July 18, 2014

Noteworthy On Netflix - 7/18/14 - Digging A Little Deeper Than Usual

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     I'm watching movies on Netflix less and less now, as the diminished frequency of these posts attests.  For my own purposes I decided to dig a little deeper than usual this time.  What I came up with was - different.  There were a couple I was surprised to find, a couple that are actually really good, and a few that are only entertaining if you're in the mood for an undemanding, brain-dead B-movie. 

     Remember that availability changes often, but all of the following titles were available from Netflix at the time of this posting.  Each movie's capsulized description is taken from the its Netflix listing.  The genre listed after the title (Horror, Cult,
Thrillers, Classic, Action & Adventure, or Sci-Fi & Fantasy) indicates where you'll find each movie in your onscreen groupings.  Try doing a manual search if one seems to be missing, which is more likely than usual this time. 

     If you have recommendations of your own, please share in the Comments section below.  You can watch a trailer for each movie by clicking its title, though a few are pretty rough looking this time.


Wolf Creek 2 posterWolf Creek 2 (2013)
Horror / 1hr46min / NR

     A couple's dream vacation turns into a nightmare when they run into a bloodthirsty serial killer with a penchant for sadistic games.

     I'm sure you've probably already noticed the prominently displayed Wolf Creek 2 on Netflix, but maybe you've skipped over it thinking it was just a lazy rehash.  I understand.  Though I enjoyed director Greg McLean's 2005 original, I really didn't see any likelihood that this belated sequel would be anything more than a cash grab trading on name recognition.  Luckily, McLean's directorial skill and an incredible performance by a returning John Jarratt as charismatic serial killer Mick Taylor combine to make Wolf Creek 2 one of the most unexpectedly entertaining horror releases of the year.

     As much as Wolf Creek 2 is a showcase for Jarratt's performance, the tense game of cat and mouse played out by Mick Taylor and would-be primary victim Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr) wouldn't be nearly as engrossing if  Corr didn't contribute such a fine performance himself.  It's been a while since I found myself actually rooting for the protagonist in a slasher movie, and I'm sure it wasn't easy not being steamrolled by the larger-than-life Jarratt.

   As a bonus, Wolf Creek 2 blindsided me with easily the funniest and most cinematic use of indigenous wildlife in a high speed car chase that I've ever seen.  Only in Australia...


Never Sleep Again (2010)
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
Cult, Horror / 3hr58min / NR

     As Freddy Krueger is reborn for a new generation, it's time to return to where it all began. Join star Heather Langenkamp for a rare journey down Elm Street, with film clips, rare photos, storyboards, and more treasures from the entire series.

     If you've ever enjoyed any project involving the Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs, Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010) is sure to give you sweet dreams.  This impressively exhaustive documentary covers every movie in the Elm Street franchise and then some.  Its intimidating length notwithstanding, Never Sleep Again is well worth your time.  If it gets you fired up to watch one of the movies afterward, franchise black sheep A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) is currently available to stream, as well.


The Mighty Peking Man (1977)
Mighty Peking Man (1977)
Action & Adventure, Classic, Cult / 1hr30min / PG-13

     Captured and brought back to the big city, a mysterious, giant apelike creature proves he can never be chained as he runs amok in Hong Kong.

     You could have watched Mighty Peking Man (1977) with us at the first Movies At Dog Farm Virtual Drive-In.  If you missed that opportunity (and most of you did), then here it is for your own shameful private delectation.  It's not hard to imagine why Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this. 

     Mighty Peking Man was produced by Shaw Brothers Studio with the intent of capitalizing on the success of the 1976 remake of King Kong.  You get a hot blonde jungle girl in an off-the-shoulder animal skin, "natives" that are actually Asians painted brown, a televised event featuring a guy in a giant ape suit chained to toy trucks, and big game hunters stomping through the jungle in polyester leisure suits.  It's almost indescribable, so I'm not even going to try. Mighty Peking Man is the cubic zirconia of giant ape movies.  Only you can decide whether or not that constitutes a recommendation.


Gothic (1986)
Gothic (1986)
Cult, Horror / 1hr27min / R

     The poet Lord Byron turns his estate into a haunted and horror-filled playground in this film that purports to tell the story of the night that inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.

     Gothic (1986) is yet another movie on this list that's almost impossible to describe to someone who isn't already familiar with it.  It was directed by Ken Russell, the same visionary lunatic who brought us The Devils (1971), Altered States (1980), and The Lair Of The White Worm (1988).  Though I strongly suspect that Russell's tale of hedonism and debauchery takes more than a few liberties with the actual facts, it does make for a breathtakingly screwy piece of cinema.  I find it amusing that the Netflix capsulization describes Gothic as a film that "purports to tell the story..."

     It's worth noting, too, that Gothic has only ever been released on Region 1 disc in a spectacularly awful, sub-VHS full-screen transfer.  The stream on Netflix is at least presented in the proper aspect ratio.  Maybe someday we'll see an HD box set of Russell's entire filmography, but I'm not holding my breath.  Russell's adaptation of Salome by Oscar Wilde, entitled Salome's Last Dance (1988), is also currently available on Netflix - and also long out-of-print on DVD.


Ravenous (1999)
Ravenous (1999)
Cult, Thrillers, Horror / 1hr40min / R

     In 19th-century California, soldiers at an Army outpost treat an injured man who tells them horrific tales of resorting to cannibalism while stranded.

     Ravenous (1999) was one of the first indications to me that the 1990s hadn't completely squeezed all of the life out of the genre, and though it has since built a solid fanbase, I'm still at a loss to explain why it has never garnered wider acclaim. Ravenous is a truly unique and well executed gift to genre fans, and you should move it to the top of your Netflix queue immediately if you've never seen it.

     Ravenous is bolstered greatly by fantastic performances from all involved, with Robert Carlyle as the cannibalistic Colonel Ives and Jeffrey Jones as Colonel Hart being particular stand-outs.  The unusual score, which features banjo, squeeze-box, and mouth-harp, is fittingly eerie, as well.  It's in the same league as Goblin's score for Suspiria (1977) insofar as how integral it is to the overall effectiveness of the movie.  A welcome pinch of pitch black humor is sprinkled liberally throughout, and the late director Antonia Bird does a commendable job modulating the disparate elements so the delicate balance of pathos, horror, and humor gels perfectly.  Highly recommended.


Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Fantastic Voyage (1966)
Action & Adventure, Classic, Sci-Fi & Fantasy / 1hr40min / PG

     A group of medical experts miniaturize themselves to enter the body of an ailing scientist, but a traitor seeks to undermine their dangerous mission.

     Fantastic Voyage (1966) is a fine example of what used to pass for an "event" movie back in the day, and it still stands up pretty damn well as a solid popcorn movie.  All of the youngsters familiar with the movie's gimmick by way of pop culture osmosis or Joe Dante's comedic reworking of the premise in Innerspace (1987) should find plenty to like here.  Even the once cutting-edge FX - which earned Fantastic Voyage the Oscar for both Best Art Direction and Best Effects back in 1966 - still hold up well today.  Add in the presence of  film icons like Raquel Welch, Edmond O'Brien, and Donald Pleasance, and Fantastic Voyage emerges as one of the more entertaining streaming options on Netflix now.


The Evictors (1979)
The Evictors (1979)
Horror / 1hr32min / PG

     Shortly after moving into a quaint Louisiana town, a couple experiences disturbing events suggesting that someone -or something- wants them dead.

     If you enjoyed director Charles B. Pierce's The Legend Of Boggy Creek (1972) or The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), then you might be curious about The Evictors (1979), the last - and least financially successful - of his ad hoc seventies horror trilogy.  But is it really horror?  The twist at the end effectively transforms The Evictors into a Scooby Doo mystery that ultimately renders all suggestions of a supernatural reading moot.  Still, Pierce does succeed in delivering convincing forties era period detail, and he uses his locations to good effect, as well.  You've got to love a movie that was made back when "old-timey" was still depicted by shooting in sepia tone.

     Your curiosity may also be piqued by the movie's cast.  It stars Michael Parks, most familiar to younger viewers as the foul-mouthed Texas Ranger Earl McGraw who appears in a number of movies by Quentin Tarantino and/or Robert Rodriguez.  It also gives us the lovely Jessica Harper just a couple of years after Suspira (1977), as well as Vic Morrow (Twilight Zone: The Movie) playing a shady realtor.  As a bonus, you'll see character actor Dennis Fimple, whom you may recognize as Grampa Hugo from House Of 1000 Corpses (2003).  That's not a bad who's who for a lazy Sunday afternoon, the perfect time to watch a movie like The Evictors that functions more as a curiosity than anything else.  Seriously, I just used some form of the word curious three times in two paragraphs.



  1. Good round-up here! I'll drop in my two cents on each film....

    Wolf Creek 2: I haven't watched yet. I had figured it was just more of the same, but after reading your thoughts I'll give it a go!

    Never Sleep Again: This is a fantastic documentary. If you are even remotely a fan of the Elm Street series then you will enjoy this exhaustive look at the franchise. On a side, related note....I've never understood why NOES2 was treated like a black sheep. It's a fantastic entry in the series.

    Mighty Peking Man: You hit it on the head. It's a wonky, psychotronic giant ape flick! What's not to love?

    Gothic: I've only seen this one once. I don't remember liking it very much....though back when I saw it, I was younger and perhaps less patient. I'll have to give it another go. I've got it on one of those Mill Creek 50 movie packs, though I can't remember which one at the moment.

    Ravenous: Another film that I've been meaning to watch but somehow haven't gotten around to. I'll be sure to put it at the top now.

    Fantastic Voyage: A favorite from my childhood. I watched and rewatched this one over and over again as a kid. While I do enjoy InnerSpace, Fantastic Voyage is heads and shoulders above, I think.

    The Evictors: I used to see this film at our local Mom & Pop shop in VHS format. The cover gave me the creeps. I forgot about it for a quite a while....until I received it as a bonus DVD in Scream Factory's Town That Dreaded Sundown Blu Ray release.

    1. Wolf Creek 2 was significantly more entertaining than I expected it to be. I was often reminded of The Hitcher (original, of course), and that's a good thing.

      NOES2 breaks a few of the "rules", but I think it's a lot more interesting for what it is than what it isn't. It's amazing to me how many casual viewers don't see the homosexual underpinnings of it, though once I've pointed it out to them they're usually also surprised that they hadn't noticed it. I think that just goes to show how many viewers are so conditioned to not expect any subtext or depth in a horror movie's narrative that they don't see it even when it's there.

      I don't dare guarantee that you'll like Gothic any more on the second pass - Ken Russell is an acquired taste. The better presentation is bound to help, though. I'm actually pretty sure that the Mill Creek transfer is the same one on the awful standalone that I own. It's on Chilling Classics, by the way. That's definitely one of the best Mill Creek sets - relatively speaking, of course.

      Ravenous, however, is a definite keeper. It's entertaining on a variety of levels - another movie with a lot more going on than just what's on the surface.

      Innerspace was a decent reworking of Fantastic Voyage, but Dana Carvey's incessant mugging grates my nerves after a while. Fantastic Voyage is one movie I actually wouldn't mind seeing remade. With a slightly darker tone, it would make a great horror movie. There's some truly heinous shit going on inside the human body.

      That cover image for The Evictors - though it depicts, in the grand tradition of great cover images, something that never actually happens in the movie - is probably actually a little too good for the movie it promotes. lol It's a shame Scream Factory didn't just go whole hog, throw in The Legend Of Boggy Creek, and make a "Charles B. Pierce Horror Collection".

      Thanks for commenting. This was a pretty odd selection of movies this time.

  2. Brandon,

    Are you saving American Scream for PreWeen? If so, could we do a podcast reviewing and discussing it as well as a print article?

    Now I need to go fire up Netflix and get some viewing in. Mighty Peking Man was awesome, and I can't wait for The Stuff!

    1. I am planning on writing a standalone post about American Scream for Pre'Ween, and I'd be happy to participate in another podcast about that or anything else you'd care to discuss. I haven't landed on my "angle" yet, though - as usual - it probably won't be a straight review anyway. If I get it written in advance as I had hoped, maybe we can get that posted first to have the print article to reference in the podcast. Pressure. Now it has to be good. lol

      It's slowly but surely beginning to look as though we might get a little closer to a full house for the second Virtual Drive-In. Build it, and they will come.


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