5 Movies You Need to See

It's so cool, it's blue!

March 30, 2011

Let’s lighten things up a bit.

Every year, hundreds of movies get released. Some go straight to video. Others go the big screen, and a lucky few get the star treatment and are put out with a massive advertising campaign that will ensure everyone and their grandmother goes to see it.

This does not, unfortunately, translate as quality.

Here are five movies you might have missed in the last few years but should certainly take a look at.

Aaah! Zombies

Tim: I don’t feel like a zombie.

Nick: Yeah, well idiots don’t feel stupid but they are.

A deadly chemical weapon is lose on the streets of LA and a group of unsuspecting friends have been contaminated and turned into the living dead… except they perceive everyone else as acting strangely while they’ve developed superpowers.

Zombie comedies can be done wonderfully. Shaun of the Dead is one example. Other zombie movies, comedy or not, are just an excuse to show gore. Aaah! Zombies does something other films haven’t done. It shows the classic zombie outbreak, but it shows it from the point of view of the infected. Since their metabolism is moving so much slower, they perceive everyone else as speaking gibberish and moving abnormally fast.

In other words, the infected don’t know they’re zombies.

That’s pretty much the set-up to every comedic scene, everything from the realization that brains are delicious, to an exploding cat, and to the eventual revelation that our heroes are really brain munchers.

For a movie with a very low budget, you really don’t mind the cheap effects. There’s not much gore, but what there is gets used to perfect comedic effect. This is a movie that knows its audience. It uses every stereotype in the book and turns it on its head.

The military veteran. The geek. The dumb friend. They all get their moment to shine and actually develop as characters. You actually end up caring about characters that start out as nothing but stereotypes. To top it off, it contains one of the best death scenes I’ve seen in a movie. I almost teared up.

Grace

Madeline: Please, you don’t understand. She’s special. She needs… special food.

Speaking of zombies… What could be worse than seeing someone you love turned into the undead? Not having the mercy to put that loved one out of its misery.

Grace is the story of a mother who, after a car accident, loses her husband and her unborn child. However, instead of having the dead fetus removed, she agrees to go through with the birth. The child is born to everyone’s surprise… but things get downright disturbing as mommy realizes little Grace won’t eat anything but blood. Sucked from mommy’s nipples…

And the human body only has so much blood to give, right?

Grace is that rare horror movie that actually disturbs you on a deep level. It’s not about gore or blood, although those play a part. It relies on the premise that a mother will do anything and everything to save her child. If that includes using her own blood as milk while her abomination of a child sucks it from her breast, so be it. If it means killing others for blood, okay.

But there are no villains in this story. Not really. The horror is internal. The baby is not a monster in the traditional sense. It was born this way. This film uses the idea of the horror within and takes the concept of motherhood to a horrifying extreme.

Let me just say right here and now that this movie is not for the psychologically squeamish. This movie can grab you by the brain.

Trick ‘r Treat

Billy: Charlie Brown’s an asshole!

Remember old slasher films from the 80’s? Dark neighborhoods, creepy killers and things in the darkness, urban legends, and enough camp to fill a season of Star Trek?

Trick ‘r Treat takes the best things about all those movies and mixes it into an anthology of Halloween-themed stories.

Set during a single Halloween night, the four stories intertwine Pulp Fiction-style into a single narrative detailing the lives of people in a nameless Midwestern town. Careful viewers will see characters from different stories in the same scene as events in one story inadvertently affect the others. Although it appears to follow the standard slasher formulas, like Aaah! Zombies, it plays with those expectations and delivers a movie that satisfies the hunger for real entertainment.

Perhaps more than Aaah! Zombies, this one aims for the horror audience and uses the tropes of 80’s slasher movies and gives them a fresh look and feel. It’s a modern movie, but it has the same fresh feeling that Halloween did when I first saw it more than fifteen years ago. It’s not so much that it imitates other movies. It’s that this movie can’t be imitated.

RoboCop: Prime Directives

John Cable: What the hell is that?
Alex Murphy: That’s the hell I got you beat your next move.

RoboCop was a landmark movie event. It was gritty, ultra-violent, and a surprisingly sophisticated commentary on modern consumer culture. In short, it provided a standard for action science fiction that has rarely been equaled or topped.

The sequels? Not so much…

Somewhere along the way, the franchise lost its sense of direction. The television series was okay, as far as it could go on television, but when Prime Directives came out, it was like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Set more than ten years after the original movie (and ignoring the sequels and television show), Prime Directives shows a RoboCop who is very much aware of his own age in a city nearly dominated by OCP. As flashbacks reveal more of Alex Murphy’s life before being turned into Delta City’s cyborg defender, RoboCop must deal not only with a terrorist plot that could kill every human on Earth, but with a former partner turned into a deadlier, more advanced RoboCop unit.

The movie starts small, but it quickly balloons into an epic story that ends with, perhaps, the only way the RoboCop franchise could end. I won’t give it away, but I’d say it’s more than satisfactory.

This miniseries is no RoboCop. I won’t pretend it gets anywhere near the original. However, it goes back to the satire, the dark humor, and the character-centered plot that made the first the classic it is today. It’s got plenty of allusion to the original film. The miniseries debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel (yes, before it changed to “Syfy”) and got very little publicity. I saw it, though, and it still stands out to me as a great example of what can be done with a small budget and a lot of heart.

Pardon the crappy low-res trailer with bad late 90’s trailer music. It’s the best I could find.

Mother Maiden

Mother Maiden: We are the things that you see out of the corner of your eye. The shapes and shadows that skirt the periphery… We are the folklore legends… the frost giants… the leprechauns… the trolls under the bridge… the ghosts in the attic…

Within Temptation is one of my favorite bands. They have an epic, cinematic sound that goes great with things like Dungeons and Dragons. I usually listen to them as I write story concepts. Their new album, The Unforgiving, is their best, so far, I think, and it goes a little further by creating a modern fantasy story where damned souls work towards absolution by fighting evil with an enigmatic figure named Mother Maiden.

The band has released two of the short films tied to the album. Comic books will follow soon, too. Although the films barely touch on the world of The Unforgiving, they’re enough to keep me wanting more.

Oh, and the music’s good too. The second film is already out in case you want to see that one.

And now on to the links!

  • Any good tabletop gamer knows that dice stacking is a time honored tradition. I, however, would be hard-pressed to do these incredible balancing acts.
  • Grumpy Dudes is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs. As has been pointed out in other sites, a minister with no education proclaims that next month will herald the end of all things. Please take a moment to visit the Grumpy Dudes and see what you should do before the End of Times next month.
  • For anyone who needs some cuteness in their life, I present to you some pug thugs.
  • And finally, in the tradition of movies so cheesy they might be pure awesome… Hobo with a Shotgun.

2 Replies to “5 Movies You Need to See”

  1. I’m an avowed zombie fan, lover, reader, etc. But I just couldn’t get into “Aaah! Zombies” I tried, but felt a bit ho-hom about it 20 minutes in. I get what they were trying to do with the film, it just didn’t resonate with me. “Hobo with a shotgun” though? The title of alone makes me wanna watch that one.

    And thanks for the mention in your blog! I feel the same way about yours! In fact, I think I’ll go stick your site in my Blog Roll area.

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