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"
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.
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.
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.