Max Meehan is an Austin-based screenwriter and filmmaker who works on the VHS Summer blog and programs the VHS-only series Video Hate Squad at the Alamo Ritz with Joe Ziemba and Tommy Swenson. He also runs punk record label , and co-owns indie pro-wrestling company .
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MUTANT A.K.A. NIGHT SHADOWS (1984)Co-directed by criminally underrated John "Bud"Cardos, this is easily the best genre film based on the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. I first ran a beat up Vestron copy at a VHS sale several years ago. I picked up the rather plain box, and my interest was immediately piqued the cast, which includes theindominable Wings Hauser, and Bo Hopkins. I asked, "how is 'Mutant'?"The seller looked at me like I'd just shit on his couch, and said "Take it. It's awful." Half-way through I couldn't believe no one talked more about this film, and after its phenomenal finale, I thought it was a classic. The final twenty minutes of this film are some of the most intense I've ever seen. Forgettable cover art makes this easy to gloss over, but for fans of Hauser and Cardos, this is high end stuff. Four years after this, Hauser an Hopkins teamed up in yet another Tuskegee influenced flick entitled "Nightmare at High Noon" directed bySchlockteur Nico Mastoraikos, but it doesn't quite achieve the high action or suspense beats of "Mutant."
MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH (1976)The intro jam is laughably campy to others, but to those of us that have an intimate appreciation of this film, it's part of an untouchable tapestry. Don't let the one-note marketing fool you though; this is easily one of the most profound horror films the genre has ever produced. Over the years, plenty of more widely recognized and more appreciated films have shaved huge chunks off the top of this film. Tonal differences aside, without "Massacre At Central High" there never would have been a "Heathers."Russ Meyer cameraman Rene Daalder delivers a well-crafted revenge slasher with compelling characters for the first course, but the film eventually evolves into a fascinating social study on what happens when a pack-like hierarchy is thinned out. We've all seen what happens when the bad guy gets what's coming, but "Massacre At Central High" shatters convention by posing and answering the question of what happens after that. One the initial antagonists are gone, a grab for power occurs, and the oppressed become the aggressors, leaving the story's anti-hero with some big choices to make.
10 TO MIDNIGHT (1983)Scads of slasher films attempted to set themselves apart with wild twists, but this one wins for having the most badass gimmick of them all: Charles fucking Bronson. People rarely commend J. Lee Thompson's "10 to Midnight" as a great horror film, but it's impossible to deny the specks of Fleck in the film's harrowing finale. At the very least, you could call it a horror-action hybrid. It's not a traditional horror film, but that's what makes it so special.
WELCOME TO SPRING BREAK A.K.A. NIGHMARE BEACH (1989)As a Jolt Cola-damaged adolescent weaned on USAUp All Night's teat, my standards probably aren't typical. This particular film's imagery and story have haunted me for decades, and I routinely find myself revisiting it. While the film's credits list Harry Kirkpatrick as the director, it was actually made by mad man Umberti Lenzi, and it's a stand-out among his other credits for me. Most discard this as "ordinary to average slasher trash," but Lenzi'sperception of the American Spring Break yields a gleeful and cartoonish take on phenomena. Sure, there's a mystery killer on the loose, and John Saxon is an asshole, but Lenzi never forgets to emphasize the fun and absurdity of his setting. Seriously, there is nothing better than a non-American doing Americana. Sure, it may not be original, and all the red herrings do little to distract you from the obvious killer, but Lenzi skewers boner comedy clich s through the dry slasher formula, keeps it feeling alive and fun. Not to mention, the killer's gimmick, though underused, is phenomenal. Most films of this nature felt tired five years earlier, but this sum'bitch is wide awake!
LADY IN WHITE (1988)This Rockwellian thriller delivers impossible slabs of mood in spite of an incredibly low budget. Here, director Robert LaLoggia goes before the exploration of adolescent anxiety seen in his allegorical "Fear No Evil," and delves into the preoccupations of a pre-teen obsessed with movie monsters, family, and fear of death. Astonishingly, "Lady In White" achieves the long lost aura of classic supernatural thrillers such as Lewis Allen's "The Uninvited." LaLoggia has a profound understanding of what makes good horror based on the diversions of humor and humanity placed throughout the story. In particular, the romantic depictions of family life are imbued a genuine warmth that make the darkness that much darker.
GIRLS NITE OUT (1982)If you do not like this movie, then I do not like you.The reoccurring descriptor in reviews for this film is "by-numbers." This is a shallow appraisal made only by obvious people who are probably either prejudiced against this type of film, or by thosewhose bottom line is gross-out violence as opposed to plot or characterization. While "Girls Nite Out" relies on elements that had become clich d even by 1982, the inclusion of these things is wholly intentional. In fact, the creators nearly steer this intoparodic territory, but at the same time they demonstrate a genuine affection toward the genre. Despite an atmosphere of light hearted 1950s drive-in nostalgia, the violent portions are gruesome enough to keep things grounded in the realm of serious horror. At a brief glance, the movie seems like your run-of-the-mill slasher flick, but there are actually quite a few things that set this one apart from most others. For starters, the quality of the writing is a lot stronger than you'll typically find in films of this nature. Ample time is devoted to establishing the characters. Mostslasher films toss you some half-ass stereotypes you can't like or even hate. Here, they kill characters that seem like actual people rather than cheap cardboard. The quality of characters is something you might expect from a "Hollywood Knights" type farce. In fact, Newbomb Turk would have been entirely at home within the context of this movie. This film contains humor worthy of a comedy instead of lowly horror-caliber humor, which can be the ruination of many a film in this vein. From the production design, to the killer, to almost every aspect of production, there is nothing about this movie I do not love. Even the Thorn EMI box is one of my favorites.