* (Halloween countdown post #17)
Quentin Dupieux Rubber (2010)
‘Rubber tells the simple and often humorously demented tale of an ordinary car tire that magically comes to life in a junkyard, only to roll its way into a nearby populated desert town and kill various people who confront it through what seems to be a kind of telekinetic power.
‘This very simple yet fascinating and funny concept is played out in a fairly realistic, deadpan way but with a heightened sense of theatricality for its most violent moments. The tire kills several policeman in a similar way that Rutger Hauer’s nameless character in The Hitcher manages to rampage through the landscape with no remorse.
‘But while Hauer is clearly a human being who acts like a soul-less killing machine, the tire, on the other hand, is obviously not human, yet strangely enough when it uses its telekinetic powers to kill the viewer’s impulse is to somehow project an idea of human emotion onto it. Is it angry? Does it seek revenge for being dumped in a junkyard? No real explanation is given.’ — Michael Okum
James Quinn Flesh of the Void (2017)
‘Flesh of the Void is a terribly disturbing experimental horror film about what it could feel like if the act of dying truly were the most horrible thing one could ever experience, instead of the peaceful fading many think of. It is intended as a trip through the deepest fears of human beings, exploring its subject in a highly grotesque, violent and extreme manner. Shot entirely on 16mm and Super 8, including an entire segment (Act I) that was shot on Kodachrome. Written and directed by James Quinn.’ — Sodom & Chimera Productions
Watch ‘Flesh of the Void’ VOD here
John Parker Dementia (1955)
‘Dementia is the only film of obscure director John Parker. The shooting ended in 1953 but the premiere did not take place until 1955. In order to skip censorship they made four different versions of the film.
‘For several reasons, this little jewel has become a cult film. There is not need to take present day indie cinema seriouly, Dementia was produced with the director’s mum’s savings and most of the cast were amateur actors or just non-actors, as is the case of protagonist Adrienne Barrett who allegedly was the director’s secretary and did not perform in any further films. The film is fascinating and upsetting with a photography that takes us to Edgar G. Ulmer’s low cost noir cinema, German expressionism and Buñuel and Dali’s surrealism.
‘Bruno VeSota seemed Ordon Welles’s doppelganger and was the most experienced member of the cast. Allegedly, he even had a deep influence in the final result of the film. In 1955 he directed a noir, Female Jungle, with Lawrence Tierney, Jayne Mansfield and John Carradine. Later on, he used to work for Roger Corman and directed The Brain Eaters (1958) and Invasion of the Star Creatures (1962), two essential works for psychotronics film lovers.’ — Molins Film Festival
The full film
Jon Rafman Mainsqueeze (2014)
‘Honestly, I could not recommend that you watch Mainsqueeze, a short film made out of collaged YouTube-Instagram-et-cetera videos and screenshots by the hip and genuinely talented Jon Rafman. I can say that it remains one of the purest and most visceral expressions of a very modern —standing in for Reddit-savvy — kind of horror that I’ve ever seen. I should admit, too: there are parts of it I’ve never seen, due to the fact that Rafman cuts in clips from online fetish videos for “crush” fans, in which crayfish are unkindly and unethically destroyed by high heels. That you can’t “unsee” is, for a horror fan, an occupational hazard. Faked-up pseudo-violence, I can take; real violence — even on crustaceans fated to be eaten — I refuse to.
‘Otherwise, this is a cruel and clever sewer-slew of web memes, ugly images, and deep web junk. It makes a broken washer-dryer into something out of hell. It adds a drone to passed-out sharpie pranks, and makes the prankees look like casualties of war. A fat man in a frog suit, hogtied in Shibari style, is seen to writhe against a sound-scape of dogs barking, ticking clocks, and car alarms, which would be funny if it were not so unsettling and I-should-not-be-seeing-this surreal. “Do you ever wonder,” asks a dreamy, electronic voice, “if rocks are actually soft, and tense up when we touch them?” This sounds existential — actually, it comes from Tumblr. Maybe both things are not, per this artist, mutually exclusive.’ — Horror Bakers Dozen
The full film
Graham Reznick I Can See You (2008)
‘While I Can See You is a challenging experience due to its lack of a clearly defined narrative or any palpable sense of clear motivation for many of the characters’ actions, there is still a healthy measure of mischievous fun and playfulness to what little story it does engage the viewer in.
‘It seems that many indie filmmakers see the vague plot template of “bad things happen in the woods” laid down by so many slasher films from the 80s as a blank canvas for them to unleash their unbridled creativity and I Can See You is no exception. Little explanation is given for the spiral into hallucinatory madness that the viewer is privy to here, but Reznick and his game cast and crew certainly are willing to boldly experiment with the horror genre.
‘Wild psychedelic visuals, creative lighting, sound design and editing choices as well as a generous bit of theft from David Lynch’s bag of strange cinematic tricks set this film apart from your average “no frills” indie horror exercise which makes I Can See You even more of an exceptional viewing experience to be had.’ — Taste of Cinema
Watch ‘I Can See You’ VOD here
Peter Tscherkassky Outer Space (1999)
‘Using scenes from Sidney J. Furie’s infamously nasty 1982 film The Entity as a starting off point, Tcherkassky uses film as a screen, re-projecting the fragment over itself in stark overlays. The Entity (based on the factual Doris Bither case that is every bit as disturbing as the film) presents the story of a sexually abusive apparition in a woman’s home in 1980s America in the mode of other slick phantasmagorical thrillers of the time and, perhaps unsurprisingly, plays out like Poltergeist manifested at a back street porn cinema: grimily smutty, arguably exploitative, and genuinely nasty in its presentation of violence (sexual and other) — a point that’s only exaggerated in the polish of its relatively high production values.
‘Passing through into Tscherkassky’s non-space of obsessive reflection, actress Barbara Hershey re-enters a house that’s been turned into a weapon against her — supposedly a familiar and safe space that is benign in its domesticity — only to find it expand around her, casting off an infinite mirror-world of generational decay. Through his process, Tscherkassy doubles-down on the feelings of everyday isolation and fear, and frees the film from any diegetic sense of meaning, insisting the viewer confronts both its dissolution and ultimately its integral parts with a stunning force, and moving the source material into the purism of the avant-garde.’ — Thogdin Ripley and Philippa Snow
The full film
Bill Gunn Ganja & Hess (1973)
‘The opening scenes of most films intended for commercial distribution tend to ease viewers into their fictional worlds, introducing protagonists, defining the context in which these protagonists exist, hinting at experiences they will subsequently undergo. Bill Gunn’s Ganja and Hess (1973) does precisely the opposite. By the time its opening credits finish playing, we will already have read a series of onscreen texts referring in the past tense to events which have not yet occurred, heard a voiceover narration from a minor character (which also evokes future situations retrospectively), listened to a ballad which outlines the film’s supernatural mythology, encountered novelistic chapter headings, seen close-ups of paintings, watched documentary-style footage of a church service, and been subjected to a barrage of disjointed editing techniques which obscure rather than clarify – at least, that is, if we believe the clear exposition of narrative to be a sine qua non for works ostensibly outside the experimental or avant-garde traditions.’ — BFI
The full film
Adam Wingard Pop Skull (2007)
‘Pop Skull takes the general shape of a revenge thriller but filters it through the drug-distorted point of view of its main protagonist Daniel. Inevitably we’re given an up close and personal view of Daniel’s descent into madness while he pops all manner of that help to distort his already crumbling reality. Along the way he also seems to be influenced by ghostly visions of prior violence and murder that happened near his home.
‘Pop Skull is a film that again demands a certain amount of open-mindedness from the viewer. But anyone willing to let its dark brooding mood seep in will be rewarded with an experience that really does get under the skin and feel like an authentic downward spiral into insanity. Plus the film boasts some impressive camera work and psychedelic visual distortions while Daniel trips out on drugs. And there’s also some really great music tracks from the experimental noise-punk group “The Liars” filling out the background.’ — Parasite
The full film
Shin’ya Tsukamoto Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
‘Before addressing Shinya Tsukamoto’s fierce cyberpunk horror Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) in detail, a warning. Despite its family-friendly title, parents should take great care not to confuse this modern Japanese classic with the similarly titled Marvel superhero film. Almost every scene of Tsukamoto’s 67-minute lunacy involves graphic depravity completely unsuitable for children. And more power to it for that.
‘Tsukamoto wastes few seconds of his greyhound-lean runtime before showing us the ‘metal fetishist’ (played by Tsukamoto himself) inserting lengthy iron rods of substantial girth into his body. When maggots congregate around the noxious wounds, he goes insane and sprints from his grim industrial hovel along a desolate road, where he’s run over by the ‘salaryman’ (Tomoro Taguchi) out driving with his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara). The pair hide the corpse, but the salaryman is soon tormented by demented dreams and, far more seriously, a gradual metamorphosis into a living heap of scrap metal.’ — Lou Thomas
The full film
Ronny Carlsson Regissören (2011)
‘Shot mostly as a first person shooter film, we come into the story as the director is trying desperately to get his low budget film made. Actors keep flaking and dropping out, and he gets more angry and frustrated as time goes on. The director so wants to finish what he feels will be his last project.
‘This is Mr. Carlsson’s first feature length film and is described by the director as an experimental film. That it is, to be certain. It’s hard to grasp at first. To be honest, I was halfway through it before I finally realized what I was watching.
‘It took me a while to figure it out, but there are actually three stories going on here. Each vignette relates to something in the previous vignette, creating a connected story. Then of course, there are the in-betweeners following the director’s story in trying to get this thing made. Then there is an overall story being told by both the vignettes and the video diaries together that follows the themes of the prequel short films. It’s really genius, and amazingly clever.
‘I don’t see this as a horror film as much as it might be a phsychological exploration of some sort. Yes, there are horror elements in it. But viewers should be prepared for some really uncomfortable and disturbing scenes. I don’t think this film is for everybody.’ — HNN
The full film
Jordan Harris, Andrew Schrader Fever Night aka Band of Satanic Outsiders (2009)
‘I have not seen Band of Outsiders, the Godard film from which Fever Night obviously derives its subtitle, and thus it would be very difficult for me to compare and contrast the two. And yet what I know of Godard films definitely strikes a chord when I watch Fever Night; there’s the same general plotlessness, the same overacting, the same feeling of discontinuity from scene to scene. And I have to say that I like it better here than I do in Godard, but not much.
‘I think there’s a plot, kind of, and I think it goes like this: three Satanists, Elliot (Peter Tullio in his first screen appearance), Warren (Doilie’s Diner’s Philip Marlatt), and Terry (Poker Run’s Melanie Wilson, also debuting), head out into the woods to conduct some sort of ritual. (The director’s synopsis on IMDB says they actually go through with it; if so, it’s a very subtle ritual, because I didn’t even notice.) Then Terry disappears. While Elliot and Warren are trying to figure that out, they see a dim light through the trees and pursue it, hoping to find some help (or Terry, maybe).
‘…and the majority of the movie is Elliot and Warren following this light and arguing with one another. If that’s not Godardian, I don’t know what is. Horrid memories of forcing myself to sit through Pierrot le Fou, but if both of the main actors were male. And not in a car. Wilson is cute, though for obvious reasons she doesn’t get a great deal of screen time, and there are some mildly amusing bits (which is better than I can say for Godard), but overall, this one will confuse you while boring you senseless at the same time.’ — Robert Beveridge
Karim Hussain Subconscious Cruelty (2000)
‘A couple of days ago, the censorship did not allow the exhibition of “A Serbian Film” in Rio Fan Festival 2011 in Rio de Janeiro. A friend of mine mentioned that “Subconscious Cruelty” was another polemic film and I decided to watch it.
‘”Subconscious Cruelty” is indeed gruesome, gory, sick and disturbing, and one of the nastiest and pointless films I have ever seen. The film is divided is segments and it seems that the only intention of the director is to shock the audiences with a confused narrative and disconcerting impressive images. Paradoxically, the music score is very tender and beautiful.
‘Ovarian Eyeball – In the first segment, a naked woman is sliced by a sharp blade and an eyeball is removed from her belly. This surrealistic short is absolutely senseless. Human Larvae – in this second segment, a deranged man that hates his sister that is pregnant kills her newborn offspring and she during the delivery. This short is one of the sickliest films I have ever seen. Rebirth – in this third segment, a group of naked people rolls around mud and blood in another pointless segment. Right Brain/Martyrdom – in this last incomprehensible segment, there are the visible intention to offend the Christians with religious symbolism associated with gore and sex.’ — claudio_carvalho
The full film
Ivan Zulueta Frank Stein (1972)
‘Zulueta’s peculiar singularity of vision points ultimately toward the digital dream of instant access to all components, as he doubly reconfigures James Whale’s 1931 classic Frankenstein by playing it at speed — reducing the runtime to under 4 minutes — and crossing the boundary between the televised and the filmed. In demolishing both form and narrative in such a well-known film, Zulueta transforms it, transposing the lumbering creature feature into an exploration of time and the authenticity of the camera’s gaze.’ — The Quietus
The full film
Calvin Lee Reeder The Oregonian (2011)
‘This is an unheralded masterpiece that came and went sadly enough and is as anonymous as any other surreal experimental film. But I imagine the director Calvin Reeder not expecting to get rave reviews anytime soon. Sure, like many reviewers point out here on Letterboxd you can make reasonable comparisons between “The Oregonian” and the works of Brakhage and Lynch but Reeder still manages to chisel out a movie that is perhaps better described as a surreal essay with its own artistic merits.
‘”The Oregonian” is decidedly unconventional, impressionistic (I’m using the more apt literary term here) and drenched with unpleasant, buzzing and squeaking sounds and unsettling, hypnotic visuals. In other words: elements that are perhaps not uncommon in art-films but rarely utilized in horror movies. “The Oregonian” doesn’t shy away from being inaccessible and bewildering. I must admit though that the lo-fi soundtrack greatly explains my affection for this weird little movie. I just love the music.
‘It’s hard to summarize this movie plot-wise but a woman is introduced early on that presumably has been the victim of a horrible car accident. (I’m recounting this from memory) The woman that I suppose is the titular Oregonian staggers out of her demolished car with a large wound on her forehead. She sees two bodies lying on the ground, in front of the wrecked car giving indication that she might be responsible for the accident. Moving further into the isolated landscape she finds herself in she encounters a bizarre old lady, all sorts of menacing individuals and a man dressed in a furry green monster costume. Yes I know, this all sounds ridiculous but it works.’ — Nicolas @ letterboxd
Watch ‘The Oregonian’ VOD here
p.s. Hey. Today a silent reader of this blog who chooses to tag himself as TheNeanderthalSkull has put together a super swell and excitingly akilter Halloween movie marathon for you guys. Every selection is either available to watch right here via an embed or can be viewed via a provided link. So don’t feel like you have to settle for the usual Romero/ Carpenter/ Hooper/ etc or giallo suspects, you’ve got a great pile up of far afield Halloween-worthy viewables right here at your fingertips, thanks to our thoughtful guest-host. Enjoy the show, pass wordage along to TheNeanderthalSkull if you don’t mind, and thank you, and thank you, kind curating sir! ** David Ehrenstein, Yes, yesterday’s post was like an XRay of a QAnon nutball’s wet dream. Everyone, Mr. E’s big sale including that framed, signed Scorcese poster, is still yours to raid. Hit him up. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. Makes sense, not surprised about Kayla’s confusion on the eyes. I’ve never understood that belief or obsession or whatever with earning one’s parents love and respect above all others. The urge is a mystery to me. ‘Different’ by some means or other should always be the by-word, so … cool. I don’t think you can fuck up a zombie look. The only failure would lie in being too discrete and polite. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, Tosh. Yes, I agree, obviously. I do know Rampo’s work. I might have a done a post ages ago, I can’t remember. The vast majority of the guro shown here yesterday was made by Japanese folks. Sad about Diane Di Prima, and I should have figured your parents knew her. I almost had her read at Beyond Baroque during my tenure, but she cancelled for for forgotten reasons. That is a remarkable and extremely intense image: that funeral you attended. Wow. I had no idea that was a practice. Wow. ** Bill, Ha ha, well, I suspect some edibles were consumed before those artists laid those images down. Yes, re: the lockdown, we got the worst possible outcome. Starting at 8 pm tonight, we reenter total confinement like in March until at least the beginning of December. Everything closes excerpt supermarkets and pharmacies, and we need a signed govt. permission slip to leave our apartments. I’m in shock. I never thought we would have to go back to that. People here are very angry. This is by far the most extreme anti-COVID measures in Europe if not worldwide. I think it’s completely excessive and destructive. I feel totally unprepared for this and really psychologically crushed. I think everyone does. It’s truly shocking. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Ha ha, yes. New Actress, right. I need to get that too. Gotta be good. ** Quinn R, Hi, Quinn. That’s very interesting and cool about your dad’s entrepreneurial necktie venture. Hey, no one thought vinyl records would return to having any currency, so you never know. I read your review. It’s very thoughtful and delving and intelligent and everything it needs to be, I think. Andrew is actually a good pal of mine. I just hung out with him four days ago. So reading the review was emotionally complicated in a very interesting way. I haven’t read ‘Skyland’ yet, and I don’t know what Andrew thinks, but I think any writer should or even would be honoured to have their work so carefully and deeply studied and discussed. I know I would, if my book were that review’s subject. Anyway, try not to sweat what blow back you’ve gotten. I’ve been there with reviews I’ve written. Once I wrote a very negative review of Brion Gysin’s collected writings, and his fan base went nuts, wrote vicious letters to the editor of the venue I wrote it for trashing me and urging them to never let me review for them again, berated me in person, etc. It was unpleasant, but then it passed. One last curious thing: Andrew is actually a huge fan/player of Roller Coaster Tycoon, so that was funny. I liked the latest Yves Tumor a lot. He’s one of the extremely few artists who made really experimental work, which I love, and then began working with more familiar elements at a certain point without disempowering his work thereby at all. Yeah, I like his stuff a lot. Have a terrific day, man. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Yes, see my comment to Bill. As I said, the measures couldn’t be more restrictive, and everyone is shocked and pissed off, and it’s very depressing. Enjoy what freedoms you have right now as much as you can. Well, throat-wise, I guess that’s the best case scenario, so good. The best guro has whimsy in it, and I’m never exactly sure whether the artists intend that. Well, some obviously do, but … ** Brian O’Connell, Hi, Brian. Happy it interested you. I’m always very interested in how extreme things are portrayed, how artists attempt to circumvent the inherent shock factor, how they choose to render something so volatile, what approach has what effect, etc. Thanks for checking out Gisele’s and my work. ‘Kindertotenlieder’ is my personal favorite among the pieces we’ve made. I hope you’ll get to see something live at some point. I think once the current hell on earth has finally ascended, there will ideally be an occasion. I hope your Thursday is a million times better than mine is destined to be, which won’t be too hard, ha ha. ** Okay. Enjoy the movies. See you tomorrow.
Haven’t seen many of the films on this great list, but this is why I come here.
I always assumed ‘Rubber’ was a remake of the 1977 film ‘The Car’ or at least a homage/rip off.
Likewise, that the novel ‘Christine’ completely riffed on ‘The Car’.
Maybe I should watch all three and compare for Halloween.
LOL that Gysin review. I like him a lot, more his ideas that perhaps his execution, but I’m also one of those who agreed with everything you wrote in that review.
Anyway, going to dive into these films.
Hey Dennis–thanks for the kind remark about the review. I’m glad to hear that these sorts of things pass, I struggle with anxiety so it’s easy for me to blow this sort of shit out of proportion. Do you ever get anxious? I just looked up Brion Gysin, didn’t know who he was–thanks for sharing that anecdote with me,. Is the review in your Smothered in Hugs collection? If anything it’s good to remind myself that I get to fuss over literature and art at this time in history. Things could be far worse……
Really enjoy the post today! I’ve never heard of any of these filmmakers. I guess I won’t be going out on Halloween this year so I appreciate the recs. My guy is the real film buff of the two of us, and we’ve been watching lots of movies together. I’ll show him the post & we’ll pop some popcorn.
Hope you’re keeping afloat back in Paris, thanks again for the kind words Dennis.
Merci NeanderthalSkull! There are cinematic depths yet to be plumbed when it comes to horror.
Wow, what a rich list of films! Big thanks to TheNeanderthalSkull for curating it; I just watched ‘Mainsqueeze’ and it was amazing! Will definitely watch Rubber, Flesh of the Void, Ganja & Hess, and The Oregonian.
I’m really sorry you’re struggling with the new Covid restrictions, Dennis… ‘a signed govt. permission slip to leave our apartments’ does sound unnecessarily harsh! It’s really bad in the UK, too, in terms of infection rates and the general atmosphere of fear and anxiety. Weird times. I really look forward to treating myself to a copy of God Jr. though, which is one of your few books that I haven’t devoured already… I guess I have been saving it. I hope you have something to look forward to as well – perhaps, Halloween? Sending love your way xoxo
Thanks for the seasonal movie selection, TheNeanderthalSkull and Dennis. I only know Tetsuo; I’m sure most of my subcultural circle remembers it fondly. I’ve been grumbling about the dearth of interesting horror movies on my watchlist (that I can get to, anyway), so this is just what the doctor ordered.
Sorry to hear about the new restrictions in France. Another Parisian friend has been grumbling about how your biggest COVID clusters are in offices, so this curfew thing seems irrelevant.
I have exciting back-to-back livestreams tonight! The solution to curfews, I suppose (not that we have one, yet).
I sympathise with your harsh lockdown restrictions which sound nigh-on unworkable, yikes. Today we had West Yorkshire (ie Leeds) placed on Tier 3 which is the harshest UK “very high alert” level. Even then pubs can still remain open if they serve food, or something? All seems quite chaotic to me.
I’d go nuts if I couldn’t eat out at restaurants, so the restrictions in France really seem untenable. But the virus is completely out of control in most of the US, and we’d benefit from that kind of lockdown, although it could never happen here without martial law (if the police went around fining people for leaving their homes without government permission, there would be a revolution led by right-wing libertarians within weeks.) It also seems like France is tearing itself apart due to Islamophobia, although the American media’s view is obviously distorted and heavy on a “why can’t white French people just admit how racist they are?” sensibility.
I got my mail-in ballot today! I have filled it in, and will mail it tomorrow.
This is a really strong list of leftfield horror recommendations, judging from the ones I’ve seen. I’ll add the others to my ever-growing list of older films I plan to watch. THE EVIL WITHIN, directed by Andrew Getty in the throes of meth addiction and completed after his death, could fit here.
Have you heard the new Oneohtrixpointnever album? The first half sounded pretty strong. The radio show structure allows for a suite-like quality even within songs. “No Nightmares,” featuring the Weeknd, sounds much less like a shot at a hit single than “Black Snow.”
Dang this post is fantastic! I had a great time watching Deerskin the other day, keen to see Rubber.
Hey Dennis – yes Halloween’s definitely some sort of Christmas in my friend group, even if it’s not quite what it’s like in America. I think I’ll go as Miss Samara the well demon. I really feel for you in Paris, it sounds like a mess and I hope it’s as short as can be.
One reason I’ve piloted back into the comments is that I’m almost finished with Diarmuid Hester’s book, which has been enormously helpful for coming to terms with a lot about your work in ways I maybe hadn’t had articulated to me so clearly before. GV’s work with you in particular is on my mind a fair bit because I’m writing about possession/the unhuman in performance for a masters and I feel as though I need to pop some material in on KTL in particular (which I always look to when I think about movement).
Great list here. I don’t think I’ve seen any of these, although I’ve heard of a couple before: Ganja & Hess, Tetsuo, and oddly enough my film professor actually recommended Rubber to me just the other day. This should provide ample entertainment while I’m stuck at home on Saturday. Thank you, TheNeanderthalSkull!
That is just pure dogshit about the new lockdown measures in Paris. I’m so sorry. You’re right to be angry; I’m obviously not a doctor, but that sounds like way too much, even taking the pandemic into account. Had you been seeing a spike in cases? Or are they just trying to play it safe? In either case, fucking crazy. Sending my thoughts to you and yours.