fearless

Fearless (1993)

A man survives an airplane crash unscathed despite the accident’s high number of casualties, and the experience leaves him irrevocably changed. He found peace in the moments before impact, and now he’s come to believe he’s invincible and somehow elevated beyond the life he once knew. That arrogance begins to affect his family, but in his newly awakened state of mind, he doesn’t seem to care.

Peter Weir‘s beautiful, affecting, and at times breathtaking drama is probably the best known of the films on this list, but it’s still far lesser known than it deserves to be. It takes a unique and powerful approach to grief, both for others and for ourselves, and Jeff Bridges brings such humanity to the role that it’s impossible not to sympathize with his struggle and feel his pain. He sells his character’s manic joy equally as well as his perceived new freedom from fear and worry, leaving him a bundle of enthusiasm and energy that’s both infectious and off-putting.

The entirety of the film captivates through both its developing story and character journey, and there are multiple highlights throughout. It all builds, though, to one of the greatest film endings of the decade as Max (Bridges) pushes himself too far and the psychological shell he’s created cracks beneath the pressure. The crash comes back to him in vivid, harrowing, and heart-wrenching detail, and as he gasps for air at the end of it, viewers can’t help but do the same.

Buy Fearless on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

ticks

Ticks (1993)

We always knew marijuana was a gateway drug, but no one suspected it would lead to giant, bloodthirsty ticks. Okay, fine, it’s the organic steroids being fed to the pot harvests that actually infect and mutate the little buggers, but still – just say no, kids.

Creature features aren’t all that common these days, and it’s a damn shame. Director Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II) delivers a fun romp here and assembles a game cast of recognizable B-talent too. Ami Dolenz, Peter Scolari, Seth Green, and Clint Howard all cross paths with the little monsters, and they don’t all make it. Happily for viewers, when they and other characters meet their end, it’s typically an entertaining and frequently messy demise.

Kids growing up in the modern era have a lot of benefits in technology and access, but one thing they’ll never get to appreciate is a world where monster movies relied on practical effects for their creatures instead of computer wizardry. The effects work here comes courtesy of the wizards at K.N.B. EFX (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger), and they deliver all manner of practical fun in the form of variably-sized monsters, gooey outcomes, and fleshy eruptions. The film’s ultimately more horror/comedy than straight horror, but when it comes to “animal attack” movies – even ones given a sci-fi twist – I’ll take what I can get.

Buy Ticks on DVD from Amazon if you’re loaded.

grizzly park

Grizzly Park (2008)

A group of young adults sentenced to community service for various reasons find themselves serving their time in the forest together. Seems like heaven at first, as they all love dressing scantily and fornicatin’, but the good times come to an end when they find themselves targeted by killers…human and otherwise.

Like the film above, this is another horror/comedy that entertains more than you’d expect. The script finds several beats that land with laughs, and they’re almost all intentional. Some come in the dialogue – you’ll never look at “forest cats” the same way again – while others come in the form of low-brow gags involving some ill-fitting bear claws (for scenes of the bear grabbing people), a man in a bear costume beheaded by a bear, an inopportune boob grab, and an unexpected denouement for the film’s final girl.

The effects aren’t as numerous or creative as the ones in Ticks, but the filmmakers still have plenty of fun tearing apart human bodies. Heads roll, intestines spill, and arms are lopped off. It’s mostly in the film’s back half, but it’s worth the wait for genre fans craving bloody fun. Of course, the price of admission also includes dumb characters, not-so casual sexism, and an embrace of pure goofiness, so if that’s too high a cost you may want to skip this one and watch the Rance Howard-free Backcountry instead.

Buy Grizzly Park on DVD from Amazon.

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