Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (Buio Omega) is one of the more notorious Italian horror offerings and after hearing about it for ages, I finally sat down and watched. It's the story of a young man, his harsh looking maid, and the corpse of his beloved. Yes, this is a necrophilia movie -- a tale of forbidden love between a man and his dead girlfriend. Like all D'Amato fare, it's gory and filled with disturbing sex (watching the main character suckle at the breast of the maid is cringeworthy) and will make you want to shower after watching it. It also features a fantastic score by Dario Argento's favorite soundtrack collaborators, Goblin. This is one of their better non-Argento film soundtracks -- moody, evocative and well worth a listen for anyone who loves a little proggy action with their sex-filled gore flicks.
Eden Lake, James Watkins, 2008
Director James Watkins delivers an entertaining, if not entirely original, story of what happens when vacationers run afoul of the locals in Eden Lake. The film features an overly familiar plot, but the tale of a young couple hunted in the woods by some wicked teenagers is still way more fun than it should be. This is mostly because Watkins has a legitimate mean streak that makes Eden Lake more brutal than I'd expected when I popped the DVD in. I don't want to spoil anything, but there are a few twists that are impressive even though they're mostly telegraphed and some pretty shocking deaths. Eden Lake is interesting because it's a film that essentially runs through the paces of its subgenre, but it's done with precision and attention to detail that you start to forgive it for its predictability. This is a mean little title that crosses some lines most horror films shy away from.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 4, various directors, 2003
I was never a rabid Buffy fan back in the day (and they don't usually come any other way), but Joss Whedon's TV show features a solid and highly entertaining story that boasts complex characters, tons of snark and most importantly -- it took chances. After Season 3, I kind of lost touch with the show so I decided to pick up where I left off years ago and dig right into Season 4. The season starts with our high school heroes who survived the big showdown at Sunnydale High, moving on to UC-Sunnydale (Buffy, Willow and Oz anyway). Xander takes the working world route and Giles spends the majority of his time moping around and feeling unloved. Most of the episodes' underlying theme deal with the new wide world of independence as our Scooby gang tries to transition into this new part of their lives. The winning episode in the bunch is Hush, which won the series its first Emmy nomination for best original writing. Interestingly enough, it features very little dialogue. There are several profound revelations for the characters and a group of creatures known as The Gentleman are creepy as hell.