Category Archives: Free Online Weird Movies

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/2/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Gothic (1986): Read the Certified Weird entry! Ken Russell‘s laudanum dream about the night Mary Shelley conceived “Frankenstein” has never had a respecable home video release—until now. On Blu-ray or VOD. Buy Gothic.

Jamón, Jamón (1992): A mother hires an aspiring underwear model to seduce her son’s fiance. Sexy, surreal, and one of the first films for future stars and Javier Bardem. DVD and/or Blu-ray. Buy Jamón, Jamón.

Napping Princess (2017): In the near future a student discovers that the secret to freeing her arrested father may lie in her dreams of a science fantasy kingdom. Light, whimsical dream anime on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD. Buy Napping Princess.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

NEPOTISM CORNER:

INTERVIEWTF WITH G. SMALLEY (366 WEIRD MOVIES): A random website randomly interviewed 366 Weird Movies’ own G. Smalley on random topics. Read the madness here.

Ten Outstanding Weird Movies You’ve Probably Never Heard Of: You have almost certainly heard of all these, but for novices 366’s “Penguin” Pete Trbovich published a list of ten “lesser known” weird movies (all featured on this website) on Imgur. See his choices here.

YOU LINK US! YOU REALLY LINK US!:

The Apple (1980) < Catherine Mary Stewart: Catherine Mary Stewart’s official site considers us one of only three notable resources (along with the IMDB and the Projection Booth’s podcast) for info on The Apple. Proud to be of service!

Letterboxd Guide to 366 Weird Movies: Superfan Val Santos compiled this list of Certified Weird films on the popular social movie site, and went above and beyond by creating guides to our List Candidates, capsule reviews and even the suggestion queue. Wow!

FREE MOVIES ON TUBITV:

Millennium Actress (2001): Read the Certified Weird entry! As we mentioned in our review, ‘s sophomore picture—a mixed-up anime biopic of a fictional Japanese actress—turns up from time to time streaming on free services. Right now, it’s upstart TubiTV’s turn. With minimal commercial interruptions. Watch Millennium Actress free on TubiTV.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

313. KIN-DZA-DZA! (1986)

“Koo! Koo!”–Kin-Dza-Dza

DIRECTED BY: Georgiy Daneliya

FEATURING: Stanislav Lyubshin, Levan Gabriadze, Evegeni Leonov, Yuri Yakovlev

PLOT: A construction foreman and a student meet a man on the Moscow streets who claims to be from another planet; humoring him, they use his “traveler” and are transported to the desert planet of Pluk. There, they meet a pair of aliens who only speak the words “koo!” (until they figure out how to translate the human’s language via telepathy). The aliens are amazed by the earthling’s matchsticks, which contain chemicals that are very valuable on Pluk, and barter to return them to Earth in exchange for boxes of matches—but can they be trusted?

Still from Kin Dza Dza (1986)

BACKGROUND:

  • Kin-Dza-Dza was a minor flop when released in Soviet theaters in the winter of 1986, but later became a cult hit when it was split into two parts and shown on television.
  • The movie was virtually unknown outside of the former Soviet Union for many years, only available here in rare dubbed VHS copies until an (almost equally rare) 2005 Russico DVD release.
  • In 2013, original director and co-writer Georgiy Daneliya remade Kin Dza-Dza as an animated children’s movie.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The first appearance of Uef and Be, who arrive on scene in what’s best described as a flying junk bucket. Be emerges in a makeshift cage, squats with his palms facing forward, and says, “koo!” Uef takes two metal globes and places them on the ground flanking his craft. He also says “koo!” Our two Muscovite travelers are nonplussed.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Koo-based linguistics; Patsak nose bells; alien/Russian Sinatra karaoke

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: This absurdist science fiction satire was deliberately odd from its inception. Today, since the vanished Soviet Union is almost as strange a world as the desert planet Pluk, Kin-Dza-Dza has become a movie about one alien culture lost inside another.


Unofficial Hollywood-style trailer for Kin-Dza-Dza

COMMENTS: You can describe the plot of Kin-Dza-Dza in detail Continue reading 313. KIN-DZA-DZA! (1986)

311. SANTA CLAUS (1959)

AKA Santa Claus vs. the Devil

“Be off, my reindeer, and fly through the heavens as fast as you can go. May my palace of gold and crystal enjoy peace, and Jesus, the Son of God, join us on Earth so that we can all have joy and goodwill.” – Santa Claus

“This is weird theology.” Crow T. Robot,Mystery Science Theater 3000, Episode 521″

DIRECTED BY: René Cardona,  [as Ken Smith]

FEATURING: José Elias Moreno, José Luis Aguirre ‘Trotsky’, Lupita Quezadas

PLOT: From his outpost on a cloud high above the North Pole, Santa Claus attempts to fend off the demon Pitch’s schemes to poison the minds of the world’s children against him. Santa spends Christmas Eve sidestepping Pitch’s attempts to derail his rounds. With the help of the wizard Merlin, a collection of child laborers from around the world, and a team of nightmare-inducing wind-up papier-mâché reindeer, he fights to win back the soul of a poor little girl who badly wants a doll.

Still from Santa Claus (1959)

BACKGROUND:

  • Winner of the Golden Gate Award for Best International Family Film at the 1959 San Francisco International Film Festival.
  • Cardona’s remarkably prolific career (he helmed more than 100 films) ranged from literary adaptations to genre classics such as Night of the Bloody Apes and Wrestling Women vs. The Aztec Mummy.
  • Produced in Mexico, the film was purchased by American K. Gordon Murray, the so-called “King of the Kiddie Matinee,” who found financial success re-editing and dubbing foreign children’s films into English and releasing them to an American public starved for something to do with their kids.
  • Murray turned a profit through a careful schedule of limited releases, which artificially manipulated the supply and demand, turning screenings into scarce opportunities. The high density of holiday television broadcasts also added to the film’s coffers.
  • Featured in season 5 of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Years later, Rifftrax–featuring Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy from the MST3K installment––took its own shot at the film.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: So many to choose from (as you will see in a moment), but the vision I find most difficult to shake is Father Christmas monitoring his acolytes on Earth through the phantasmagoria of eavesdropping devices that make up his Magic Observatory, including an ear attached to an oscillating fan, an eye on an accordion tube, and a pair of very disturbing giant lips.

THREE WEIRD THINGS  Parade of child nations; Santa’s lip machine; cackling clockwork caribou

FIVE MORE WEIRD THINGS (to make 8 for Hanukkah): Interpretive dance from Hell; boxed parents; dream doll ballet; Santa’s rearguard assault; the Cocktail of Remembrance

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Santa Claus seems the results of a cross-border game of telephone: the basics of Santa’s mythology are all there, but the end product is something wholly different and unusual. The attempt to infuse an essentially commercial construct with deeply held moral codes produces a strange sort of alchemy, generating earnest feelings within a deeply unsettling presentation.


English-language trailer for Santa Claus (1959)

COMMENTS: Look, Santa Claus is weird. The guy, I mean. A preternaturally jolly man with a fortress hidden away in the farthest Continue reading 311. SANTA CLAUS (1959)

301. FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1983)

Recommended

Mi ni te gong dui; AKA Dragon Attack

“If it sounds ridiculous, that’s only because it was.”– Jackie Chan on Fantasy Mission Force (quoted in Keith Bailey, “The Unknown Movies”)

DIRECTED BY: Yen-Ping Chu

FEATURING: Jackie Chan, Brigitte Lin, Yu Wang (Jimmy Wang Yu), Yueh Sun, David Tao, Jin Fang, Shiu Bu Lia, Ling Chang

PLOT: Four Allied generals have been captured by the Japanese. Mercenary Don Wen is hired to liberate them, and recruits a team which includes “Old Sun,” escape artist “Greased Lightning,” two kilt-wearing soldiers, con man Billy, and Lilly, Billy’s bazooka-toting on-and-off girlfriend who tags along when she hears about the cash reward. Tailed by rogues Sammy and Emily, the team encounters Amazons and a haunted house on their way to a surprisingly bloody showdown with the kidnappers.

Still from Fantasy Mission Force (1983)

BACKGROUND:

  • Director Yen-Ping Chu (sometimes credited as “Lawrence Full” or “Kevin Chu”) is the director of sixty-five (mostly kung fu and comedy) films; this is his only effort which is marginally well-known in the West.
  • According to persistent but unconfirmed rumors, a Triad-connected movie mogul ordered a hit on Jackie Chan when he decided to change studios. Jimmy Wang Yu intervened to settle the dispute, and as part of the deal Chan agreed to lend his growing star power to two of Wang’s movies (this being one).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: An ambush by ribbon-shooting ninjas? Bloody ghost hands waving wads of toilet paper? Assault of the Road Warrior-Japanese-punk Nazis? Your opinion on this one is as good as ours, and it’s likely to change many times during the movie as some new amazement pops up. We’ll just go with any shot of the assembled team: Old Sun in his top hat, Brigitte Lin in black leather with a bazooka, Billy in his white suit and Elvis sideburns, the kilt-wearing pair of misfits… as weird a group ever formed to fight an anachronistic battle against fascist kidnappers somewhere in Canada, Luxembourg, or Taiwan.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Scottish/Chinese mercenaries; toilet paper ghosts; Japanese Nazis in Chevys

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Packed with kung fu, shootouts, flying ninjas, hopping vampires, and slapstick comedy reminiscent of Benny Hill, Fantasy Mission Force is one of the only commercial entertainments ever released where you can honestly say you have no idea what will happen next. It’s a pulp surrealism masterpiece, set in a previously undiscovered movie universe at the conjunction of the Shaw Brothers, , and the Three Stooges.


Original Cantonese trailer for Fantasy Mission Force

COMMENTS: Although some reviewers are reluctant to discuss the Continue reading 301. FANTASY MISSION FORCE (1983)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/8/2017

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

Summer is over and the weird movie world is heating up now that blockbuster season is past…

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

The Challenge (2017): Experimental low-dialogue documentary about the strange hobbies of wealthy Qatari sheiks who converge for a meeting in the desert. In a generally negative review, Variety nonetheless suggests it’s a “non-fictive but scarcely less fantastical (or mannered) equivalent to Matthew Barney’s cinematic oeuvre.The Challenge U.S. distributor site.

Napping Princess (2017): In the near future a student discovers that the secret to freeing her arrested father may lie in her dreams of a science fantasy kingdom. Light, whimsical anime magic. Napping Princess U.S. distributor site.

FILM FESTIVALS – Toronto International Film Festival (Toronto, Ont., Canada, 9/7-9/17):

TIFF continues to be one of the world’s major film festivals, even as it continues to evolve and find its own niche in a crowded field. This year, they have narrowed down the slate (from 296 to 255 films) and appear to be focusing more on potential awards contenders, perhaps in an attempt to position themselves as Oscar kingmakers. (Thanks to Variety for recognizing the trend.) Unfortunately, this shift in emphasis means that a few scrappy, weirder films may be the first to be shunted aside for more conventional titles—but there’s still plenty of unusual stuff hiding in the program. Aside form a few titles we’ve noted elsewhere (like s rock opera Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, James Franco’s biopic The Disaster Artist, ‘s The Shape of Water, ‘s mother!, and Palme d’Or winner The Square), here’s what caught our eye:

  • All You Can Eat Buddha – A mysterious man performs miracles at a tropical result in this low-key film programmers describe as a “trippy and complex cinematic experience.” Screens Sep. 11-14.
  • The Crescent – Hallucinatory horror about a grieving woman and her 2-year old child. Sep. 13-15.
  • Gutland – Billed as a “surrealist rural noir,” the scenario involves a German drifter who wanders into a strange village in Luxembourg. Sep 8, 10, 12, 13, 16.
  • I Am Not a Witch – Magical realist story about an African girl exiled from her village on suspicion of witchcraft. Sep. 8, 13, 14, 16.
  • The Killing of a Sacred Deer‘ latest reunites him with The Lobster‘s , playing a cardiologist who befriends a 16-year old boy. The Sep 7 debut is passed, but you can still catch it Sep 9 or 10.
  • Let the Corpses Tan (Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres) – Gold thieves engage in a shootout with cops in this tribute to Italian poliziotteschi films; doesn’t look as weird as their previous giallo-inspired work, but it’s always interesting to see what and are up to. Sep. 9, 13, 14, 17.
  • Mom and Dad – Pitch black comedy wherein mass hysteria causes parents to hunt their own children; what makes it notable, however, is cranky director teaming up (again) with ever-hammy . Sep 9, 10, 13, 16.
  • Motorrad – Brazilian dirt biking kids are hunted by a machete-wielding biker gang; we probably wouldn’t have noticed this one except that the programmers called it “wild and weird” (twice!) Sep. 9, 11, 13, 16.
  • Oblivion Verses (Los Versos del Olvido) – An elderly cemetery caretaker sets out to bury a woman killed by the secret police in a world gone mad. Sep. 11, 12,. 13, 15.
  • Occidental – Set entirely inside a stylized French hotel, where the arrival of a gay couple sets off a series of absurd xenophobic events. Sep. 9, 10, 14, 16.
  • On Body and Soul – Two Hungarian slaughterhouse employees try to recreate the identical recurring dream they share. Sep. 15-17.
  • Redoubtable – This biopic portrait of at an artistic crisis point after making 1967’s flop La Chinoise is not weird, but potentially of interest. Sep 9, 14, 15, 17.
  • Simulation – Gritty Iranian drama told in reverse chronological order with dreamlike moments. Sep. 12, 14, 17.

Toronto Film Festival home page.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Cabin in the Woods (2012): Read our review. There’s nothing new in this Blu of the ultimate meta-horror except for the fact that it’s been updated to a 4K Ultra HD presentation for those with next generation TVs. Buy The Cabin in the Woods [4K Ultra HD Blu-ray].

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

“toco toco”: toco toco is a professional short documentary series profiling Japanese artists. Their latest offerings should be of interest to our readers: interviews with gurus (Robogeisha) and (Tokyo Gore Police). Both contain clips from these arterial auteurs gory films and therefore come with a “viewer discretion advised” warning. Highly recommended for fans. Watch them free on YouTube: Noboru Iguchi EpisodeYoshihiro Nishimura Episode.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 7/14/2017

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Endless Poetry: ’s second installment in the psychoautobiographical project that began with the Certified Weird The Dance of Reality, now concerning his experiences as a young bohemian artist in Santiago. We were shocked by how little Jodo had lost when Reality came out after a 21-year hiatus from filmmaking, making us even more excited for this second installment. Endless Poetry Indiegogo page.

The Persian Connection: A “neon-noir fever dream” set in the Persian and Russian gangster underworlds of L.A.. This drug, sex, and violence cocktail was originally titled The Loner when it played the Tribeca Film Festival. The Persian Connection Facebook page.

FILM FESTIVALS – Fantasia Festival (Montreal, Quebec, 7/13-8/2):

As its name implies, Montreal’s Fantasia Festival originally began as a showcase for fantastic films from Asia; it has since morphed into a major event on the genre cinema calendar. Not that they’ve let mainstream success get to their heads; there’s still more rare weirdness to be found at Fantasia than at just about any film festival on the globe. We make watch lists from Fantasia’s programming, and we’re always saddened when less than half of the most daring films find meaningful distribution in the U.S. (We’re still awaiting release of the video-art black comedy She’s Allergic to Cats, never mind the completely bizarre and incomprehensible Atmo HorroX). Because of the large number of entries, we’re highlighting only films here that are debuting at Fantasia or that are totally new to us. We’ll mention that the indie comedy Brigsby Bear, Casey Affleck’s A Ghost Story‘s WFT The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, the surreal Estonian fairy tale November, and the Filipino Town in a Lake are also playing, while ‘s big-budget epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets gets an early screening at Fantasia. Also of note are revivals of God Told Me To (and other movies from Lifetime Achievement Award honoree ), a rare screening of Rape of the Vampire, and the debut of the restored print of the Certified Weird Suspiria, which will be touring North America in late summer.

  • Animals – Black comedy/horror about a couple whose vacation becomes a surreal nightmare after their car hits and kills a sheep. Screening July 16 & 18.
  • Assholes – This incestuous anal sex themed comedy with a butt monster aims to be the grossout ticket of the year. See it Aug 1, if you dare.
  • The Endless – Bored by life on the outside, two apostates return to the UFO death cult they had abandoned. Screens Aug 1.
  • The Honor Farm – High school seniors decide to take an after-prom shroom trip in an abandoned prison; bad idea. July 15 & 17.
  • Infiltration [Le Problème d’Infiltration] – A wealthy reconstructive surgeon’s life falls apart after he is threatened with a malpractice suit. World premiere Aug. 2.
  • Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is UnbreakableTakashi Miike opens the festival once more with this manga adaptation that pits a hero with bizarre hair against a serial killer. Debuted yesterday, with an encore screening July 23.
  • The Laplace’s Demon – Eight researchers are trapped in a castle in this retro B&W feature exploring concepts of chance and free will. See it July 21 or 23.
  • Night Is Short, Walk on Girl – Anime about a college student following his dream girl through a surreal all-night used book store. July 30 & 31.

As a special treat, 366’s own Giles Edwards is in attendance and will be bringing us updates weekly (perhaps more frequently) on the Fest’s biggest and weirdest contenders. Fantasia Festival home page.

NEW ON DVD:

Pulse (2001): Read our review. Arrow Video’s release of ‘s apocalyptic millennial J-horror comes with a ton of extras for fans, including a collectible booklet available with this pressing only. Buy Pulse [Blu-ray/DVD combo.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Fifth Element (1997): Read our review. ‘s cult-y sci-fi epic upgraded to a 4K presentation; no extra features are listed. The Fifth Element Blu-ray.

Pulse (2001): See description in DVD above. Buy Pulse [Blu-ray/DVD combo.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Maximum Shame (2010): Read our review of ‘ “apocalyptic fetish horror musical chess sci-fi weird feature movie.” You can watch it on YouTube or embedded on the director’s personal site.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/23/2017

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

The Bad Batch (2016): ‘s much-anticipated followup to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features and and was originally pitched as “a dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.” Critics didn’t like it much, but then again they hated Southland Tales when it first came out, too. The Bad Batch official site.

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Blood Feast (2016): Faud Ramses wants to host an Egyptian feast to raise Ishtar, which will require lots of gore and cannibalism. This remake of ‘ classick pioneering gore feature is understandably drawing little attention (you can’t hope to top ‘s interpretation of the same material, after all). Blood Feast official Facebook page.

The Ornithologist (2016): While searching for an elusive black stork in Portugal, an ornithologist gets lost in the forest and experiences events that mimic the story of St. Anthony of Padua, with a gay twist. An arthouse festival favorite that’s been at the edge of our radar screen for a while now. The Ornithologist U.S. distributor site.

NEW ON DVD:

Tag (2015): Someone or something is killing schoolgirls in Japan. You may have seen viral videos of the notorious bus scene, or you may have noticed ‘s gory black comedy sitting in our reader-suggested queue. Buy Tag.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions (2004): Read our review. A mute male slave’s involvement with romance and rebel pornographers lands him in trouble in a sex-free future ruled by a totalitarian matriarchy. Watch FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions free on YouTube or on Carlos Atanes’ personal site.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

282. DEMENTIA [DAUGHTER OF HORROR] (1955)

“Do you know what madness is, or how it strikes? Have you seen the demons that surge through the corridors of the crazed mind? Do you know that in the world of the insane you’ll find a kind of truth more terrifying than fiction? A truth… that will shock you!”–Opening narration from Daughter of Horror

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: John Parker

FEATURING: Adrienne Barret, Bruno VeSota, Ed MacMahon (voice in Daughter of Horror cut)

PLOT: A nameless woman awakens from a nightmare and makes her way out onto the city streets. She meets a wealthy man and agrees to go with him, and imagines a bloody family drama enacted in graveyard while riding in his limousine. Later, she stabs the man and throws his body off his penthouse balcony; she is then pursued by a cop with the face of her father, who chases her into a jazz club.

Still from Dementia (Daughter of Horror) (1955)

BACKGROUND:

  • The film contains no dialogue, although it’s not technically a silent film as some sound effects can be heard.
  • Director John Parker has only Dementia and one short film (a dry run for this feature) in his filmography. We know little about him except that his parents were in the film distribution business.
  • Star Adrienne Barrett was Parker’s secretary, and the film was inspired by a nightmare she related to Parker.
  • Co-star and associate producer Bruno VeSota is perhaps better known for his work as a character actor in numerous pictures, including a memorable turn as a cuckolded husband in Attack of the Giant Leeches. VeSota later claimed to have co-written and co-directed the film (no director is listed in the credits).
  • Cinematographer William C. Thompson also lensed Maniac (1934) and Glen or Glenda? (1953), making him the rare craftsman to serve on three separate Certified Weird movies (all for different directors).
  • Dwarf (Freaks) plays the uncredited “newsboy.”
  • The score was written by one-time bad boy composer George Antheil, whose career had plummeted into film and TV scoring after having once been the toast of Paris’ avant-garde with “Ballet Mechanique” (1924).
  • Dementia was submitted to the New York Censor’s board in 1953, and refused a certificate (they called it “inhuman, indecent, and the quintessence of gruesomeness”—which they didn’t mean as praise). It was approved in 1955 after cuts. (Reportedly they requested removal of shots of the severed hand). The film was banned in Britain until 1970 (!)
  • After failing to find success in its original dialogue-free form, Dementia was re-released in 1957 with narration (from future late night talk show sidekick Ed McMahon) and retitled Daughter of Horror.
  • Daughter of Horror is the movie teenagers are watching in the theater when the monster strikes in The Blob.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Our protagonist (the “Gamin”) surrounded by faceless onlookers, who silently and motionlessly stare at her victim’s corpse. (Daughter of Horror‘s narrator unhelpfully informs us that these unearthly figurants are “the ghouls of insanity”).

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Precognitive headline; graveyard memories; throw on a dress

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A skid row nightmare, Dementia dips into post-WWII repression and exposes the underbelly of the American night. It’s a boozy odyssey through a netherworld of newsboys, flower peddlers, pimps, murderers, and hot jazz, with our heroine pursued by cops and faceless demons. It’s noirish, expressionist, and nearly silent, except when Ed MacMahon interrupts the proceedings with pulpy purple prose. Perhaps it was not quite “the strangest motion picture ever offered for distribution,” as Variety famously claimed, but, warts and all, it’s like nothing else you’ve seen. It was too much naked id for its time, taking the spirit of Allen Ginsburg’s “Howl” and channeling it into a guilt-drenched B-movie dream.


Original trailer for Daughter of Horror

COMMENTS: The first thing the Gamin sees when she wakes from Continue reading 282. DEMENTIA [DAUGHTER OF HORROR] (1955)

LIST CANDIDATE: ALMA (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Rodrigo Blaas

PLOT: Young Alma encounters a toy shop containing a doll bearing an uncanny resemblance to her.

Still from Alma (2009)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: In communicating its tale of terror in a style and medium almost uniformly associated with mainstream family-friendliness, Alma stands out as weird amidst today’s persistent stream of digital animation.

COMMENTS: As this site’s regular Saturday Short feature has proven, animation is one of the most fitting mediums for short-length cinematic weirdness. Whether minimalist or elaborate, animation offers a strong opportunity to evoke a particularly singular visual concept within a short frame of time.

Former Pixar employee Rodrigo Blaas—whose name appears in the credits of some of the studio’s most beloved features—has, with Alma, added his own particular twist to this well-established cinematic convention. Drawing on his past work, Blaas bring us his simple, independent tale of surreal horror in the bright, stylized CGI that’s now all but synonymous with modern mainstream animation.

In its themes and narrative, meanwhile, Alma recalls a more antiquated form of family entertainment. Its components—the snow upon slanted rooftops and narrow cobblestone alleys; the toy shop, at once quaint and sinister; the protagonist, a mischievous little one with the air of a vagabond—bring to mind the classical elements of old children’s’ books. The plotline, which imposes a nightmarish fate upon its young protagonist as punishment for a petty misdeed, evokes the Victorian cautionary tales that Hilare Belloc so famously lampooned.

Needless to say, this results in a strikingly unique piece of short cinema; especially considering that, despite mashing together conventions of children’s entertainment from opposite ends of the 20th century, it is very clearly not intended for children. The simple plot follows young Alma, who, prancing merrily down a snowy alleyway one day, encounters a toy shop, with a doll precisely resembling her in the window. Unable to resist this singular temptation, she heads into the unattended shop to take the doll for herself, and meets horrifying consequences—ones that add a twist to the primal fear of endless damnation.

Told, like many short works of weirdness, entirely without dialogue, the story of Alma is, as befitting the nature of Blaas’ past work, communicated via five minutes’ worth of highly expressive visuals that quietly convey basic narrative and subtle details alike. Alma’s slightly ragged appearance hints at her humble background, lending context to her sticky-fingered nature. Hundreds of children have chalked their names on the wall in the alleyway in which she finds the shop. It’s also lined with what might be interpreted as a number of “Missing” posters, ominously hinting at the shop’s scourge of terror. And the store window, picturesque upon first glance, takes on the appearance of a leering monster’s gaping maw when examined more closely.

In terms of weirdness, Alma has its more obvious elements: most notably, flashes of surreal, nightmarish images when Alma seizes the doll. The genuine uniqueness of the short, however, is found in its bold effort to render an artistically-driven work of cinema in a style that’s become emblematic of mega-budget commercial family cinema. The contrast is striking. As an artistic choice, it’s not unprecedented, but Blaas, having come directly off the set of some of the industry’s leading titles, evokes the style with particular authenticity.

Development is currently underway for a Dreamworks-backed feature-length adaptation of the short. As many have already predicted, even with Blaas himself at the helm, it seems highly likely that this horrifying tale, effective chiefly for its simplicity, will lose more than a little of its punch when stretched into feature-length. If nothing else, however, said feature might draw a little more much-deserved attention to the original short.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…this is a fairytale of the old kind, and if you have any sensitivity at all, you’ll be shivering as the snow drifts down at the end.”–Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film (contemporaneous)

Alma from Rodrigo Blaas on Vimeo.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/24/2017

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available at the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Drifter (2016): A pair of post-apocalyptic assassins stumble into a town of psychotic cannibals. “Starburst” describes it as “[s]urreal stylings and extreme violence…Drifter official Facebook page.


NEW ON DVD:

Psychomania (1973): Bullfrog-worshiping bikers kill themselves so they can come back as living-dead cyclists. Arrow Films restores the British cult B-movie and releases it in a DVD/Blu-ray bundle with archival interviews and supplements. Buy Psychomania [DVD/Blu-ray combo].

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Boy Friend (1971): An understudy gets her big break in a musical production. completists will be interested in this oddity in his canon: a musical spoofing musicals, starring Twiggy, and, most shockingly, rated “G.” Buy The Boy Friend [Blu-ray].

Psychomania (1973): See description in DVD above. Buy Psychomania [DVD/Blu-ray combo].

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

V FOR VICTORY or THE FALL AND RISE OF CONNIE STARTRAVELER (2016): Visual concept album from Athens, Ohio band SUPERNOBODY, with a plot that mixes E.T. with “Ziggy Stardust.” A gorilla befriends a space-marionette and defends it from UFO investigators. About 45 minutes, or one hour if you watch the outtakes.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.