Each month I seem to focus on a certain kind of film or a particular filmmaker. This month I watched way too many films by one particular director. Even though I like him, I got to hate his work by the end. Or at least it felt like that.
There are a few films here that I think are classics of the genre. I’ll mention them when I come to them.
July 2020 Films
- Amityville Island (2020)
- The Beastmaster (1982)
- Bigfoot vs Zombies (2016)
- Black Sabbath (1963)
- Bride of the Werewolf (2019)
- Dawn of the Dead (1978)
- Deadly Playthings (2019)
- Les Diaboliques (1955)
- Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)
- Frozen Sasquatch (2018)
- Ghost of Camp Blood (2018)
- Hallucinations (1986)
- Killer Nerd (1991)
- Land Shark (2017)
- Little Evil (2017)
- Mega Scorpions (2003)
- Messiah of Evil (1973)
- Monster Movie (2008)
- Night Thirst (2002)
- Parts: The Clonus Horror (1979)
- Peter Rottentail (2004)
- Robowar (2018)
- Saving Private Perez (2011)
- Sharkenstein (2016)
- Space Captain: Captain of Space! (2014)
- Splatter Farm (1987)
- The Toxic Avenger (1984)
- Vampyres (1974)
- War Raiders (2018)
- Zombie (1979)
Fully half of all the films were directed or co-directed by Mark Polonia. Along with his late twin brother John, the Polonia Brothers are legends of the micro-budget industry.
That really started with Splatter Farm (co-directed with Todd Michael Smith). This was not their first feature and yet they were still only teens. The film is extremely crude in terms of technique. But it’s also amazing. Effortlessly, the boys create some of the most disturbing film that I’ve ever seen.
Most of the films I watched were made after John died. Polonia’s technique has certainly developed but his budgets haven’t. But he uses digital effects to great effects. Many of them are the sort of thing you see in Birdemic, but used really well to make the films look a lot more expensive than they are.
Polonia also uses digital effects to render creatures. These work less well and many of his films come across as proofs-of-concept more than finished films. But there is no question that the films work. And at times, like in Sharkenstein, they are works of comic genius.
I plan to write a more thorough discussion of Polonia, so you will have to wait for that. But if you have Amazon Prime, check out some of his films.
I’m a big Don Coscarelli fan but I’d missed this one because I’m just not that into these kinds of films. But this one works well. Having now seen all of his films, I can see what ties them all together. He makes films about young people surviving. If you remove all the horror from most of his films, you end up with My Side of the Mountain.
A very Gothic horror anthology by our friend Mario Bava. It’s not one of my favorites of his, but it’s still a classic.
Dawn of the Dead
Is it okay to not especially like this film? I know why I loved it when it first came out. It’s such a survival fantasy: you fight off the zombie and then you get to play in a shopping mall all by yourself. And the only way to die is by being a total idiot.
I still enjoy it. But it’s much too long. And there are so many other Romero films that don’t get enough attention. But I’ll admit: if people didn’t like this film, I’d be a loud defender. Because there is no question that it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
This is a really good thriller with a clever plot. It’s a lot like a Hitchcock film but with much greater care. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad. At least until the very end. This one is definitely worth watching.
Don’t Torture a Duckling
I’m still obsessing about Lucio Fulci and this is one of his best films. More than in his horror films, this one is rich with themes — especially about sex and morality. And it shows the way that people act like monsters — well on display in many of Fulci’s other films.
This film ought to be used to recruit Incels. It’s brilliant — particularly in its use of Toby Radloff. But its misogyny is so extreme, it’s hard not to be troubled by it.
This parody of The Omen is hilarious. And it has an exceptional supporting cast. Sadly, it only seems to be available via Netflix streaming, which is odd given how good this one is.
This is the last film directed by JR Bookwalter. I just revisited it and it’s actually really good. The further I get into the trenches of low-budget filmmakers, the more I’m impressed with his talent.
Messiah of Evil
Directed by noted screenwriting couple Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz, this is a very smart and creative zombie film. According to some scholars, this film had an impact on later Italian horror films like Zombie.
Parts: The Clonus Horror
This is a low-budget gem. Forgotten at the time of its release because of similar big-budget films, this one beats them all. It’s a great 1970s-style paranoid mystery. Who can you trust? No one!
Saving Private Perez
This Mexican comedy features a lot of great actors and some genuinely funny moments. But I was mostly kind of bored. Maybe I’d like it better if I spoke Spanish.
Space Captain: Captain of Space!
This Rocky Jones, Space Ranger parody is brilliant. I don’t know why these people haven’t done more. If you get a chance, see it!
The Toxic Avenger
Roughly speaking, there are two kinds of Troma films: trashy micro-budget quickies and more substantial and inspired stuff. This is in the latter group. It’s no Poultrygeist, but it’s damned good.
This is the find of the month: a sexy vampire filmed with equal parts sex and violence. In fact, it verges on softcore porn at times. But it is beautifully rendered. A must-see!
Lucio Fulci’s seminal zombie film. It drives me crazy that people dismiss it as a rip-off of Dawn of the Dead, when it is so different and, frankly, so much better. If nothing else, go check YouTube for “splinter eye scene.”
See you next month!