The 2000’s have been a mixed bag of cinematic classics, remakes, and complete bombs with an endless wave of reboots and uninspired rip-offs that just seem to keep coming as we steadily approach the second decade of the new millennium. But in the midst of all the bad, we’ve also had some one of a kind cult classics rise up out of this slurry of over-hyped, under whelming big budget hits. From Adam Green’s debut slasher Hatchet to other new franchises like Saw, The Purge and Cabin Fever we’ve enjoyed some truly gruesome, though thought provoking stories. We’ve seen the steady rise of the living dead with titles like Z Nation, The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead and Dead Snow. While 2016 has seen its hits and misses it also marks the tenth anniversary of some original, cheesy, and gruesome flicks you may have forgotten about.
Alien abduction has been in our collective consciousness since the first U.F.O. hit the post war papers in the late forties and early fifties. Betty and Barney Hill gave us the notion of little green men in floating ships taking men and women for experimentation and cattle mutilations into the eighties and nineties really gave the notion a sinister, terrifying feeling. Altered captures all the wonder and horror of a close encounter of the unwanted kind and elevates it to a level of pure terror. Four friends have grown up ostracized and outcast in the small community they call home after being abducted by aliens when they were boys. The film opens on three “good ol’ boys” drinking beer and chasing after some large, wild game out in the woods.
With their trophy secured and bound, Duke, Otis, and Cody take it to the one person who might know what to do with it. In a trailer turned bunker on a hill in the middle-of-nowhere they drag their long lost friend Wyatt and his girlfriend Hope into the middle of their plot to get revenge on one of the creatures that so thoroughly ruined their lives fifteen years earlier. They bring the alien, a large, muscular green creature with clawed hands and razor teeth into the garage and strap it tightly to a work table. Covering the large, incomprehensibly black and evil eyes so the creature can’t exude any of its telepathic powers on them, the begin surgery cutting out first a small, clicking device they recognize as a tracker.
What follows is a serious of rash decisions, heated arguments, and old rivalries that result in Cody getting bitten and become the victim to an alien disease that slowly begins to necrotize and disassemble his entire body cell by cell. The creature manages to free itself and begins to playfully disembowel Otis before torturing and killing its way through most of the cast. The movie ends with a giant explosion and a pretty unique looking alien ship jumping into the atmosphere. Gore and creeps are substantial and the practical effects are beautiful. From the suit and appliances on our alien abductee to the masterful and gross decomposition of Cody, it’s an absolutely great blend of science fiction and horror.
And while we’re talking about gross monsters from beyond the stars, let’s take a look at this bigger budget splatter fest starring Nathan “Captain Mal” Fillion as Sheriff Bill Pardy. In the tiny town of Wheelsy, North Carolina the start of deer season is the biggest holiday of the year. Unfortunately, an alien parasite inside a piece of space debris has taken hold of the philandering Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) and threatens to put an end to the entire population. As the alien slug inside Grant’s body begins to warp him into a grotesque, Lovecraftian horror, he finds himself falling more in love with his unsatisfied wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) while using neighborhood pets and a former underage love interest turned trailer park queen into an incubator for his parasitic, telepathically linked minion slugs.
Soon, the town of Wheelsy ends up filled with hive minded zombies all sharing Grant’s sparkling personality. Every man, woman, child, and even a deer become possessed by alien worms bent on capturing Starla and proving their… er… his love for her. The film is more a gross out horror-comedy than your usual fright fest but it gives a lot of great nods to classic alien invasion movies and even pays homage in some ways to Shivers and Night of the Creeps with its creepy, crawly space invaders.
Another great zomedy in the vein of Shaun of the Dead and other independent zombie flicks that helped pave the way for The Walking Dead and its contemporaries, Fido is the touching story of a boy and his pet zombie. In a 50’s retro style, Americana world existing in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse, life is grand. Children play outside, people know their neighbors, and thanks to control callers and embalming techniques, zombies have become a more servile and trusted companion than the average dog. Everyone who’s anyone has their very own zombie. Everyone, that is, except the Robinsons. After lots of deliberation between his parents, Timmy’s mom brings home Fido, a middle aged, bargain basement zombie. Together, Timmy and Fido run and play and damage the control caller neutralizing Fido’s murderous instincts which results in covering up a cannibalistic murder and subsequent zombie outbreak.
This movie really has it all. Heartwarming family moments, good natured humor, plenty of action, entrails, and implied underage necrophilia courtesy of that one creepy, playboy neighbor. The makeup and effects are solid, if not a bit cheesy at times and the movie itself has this nostalgic, Leave it to Beaver at the threshold of hell feeling. With the current onset of the hipster apocalypse taking over where the zombie apocalypse left off, the faux retro style holds up nicely and should still hold some appeal to fans. It’s a campy, comical horror romp that’s got a few decently creepy moments tucked away inside the campiness.
We’ll finish this parade of bloody anniversaries with a truly gruesome low budget romp from writer/director Adam Green. With horror and character acting legends Kane Hodder, Robert Englund, Tony Todd and Richard Riehle making appearances and cameos among a hugely talented cast, it’s an instant must watch for fans of the genre. It’s a breath of fresh air for fans of the traditional slasher horror film who have been stuck in the dead seriousness of Jason and Michael Myers inspired horror. With some intentionally low budget, over the top gore and deflective humor designed to lull the watcher into a false sense of security, it really is a fantastic and fun horror film.
Ben came to New Orleans to try and forget about a recent break up. Marcus came to get laid. Together, the two college friends take a break from the Mardi Gras celebration to go on a discount ghost tour of the Louisiana swamps. On a small pontoon boat with an “amateur film maker” and his two often topless female stars, an older couple enjoying a trip down south, an inept tour guide and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth, the end up stranded in the middle of an alligator infested swamp on the run from the legendary monster Victor Crowley. Crowley was born deformed and dimwitted, abused by his father and eventually bludgeoned with a hatchet and left for dead. Now, the seemingly immortal maniac stalks the swamplands murdering anything, man or beast, that trespasses in his domain. What follows is the expected one-by-one pick off as each character dies violently at the hands of Crowley. No one truly escapes the monster’s reach but it’s a hell of a fun watch.
We’re all a bit burned out by the perpetual rehashing of old ideas and I think that more than a few of us are ready to see the bad guys start kicking some super hero ass in these perpetual comic book crossovers. Still, there are a lot of great horror films still out there and a lot more that deserve a second look. Do yourself a favor and enjoy some modern classics like Altered, Slither, Fido, and Hatchet.