeks help from his school counselor, who thinks he's suffering from a bi-polar disorder. The film has kind of an Eraserhead feel to it with its episodic structure and nightmarish imagery, and is a must-see for fans of the "cannibal" sub-genre.

Forget about The Bad Seed, The Good Son and Orphan-Mikey is one depraved little monster! In the first ten minutes of the movie, Mikey, played by  Brian Bonsell (Family Ties/Blank Check) drowns his infant sister in a swimming pool, electrocutes his stepmother in the bathtub and beats his father to death with a baseball bat (and those are some of the tamer crimes he commits throughout this film). While not necessarily a well made movie-the sheer nastiness and violence makes it easily the most outrages of the "Killer Children' genre.

10. NIGHTKILLER (a.k.a. Non Aprite Quella Porta 3)
When the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released in Italy they changed the title to Non Aprite Quella Porta (Don't Open That Door!). So after the success of the second installment in the Chainsaw series, Claudio Fragasso (Troll 2/Monster Dog) decided to cash in on the franchise by making an unofficial sequel (a year or so later he did the same thing with the Evil Dead ripoff La Casa 5).  Although the movie has nothing even remotely in common with the Chainsaw films, It does manage to rip off Freddy Krueger, as the Nightkiller also has a glove with blades on the trips that he uses to disembowel his victims. Like all of Fragasso's films, Nightkiller is filled with the most hilarious, over the top dialogue you can ever imagine (it's as if Ed Wood returned from the grave to write more scripts). Nightkiller was never released in the US, so locating a copy is difficult to say the least. A few bootleg sites online carry the title, and I'm sure with the popularity of Troll 2, it'll only be a matter of time before this lost classic appears on DVD.

Honorable mention: THE LIFT
 What can I say? It's a Dutch horror film about a killer elevator! Dick Maas not only directed the film, but also composed the awesome Moog inspired soundtrack (some of the tracks were used by Claudio Fragasso for his film Monster Dog). Maas remade the film as The Shaft in 2001.