5 films you may have missed

In the first of an occasional series, we dig out a collection of fine movies that you might not have heard of...

Over the years I’ve watched a hell of a lot of films. To be be honest, I’ve probably wasted too many good years vegetating in front of, first videos, then more recently DVDs. Some good…most bad. With the mystery DVD reviews in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to utilise my vast film collection (because it can’t help me in the real world) to bring attention to a few other films you may have missed.

In no particular order:

The Ugly (1997)

From the land of the Hobbits comes this effective 1997 Kiwi horror. Set in a mental institution, the film revolves around a serial killer, Simon, and the psychologist trying to get to the bottom of his reasons for killing.

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Inside him lies an entity that may or may not be a figment of his imagination called The Ugly.

This is a very slow burning film with an excellent lead performance from Paolo Rotondo as Simon, a serial killer very much in the Norman Bates mould. Softly spoke and very polite, through flashbacks we start to piece together more about his past, and it’s hard not to feel for his character. Especially as he’s constantly beaten by the brutal orderlies. But he’s also very creepy and the murders he commits particularly nasty. The film also plays with what’s real and what’s fantasy. This is a very smart film with some nice ideas. More famous lazy comparison: Silence Of The Lambs

Drive  (1997)

One of my mates was going on about this film for ages, so to appease him, I went out and bought it. And I’m so glad I did.

Also from 1997, this is a comedy martial arts buddie movie that precedes the much more successful Rush Hour by a year.

In Drive, Mark Dacascos (whom all B-movie action films should know) plays a fella with stolen mechanical parts fitted inside his body. He teams up with a loud-mouthed failed musician (played by Kadeem Hardison) to escape from a nuts hick assassin and his sidekick called Hedgehog (I shit you not).

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Criminally passed over on its original release, the film stands out, in my opinion, as the best western martial arts film. The fight scenes are excellent and (unlike Rush Hour) it’s genuinely funny. Dacascos and Hardison bounce off each other very well, and given a character that could have become annoying very fast (I’m looking in your direction, Chris Tucker), Hardison in particular stands out.

It also contains arguably the greatest bad guy in cinema history who spouts lines like “Look, it’s my favourite cheese-eating dickmonkey” which alone should make it worth watching.

More famous lazy comparison: Rush Hour

Mute Witness (1994)

In Mute Witness, an FX makeup artist is working on a slasher film in Moscow when she accidentally stumbles across the making of a snuff film. From then on she’s persued by the killers whilst trying to persuade the corrupt authorities that what she saw was real.

The kicker is (and you may have guessed this from the title) she lacks the ability to speak. This is such an obvious and brilliant idea that I’m surprised it took till 1994 for a film to use it. Not being able to scream for help – such a primal fear  – makes this an edge of the seat film.

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Due to the fact that most of the action appears on and around a movie set, the film often tricks the audience with what’s real and what’s not, laying on twist after twist. Not wanting to give too much away, Mute Witness also includes an amazing uncredited cameo from probably one of our greatest ever actors as the Reaper, the head of an international snuff ring.

More famous lazy comparison: Frenzy

Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy (1996)

This was the film from the Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall, who in the 90s had a Monty Python style TV programme. Hardly known in this county (I think the show was on Channel 4 at around 12 at night), it was an irrelevant, risky sketch show that, although a lot of the jokes missed, did have some really funny ideas.

In the step up to feature film, the troupe carried on the Monty Python tradition of playing most of the characters themselves. The plot (for what it’s worth) revolves around the creation of an anti-depressant that is rushed out and finds its creator fame and fortune,but eventually turns out to have a particularly bad side effect.

The plot is really just an excuse to lay on many characters and situations, many of which push the bounds of good taste (which is fine by me). Two particular standouts are the suburban family man who masturbates to gay porn and gets caught soliciting men for sex, yet is completely unaware that he’s gay, even though his wife and kids know. And Cancer Boy, a cheery wheelchair bound bald character who releases a successful song called ‘Whistle When You’re Low’.

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More famous lazy comparison: Monty Python And The Holy Grail

Martyrs (2008)

This is the newest film on the list as it was only released last year. I caught this French-made film earlier this year and was completely blown away by it. It’s very hard to do even a brief summary without giving away any of the surprises, but let me just say that the film that you thought you were watching is not the film that ends.

It starts with a girl being found after escaping from her captors. She’s been abused and tortured for a good length of time and is sent to an orphanage where she becomes friends with another young girl there. The film then cuts to fifteen years later when the girl goes to get revenge on those she thinks are responsible for her torture. Then. Things. Go. Very. Very. Wrong.

A word of warning…if you’re even slightly squeamish then leave this film well alone as it contains some of the most brutal scenes ever committed to celluloid (and I’m including Flower Of Flesh And Blood in that).

If you thought any of the recent crop of torture porn films were nasty, they’ve got nothing on this. That’s not to say that any of those films deserve to be even spoken in the same breath as Martyrs.

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This is an extremely original and intelligent film that, although it pushes the violence as far as it possibly can go, never feels exploitive. The gore is supposed to shock and appall you and is handle impeccably.

The director, Pascal Laugier, is definitetly one for the future and was at one point touted as the director of the Hellraiser remake, which would have been perfect.

I make no excuses for the hyperbole, Martyrs is not only the best horror film I’ve seen this year but one of the best I’ve ever seen.

More famous lazy comparison: There’s nothing to compare to Martyrs.

Leave your suggestions in the comments!