Blood Mania, Directed by Robert Vincent O'Neill
As a connoisseur of all things uniquely terrible, I tend to snatch up as many cheap box sets containing "50 Horror Classics!" as I possibly can. Such a title tells me one thing: I will not be getting classic movies. I will be getting trash and if I'm lucky, a handful of that trash will be delightful trash. I experienced Blood Mania after cracking open a box set called "Gorehouse Greats" and soon learned that "Gorehouse" is not a proper word to use in association with this nearly bloodless horror movie. Neither is "Great," but at least I was expecting that.
Blood Mania follows a successful doctor being blackmailed for past indiscretions. In order to find some quick cash to pay off the fellow doing the blackmailing, he gets in bed (literally) with a woman whose wealthy father is on the verge of death. It's only after the woman murders her father that he learns that she's a psychotic nymphomaniac with a nasty habit of trying to bed every man who crosses her path (even the pool boy, who must be 14 years old). There are incomprehensible dream sequences, a rape scene silly enough to elicit guffaws, an extended musical montage at a Medieval Festival, seemingly important characters who suddenly vanish and never show up again, and yes, a murder or two. And then it reaches the start of an inevitable climax and then...it just ends, probably because the production ran out of money.
I'll give Blood Mania 2 insane nymphos out of 5.
Ginger Snaps, Directed by John Fawcett, 2000
Yep, I finally got around to seeing Ginger Snaps, a movie that I've seen divide horror fans straight down the middle, some appreciating it as a quirky, fun take on the werewolf genre and others finding it obnoxious and dull. I personally found much to appreciate, although I think a great deal of what I like stems from the film's intentions rather than its execution. The idea of using lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty is so obvious (and spot-on) that I'm surprised more films haven't embraced (stolen) this concept.
I loved the two leads, two off-kilter sisters whose personal eccentricities make them likable and real. I loved the chemistry between them and how they felt like real siblings. I loved how one becoming a werewolf mirrors the natural process of growing apart. On a simpler level, I loved the werewolf design and appreciated the mean-spirited, darkly humorous and very violent werewolf attacks. The climax in particular, an extended sequence in a darkened house, is a perfect example of how to build tension on a low budget.
I didn't love the rest of the cast, a collection of broadly comic caricatures defined only by their quirks and their overly precious dialogue. Ginger Snaps walks a fine line between horror and comedy and when the comedy stems from a real place (or from the actual horror of being a werewolf), it works. When it stems from people saying and doing things so silly they might as well be winking at the camera, it doesn't.
I'll give Ginger Snaps 3.25 teenage werewolves out of 5.
Bug, Directed by William Friedkin, 2006
Is Bug a horror movie? I can actually see people making the argument that it's not. That it's a thriller with some slight horror elements. But those people would be wrong.
Bug is based on a stage play. Most of the action takes place in one room. Almost the entire movie is composed of conversations between Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon. Yet somehow, this is one of the most frightening and disturbing films I've seen in recent memory, something that caught me completely off guard and made me regret not seeing this on the big screen when I had a chance (in my defense, the terrible trailer does a terrible job of selling the film for what it really is).
I don't want to go into plot specifics since the less you know going in, the more effective the experience will be. I will say that it's a story about lonely people finding each other, connecting over their mutual desperation and allowing themselves to to succumb to each others' madness. William Friedkin brings the goods and this is his best film since The Exorcist (yes, really). In fact, the whole thing is so intimate and upsetting, Shannon and Judd (!) so good, that I don't think I could handle the surely more immediate stage version of this story if I was given the chance to see it. This movie knocked me on my butt. A must-see for horror fans looking for something new. A true breath of fresh air from a filmmaker I had long given up on.
I give Bug 4.5 creepy Michael Shannons out of 5.