aka Las luchadoras contra el médico asesino
Directed by René Cardona
Written by Alfredo Salazar
Starring Lorena Velázquez, Armando Silvestre, Elizabeth Campbell, Roberto Cañedo, Sonia Infante, Chucho Salinas, and Chabela Romero
Once upon a time, a fella named K. Gordon Murray discovered that there was money in dubbing and distributing Mexican films for American audiences. He’s most known now for importing children’s movies like Little Red Riding Hood (La caperucita roja) and Santa Claus, particularly since Mystery Science Theater 3000 re-popularized it. Murray also brought over luchador movies, including several with El Santo (renamed Samson) and films like Wrestling Women Vs the Aztec Mummy.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Stephen King
Starring Chlöe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Demetrius Joyette, and Judy Greer
It’s got to be a thankless task to remake a movie adaptation of a novel for the second time, especially when the previous remake is only a decade old. The fact that the original film is so iconic that images from it persist in popular culture almost 40 years on makes it practically a fool’s errand. Yet in 2013, another version of Carrie was presented to a skeptical audience.
Directed by Brea Grant
Written by Brea Grant and Vera Miao
Starring Brea Grant, Vera Miao, Sean Maher, Kit Williamson, Constance Wu, Stacey Storey, Alex Berg, and Alex Fernie
Who doesn’t love a good apocalypse? Since at least the days of science fiction films like The War of the Worlds movies have presented us with stories of threats to our way of life, whether through war, disease, environmental catastrophe, the risen dead, or killer plants from outer space. While some wallow in nihilism, most of them reaffirm or faith in humanity’s ability to overcome hardships and rebuild. Even when there are few characters the implication is that they represent society, so their success heals all. Best Friends Forever follows two young women on a road trip from Los Angeles to Austin as the nation reels from a nuclear attack. It’s a very personal apocalypse, and it emphasizes the significance of a single relationship against the background of a nation’s collapse.
Directed by Danielle Harris
Written by Alyssa Lobit
Starring Alyssa Lobit, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Kamala Jones, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis, Christopher Backus, Dana Daurey, and Chris Meyer
In last year’s review of X-Game I mentioned the influence of the Saw franchise on modern vigilante horror. Five years ago, Danielle Harris’s Among Friends used the sub-genres conventions to point out how rape culture targets victims with continued societal disbelief and minimization. Spoilers, ahoy. There’s just no way to discuss this one without revealing plot points.
aka Zombie: Dawn of the Dead
Written and directed by George A. Romero
Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, and Tom Savini
George A. Romero emerged from the legal disputes over the rights to Night of the Living Dead being allowed to make sequels but unable to use the phrase “Living Dead” in titles. That must have been especially galling, as it had been an oversight during renaming for distribution that had stripped the film of its copyright. When Romero decided at last to make a sequel, he struck a deal with his friend Dario Argento. Romero would write and direct the movie, and Argento would raise the funding in exchange for the overseas distribution. In America, the movie was released as Dawn of the Dead. Argento re-edited the film and released it as Zombi.
aka Yôkai daisensô (Big Monster War)
Directed by Yoshiyuki Kuroda
Written by Tetsurô Yoshida
Starring Yoshihiko Aoyama, Hideki Hanamura, Chikara Hashimoto, Hiromi Inoue, Akane Kawasaki, and Gen Kuroki
Yôkai is one of the Japanese terms for monsters, particularly ghosts or apparitions. Some were drawn from genuine folklore, but many sprang from the imagination of artists. Whatever their origins they’re the inspiration for a lot of modern Japanese entertainment, particularly comics and animation. The best-known designs for some of them are based on the suits created for Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare.
Directed by Yôhei Fukuda
Written by Mari Asato and Yôichi Minamikawa based on the novel X gêmu by Yûsuke Yamaha
Starring Kazuyuki Aijima, Hirofumi Araki, Shôta Chiyo, Meguru Katô, and Ayaka Kikuchi
The title of the Japanese movie X-Game (originally X gêmu) may need some explanation. There’s a sort of tradition on comedic shows of the loser of a competition having to then accept a punishment. This is something mildly unpleasant that’s played up for laughs. It’s called the batsu game, and the character used to write it means ‘X’ (i.e., “incorrect”) as well as “penalty”. Fans of anime might have seen references to “penalty game” in shows like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where Suzumiya subjects her brigade members to penalty games for things like being late. It’s well-known enough that it wouldn’t be surprising if school-kids played punishment games just for the heck of it.
And we all know that children are cruel.
aka Schatten — Eine nächtliche Halluzination
Directed by Arthur Robison
Written by Arthur Robison and Rudolph Schneider
Starring Alexander Granach, Fritz Kortner, Ruth Weyher, and Gustav von Wangenheim
A lot of amazing stuff was going on in cinema during the 1920s. Feature films became predominant, telling longer and more complex stories to audiences willing to invest time in them. Movie palaces, seating a thousand and more patrons, became a part of the American cityscape. The advent of synchronized sound in 1927 remained the biggest game-changer until movies could be shot in color. In this climate of popularity and growth, some filmmakers were inclined to be more adventurous in their efforts. Such a director was Arthur Robinson, who decided to make his film Warning Shadows even more silent than the medium required.
Directed by Robert Young
Written by Judson Kinberg, George Baxt, and Wilbur Stark
Starring Adrienne Corri, Thorley Walters, Anthony Higgins, Laurence Payne, John Moulder-Brown, Lalla Ward, Robert Tayman, and David Prowse
With their 1958 release of Horror of Dracula Hammer Film Productions brought new life to vampire movies. By the 1970s the market had shifted, and the studio tried various ways to repackage the monsters to suit the modern audience. One result was the Karnstein Trilogy, which featured female nudity and lesbian sexuality. Dracula A.D. 1972 brought Christopher Lee’s Dracula to swinging London, which went about as usual but with different clothes and embarrassment all around. Then there’s the truly original Vampire Circus, which failed to make money but gained a following.
Directed by Lewis Allen
Written by Dodie Smith and Frank Partos
Based on the novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardle
Starring Ray Milland, Ruth Hussey, Donald Crisp, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Alan Napier, and Gail Russell
In 1961 Disney released 101 Dalmatians, creating yet another beloved classic. What does the animated tale of the world’s largest litter of puppies have to do with a gothic romantic comedy from 17 years earlier? The answer is simple on the surface, but the further I dug into it the more convinced I became that it would end in tears and Kevin Bacon. I forced myself to stop pursuing connections before I went looking for a power drill to open my mind. I will share just a bit of what I found, but be warned that you should probably avoid power tools for a while.