EXQUISITES 2019: Films Of The Year

In Anyab, the Egyptian rip-off of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Ali faces the camera and says gravely, “If someone can think a little, he can understand everything.” Then, a ludicrous amount of stage fog rolls in and a vampire frolics around in sparkling gold go-go boots.

We understand everything. And we want more.

For Bleeding Skull!, 2019 was another prodigious year of discovering and sharing films that inspire and awe. We released Blood Lake with the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), so now everyone can spend a weekend with Lil’ Tony (“I’ve got my beer, my sex partner—I’m fine!”). At Fantastic Fest we unleashed W.A.V.E veteran Tina Krause and her surreal nightmare Limbo. We also let loose Dean Alioto and The McPherson Tape and unveiled the conspiracy (or lack thereof) behind a family and an alien invasion.

We continued to explore the depths of DIY filmmaking, discovering a wide range of ambitious, passionate, mind-bending, and head-scratching works that remind us that humans are capable of anything. We landed a goddamn robot on Mars and we made a movie where someone vomits live centipedes, which may or may not be venomous. From the surreal stream-of-consciousness of “Hollywood’s greatest tough guy Damon Packard” to meaty Joel D. Wynkoop and his ham-shaped fists of fury, we plucked ten of our favorite discoveries that were new to the site in 2019. These are films that shouldn’t be missed—you definitely want to see a jealous woman shrink her naked co-workers with a raygun. And then eat them.

Acne (Rusty Nails, 2000)
DVD / Full Review
“To appreciate underground genre movies, you have to know what you’re getting into. For every brilliant discovery, like Sarah Jacobson’s I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, you’ll have to deal with dozens of pretentious, art-fart bummers that are more exhausting than having brunch with Johnny Depp. Acne isn’t pretentious or a bummer. Shot on sparkling 16mm in black and white, this movie plays out like an otherworldly mixtape comprised of the filmmaker’s influences. Acne absorbs the abstract sci-fi concepts of Alphaville, the caffeinated humor of We’re All Devo, the body-horror creeps of Night of the Living Dead, and the romantic idealization of 1950s trash culture—and spits them out at us. Literally, because there are many scenes of zit-heads barfing.”

Anyab (Mohammed Shebl, 1981)
DVD-R / Full Review
Anyab was the passion project of director Mohammed Shebl, who poured his heart and significant savings into this project. Unfortunately it never caught cult status in Egypt, though in our hearts, it certainly has. This is a low-budget film with lofty ambitions and incredible production design, which includes hand-drawn speech bubbles and opulent sets. The costumes are a mix of a Halloween store and 80s Jazzercise wear. And while it does lull and lag during its 100-minute runtime, it electrifies during the musical numbers. The original songs are toe-tapping fist-pumpers that incorporate modern and traditional instruments. If the soundtrack were on vinyl, hipsters from Portland to Brooklyn would spin it at their DJ nights. But I should mention that there are plenty of familiar songs in the film too, including The Pink Panther and The Munsters theme songs.”

Blood Brothers (Mike Diana, 1989)
DVD / Full Review
Blood Brothers is a seven-course meal for connoisseurs of bad taste. Like Hawk Jones, this movie presents an adult world that is mostly populated by humans who weren’t old enough to drive. But if the ‘grown-up’ equivalent of the happy-go-lucky world of Hawk Jones is Action Jackson, then Blood Brothers would be The Last House on Dead End Street. The psychology of Blood Brothers was damaged in the same suburban war zone that left Mike Diana permanently scarred. Out of the rubble, we find a primordial angst that can only be satiated by pounding the keys of a Casio SK-1 keyboard, kindergarteners huffing glue, and a kid smashing a television over another kid’s head. It’s disturbing, inconceivable, and hilarious—a real-life Trash Humpers that’s a thousand times more watchable than Harmony Korine’s art-fart sleeping pill.”

Centipede Horror (Keith Li, 1982)
VHS / Full Review
Centipede Horror is an action-packed gift from Hong Kong director Keith Li. It’s a perfect little package filled with creepy crawlies, melodrama, evil spirits, a very cute dog, and mystics wearing headbands and frizzy wigs. The budget may be low, but the production value is high and ambitious. There are elaborate set pieces and flying fireball effects, and a plot that is cohesive and, dare I say, logical. Storylines meet and are tied neatly together, but there’s still room for plenty of invention and flashbacks that thrust the narrative forward. This is a film where everyone gives it their all, most especially Margaret Li as Yeuk-Chee. She actually vomits centipedes. Meaning she stuffed centipedes into her mouth and then spit them out onto the floor while someone held her hair back. That’s what we call dedication to the craft.”

G.B.H. (David Kent-Watson, 1983)
DVD-R / Full Review
“There is much to love about G.B.H. It’s one part James Bond, one part Charles Bronson, and all parts dad. This is dad-action at its best: a middle-aged working class bouncer exploring his greatest fantasies and doing the hard work of capturing them on video. Twemlow was involved with nearly every aspect of the filmmaking. If you love the disco and the soundtrack, then you love Twemlow because he composed some of the music. If you like the elbow-throwing and shootouts, then you like Twemlow because he choreographed the stunts. If you appreciate the age jokes, then you appreciate Twemlow because he wrote the script and made it clear that if you think he’s only 35 to 40 years old, then you are flattering him and he will take you into the bedroom and ravage you.”

Eaten Alive!: A Tasteful Revenge (Gary Whitson, 1999)
VHS / Full Review
“Stacey (W.A.V.E veteran Debbie D) finds Robin (filmmaker and W.A.V.E favorite Tina Krause) in the shower. This is where you can find 50% of the women in W.A.V.E. movies. Stacey confirms that indeed Robin is prettier and sexier and she must be removed from the equation. Stacey takes out the raygun and shrinks this minx who has stolen her job. Ultra-cheap video effects turn naked Robin into a tiny naked Robin. This alone is worth the price of admission. But then Stacey picks her up and eats her. Down the gullet Robin goes! And this is when Eaten Alive goes from great to greatest.”

Lost Faith (Joel D. Wynkoop, 1983)
VHS / Full Review
Lost Faith is an explosive, shot-on-video, dad-action epic that shows us everything Joel D. Wynkoop has to offer, namely his dedication to hard work and his roundhouse kicks. This film may be low budget, but it’s high octane. You appreciate every ounce of ambition that went into this production, from the script to the stunt work. Every single actor ratchets it up to 11; there’s yelling, sputtering, over-the-top outrage, and flubbed lines delivered with passion. There’s numbskull Three Stooges comedy, lessons about God, and a cast that’s diverse not only in race but also in shape and size.”

Reflections of Evil (Damon Packard, 2002)
DVD / Full Review
“Damon Packard spent his formative years making ambitious Super 8 shorts like the gore-drenched, time travel mini-epic Dawn of an Evil Millennium and sleeping in a tent. Then an unexpected inheritance gave him the opportunity to fulfill his dream of making a feature-length movie. Produced and self-distributed entirely by Packard, Reflections of Evil is a highly personal psychedelic collage that utilizes 16mm film, video, and found footage to comment on the hopelessness of society. Similar in execution and intent to Barry Gillis’ Wicked World, Reflections is true genre anarchy, a rage-filled manifesto that’s simultaneously exhausting and invigorating. It’s a movie that tows the line between artsy triumph and genre pastiche, making it eligible for “greatest hits” lists culled from both Amos Vogel’s Film as a Subversive Art and Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Video Guide.”

Son of Dracula (Saleem Suma, 1999)
VCD / Full Review
“Like most DIY horror movies from India, Son of Dracula features a complicated plot, bizarro comic relief, and people singing songs about how their bodies are pudding that can be tasted at any time. But unlike Kanti Shah’s Pyaasa Haiwan, this isn’t a static, two-hour sleeping pill about a guy in a gorilla suit attacking people. Watching Son of Dracula is like walking into a video game arcade in the lobby of an insane asylum and feeling overwhelmed by the combination of neon, loud noises, and inmates throwing food. A collaboration between director Saleem Suma and prolific actor-filmmaker-musician Joginder, this is an experimental gutter-art project that pummels you with gorgeous, acid-fueled visuals and discombobulated anti-logic for 90 minutes. There’s nothing else like it.”

Where Evil Dwells (Tommy Turner & David Wojnarowicz, 1985)
DVD-R / Full Review
Where Evil Dwells has no time for linear storytelling. The details of Ricky Kasso’s story are represented, but the focus is on creating a living, breathing nightmare on Super 8 film. Like Tom Hanson’s The Zodiac Killer, this is an interpretation of a true crime that was made while the events were still fresh. But Zodiac Killer is pure exploitation. Director Hanson had no ambitions aside from wanting to ‘catch the killer’ and also catch a big pile of dough. Where Evil Dwells is the opposite — an unfinished, 30-minute juggernaut of experimental sludge-horror that could set the tone for a thousand haunted house dance parties hosted by Lux Interior and Poison Ivy from The Cramps.”

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