Fantastic Fest Title: Hold The Dark

Your Alternative: The Edge (1997, d. Lee Tamahori)

Before he tackled the Pierce Brosnan Bond era, Lee Tamahori brought David Mamet’s script about distrustful businessmen (Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) being hunted by a rampaging grizzly bear (before squaring off against one another) to bloody life. Full of Mamet’s punchy, repetitive dialogue, Tamahori’s film owns a gory, adventurous flair, making us feel the cold, wet environment these men are trapped in to our bones. Much like Jeremy Saulnier’s haunting trip to Alaska in Hold the Dark – which also finds humans staving off animals, madness and each other – The Edge explores the darker corners of man’s nature as its central protagonists battle the mother of all creation Herself.

The Edge is available to stream on Amazon.

Fantastic Fest Title: Knife + Heart

Your Alternative: City In Panic (1986, d. Robert Bouvier)

Yann Gonzalez’s Knife + Heart is a sleazy, violent, and strangely romantic murder mystery set in the world of gay pornography. While watching, this writer couldn’t help but wonder what other horror movies took a rather routine storytelling framework and distinguished themselves by applying it to a particular subsection of society. City In Panic (a/k/a The AIDS Murders) is one of the first gay slasher pictures, where the killer begins targeting a series of sexually promiscuous men who, as it turns out, have all contracted HIV. Unfortunately, this political angle isn’t explored to its fullest potential (or at all, for that matter), yet it’s still fascinating to visit this sort of hyper-specific curio. Undeniably low rent and grungy, City In Panic is still attempting to do something distinctly different with a horror mode that’d already grown stale six years into its very existence.

City In Panic is available on DVD, courtesy of Massacre Video.

Fantastic Fest Title: Apostle

Your Alternative: The Blood On Satan’s Claw (1971, d. Piers Haggard)

With Apostle, Gareth Evans abandons the realm of action cinema he’d mastered via his Raid duology, and instead opts to tell a Clive Barker-tinged horror story about a wandering addict (Dan Stevens) who sets off to a secluded, oppressive religious colony (overseen by a scenery-chewing Michael Sheen) in search of his lost sister. Fans of ‘70s pastoral horror will instantly recognize the genre’s influence on Evans’ attempt to leave silat and car chases behind (though his camera certainly comes alive during a few close quarters fist fights). For this writer’s money, the best examples of that form came from the Tigon Studios – a competitor of Brit Horror staples Hammer and Amicus – who only released a handful of titles. Next to (the incredible) Witchfinder GeneralBlood on Satan’s Claw is easily their best film that (much like Evans’ film) combines horror, exploitation, religious repression, Gothic ambiance, and (to a lesser extent) gory shocks. For those looking to be beguiled by one of the ‘70s better mood pieces, Piers Haggard’s somewhat overlooked gem should be the first thing they toss in the player.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw is available to stream on Amazon

Fantastic Fest Title: Piercing

Your Alternative: What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (1974, d. Massimo Dallamano)

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? is the thematic follow-up to Massimo Dallamano’s What Have They Done To Solange?, which – when combined with Alberto Negrin’s Rings of Fear – make up the notorious Italian exploitation “Schoolgirls In Peril” trilogy (Negrin filling in for Dallamano after the director died in a tragic car accident). Both intertwine adolescent sexual awakening with grisly violence to become a gialli commentary on how society’s evils crush the innocent. Daughters is somehow a nastier movie than Solange – which is really saying something, given that film’s back alley abortion plotting – while also combining thrilling motorcycle mayhem with its whodunit? genre trappings. It’s almost a full-blown buffet of Italoschlock, giving you a sampler platter of that country’s icky output during the ‘70s. All in all, What Have They Done To Your Daughters? is a perfect companion to Piercing’s imitations of the aforementioned Eurocrime nightmares.

What Have They Done To Your Daughters? Is available on Blu-ray, courtesy of Arrow Video.

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