2015 was full of great films for me, most of which I didn’t review for Silver Emulsion. What can I say, my time has dwindled and my interest in the blog has diminished a bit. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but one thing that hasn’t faded is my love of film. I usually watch mostly old movies, and in 2015 I cuddled deep under the warm blanket of older films even more than usual. I only saw eight 2015 movies in 2015, and two of those were right at the end of December so they hardly count. If you care, Mad Max: Fury Road is easily my pick for the best of the year (if not the last few years), and I doubt anything could unseat it. Anyway, enough about what this post isn’t!
Below I present the Top 10 films I saw in 2015 that were new to me. Maybe you like them, too?
#10 Q (1982)
Directed by Larry Cohen
I’ve always been interested in exploring film in its many forms, but having Silver Emulsion has really pushed me far beyond what I would have otherwise done. In some cases, this has been a huge waste of time, but delving into the films of Larry Cohen has been one of the most rewarding journeys the blog has set me on. I watched three of his films last year and I loved them all (Bone & God Told Me To were the others), but Q was definitely the one that I enjoyed the most. The sheer audacity of the idea is exciting all on its own; it’s the kind of idea that if made today they’d say things like, “This wouldn’t have been possible without CG,” but here it is in all its 1982 glory. Admittedly, some will likely balk at its relatively low-budget FX work, but I found the FX to be absolutely enchanting and perfectly fitting for the film. Highly recommended!
#9 Nightmare City (1980)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi
Reviewed May 21, 2015
I’ve never been much of an Italian horror fan, and I hate running zombies. Nightmare City showed me that both can be absolutely amazing. The zombies are little more than crazed dudes with mud smeared on their faces, but it doesn’t matter. The energy with which they assault the living, and the fun creativity of the film’s locations, make for one of the most fun zombies films of all time. Just watch it and thank me later.
#8 Madman (1982)
Directed by Joe Giannone
Reviewed by Uncle Jasper June 21, 2010
Have you ever heard so much about a movie that you think you’ve seen it? Well, it happened to me with this movie. I had definitely seen chunks of it before, but never the whole thing. And it’s a shame because Madman is without a doubt one of the best slashers to ever slash. It’s a summer camp movie but it doesn’t indulge in the cliches; everything happens in one tortuous, dark night. Madman is lean, mean and very to-the-point. If you dig ’80s horror, Madman is a must, and I guarantee you’ll be humming the theme song for a while afterwards, too!
#7 Furious (1984)
Directed by Tim Everitt & Tom Sartori
I have a soft spot for horribly bad movies that earnestly do their best to craft a movie worth watching. Furious is one such movie, and not only does it transcend its budget to be highly entertaining, it’s also wildly ambitious and insane. The film’s opening shares more in common with Lord of the Rings than any kind of martial arts film you can think of, and there isn’t a word of dialogue for something like 10 minutes. It is immediately apparent that Furious is not just a low-budget film, but an entirely different and unique type of low-budget film. It’s hypnotic and hilarious, with some genuinely good martial arts action courtesy of the Rhee Brothers (who would later go on to make Best of the Best and do stunts in all kinds of big-time Hollywood movies like The Dark Knight). Oh, and there’s a guy who shoots chickens out of his hands like fireballs, and that’s just one of the film’s wonderfully insane ideas. An absolute must for B-movie fans.
#6 Society (1989)
Directed by Brian Yuzna
If this list proves anything, it’s that I love movies that a lot of people wouldn’t. I guess many of them are considered cult movies, but I’m hesitant to use the term because it feels derogatory to me. But regardless of my hang-ups, Society is a cult movie in this traditional way and a more literal one; it depicts a secret society in a very dated ’80s look at the American class struggle… and it culminates in some of the stickiest, gooiest, most grotesque special FX work I’ve ever seen. As much as it would put off your average viewer, I feel like it was tailor-made for me. If you’ve ever wondered if rich people were up to something strange in their houses in the hills, Society is the movie for you.
#5 Black Sunday (1960)
Directed by Mario Bava
I tried to get into Mario Bava 10–12 years ago by watching A Bay of Blood, but instead of sparking my interest then it merely planted a seed that finally sprouted in 2015. Spurred on by many of Bava’s films expiring from Netflix, I delved into Knives of the Avenger first and I was instantly hooked. It felt like an Italian sword & sandal version of a spaghetti western/Shaw Brothers wuxia; it was amazing. I went on to watch a whole bunch more that were equally impressive, but it was Black Sunday that made the biggest impression. The combo of shocking Italian gore and violence with classic Gothic horror visuals really captured my imagination. Blood and Black Lace is probably better and more entertaining movie, but my classic sensibilities make me give the edge to Black Sunday for inclusion on this list. If you’ve never seen a Bava film, he’s definitely worth exploring!
#4 BMX Bandits (1983)
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Man, this movie took me completely by surprise. It is an absolute blast! There’s a chase in the middle of the movie that’s like 20-something minutes of non-stop stunts and action! There’s a scene in a water park and they take their bikes down the water slides with them! It’s kinda like The Goonies, if the Goonies were riding around Australia on their bikes and one of them was Nicole Kidman. I don’t even know how to describe it to sell it to you, but I think if you need more convincing than what’s already here, it’s not a movie for you. Trust me, though, if you love ’80s movies, you need to see this one.
#3 A Touch of Zen (1971)
Directed by King Hu
Reviewed April 24, 2015
King Hu’s A Touch of Zen is a masterpiece of martial arts cinema. It shows how the genre can be elevated beyond its roots to explore deep, human themes while still providing the action thrills the genre is known for. Beautiful is the first word that comes to mind when I think of A Touch of Zen, and I’m happy that it seems more people will be able to experience it soon. The film was remastered recently by the Taiwan Film Archive and Masters of Cinema have a home release coming for the UK. There have been rumblings of a US Criterion release as well, but as of yet no official announcement has been made. In any case, it’s a stunning film that challenges the notion of what a martial arts film can be and any fan 0f world cinema should partake in its grand presence.
#2 The Gate (1987)
Directed by Tibor Takács
When I was a kid, I wasn’t really allowed to watch horror movies, but that didn’t stop me from looking at their boxes in the video store! I still remember many of these boxes and every so often I try to watch one of these films to scratch it off of my decades-old mental list. It’s hard for any film to live up to this kind of hype, but The Gate far exceeded any expectations I had, high or otherwise. It’s a fun story about kids conjuring up demons, but it was the way everything was realized that really captured my imagination. I sat in awe of the minions and how well integrated they were into the scenes. I honestly couldn’t figure out how they made what were obviously guys in suits appear so small on-screen with the regular-size actors. The answer should have been obvious — forced perspective — but the visuals were so enchanting that I didn’t even consider it. Turns out the film’s FX artist, Randall William Cook, went on to work on the forced perspective shots in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, too! An incredibly fun film with FX that have aged very well, The Gate is definitely one to check out if you dig ’80s horror. I also watched the sequel, Gate II: The Trespassers, and you can safely skip that one without missing too much.
#1 Videodrome (1983)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Reviewed November 27, 2015
My biggest discovery of 2015 was definitely David Cronenberg. Over the years I had seen a few of his movies, but they never really connected with me. I always had a hard time understanding why he was as well-regarded as he was… but I totally get it now! Of the batch of Cronenbergs I watched last year, Videodrome was easily my favorite. All of Cronenberg’s early films have very original, intriguing sci-fi/horror ideas at their core, and Videodrome has one of the best. It’s more relevant now than it was in its day, as many of its concepts have come to fruition. If you think today’s media-obsessed, reality show culture is bringing us down as a society, definitely check out Videodrome to have your feelings about the poor state of humanity reinforced.
So there you have it! I wholeheartedly recommend these films, and if you’re curious what’s just beyond the 10-film cut, I have a more expansive version on my Letterboxd account.