TerrorVision, directed by Ted Nicolaou, 1986

The summer after my freshman year in college was a turning point for me as far as movies go. A buddy and I found an issue of Maxim that had a "50 Worst Movies Of All Time" list, and we thought it'd be funny to go through all of them. There were some films that belonged on the list (like Plan 9), but many that didn't (Timerider and Deathrace 2000 come to mind). Looking back, I think the author of that list just picked a bunch of "b-movies" that had outlandish plots.

As the summer went on, however, I began to transition from laughing at the movies we watched to being legitimately interested in them. (I would eventually complete that transition when I moved to Austin and started attending Weird Wednesday screenings on a weekly basis).

One of the last films I saw that summer was Terrorvision. It wasn't on the list, but I'd come across it in the video store while renting other movies on the list. The VHS box art looked great, and I was bummed to find out that the video store had actually lost its copy of the film: all they had left was the display box. Luckily, I was able to purchase a copy from - I believe - eBay. I don't remember how much it cost, but I remember that my friend and I ended up really loving the film.

And although I was worried that I wouldn't like the film as much now as I once did, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. The movie is goofy as hell, but there's a fantastic (and rather large) creature design and two of cinema's worst (and most dementedly entertaining) parents. Well worth watching if you've never seen it, and worth revisiting if you have.

Madman Marz, directed by Joe Giannone, 1982

I saw this movie for the first time a few years back at the end of an all-night 80s horror festival at the original Alamo Drafthouse during Quentin Tarantino's QT Fest. I didn't remember much from that screening, but did recall that the movie was exceedingly slow. I'd assumed going into this viewing that the slowness I'd experienced could be attributed - at least in part - to the nature of attending an all-night marathon.

And even though I was much better rested going into this screening, I confess that I almost dozed off a time or two. And that's not because I dislike the film or was bored by it; to the contrary, I consider Madman to be a very competent slasher-in-the-woods flick. But the film is So. Hypnotically. Slow.

Madman is a Campground Slasher stripped to its barest elements: a wise, likeable, and ultimately absent adult figure; wisecracking teen counselors; a handful of noteworthy campers (this is the only element that arguably is lacking); a wronged, mysterious killer; and a series of creative and/or gory death sequences.

Of course, no discussion of Madman can be complete without mentioning counselor TP (that's his actual name... not a nickname), a New-York-accented goober that I should hate but don't. In fact - as a result of witnessing his amazing TP Belt Buckle and infamous Spinning-Around-A-Hot-Tub-With-His-Girlfriend scene - I'm a huge TP supporter.

Madman is somewhat obscure, but worth tracking down. Just make sure you've got some coffee nearby.

Phobia 2, directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun and others, 2009

Phobia 2 was the only film that I was able to catch at this year's Asian Film Festival of Dallas. I wish I could have made it to more AFFD screenings, but this was a great one for me to pick given my limited availability. The film is a Thai horror anthology with five very strong segments directed by five well-known (though not by me) Thai directors. The first four segments are incredibly intense and feature some truly horrific moments. They are easily some of the best short-form horror I've seen in years.

The final segment is equally good, but - because it was a horror-comedy - wasn't particularly scary. The extreme tonal shift seemed strange at the time, but now I think it was an effective way to allow the audience to unwind from the rather harrowing first 90 minutes.
categories Features, Horror