Maniac (1980)

Now Streaming on Netflix and Shudder

Chris: Sleazy, skeezy, and altogether unpleasant, William Lustig’s Maniac is a cut above your standard slasher film. It’s more psychological than most slashers, and it’s also a lot nastier. Watching Maniac feels like we’re watching the inner workings of a truly deranged mind. Joe Spinell, looking so sweaty and unkempt that you can practically smell the stink coming off him, is Frank Zito, a serial killer who scalps women in down and dirty NYC. As far as plots go, it’s not exactly nuanced. But the raw intensity Spinell (who co-wrote the script) brings to the part, mixed with the graphic gore effects from the legendary Tom Savini make Maniac a stunner worth watching (if you can stomach it).

Matt: While I think I prefer Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 remake starring Elijah Wood, Lustig’s greasy, depraved slasher flick is a grimy slice of exploitation disgust. Yes, those are all good things.

Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Chris: There were actually two different prequels to The Exorcist. Here’s what happened: Paul Schrader – the filmmaker responsible for this year’s fantastic First Reformed, among other things – was hired to helm a prequel to the classic horror movie. What Schrader ended up making was cerebral and psychological, dealing with a crisis of faith – in some ways, it’s almost a precursor to his First Reformed. But that wasn’t what the producers wanted, and the ended up pulling the plug before Schrader could finish editing. Then, at great cost, the producers brought in Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin to reshoot the entire film, and add a bunch of goofy CGI. That film was released as Exorcist: The Beginning. A year later, Schrader’s finished film – now called Dominion – was released, too. Dominion is the superior work, but it’s still very rough around the edges (there are several special effects in the movie that are clearly unfinished). And yet, it’s a fascinating watch. Stellan Skarsgård plays a younger version of Father Merrin, the old priest from the original Exorcist played by Max von Sydow. Haunted by his past, Merrin takes part in an archeological dig in Kenya, and comes across ancient evil. Dominion can’t hold a candle to The Exorcist, but it’s worth seeing just for the curiosity factor alone.

Matt: Who’s got time for one prequel to The Exorcist, let alone two?! Chris is over here thinkin’ there are 48 hours in a day instead of 24. I guess I’ll start with Dominion.

Don’t Look Now

Now Streaming on Kanopy

Chris: Director Nicolas Roeg died recently, leaving behind quite a legacy. Don’t Look Now is part of that legacy – a strange, eerie thriller that might break your brain. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a couple grieving the death of their young daughter. The pair head to Venice so Sutherland’s character can take a job, and once there, perplexing events begin to befall them. Sutherland keeps seeing what looks like his dead daughter running all over Venice, while Christie’s character connects with two mediums who say they’re able to contact the dead girl’s spirit. Haunting, weird, and featuring one of the most infamous sex scenes ever captured on film, Don’t Look Now will take you by surprise.

Matt: Rest in peace, Mr. Roeg. Please do watch Don’t Look Now in his honor, “Now Scream This” readers. Chris is right with “might break your brain.”

Mom and Dad

Now Streaming on Hulu

Chris: You want some Nicolas Cage screaming action? Look no further than Mom and Dad (after you watch Mandy on Shudder, that is). In this wacky horror-comedy, Cage and Selma Blair play a suburban couple who are dorky as hell when we first meet them. But a sudden outbreak causes adults everywhere to suddenly turn on their children, and attempt to murder them. Now Cage and Blair’s kids (Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur) have to fight to stay alive. This is a great premise, but I have to admit that Mom and Dad doesn’t quite stick the landing. After introducing the concept, it fails to do anything innovative with it. Still, it’s more than worth seeing to watch Cage unleash that patented Cage Rage, shouting and shrieking as he smashes shit in his way.  

Matt: Do I sound crazy if I say I wish Mom and Dad actually “went for it” more with the parents killing children concept? Brian Taylor’s film makes brilliant use of memeable Cage and Blair, but coming from one-half of the creators of Crank – along with multiple competing “violence against children” films that *do* push full-throttle – Mom and Dad is a tad safer than I’d like. Still highly watchable, still energetic, just…it backs down.

Stonehearst Asylum

Now Streaming on Netflix

Chris: Brad Anderson burst onto the scene as the director of the sublime indie horror film Session 9, set in a run-down, possibly haunted insane asylum. In 2014, Anderson helmed another film set in an asylum – Stonehearst Asylum, based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. In the late 1800s, a young doctor (Jim Sturgess) arrives at the secluded Stonehearst Asylum, where all is not what it seems. The doctor running the madhouse (Ben Kingsley) is acting strange, and Sturgess’ character becomes obsessed with a beautiful asylum patient (played by Kate Beckinsale). Gothic, unpredictable and filled with twists and turns, this unique little film went unremarked upon in 2014 – but you can check it out now.

Matt: I remember passing on this one and regretting it, but only because it released during festival timing. Time to atone for my busy schedule sins it seems.

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