Quick, what’s your favorite action franchise (two films or more) starring a black lead? Without knowing your exact pick, I’m going to do a little prognosticating and guess that you’ve gone with an action/comedy. If I’m wrong, it’s either because you’re old and have chosen something from the ’70s or you’ve picked Blade.
This week’s biggest new release sees the return of Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall in The Equalizer 2, and not only is that good news for action fans – the movie’s a solid character piece punctuated with thrilling action beats – it’s also something of a milestone for black-led action franchises. While there’s no rarity of action movies with black leads, even a cursory look at the ones that spawned sequels over the past 30 years reveals something odd.
They’re all action/comedies.
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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we’re stealing your time with a look at good movies about bad abductions.)
There are no “good” abductions, of course, but sometimes you’re compelled to use an adjective. It’s not fun, but as compulsions go there are far, far worse examples. Like being compelled by force to go with someone who plans on holding you prisoner until your loved ones pay a hefty ransom for your safe return. Kidnappings and abductions are horrifying to consider in the real world, but the trauma, suspense, and terror sure can make for some stellar cinema.
To clarify, we’re talking strictly about movies involving kidnappings for ransom, so while Misery (1990) is a brilliant movie (and too well-known for this column anyway), it doesn’t fit the category as Annie Wilkes wants no ransom and has no intention of returning Paul Sheldon back to his normal life. Think movies like High and Low (1963), Fargo (1996), and Taken (2009), and then think about the ones that aren’t already beloved by you and millions of other movie-lovers around the world.
Keep reading for a look at six good to great movies about kidnappings and abductions that you’ve probably never seen and that are ripe to steal a little bit of your time.
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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we find out what happens after Patrick Bateman realized he would never be caught or made to pay for his crimes.)
The poster for 2002’s American Psycho II: All American Girl promises a killer who’s angrier, deadlier, and sexier, but not only does it fail to deliver on all three it also fails to understand that none of those adjectives speak to the appeal of its predecessor. American Psycho (2000) is a time-capsule by design, capturing the excess of the 1980s through the eyes, words, and severely damaged imagination of one of its apparent “winners.” Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman has everything he could want, including an ax to grind against those who annoy him, disappoint him, or simply cross his path at the wrong time. But while the film focuses on one man, the story being told is about something much bigger.
The direct-to-video sequel is about a girl who really wants a professor to pick her as next semester’s TA.
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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we look towards our neighbors to the north for some chilly tales of terror.)
2018’s only half over, but it’s already been a pretty fantastic year at the movies for horror fans. One of the best and creepiest is Adam MacDonald’s Backcountry follow-up, Pyewacket, which is as terrifying a feature as you’re likely to find from an otherwise polite and kind-hearted Canadian filmmaker. Canadians are a humble people and don’t often brag about their accomplishments, but the country has gifted us with numerous horror gems over the years including acknowledged classics (Black Christmas, The Changeling), slasher favorites (Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine), early David Cronenberg flicks (The Brood, Shivers), and ridiculous cult favorites (Cathy’s Curse, The Pit).
There are plenty more where they came from – the country’s filmmakers didn’t earn the Canuxploitation label for nothing – and in the spirit of this very bi-weekly column, I thought I’d point you in the direction of a few films that aren’t talked about nearly enough. Keep reading for a look at six of the best Canadian horror movies you probably haven’t seen.
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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, I’ve been forced to accept the existence of three – three! – sequels to one of 1998’s best comedies.)
You read that headline right. 1998’s Wild Things is a comedy, and it’s a pretty brilliant one at that. Sure it’s also sleazy, ridiculous, and filled with more twists than a busload of Chubby Checker impersonators, but the damn thing is a blast from beginning to end. Every frame is dripping with sweat and pheromones, every character wants to shtup every other character (when they’re not busy shtupping them over), and the entire cast plays it 100% straight. Well, maybe not Bill Murray, but no one’s complaining.
A recent re-watch confirmed it as beautifully absurd and gloriously entertaining, and for a brief while, all was right with the world. Then I got the bi-weekly call from Slash HQ. Don’t tell him I shared this, but my editor Jacob Hall likes to pick the sequels I cover here, and I think he enjoys it a bit too much. Every two weeks he pulls out his wheel of DTV sequels, puffs menacingly on a cigar, and gives the wheel a spin as his sadistic chuckles echo around him…but I digress. This week’s torture was decided, and that’s why I endured a first-time watch of the three DTV Wild Things sequels made between 2004 and 2010. (And yes, I’m terrified of the day Jacob’s wheel lands on Hellraiser.)
Keep reading for a look at Wild Things 2, Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough, and Wild Things: Foursome.
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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we put our hands together, drop to our knees, and then realize that’s a terribly uncomfortable position in which to watch movies featuring men of God as lead characters.)
When it comes to priests (preachers, pastors, etc) in movies, they typically fall into just a handful of character types. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of them seem to find life as casual guys (Mass Appeal), pervs (Spotlight), or the last line of defense against the devil Himself (The Exorcism of Emily Rose). As with most professions, though, people who choose this line of work are typically more complicated than those one-note descriptions suggest. They’re not all good or all bad and instead usually offer the same gray slate as the rest of us.
Keep reading for a look at six movies with memorably atypical lead portrayals of men of God.
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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we get dirty with the follow-up to Nicolas Cage’s grim and grimy thriller about leather, latex, and the lurid world of snuff films.)
This column’s only six entries deep, but all of the featured DTV sequels have so far offered a direct connection to the film that came before it. The continued storyline hasn’t helped most of them in the quality department, but the return of characters and specific narratives at least works to draw in curious viewers hoping to see where a film went after the end credits finished rolling.
There’s a whole other kind of DTV sequel, though, and we’re getting our first taste of its nonsensical, disconnected nature this week.
Joel Schumacher’s 8MM is a solid, occasionally brutal and dramatic thriller with a stellar cast, and while it wasn’t a hit necessarily it made some coin, disturbed some viewers, and found a fan in Roger Ebert. The sequel – yes, there was a sequel made six years later – doesn’t manage any of that, but it shouldn’t be surprising because it also lacks any connection whatsoever to Schumacher’s film. It’s a sequel in name only, and that’s because it was originally called The Velvet Side of Hell during production before being retitled for marketing purposes and released as 8MM 2.
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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. In this edition, we take a look at a sad little cash-grab hoping to capitalize on the cult popularity of 1987’s third-best sci-fi/action movie.)
One of my favorite things about consuming entertainment media – whether it be film, literature, or television – is having the opportunity to share terrific but lesser known favorites with people who haven’t seen or sometimes even heard of them. I do so whenever possible at my various online homes like Film School Rejects and Twitter, via my bi-weekly column here at /Film, and even when talking in person with friends. (“In person” refers to conversing face to face with real people in the real world.) One such example of a lesser known favorite I’ve shared over the years has been Jack Sholder’s 1987 gem The Hidden.
It was far from a hit despite earning double its $5 million budget in theaters, and while it’s become a cult favorite over the years for fans of great things, far too many people still haven’t seen it. Seek it out immediately if that’s you, as Sholder delivers a wickedly fun tale of feuding aliens, bloody encounters, and the power of friendship. It’s also one hell of an ’80s time capsule complete with flashy cars, loud music, and a young Kyle MacLachlan.
The film was ripe for a sequel and had it been an actual hit, it probably would have gotten one for the big screen. Instead, six years later, New Line Cinema quietly released a follow-up direct to video. As sacred as I find my duty for pointing people towards fantastic but underseen movies, I’m equally compelled to divert you away from absolute duds on the off chance you come across one while browsing for something to watch. It’s why I devote time to DTV Descent, and it’s why I’m here to warn you about 1993’s The Hidden II.
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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we whip out our passport and go looking for Spanish terrors deserving of more eyeballs.)
Spain is a beautiful nation filled with rich culture, wonderful people, and the abomination that is bullfighting, and like most countries, it’s also home to past sins and acts of government-sanctioned barbarism. It’s no surprise that Spanish (and Mexican) filmmakers often infuse their horror films and thrillers with that history, and that reflection on very real pain has resulted in some fantastically dark genre films from the grisly fun of Tombs of the Blind Dead (1972) to the emotionally scarring loneliness of The Devil’s Backbone (2001). More recently, they’ve proven themselves capable of delivering kick-ass “zombie” films with REC (2007) and REC 2 (2009), the supernatural masterpiece that is The Orphanage (2007), and terrifying psychological horror movies including Julia’s Eyes (2010), Kidnapped (2010), and Sleep Tight (2011).
In addition to being well-known, though, most genre fans have already seen those movies. (Although if you haven’t, you should fix that sooner rather than later as they are all fantastic.) So in an effort to do what I do, I’m highlighting some other Spanish horror films this week that are a bit less recognizable despite being equally fantastic. All six are Spanish productions (despite two being in English), and while they lean heavily towards the horrors humans inflict upon each other, I made sure to toss in some hungry gastropods for good measure.
Keep reading for a look at some of the best Spanish horror movies you probably haven’t seen.
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(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we take a vacation and explore the best movies you’ve never seen that are set on islands.)
It’s the summer movie season, which means it’s the season of big, CG-filled adventures, and one of the biggest (and most CG-filled) of this summer’s offerings is next month’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. I bring it up for a wholly different reason, though, as its franchise features some of the most well-known movies set on islands. It might seem like a pointless designation, but island-set features are almost a sub-genre to themselves as they create an immediately understood atmosphere for the story at hand.
Their geography dictates isolation from the rest of the world, and that in turn works to build suspense, desperation, and tension (if that’s the goal). Protagonists are far removed from civilization, , and the setting works to enhance their loneliness whether it be a dramatic adventure (Cast Away), comedy (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), survival tale (Lord of the Flies), coming of age story (The Blue Lagoon), folk horror (The Wicker Man), or underappreciated Michael Bay flick. Of course, you’ve already seen those movies.
Keep reading for a look at some of the best island-set movies you’ve never seen.
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