MBDS Showcase: Bryce Wilson (Things That Don't Suck)

It's time once again for another edition of the Mad, Bad and Downright Strange Showcase (MBDS Showcase) were we invite some of our Favorite critics / bloggers to pick their essential five films from our list.

This time we are joined by Bryce Wilson Critic / Filmmaker / Factotum who not content with running his insightful blog "Things That Don't Suck" more recently added eBook author to his C.V with the release of his debut "Son of Danse Macabre" available now on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, an update of  the Stephen King book which looked at the horror genre from 1950-1980, with Bryce's companion volume now bringing it fully up to date, something that it would seem that King himself has no intentions of doing anytime soon. This is his showcase.

No sooner had I cheerfully agreed to participate in Elwood and co.’s admirable project than I realized I was in over my head.

There is of course the sheer weight of the list, and films that I love. But setting that aside fro the moment there’s the question of “essentiality” itself. Essential to whom, if I was making a list for a fourteen year old kid taking their first tentative sniffs at outrĂ© cinema, or a 34 year old wearing a an Emperor Of The North Pole T-shirt those are going to be two very different lists.

Further complicating things is the fact that cult film watching is simply different today than it was in the pre internet era, or even the DVD boom. It used to be that finding out about these films and then finding them was a very slow organic process. That was what I cut my teeth on. Now if a kid wants to watch say the collected works of Jan Svankmajer, or David Cronenberg’s student films, he’s a torrent site and ten minutes away from doing so. The idea of not just being satisfied, but being happy with finding it on a third generation VHS dub would strike that kid as quite possibly pathologically insane. What the hell is going to strike that kid as rare or outrĂ©?

So basically I decided to go with my gut. These five films I picked aren’t really unified by theme but are more of a blend of gateway drugs, mainstream films, indies and movies that used to qualify as rare. Not a primer, not a definitive end all be all set. These are simply five films that I love, but more than that, five films that have painted my love for movies. It might be harder and harder to define what cult cinema is, but if these five titles are not it than I don’t want to play anymore.

Repo Man

“Let’s get sushi and not pay!!!”

Call this one the ultimate cult film of the VHS era. Though I’ve seen Alex Cox’s masterpiece on the big screen, and own it on DVD, it’s natural habitat will always be a fuzzy VHS with a homemade label and a soundtrack that was warped thanks to repeated rewinding to listen to that part with Black Fad.

Like the punk it celebrates, and the wasteland it depicts Repo Man is a film about the glorious joys of the second hand. Held together by the sheer enthusiasm of its making. Though Cox’s career eventually succumbed to bloated self indulgence, Repo Man is a sharp diamond of a movie., which far from being embalmed in its iconic status still packs all the energy of an atomic blast that’ll leave you nothing but a pair of smoking feet at the side of the road.

In the post Pokemon, which hardwired every kid under the age of fourteen to except anime as a set of aesthetics, world its kind of impossible to recreate the “What the fuck am I watching” alienness that the initial release of Akira created.

Because that to me is what Akira represents in cult film, the sheer exhilarating, “Holy crapness!” of seeing something that you genuinely have no frame of reference for. For its initial audience Akira might as well have been broadcast from Mars, or the future or the fifth dimension. As a filmgoer gets older and more experienced, this sensation comes along less and less and becomes more and more valued. Witness the vogue for Holy Motors this year.

But Akira has to be one of the most potent, from the crack jawed editing of the opening motorcycle brawl, to the bizarre 2001 meets Jodorowsky meets a sci fi snuff film climax, from the ultraviolent animation, to the note perfect atonal soundtrack of chants, gasps and percussion, Akira practically dares you to tray and contextualize it. This is shock cinema in every sense of the word at its best.

But being a movie geek means more than appreciating the new. It also means recognizing the old. And The Blues Brothers, a big budgeted comedy musical is about tapping into as old fashioned cinematic pleasure centers as the filmmaker could find, despite its Mad Magazine anarchic sense of humor..

Perhaps more than any other filmmaker, this side of George Lucas (can you imagine if the kid who made THX-1138 and American Grafitti kept, you know, making movies?) I am haunted by the filmmaker John Landis almost was. In the early stages of his career, with films like An American Werewolf In London, there is a sense of Landis as the proto Tarantino. They are the films of a life long film fan, overjoyed by what he now gets to get away with and tempered by more than a little disbelief that he gets to get away with it.

It’s tempting to blame The Twilight Zone as the film that broke the exuberant inner fanboy that gave Landis’s work such a signature, but even before that he had proven himself more than happy to play the work for hire guy with Trading Places. Whatever the reason The Blues Brothers remains the greatest tribute to this strain of joyous filmmaking spirit. The work of a man who has a full studio’s worth of resources in order to tell this goony little story of two men on a mission from Gad, and craft a heartfelt valentine to black music at the same time. What’s not to love?

There is simply put no film that embodies the joy of cult fandom better than Evil Dead 2. I’ve written and spoken about Raimi’s exuberant valentine to insanity more times than I can count. Suffice to say any time I begin to get discouraged and depressed by the latests uncreative, exploitative joyless grab at cult notoriety. Any time I begin to wonder if it is worth it. All I need to do is watch Evil Dead 2 again and man I start to cackle harder than a mounted deer head that’s come to life.

Ghost World

I’ve chosen this film for a very specific reason. Originally I had planned to slot a Jarmusch film here, but neither Down By Law nor Stranger Than Paradise made the list. What the hell guys?
But Ghost World does just as well, if not better, because it not only exemplifies the kind of filmmaking I’m talking about but the sort of fandom.

When I say I am a film geek as opposed to a cinephile or a fanboy or whatever euphimism is currently popular I am saying something very specific. In short, I believe a Film Geek is an omnivore. A film geek should not only be willing, but eager to try anything, regardless of era, genre, or spot on the low to highbrow spectrum. A film geek should be just as excited about the prosepect of a Carl Dreyer film as they are by a Russ Meyer one. A film geek should not only appriciate John Carpenter, Sam Peckinpah, and George Romero, but Buster Keaton and Fracois Truffaunt. As eager to seek their next cinematic thrill from the most enshrined classic to the nearly forgotten obscure (I’m on my way to go see The World’s Greatest Sinner right now. If I don’t return tell Mother I loved her.) As eager to try a Bollywood dub as a film about two girl’s coming of age in The Valley. Film is a buffet, and any time I see people limit themselves to one strata or flavor it just strikes me as odd more than anything else.

Dig in.

MBDS Showcase: Emily (The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense)

Time now for another edition of the Mad, Bad and Downright Strange Showcase (MBDS Showcase) were we will be inviting some of our Favorite critics to pick their essential five films from our list.

This time we are joined by Emily another of our contributors, who not also runs "The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense" showcasing her infectious and frequently hilarious love for the Horror genre, while also appears on the podcasts "The Femine Critique" and "Gleekast". This is her showcase.

The Nutcracker In 3D

It is my belief--and possibly, future crusade--to cement this bizarrely misconceived children's fantasy extravaganza/box office failure into a modern cult film. Rarely do so many forces of the universe align to create such a strange combination of oddities, in this case, those including a young Elle Fanning dressed like an old Madonna, John Turturro sporting Andy Warhol hair and an SS officer's uniform, aggressively awful CGI, and figure skating. The director of Tango & Cash supposedly spent 20 years honing his vision for the classic Christmas tale, incorporating everything from a Nazi allegory to a singing Albert Einstein (played by Nathan Lane). This movie has a song about relativity set to the tune of Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies. This movie has a horrifically creepy computer generated nutcracker urging children to jump from high windows because when it comes to flying, "you'll never know until you try!" This movie has its villain sing a song in front of a tank housing his pet great white shark, holding his last big note as he electrocutes said pet great white shark seemingly because that's the best way the script could think of to establish bad assery. $90 million duds rarely come out this weird.

The Exorcist III

A horror movie doesn't always have to be seamless to be terrifying, and few films demonstrate that as well as William Peter Blatty's troubled adaptation of his novel Legion. Following the dreadful bore that was The Exorcist II, Blatty took over the reins of his original property in 1990, casting an always solid George C. Scott as the weary Detective Kinderman forced to face the aftereffects of Regan MacNeil's possession from two decades earlier. Blatty's script is astoundingly powerful, with novel-like dialogue that manages to be scarier in words than any special effect. The film's famous hospital-set jump scare speaks for itself, as does a haunting set of performances by a young Brad Dourif and an appropriately weathered Jason Miller. The fact that its main leads are men in their early AARP years only adds to the film's depth, as Scott's Kinderman wears the weight of a life spent observing the horror mankind commits. Mangled by its studio (complete with a tacked on exorcism that makes little sense), The Exorcist III is a tragically underrated and if possible, imperfect masterpiece.

Starship Troopers

There are certain moments in my life that I feel very proud of, among them, the fact that I saw Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers in the theater at the age of 15 and left believing it to be brilliant. Later generations would come to agree, but in 1997, this big budget sci-fi spectacular just couldn't find a good-humored audience that would accept the marriage of kickass action and political satire. The
casting of its leads--pretty young people who came across as beautiful as they did empty--seemed like a silly error in post-90210 miscalculation, yet it's the utter blandness of the likes of Denise Richards and Caspar Van Dien that makes their nationalistic characters so on the nose. Never one to not have fun behind the camera, director Paul Verhoeven captures the tongue-in-cheek humor of Edward Neumeier's brilliant script, all the while filling his screen with gorgeous soon-to-be bug meat, strong female roles, classic character actors like Michael Ironside and Clancy Brown, and shockingly good CGI effects that have outlasted the majority of their contemporaries. The third film (directed by Neumeier himself) would recapture that satiric spirit, but it's the original that will always hold a special place in cinema history.

The Rapture

Apocalypse cinema has various incarnations, from the action-based Mad Maxes to the environmental and political warnings of '80s lessons like Threads and The Day After. Despite the common Christian overtones that intentionally or accidentally mark this subgenre (even Xavier Gens named his apocalyptic heroine Eva in 2012's The Divide) most post-apocalyptic films rarely explore the religious angle so quietly dominant in the topic itself. Writer/director Michael Tolkin goes full-out Revelations with his 1991 film The Rapture, following the monotonous life of telephone operator by day, swinger by night Mimi Rogers as she discovers God, starts a family, then faces the end Old Testament style. The film takes an uncompromising look at what faith asks of its followers, rhetorically wondering whether surrendering your life to a supposed higher power is worth the heaven it promises. One can read the film as being an aggressive pro-Christian warning or an angry atheist declaration: the film doesn't come out with answers, yet the effect of the questions it leaves its viewers with is divinely fascinating.


The true beauty of Stuart Gordon's 1987 film lies not in its titular little killers or awesome '80s fashion: Dolls is a special film because of its heart. Designed as a slightly (or extremely) horrific take on a good old-fashioned fairy tale, Dolls is almost a deconstruction of sorts of Hansel and Gretel. On a dark and stormy night, a nice little girl named Judy gets stuck in a spooky gothic mansion lorded by a mysterious elderly couple who keep every room stocked with homemade toys that don't take kindly to strangers' with bad attitudes. At first glance, Dolls is a typical genre film of itstime, set in the same location Charles Band would constantly utilize for other Full Moon titles. And yet on closer look, Dolls is something truly special: a horror movie truly made for kids. There's no sex and hardly any profanity. The only real violence occurs against those who deserve it (a cruel stepmother, absent father, thieving punkettes). The good people live. The bad people...well, live on in creepy doll form. Lessons are learned and a balance of morality is reached. All is accomplished in less than 80 minutes by a game cast, eerie atmosphere, and memorably puppetry. And if nothing else, Dolls taught us all an alternative and far more fun way to pronounce the word "antique."

Seed of Chucky

With a John Waters cameo, Ed Wood homage, and meta script, Seed of Chucky was never made for the mainstream crowd. Original franchise creator Don Mancini took full control of this fifth installment and created something truly unique for its early 21st century theatrical horror categorization. Where Bride of Chucky (written by, but not directed by Mancini) embraced the humor that had become too cultural to ignore, it still tried to be something of a traditional horror film, focusing most of its action on its conventionally attractive (and typically bland) leads. With Seed of Chucky, Mancini throws convention to the wind, making his main characters a transgendered puppet with a weak bladder and a self-mocking Jennifer Tilly as...Jennifer Tilly. As Chucky triumphantly declares himself proud to be known as "the killer doll," the film becomes a joy-filled celebration of what the Child's Play franchise became to its fans:fairly ridiculous, offbeat funny, and unlike anything else.