2018 Year in Review (The Discoveries)

The end of the year brings with it many traditions. It’s a time to reflect on the things we’ve went through, the state of the world (it ain’t great) and to arbitrarily rank our favorite movies for complete strangers to criticize and mock on the internet. It’s that time once again, for every Tom, Dick and Harry with an opinion to list their favorite movies of the year. This list, however, is a bit different in that I’ve ranked every film I’ve seen, not just my favorites. Oh and that my rankings are correct. 

The list will be broken down into:

  • The Bad— Films that received an F or lower D.
  • The Ok— Films that received a higher D or C.
  • The Good— Films that received a higher C or B.
  • The Great— Films that received a higher B or A
  • The Discoveries— Films I liked that weren’t released in 2018.
  • The Documentaries— A ranking of the documentaries I’ve seen this year from worst to best.

The world is on fire. Schools are getting shot up at an alarming rate, actresses are leaving Twitter over harassment, children are being locked in cages, the house of mouse is slowly becoming an all powerful conglomerate and a Star Wars film flopped. 2018 straight up sucked but these are the films that help distract me from everything wrong with the year. For better or worse.

This is 2018: Year in Review (The Discoveries)


 

20. Raiders of Atlantis (1983)

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Plot: While attempting to raise a sub, a team of scientists accidentally triggers the re-emergence of Atlantis, and with it, a group of blood thirsty gang members.

One of the best Mad Max inspired rip offs produced by Italy. Which sounds like faint praise until you realize that every film they make is either a Mad Max rip off, an unofficial sequel to Dawn of the Dead or an unofficial sequel to either Evil Dead or Demons. God bless Italy and their non-existent copyright laws.

You can read the Double Impact here.


 

19. Amarcord (1973)

Directed by: Federico Fellini

Plot: A series of comedic and nostalgic vignettes set in a 1930s Italian coastal town.

I feel as though there’s a hive mind mentality when it comes to anything foreign or black and white. If it looks classy, it has to be great. I went through a period where I watched nothing but films released by the Criterion Collection and trust me, that belief holds no weight. Slow doesn’t always mean deep.

Amarcord is neither slow or pretentious. It isn’t aimed at the arthouse snobs. It’s a delightful coming of age story set within a larger narrative about a small village in Italy. Imagine Robert Altman and Wes Anderson teaming up to remake A Christmas Story but eliminated everything involving the holidays and that’s Amarcord.


 

18. Blue Collar (1978)

Directed by: Paul Schrader

Plot: When three workers try to steal from the local union, they discover the corruption of the union instead and decide to blackmail them.

Paul Schrader is often overshadowed by his more famous collaborator Martin Scorsese, which is a shame, because despite Schrader’s batting average being consistently low, every now and again, he gets a homerun that’s as impressive as anything by Scorsese. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985) is his most accomplished work but Blue Collar is his most realistic. A strong character drama with an outstanding cast, Blue Collar is among the best dramas of the 70’s.


 

17. Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974)

Directed by: Toshio Masuda

Plot: Professor Nishiyama, after studying and interpreting the prophecies of Nostradamus, realizes that the end of the world is at hand. Unfortunately, nobody listens to him until it is too late. As the effects of mankind’s tampering of the earth – radioactive smog clouds, hideously mutated animals, destruction of the ozone layer – rage out of control, the world leaders hurtle blindly toward the final confrontation.

For some inexplicable reason, the 1970’s had, for a time, a huge obsession with Nostradamus. In the 1980’s, there was nothing more terrifying (besides reaganomics) than the threat of a nuclear attack. Right in the middle of that insane Venn diagram is Last Days on Planet Earth. A film that combines the ridiculous prophecies of Nostradamus with the very real threat of radiation exposure. If it was just an environmental message film, that would be one thing but LDOPE (greatest acronym ever) double downs on the crazy. There’s giant mutated bats, zombie like cannibals destroying an island and an ending so fucking batshit, it caused the film to be permanently banned in Japan. It is a rollercoaster through a madhouse.


 

16. The Spider Labyrinth (1988)

Directed by: Gianfranco Giagni

Plot: A young American researcher, goes to Budapest to visit Professor Roth, with whom he collaborated on a secret project called “Intextus”. Arrived in the Hungarian capital, Alan finds Roth whom, in panic, hands him a black book which he says should include information of the utmost importance.

A slow burn giallo that delivers a satisfactory payoff. The ending is bug nuts banana balls crazy and I absolutely loved it. It kind of feels like the third act of Midnight Meat Train crossed with Lovecraft.


 

15. Stunt Rock (1979)

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Plot: Australian stuntman Grant Page goes to Los Angeles to work on a television series. He uses his spare time to lend his expertise to rock band Sorcery, whose act features duels between the King of the Wizards and the Prince of Darkness, with his cousin playing the Prince. Page helps the duo develop pyrotechnic magic tricks for their shows, and also finds himself in a budding romance with a magazine writer as he recounts to her his own exploits as a stuntman and daredevil as well as various stunts by other greats.

What the fuck is Stunt Rock? Is it a concert film? Is it a magic act? Is it a stunt montage? An action movie? The answer is, all of the above. Almost no element of this film would work as a separate entity but mashed together, the random bits that really don’t fit together create magic.


 

14. Amadeus (1984)

Directed by: Milos Forman

Plot: The life, success and troubles of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told by Antonio Salieri, the contemporary composer who was insanely jealous of Mozart’s talent and claimed to have murdered him.

There are certain films that have gained a reputation or certain level of prestige that make them impossible mountains to climb. For any multi-Oscar winner or frequent “greatest film ever” contender, the hype can be almost too intimidating to even bother. How can any film live up to such praise?

Thankfully, Amadeus more than lives up to its reputation, and then some. It’s an expertly crafted tale of jealousy, musical genius and madness. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word.


 

13. Theater of Blood (1973)

Directed by: Douglas Hickox

Plot: The film is about a European prince cum Satanist (Price) terrorizes the local peasantry while using his castle as a refuge against the “Red Death” plague that stalks the land. 

While his buddies Cushing and Lee were recreating Universal monster movies across the pond, Price was in America with Roger Corman making Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. Although none of them are particularly scary, this one comes the closest to horror. It’s beautifully shot, has a wickedly delicious performance by Price and has a nice Tales from the Crypt type ending.


 

12. The Resurrection of Michael Myers pt. 1 & 2 (1987-1989)

Directed by: Richard Holm, Henrik Wadling

Plot: During a wild party at a hospital the anti-hero of Halloween, Michael Myers, comes to life. He stalks the hospital, violently killing everyone and everything. Apart from Michael Myers we also find Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Jason (Friday the 13th). If that wasn’t enough, a zombie wanders around looking for his pirate copies of “Resurrection of Michael Myers (pt1)”. 

Shot in the late 80’s with a miniscule budget, The Resurrection of Michael Myers is actually two short fan films edited together to make one hour of pure, unadulterated insanity. The first short is essentially a 20 minute chase scene between Michael Myers and a guy who just watched the first Halloween (1978) and the second takes place in a hospital where, due to some scientific shenanigans, Michael Myers, a kung fu zombie, Jason and Leatherface materialize out of an issue of Fangoria and team up to kill everyone there.

It’s crazy, it’s fun and I had no idea what was happening at any time.


 

11. Magic of Spell/Child of Peach (1987-1989)

Directed by: Chung-Hsing Chao

Plot: Peach Boy and his mother live in a village. One day a young man comes to the village and asks Peach Boy as his teacher. At the same time, the Elder of Devil Palace kills his mother. The battle between Peach Boy and the devil is unavoidable.

This–along with Child of Peach–is a goddamn delight. It’s like Sid and Marty Krofft teamed up with Stephen Chow to make a series of kids films and the result is a live action cartoon that’s fun as shit. Highly recommended.


 

 

10. Boxer’s Omen (1983)

Directed by: Chih-Hung Kuei

Plot: While in Thailand to avenge his brother who was crippled in a fight with a corrupt Thai boxer, a man gets caught up in a web of fate, Buddhism and black magic.

You can read my review here.


 

09. Crocodile Fury (1988)

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Plot: Monica, a witch vampire, has the power to invade with vampires. They can destroy everything that exists on earth. The situation worsens when Monica is working with Cooper, the master of the seas.

A good animal attack movie will give you about three great scenes of animals fucking people up and a couple of attacks that happen off screen to either build the tension or maintain momentum. Crocodile Fury says fuck that noise and immediately starts with a ten minute orgy of crocodile murder. Scene after scene of crocodiles eating the shit out of people until the film decides to switch gears and then it’s about witches, vampires and zombies.

Until it gets bored with that and decides to switch back to crocodile murder. This movie is bananaballs.


 

08. Amphibian Man (1962)

Directed by: Vladimir Chebotaryov, Gennadiy Kazanskiy

Plot: People living in a seaside town are frightened by reports about an unknown creature in the ocean. Nobody knows what it is, but it’s really the son of Doctor Salvator. The doctor performed surgery on his son and now young Ichtiandr can live underwater. This gives him certain advantages, but creates a lot of problems.

The easiest way to pitch this film is, “Mario Bava meets the Shape of Water” because there’s no fucking way Del Toro didn’t see this film before making his considering they’re shockingly similar in plot. This is definitely a hidden gem.


 

07. The Ship of Monsters (1960)

Directed by: Rogelio A. González

Plot: Two extraterrestrial women are sent on a mission by the regent of Venus to search for a male of another planet.

You can read my review here.


 

06. Threads (1984)

Directed by: Mick Jackson

Plot: The effects of a nuclear holocaust on the working class city of Sheffield, England and the eventual long-term effects of nuclear war on civilization.

Made during the atomic holocaust scare of the 1980’s, this made for TV movie is arguably the best and most frightening of the lot. The aftermath of an atomic blast as depicted in this film, is the scariest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen because it could easily happen.


 

05. The Beaver Trilogy (2000)

Directed by: Trent Harris

Plot: In the 1970’s, an ambitious filmmaker visits the small town of Utah to film a talent show.

One of the single greatest works of art I have ever seen. It’s a masterpiece that brilliantly blurs the line between fact and fiction to create a new form of art and Crispin Glover gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen as the second reenactment of “Groovin’ Gary”.


 

04. Calamity of Snakes (1982)

Directed by: Chi Chang

Plot: After a business man kills thousands of snakes in pit where they are building a new apartment building. The people living there soon become attacked by thousands of snakes as vengeance.

I can’t write too much about this because I’m saving it for my obscure movies list but suffice it to say, this film rocks ass hard. Imagine somebody extracting the insanity of Wild Beasts, mixing it with the holy shit factor of Roar and combining that with the WTFuckery of Boxers Omen and you have Calamity of Snakes.


 

03. Zuma (1985)

Directed by: Jun Raquiza

Plot: Zuma is a movie remake of one of the oldest and most popular comic books in the Philippines. It stars Zuma, a creature donning a snake over his shoulder which perfectly accentuates his monster-like features.

Take the story structure of The Place Beyond The Pines, replace Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Dane DeHaan with a battle hardened detective, a 600 year old serpent God and the daughter of a 600 year old serpent God and you have Zuma. That plot synopsis makes very little sense but neither does Zuma. Every 30 minutes, it’s a completely different film and each one is more insane than the last.


 

02. Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Directed by: Jim Van Bebber

Plot: After one too many encounters with The Spiders (a rival gang), The Ravens’ leader’s girlfriend tells him to quit the gang or it’s Splitsville. He does so, but the leader of The Spiders is hellbent on revenge and arranges the murder of the girlfriend. That ticks off the boyfriend, who wreaks havoc with the two gangs, who have joined forces in order to pull off a security truck heist.

You can read my review here


 

01. The Films of Karel Zemen: The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1958), The Outrageous of Baron Munchausen (1962) and A Jester’s Tale (1964) 

My favorite discovery of the year, hands down, is the work of Karel Zemen. Often referred to as the “Czech Méliès” and regarded by many as one of the greatest animators who has ever lived, Zemen has inspired everyone from Tim Burton and Wes Anderson to Terry Gilliam and Jan Svankmajer. His combination of live action and animation, as well as his use of force perspective and matte paintings, create visually unique films that are unlike anything else in existence. He has an unmistakable style that I instantly fell in love with. Zemen is my new obsession.