The Best Fantastic Fest Movies You’ve Never Seen

(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. This week we celebrate Fantastic Fest’s 15th anniversary with a look at some of the best films that played over the years that failed to find the audience they deserved.)

As mentioned above – literally just two lines up – this year’s Fantastic Fest Film Festival in Austin, TX is their 15th, and that’s something worth celebrating. It remains one of the best genre festivals in North America thanks to the venue, the fans, and most importantly, the wide variety of movies programmed each year. They play their fair share of bigger movies destined for wide release with the likes of Jojo Rabbit and Knives Out opening and closing this year’s fest, but the magic is in the far smaller titles.

The fest programs films from around the world and across genres, and while some eventually find their way to a proper US release – Rubber (2010) is about a sentient, homicidal tire and is available on Blu-ray! – just as many are rarely (if ever) seen on these shores again. As a big fan of genre films (horror, action, thrillers, dark comedy, etc) I’ve been introduced to numerous films and filmmakers over the years thanks to Fantastic Fest. Keep reading for a look at six of my favorites that never quite found the eyeballs and acclaim they deserve.

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The Hunt Betty Gilpin

(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. This week’s column is a response to the recent shelving of a movie that’s been made previously many, many times before.)

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, a studio film scheduled for nation-wide release was recently pulled from Universal’s schedule in response to a tweet by the president and a vocal outcry by conservative pundits and followers. The detractors are misinformed as to the point of The Hunt (2019?) – and they seem to be equally oblivious as to how these films end (ie the intended targets defeat the merciless killers) – but the bigger head-scratcher is their general obliviousness that the film is just the latest variation in a long line of adaptations of “The Most Dangerous Game.”

Richard Connell’s acclaimed short story was published in 1924, and its tale of a man captured by a mad aristocratic sportsman and hunted as the most challenging prey quickly caught the public’s attention. The first adaptation for the screen arrived eight years later, and many more followed both official and unofficial including John Woo’s ridiculously fun Hard Target (1993), the soft-ish-core porn of The Suckers (1972), the Rutger Hauer-starring Surviving the Game (1994), and the gloriously bonkers Turkey Shoot (1982).

You know those, though, so I’m here to introduce some entertaining and/or engaging examples that you’ve probably missed over the years. The connective line between them is that, unlike a slasher where a killer stalks and kills unknowing victims, these Game riffs see people target and alert their prey for the clear intention of enjoying a hunt. So keep reading for the best “adaptations” of The Most Dangerous Game that you’ve probably never 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. This week’s column shines a light on films featuring actors whose careers have become equally obscure and forgotten.)

Quentin Tarantino’s 10th film is currently in theaters, and its inexplicable attitude towards Bruce Lee aside, it’s a warm, affectionate, and extremely entertaining Hollywood daydream. It’s an ensemble film, but at its center sits a character named Rick Dalton — an aging actor a few years past his greatest success, still struggling as both a person and an artist. Actors are a fairly common character-type in movies, and Rick belongs in the subset of washed-up has-beens desperately hanging on in pursuit of relevance.

He’s in good company too as Hollywood and its cousins have gifted film fans with numerous gems on the subject. From Sunset Boulevard (1950) to Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), and from Theatre of Blood (1973) to JCVD (2008), it’s a character and a story we never tire of seeing brought to life on the screen. Movie stars are icons beyond our reach, but people struggling in their everyday lives and careers? Why, they’re just like us!

All of the films mentioned above are worth seeing or re-watching, but I’m here to recommend some great examples you probably missed. Keep reading for a look at six great lesser-known movies about washed-up actors.

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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. This week’s column offers up a primer on the varied complications that arise when you attempt to overthrow the government.)

The United States just celebrated this year’s Fourth of July holiday, and for many it’s a day off from work and for others it’s an excuse to placate their inner pyromaniac, but the historical backdrop involves one of the world’s most important coup d’état… of sorts. Obviously those of us in the US view it as a fight for independence, and sure, the Revolutionary War wasn’t technically a coup d’état as the Americans didn’t seek to overthrow and replace the British government, but they did act with the express purpose of unseating those in power here in what would become the US.

Is it semantics? Maybe. But it’s enough of a reason to jump-start this week’s look at underseen movies about coups d’état both successful and attempted. Some of the best known include John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May (1964), the Tom Cruise-starring Valkyrie (2008), and Costa-Gavras’ heartbreaking and true Missing (1982). One of my personal favorites is 2015’s No Escape which takes an entertainingly Cannon Films-like approach to its near xenophobia and over-the-top violence. You know the drill by now, though, meaning that while those are the popular ones we’re here to talk about ones far less appreciated.

Keep reading for a look at the best movies you’ve never seen about coups d’état!

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The Best Killer Dog Movies You’ve Never Seen

(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. This week’s column is going to the dogs.)

This weekend’s theatrical offerings include two heavy hitting sequels in the form of John Wick: Chapter 3 and A Dog’s Journey. The two don’t share much in common plot-wise, but both feature scenes of dogs viciously attacking gun-toting baddies. Probably. I haven’t actually seen A Dog’s Journey, but I am pretty darn good at making educated guesses.

Dog attacks are a common enough occurrence in both real life and cinema, but there really aren’t that many films making the dogs, the attacks, and the threat of attack the key focus of the movie. When you think “dog attack” flicks you most likely land on one of the big dogs of the subgenre – the foolish dogs who dare stand against Joe Don Baker in The Pack (1977), the racist mutt in White Dog (1982), the pitiable canine in Cujo (1983), or the Terminator-like pooch in Man’s Best Friend (1993). These are all solid movies, but they’re not the only ones to find terror at the wrong end of our four-legged friends.

Keep reading for a look at the best killer dog movies you’ve probably never seen!

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Bodily Fluid Scenes in Movies

(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. This week we get a little gross.)

Bodily fluids. Mention the term to someone and you’ll get a variety of responses as their thoughts move between the biological and the sexual, but the shared reaction on all of their faces will most likely be a slight cringe. Bodily fluids. It’s gross! And that’s precisely why movies will occasionally go overboard with a bodily fluid visual as it’s guaranteed to earn a reaction.

Think the blood in Dead Alive (1992), the vomit in The Meaning of Life (1983), the – stuff – in Happiness (1998), or the sweat in Airplane! (1980), and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But what happens when you’ve already seen these movies and are still craving more of the on-screen bodily fluids? Well lucky for you this week’s column is here to plug that hole.

So with an apology in advance for what you’re about to endure, please keep reading for a look at the best movies you’ve never seen featuring bonkers bodily fluid scenes! (Seriously, there’s some pretty gross stuff below and this is your final warning.)

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The Best Terence Young Movies You’ve Never Seen

(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. This week we focus on a director who made nearly forty films over forty years but is best known for only four of them.)

Most filmmakers would be thrilled to have even a single movie resonate with audiences to the point of becoming entrenched in pop culture, but Shanghai-born Englishman Terence Young can claim four such films to his name. Sure three of them belong to the James Bond franchise, but Young is far from being some Johnny-come-lately there as he directed three of the very first entries – Dr. No (1962), From Russia with Love (1963), and Thunderball (1965). He also directed the equally acclaimed and well-respected Wait Until Dark (1967) which remains one hell of an intense and suspenseful thriller.

That’s just ten percent of his output, though, so what about the other thirty-five films? We know they’re not nearly as well regarded, but are they any good? Happily, the answer for some of them at least is yes with an even smaller number reaching the level of pretty great. Keep reading for a look at the best movies of Young’s filmography that don’t feature James Bond or a blind woman terrorized by Alan Arkin… and that you’ve probably never 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. This week we get a bit devilish and go looking for great movies starring Satan or his imps.)

Satan. Beelzebub. Lucifer. Ol’ Scratch. Big Red. Old Horny.

The name might change along with the look, but the one constant in Satan’s numerous onscreen appearances is that he’s something of a jerk. He’s always spreading evil, stealing souls, and being a general pain in the rear end for no reason beyond a simple desire to cause suffering. The devil is a fairly frequent visitor to the silver screen, and he’s unbound by genre, gender, or general guidelines – because he’s the devil.

Tim Curry’s devil (Legend, 1985) is big and imposing, Robert De Niro’s (Angel Heart, 1987) is mysterious and fond of eggs, Elizabeth Hurley’s (Bedazzled, 2000) is playfully wicked, John Carpenter’s (Prince of Darkness, 1987) is a mathematically inclined jar of swirling goo, Bill Cosby’s (The Devil and Max Devlin, 1981) is currently serving three to ten in a Pennsylvania State Correctional Facility – the list of memorable appearances by the devil is legion. But what about the lesser known ones? The onscreen devils that haven’t passed over from hell into the undying hellscape that is pop culture?

Keep reading for a look at some of the best movies you haven’t seen starring the devil… or reasonable facsimiles thereof.

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movies that take place over one night

(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. This week we head into the night for films that start near dusk and end before dawn.)

Movies that take both characters and viewers on a short journey through a single night aren’t exactly rare. Numerous horror films employ the time crunch as an easy way of focusing and ramping up the intensity – imagine John Carpenter‘s Halloween (1978) spread over a full week and you’ll see why a single night of terror is far more terrifying. Carpenter also used it to increase suspense in films like Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Escape from New York (1981), while other action/thrillers followed suit including The Warriors (1979), Judgment Night (1993), Collateral (2004), Attack the Block (2011), and more.

Comedies have played the overnight game too, with films as diverse as Superbad (2007), Go (1999), Clue (1985), Dazed and Confused (1993), and Adventures in Babysitting (1987). Hell, the entirety of The Purge franchise is built on the concept. There are so many examples that it’s difficult to pick the best of the bunch.

Ha! Just kidding, the best film set across a single night is Martin Scorsese‘s After Hours (1985), with a short list of runners up that includes 25th Hour (2002), American Graffiti (1973), Die Hard (1988), and Carpenter’s aforementioned 1976 classic. But you’ve seen all of those, so what do you say we find some new journeys into the darkness?

Keep reading for a look at great but lesser known movies set over a single night that you’ve probably never seen.

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The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen from Black Directors

(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. This week we give a nod towards Black History Month with a look at some of the best, little-seen films from black filmmakers.)

Great films and filmmakers are worth celebrating all year round, but we live in a world that likes to categorize and quantify, meaning February has been designated as Black History Month (and Women in Horror month too for those of you keeping track). The films in this column are recommended viewing any time, but I’m willing to play along with the convention if it gets more eyeballs on the smart, engaging, and entertaining cinema these directors have to offer.

Black filmmakers are continuing to increase in number and prominence alongside Asian, Latino, and female directors, and cinema is richer for it. More voices mean more stories, and that can only be a good thing. Films like Do the Right Thing (1989) and Eve’s Bayou (1997) broke barriers and demand to be sought out, while the new documentary Horror Noire (2019) explores the world of black horror films in ways that fascinate, enlighten, and entertain. The six films below haven’t reached the same level of awareness, but they most definitely deserve more than they’ve received.

Keep reading for a look at some of the best films you’ve probably never seen from black directors.

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