Apologies first: last week, I said the Dark Backward review would appear, but real life intervened and we couldn’t get it out.  Expect to see it appear early next week.  Other reviews that are planned, but may or may not appear next week: our long-anticipated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind treatment, John Hand’s low-budget sci-fi followup to Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare, Scars of Youth (2008), and, just for giggles, Beyond Re-Animator.

For our weirdest search term used to locate the site last week, we’ll go with someone’s attempt to track down info on a very obscure film sub-genre: “ElectroMagnetic Field comedy movies.”

The reader-suggested review queue looks like this: Survive Style 5+ (looking for a copy); The Dark Backward (next week–this time, I swear!); The Short Films of David Lynch; Santa Sangre; Dead Man; Inland Empire; Monday (assuming I can find an English language version); The Abominable Dr. Phibes; Barton Fink; What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams); Meatball Machine; Xtro; Basket Case; Suicide Club; O Lucky Man!; Trash Humpers (when/if released); Gozu; Tales of Ordinary Madness; The Wayward Cloud; Kwaidan; Six-String Samurai; Andy Warhol’s Trash; Altered States; Memento; Nightmare Before Christmas/Vincent/Frankenweenie; The Science of Sleep; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (possibly jumping in line to come out next week); Gothic; The Attic Expeditions; After Last Season; Getting Any?; Performance; Being John Malkovich; The Apple; Southland Tales; Arizona Dream; Spider (2002); Songs From The Second Floor; Singapore Sling; Alice [Neco z Alenky]; Necromania (1971, Ed Wood); Hour of the Wolf; MirrorMaskPossession; Suspiria; Mary and Max; Wild Zero; 4; Nothing (2003); The Peanut Butter Solution; Ninja Scroll; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Danger: Diabolik; Faust; Sublime; Battle Royale; Pink Floyd: The Wall;Escanaba In Da Moonlight; Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter; Zardoz; The Films of Suzan Pitt; and Toto the Hero [Toto le Héros]. Wow!


David Firth, creator of our first Saturday Short “Crooked Rot”, receives his second appearance on our site with the eighth episode of his bizarre comedy series, Salad Fingers. (If you haven’t seen the previous seven, don’t worry. There’s no background information you’ll need in order to understand this one.) Whether you laugh so hard you puke, or curl up in the fetal position during this clip, one thing is certain, David is a master of weird.


A 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 on the official site links.


Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2009):  An intriguing, though badly underpromoted, idea.  Shades of Waking Life, a team of animators animated scenes from the public domain classic Night of the Living Dead in varying styles encompassing “everything from puppet theater to CGI, hand drawn animation to flash, and oil paintings to tattoos.”  It will surely come out on DVD someday, but for now it seems to be popping up in sporadic screenings (though the only one I’ve heard of was in Alaska).  Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated official site. [UPDATE: per project organizer Mike Schneider (see comment), readers are encouraged to contact their “local independent theater or favorite tv/ web horror host to contact screening@notldr.com” to arrange a screening of the movie. This is a not-for-profit project, which helps explain why they are trying to promote it solely through word of mouth.]

Saint John of Las Vegas: This quirky road trip story about a retired blackjack player turned insurance fraud investigator returning to Las Vegas has some surreal interludes, but even the presence of Steve Buscemi and Sarah Silverman hasn’t stopped critics from savagely beating it and leaving the remains for dead in the desert (a stunningly bad 5% on Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer).  Saint John of Las Vegas official site.


Sundance (Park City, Utah, Jan 21-31):  Sundance snuck up on us this year!  No wonder: the indie fest is not really a friend to innovation and experimentalism so much as it is to environmentalism, leftist politics in general, and insomnia-curing documentaries.  Nonetheless, there are some weird and potentially weird films screening this year:

  • Armless – comedy about a married suburban man he finally gathers the courage to live out his lifelong dream: having his arms amputated
  • Cane Toads: The Conquest – a sequel to Mark Lewis’ 1998 cult documentary about the “invasion” of cane toads in Australia—this go-round, in 3-D!
  • Enter the Void – fresh from an unsuccessful run at Cannes and primed for an unsuccessful run at Sundance, this story of an immigrant Tokyo drug dealer/addict who survives a hail of gunfire as a hallucinating ghost is described by director Gaspar (Irréversible) Noé as a “psychedelic melodrama.”
  • Memories of Overdevelopment [Memorias del desarrollo] – Collage-style story of a Cuban exile in the United States. The overwritten press release claims it is, among other things, “a surreal foray into memory and the unconscious.”
  • ODDSAC – A 53-minute “visual album” matching experimental visuals to the equally experimental music of Animal Collective. Visuals and audio are both definitely trippy.
  • Pepperminta – Swiss story of a literally colorful young woman who throws swaths of psychedelic dye and groovy fantasy over the mundane world outside her door. Sundance includes a multimedia installation revealingly titled Lobe of Lung: The Saliva Ooze Away to the Underground that allows the viewer to “lounge inside the film”.
  • The Temptation of St. Tony [Püha Tõnu kiusamine] – Black and white, surrealist Estonian film about a mid-level manager who begins to question the value of virtue; the scenario seems to be inspired equally by the story of St. Anthony and Dante’s “Inferno.”  For our purposes, the most promising entry at Sundance, and the film we’ll be keeping an eye on.
  • Vegetarian – Korean film about a young woman who has dreams that cause her to become disgusted by meat.  Hard to get a fix on what it’s going to be like.
  • The Violent Kind – a movie about drug-dealing outlaw bikers and their encounter with the supernatural and weird colors in the sky.  Self-described “gleeful, insane exploitation”; Twitch called it “the pinnacle of the WTF?! genre.” Another one to watch for.


Goodbye Gemini (1970): A very obscure British psychothriller about a pair of fraternal twins (with the usual eerie bond) who are introduced into the swinging subculture of mod 1960’s London. Buy Goodbye Gemini.

Little Ashes (2009): Read our capsule review.  Dry and gossipy biopic about the rumored love affair between Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García. Buy Little Ashes.

Paris, Texas (1984): Not necessarily weird, but Wim Wender’s starkly beautiful movie about a man found wandering in the desert who starts to reconnect with the life he left behind has an odd and dreamlike tone that becomes hypnotic at times.  Highly recommended; a great add by the Criterion Collection. Buy Paris, Texas (Criterion Collection).

Ponytypool (2008): Read our capsule review. High-concept, low-budget “zombie” movie where a virus is spread through language. Buy Pontypool.

Troma’s War (Tromasterpiece Edition) (1988): Several Tromaville citizens crash land on a Caribbean island and are soon caught up in a third world war.  If you’ve seen one Troma movie, you’ve pretty much seen them all.  No idea how this “Tromasterpiece” edition differs from the previous release. Buy Troma’s War (Tromasterpiece Edition).


Paris, Texas (1984): See description under DVD above. Buy Paris, Texas [Blu-ray].

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.


Background: reader Funkadelic has gone above and beyond the call of duty in making suggestions/recommendations for inclusion on the site, both in the feature and short film categories. Not that I want to encourage readers to compete to outdo him and try to get their own dedicated posts, but I thought I could clean up the suggestion thread a bit by moving his numerous recommendations to their own post. Please enjoy; Funky’s tastes are in line with ours, his enthusiasm is infectious, and everything here comes pre-recommended.

Links go to trailers or short clips, or in the case of shorts to the complete films.

FUNAKDELIC says: “I can’t help the enthusiasm in discovering this site. It fits my taste like an iridescent, window-to-another-world glove with elongated fingers.”


Santa Sangre (already in your queue)

Svankmayer’s Faust
Jan Svankmayer’s Faust
(Really any svankmayer movie will do)

The Cell
The Cell



The Fall
The Fall

Yellow Submarine
Yellow Submarine

Why no Fantastic Planet?

How about a couple weird “bad” movies?

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter



DIRECTED BYJames Felix McKenney

FEATURING: Don Wood, Christine Spencer, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister, Debbie Rochon, Michael Berryman, Larry Fessenden

PLOT: In this re-imagining of the “Christ-sploitation” films shown in churches and

Still from Satan Hates You (2009)

probably a few Southern gynecologists’ offices of the 60s and 70s, we follow a young man and woman who make all the wrong choices in a haze of drugs, alcohol, and rock music while unknowingly under the influence of two demonic imps.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Satan Hates You, while initially very jarring in its lack of self-explanation, is a satisfying experience in terms of its Troma-esque shock horror and its acute satirical edge.  But its freaky imagery leans too often on a bland naturalistic style that mars its individuality and chokes the weirdness out of the movie.

COMMENTS: Satan Hates You is a very hard film to place.  Being a satire, a dark comedy, and a horror film is no ordinary pedigree, and Satan Hates You maniacally shifts from one of these genres to the next every few minutes.  It is a wicked send-up of those fear-mongering Christian PSA films that pop into existence every generation about the dangers of doing ungodly things like having abortions and doing drugs.  But it honestly doesn’t hit you that way when you watch it if you don’t do your research.  The first time watching it, I felt this to just be a dark, meandering horror-comedy about two idiots who make a lot of bad choices.  Director James Felix McKenney doesn’t really go out of his way to make this idea pop out at the audience with staples of the “Christ-sploitation” genre, like cheesy acting, an oversimplification of right and wrong, and loads of self-righteous condemnation.  We are instead tossed quite objectively into these people’s lives, full of sex, murder, and self-sabotage, and don’t get dropped many hints that we’re supposed to be in on a joke.

Once one understands the idea, everything falls into place a little more, and it does Continue reading CAPSULE: SATAN HATES YOU (2009)



FEATURING: , Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Chris Tucker

PLOT: 300 years in the future, an ex-special ops agent turned taxi driver must collect four stones and discover the fifth element to stop the universe from being destroyed by evil, with the help of a scantily-clad supreme being.

Still from The Fifth Element (1997)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LISTThe Fifth Element is unique and has its devoted fans, but although it’s much busier and more colorful than the average Hollywood space opera, in the end, it’s not so much weird as simply chaotic and overstuffed.

COMMENTS: You can probably gauge your tolerance for The Fifth Element according to your tolerance for antic comedian Chris Tucker and his amphetaminic falsetto.  Although he’s not a major player in the story, for better or worse his blond, over-coiffed, simpering talk-show diva dominates every scene he’s in, and is emblematic of the grotesquely overdrawn elements that populate Besson’s world.  Furthermore, his unnecessary presence is introduced through a senseless plot contrivance (the idea that this Oprah-on-a-galactic-scale pop icon would be obsessed with building a broadcast around a non-celebrity contest winner), which is itself symbolic of the way the script seizes any opportunity to shoehorn in any idea that occurs to it.  A few of those ideas include a future New York City grown up to the sky and jam packed with flying cars, Milla Jovovivh as a cloned carrot-haired “supreme being” wrapped in a tiny ace bandage, and Gary Oldman as a villainous comic-relief corporate honcho with a southern accent and a dedicated phone line to receive important calls from Ultimate Evil.  It’s insanely baroque, and the craziness itself is the glue that holds it together even as the wild story makes only a token gesture at sense, relying instead on the viewer to fill in the gaps through their familiarity with conventions of other blockbuster “save the universe” sci-fi epics.  Although it starts out looking like a Die Hard/Raiders of the Lost Ark hybrid set in space, at approximately one hour in comic relief completely hijacks the movie when Oldman’s Zorg threatening meeting with a high priest ends with him choking on a cherry and frantically punching buttons for random automated tasks on his desk.  The comedy never looks back, and this reliance on humor is the film’s ultimate downfall, because it is not very funny.  It’s filled with characters comically fainting, or being shut inside a collapsible refrigerator as Bruce Willis frantically tries to entertain multiple guests in his shabby apartment, or Chris Tucker delivering yet another incomprehensibly high-pitched monologue.  The movie is messy as hell, bouncing back and forth from action to comedy to spectacle to apocalyptic mythology with an eight-year-old kid’s enthusiasm and attention span, and that lack of focus may make the movie come off as mildly weird to those used to more disciplined Hollywood epics.  The Fifth Element has one thing unconditionally in its favor: the costume and set design is masterful, keeping the eye busy and delighted even while the mind wanders off the plot.  The background characters are all so punked out that the few clean cut authority figures stand out as the weirdos.  Although The Fifth Element is a cult movie some people treasure precisely because of its idiosyncratic flaws, which make it unlike any other would-be blockbuster, I can’t count myself among them.

With it’s overwhelmingly American cast and genre, there’s little that’s distinctively French about this movie except its director, Luc Besson, who had previously scored arthouse and critical successes with the stylish La Femme Nikkita (1990) and Leon [The Professional] (1994).  Nonetheless, it was the most expensive French made film to date, surpassing the great weird fantasy The City of Lost Children [La cité des enfants perdus].


“…one of the great goofy movies–a film so preposterous I wasn’t surprised to discover it was written by a teenage boy. That boy grew up to become Luc Besson, director of good smaller movies and bizarre big ones, and here he’s spent $90 million to create sights so remarkable they really ought to be seen.”–Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (Cannes premiere)


DIRECTED BY: Peter Jackson

FEATURING: Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, , Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon

PLOT: A murdered 14-year old girl watches her family search for her killer from the afterlife.

Still from The Lovely Bones (2009)


WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  There are a few weird visual elements in Susie’s pleasant and candy-colored Purgatory, but The Lovely Bones tells a conventional, if unusual, story at heart.

COMMENTS:  With its mix of fantasy, drama, teen girls and murder, Peter Jackson’s latest superficially hearkens back to his wonderful Heavenly Creatures (1994); but the originality and intensity of that early vision is gone now, replaced by Hollywood sentimentality.  The Lovely Bones is ambitious in its attempt to juggle many mixed tones, but it can’t quite navigate the tricky terrain from tragedy to mystery to reconciliation while shoehorning in comedy (a nicely campy but unnecessary turn by Susan Sarandon as a hard-drinking granny) and Hollywood spectacle.  There some memorable fantasy images, such as a fleet of bottled ships crashing onto rocks, but for the most part the heavenly landscapes Jackson imagines are appealing and picture-postcard pretty, but uninvolving; Susie’s heaven seems like it’s been designed by Terry Gilliam reincarnated as a tween girl.  As a thriller, the movie fails.  We know from the beginning who the killer is, so our only interest is in seeing how he will slip up and be discovered.  No clues are provided that would allow the Susie’s surviving family to out him, however; the revelation comes through supernatural nudging from beyond the grave that feels a lot like cheating.  At a key moment, the movie abruptly stops being a thriller—just as excitement should be peaking—to return to exploring family dynamics.  It’s a misstep that’s revealing of the difficulty the movie has shifting gears.  The ending is cloying; the murder victims gather on the Elysian fields to sing a contemporary pop-music version of “Kumbaya,” followed by Susie’s unlikely return to earth to take care of unfinished business solely of interest to teen girls.  The ending is also a cheat, preaching reconciliation and forgiveness while giving the audience a vicarious form of justice that falls flat.  The Lovely Bones is not all bad: the performances are excellent, particularly Tucci’s subtle turn as the monster next door who appears to be just slightly odd, and young Saoirse Ronan, who generates tremendous empathy as the victim.  There are some heart-tugging scenes, some suspenseful scenes, and some heavenesque eye candy to stare at.  Jackson shows tact in not dwelling on the crude facts of the rape-murder, revealing the horror instead with an impressionistic and disquieting, unreal sequence set in a bare bathroom (a minimalist scene that’s a lot more effective than the garish paradises on which he lavishes his CGI budget).  But, overall the movie reinforces Jackson’s inconsistency rather than his genius—he has yet to sniff a return to the grandiose triumph of his Lord of the Rings trilogy, while simultaneously he’s lost the punkish grit of his pre-fame films like Dead-Alive.

The Lovely Bones was based on a much-beloved novel by Alice Sebold, and, as is usually the case, fans of the book (including most critics who also read the original) aren’t thrilled with the film adaptation, saying that a subtle reflection on grief and living has been reduced to little more than a supernatural potboiler.


“Other elements, including ‘The Lovely Bones’ imaginative notion of what Susie’s afterlife looks like, are strong, but everything that’s good is undermined by an overemphasis on one part of the story that is essential but has been allowed to overflow its boundaries.  That would be the film’s decision to foreground its weirdest, creepiest, most shocking elements, starting with the decision to give a much more prominent role to murderer George Harvey.”–Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times



FEATURING: John R. Hand, Amy Olivastro

PLOT: A scientist—or perhaps his monster, it’s never quite clear—kills women to harvest their body parts so the doctor can resurrect his dead love.

Still from Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare (2006)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Missing apostrophe aside, there’s lots to admire about Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare, though not as much to love. Director Hand shows a remarkable technical ability to create unique visual and auditory environments inspired by the 1970s trash movies of , , and , but with their cheap, desperate Super-8 stylistics exaggerated to surreal levels. The problem is that, for all its technical ingenuity, the movie has no story to tell, which will cause the average viewer to lose interest quickly.

COMMENTS: Frankensteins flesh may be recycled out of various parts snatched from grindhouse graveyards, but its heart was taken straight from the arthouse. One man show John R. Hand (writer/director/editor/composer/star) obviously watched a lot of 1970s horror cheapies growing up, and (like us) he was clearly more impressed by the mysterious artificial ambiances created by grainy film stock and heavy use of theremins, oscillators and other weird sci-fi audio effects than he was by the nudity and gore those drive-in auteurs depended on to sell tickets. Nightmare strips away the exploitation elements from these flicks (bloody it ain’t), adopting only the bare outline of a mad scientist story. It then seizes the distressed visuals and shaky audio that remains, and amplifies these leftovers to psychedelic levels. Hand himself is too boyish looking to convey the soul of a tortured scientist, and his acting is no better than the rest of the amateurs in the film. Given the intent is to mimic an exploitation film, this might not detract too much from the atmosphere, had there just been enough story and action to keep the viewer engaged. Dialogue is sometimes muffled and inaudible, making a difficult-to-follow story nearly impossible. It’s a bizarre experience to feel lost inside a the plot of a movie where almost nothing is happening onscreen.

Stylistically, on the other hand, there’s always something going on. The opening mixes grainy home-video style footage with bright, solarized footage depicting a pitchfork assault; strange whines, moans, blips, and electronic drones assault our ears, building to a dissonant crescendo. The film changes style every five minutes or so, as we tour Hand’s portfolio of foggy lenses, overexposed film, desaturated colors, psychedelic color filters, thermal imaging, a  psycho-sexual dream sequence, all accompanied by a disquieting soundtrack of distorted Moog organs and overdubbed tape effects. The penultimate scene in the film contains an absolutely beautiful effect where the autumn landscape, then an actress’ face, magically and organically melt into abstract blobs of orange and gold and purple (the director’s commentary reveals the cheap and ingenious method by which it was achieved: household bleach on still photographs).

Overall, Nightmare is a worthy experiment that’s successful in short stretches, but could have used a lot more story. A few bare boobs and a pint or two of gooey stage blood, the key elements this film’s inspirations never would have left out, would also have livened things up.

I can see why would give Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare an honorable mention on his top 10 weird movies list. Depending as it does on discount techniques for creating striking moods, this is a movie that can almost serve as a textbook to Hand’s fellow micro-budget filmmakers.


“…a wild cocktail of nightmarish sensibilities; its death nerve twitches to a disquieting mish-mash of strange images and even stranger sounds… The story is bootleg but Hand’s head-trippy dissolving of consciousness is something fierce, inviting repeat viewings with a joint in hand.”–Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine (contemporaneous)


Some low-budget, under-the-radar reviews are coming next week: look for pre-release coverage of James Felix McKenney‘s Christian scare film parody, Satan Hates You (2009), and John Hand’s micro-budget artsploitation horror Frankenstein’s Bloody Nightmare (2006).  For something more mainstream, we’ll throw in a review of the bizarre, reader-suggested black comedy The Dark Backward (1991).  (How many sites can claim a movie about a stand-up comic growing a third arm out of his back is the most mainstream film they’ll be reviewing that week?)

The weirdest search term used to locate the site this week was an easy choice:  “Disney movie that a tiny boy jumps into a pile of dog poop.”  We think someone may have gotten their memories of Toy Story and Pink Flamingos mixed up, but if such a movie does exist, we’d like to know about it.

The reader-suggested review queue continues to grow at an alarming pace.  Here it is: Survive Style 5+ (looking for a copy), The Dark Backward (next week), The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, Inland Empire, Monday (assuming I can find an English language version), The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Barton Fink, What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams), Meatball Machine, Xtro, Basket Case, Suicide Club, O Lucky Man!, Trash Humpers (when/if released), Gozu, Tales of Ordinary Madness, The Wayward Cloud, Kwaidan, Six-String Samurai, Andy Warhol’s Trash, Altered States, Memento, Nightmare Before Christmas/Vincent/Frankenweenie, The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Gothic, The Attic Expeditions, After Last Season, Getting Any?, Performance, Being John Malkovich, The Apple, Southland Tales, Arizona Dream, Spider (2002), Songs From The Second Floor, Singapore Sling, Alice [Neco z Alenky], Necromania (1971, Ed Wood), Hour of the Wolf, MirrorMaskPossession, Suspiria, Mary and Max, Wild Zero, 4, Nothing (2003), The Peanut Butter Solution, Ninja Scroll, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Danger: Diabolik, Faust, Sublime, and Battle Royale.


Must See


PLOT: A young girl finds a magical dancing idol when she cuts open a rabbit.

COMMENTS: Run Wrake’s Rabbit is a beautifully frightening, and award-winning, parable about greed that taps into the ancient, grim fairy tale tradition of placing children in harm’s way to illustrate a cautionary point. Rabbit, however, turns that motif on it’s head by making the children the villains. With it’s storybook graphics and text labels hovering over background objects as if it were an animated reading primer, Rabbit creates an eight-minute universe we’ve never seen before, one which is so unflinchingly original it can never be recreated. Like a talking fish out of Grimm’s fairy tales, the golden idol is one of those mysterious folklore creatures with it’s own weird rules and a slow-boiling intolerance for human folly that inevitably leads to tragedy for those unwise enough to abuse its patience. The irony of using innocent looking but thoroughly rapacious children in this sordid scenario isn’t done for shock value alone—although it is shocking, delightfully so—but rather speaks to our deepest suspicions about human nature: that we’re corrupt from birth, and must unlearn our instinctive childish badness.

Although it’s no Saw VI, Rabbit contains some quick and absurd violence and gore. If you find any depiction of darling little boys and girls with ponytails and ruddy cheeks slaughtering innocent woodland creatures for personal gain disturbing, no matter how tastefully done,then you’ll probably want to stay away from this one!


“…an animated version of a Dick & Jane primer that takes a scarily surreal turn.”–Noel Murray, Onion A.V. Club (compilation DVD)

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!