So last night I watched The Banishing on Shudder. It’s gotten mixed reviews, and I’ll probably write it up on here some time. But I’m always fascinated by reviews. Even when I hate a movie, there’s usually some bright spot in it somewhere that stands out. There are of course exceptions like, I dunno, Blood Of Dracula’s Castle maybe. So it pains me a bit when people completely trash a movie, and especially when they confuse personal taste preferences with quality. There’s a big difference between “Movie X does this, this, and this badly as evidenced by such and such” versus “I didn’t like Movie X, so it sucks.”
That said, there are two sides to this coin with lots o’ stuff out there that people praise just because they like it without pointing out that it’s still crap (like the way I feel about, say, The Giant Claw). With that in mind, I thought maybe it were time for an Over & Under List.
#5 The VVitch
Just because I think something is overrated doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. Admittedly, the first time I saw The VVitch I hated it. My friend Angela over at The Late-Night Picture Show prodded me to give it another shot, so I did and admittedly liked it substantially better the second time. However, I still don’t think it was all that & a bagga chips, and I still fail to grasp what was supposed to be so terrifying about it.
#4 Texas Chainsaw Massacre II
I accept the fact that if you aren’t watching this as a horror comedy, you’re doing yourself a disservice. But the very first time I saw this, I made that very mistake and therefore hated it. I’ve revisited it and found the humor, but come on. It ain’t that funny. Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 got the occasional “heh” outta me.
#3 Rosemary’s Baby
It’s no secret that I loathe everything about Polanski as a human being. But Repulsion and The Tenant are tense and well-directed, so as films I still dig ’em. Not so with Rosemary’s Baby. I have yet to find its appeal. I’ve tried. I really have. It’s boring and moves at a snail’s pace. I can’t stop the voice in my head that keeps shouting “Get to the poooooiiinnnnnt!” I appreciate a slow burn as much as the next cinemaphile, but at some point ya gotta light the fuse. Finally, if this were the only time I’d ever seen Mia Farrow, I’d have never thought she could act.
#2 Cannibal Holocaust
There are exploitation movies, and then there’s Cannibal Holocaust. I hated sitting through this. Not because it was traumatizing, bleak, vicious, and cynical, but because it managed to be all those things with little if any tension or interest. Shock is fine. Shock for the sake of shock is, eh, okay. Shock as personal dare bores me. I mean, yeah, wow. You killed a turtle on camera so I could see it. That doesn’t make you an edgy visionary. It just makes you an asshole.
#1 Mondo Cane
More sensationalistic shock of the “dare ya” variety. Maybe I’m jaded. Maybe I’m desensitized. Or maybe, just maybe, Mondo Cane just sucks. The level of animal cruelty is staggering and is interspersed with other “bizarre” practices like binge drinking, massage parlors, bare-breasted Brazilian women, etc. All of this I suppose is intended to be titillating (if you’re, like, 12) but ultimately isn’t even interesting.
#5 The Brainiac
Just because something is overrated doesn’t mean it’s bad. The converse is that just because it’s underrated doesn’t mean it’s good. Case and point, The Brainiac–by no means a quality bit of filmmaking. On the other hand, it’s got a serviceable, vengeance-from-the-past premise along with some understatedly gruesome bits.
This movie just doesn’t get talked about enough. Lots of folks dismiss it as a bad ripoff of The Thing, and it certainly takes on the idea of a secluded group turning on itself. But the Lovecraftian undercurrent of Black Mountain Side runs far deeper and stronger than Carpenter’s predecessor. Where The Thing posits a frozen alien, Black Mountain Side focuses on old gods and the ancient evil attached to them. And while you don’t know who has become the latest Thing, the tension of Black Mountain Side has to do with how much is really happening and how much is hallucination.
More Lovecraft. This movie is just a straight up trippy blast full of admittedly goofy practical effects. You got your strangers arriving at an obscure seaside village, your culty behavior of secretive locals, your weird religious practices, and ultimately, tentacles where there ought not be tentacles. Yes please.
I love that Roger Ebert enjoyed this movie. This is another title you don’t hear about very often, and it got fairly well lost in the shuffle what with the slashers that followed Halloween. In fact Massacre At Central High predates Halloween by two years which is ironic because if it had come out in the late 80s it could pass as a slasher parody.
#1 The Exorcist III
I don’t get the hate that is so often heaped upon the poor movie. I think it’s effective, a helluvalotta fun to watch, and a way more interesting slow burn than Rosemary’s Baby. And boy howdy that nurse’s station jump scare–knowing it’s coming actually makes it worse. Even just seeing a still of that white-robed figure is enough to give me shudders.
And there’s my first Over & Under List. What movies do you think get way too much or not nearly enough praise? Drop ’em in the Comments.