16. Belladonna of Sadness (1973, Eiichi Yamamoto)
There’s genres, there’s subgenres, and then there are Japanese erotic animated psychedelic witchcraft musicals.
It’s fair to say that Belladonna of Sadness is a one of a kind.
Jean and Jeanne are newlyweds. On their wedding night, Jeanne is raped by the king. Jean turns to the bottle for solace, while Jeanne sells her soul to a penis-headed Satan.
In exchange, Satan grants her the power to raise the dead, which she promptly does, to participate in her wild forest orgies.
Of course, it can’t end well.
This is an odd, odd movie. It’s the least animated animation I’ve ever seen; oftentimes the camera is simply panning over a highly stylised watercolour.
The effect is startling at first, but not enough to sustain a 90 minute run time, which pretty much applies to the whole film. The violence and the sex, often at the same time, is initially a shock to the system.
But it replays the same beats over and over and over again, until you just become numb. By about the halfway mark, every flower is shaped like a dick, every cave is a vagina. What started out as beautiful becomes crass and juvenile.
Honestly I probably wouldn’t have made it through the film without the astonishing score, which is equal parts free jazz and prog rock.
But it’s not enough. I wanted to like Belladonna of Sadness, but I just couldn’t.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. I’d sooner sell my soul to a penis-headed Satan than watch this film again.
I ALSO WATCHED…
17. Rabid (1977, David Cronenberg)
You can’t go too far wrong with early David Cronenberg.
For me, his two best movies are The Fly and Shivers, but every time I watch Rabid I like it more and more.
A typically Cronenbergian tale of an outbreak of a rabies-like disease, spread by a woman with a vampiric penis under her armpit caused by botched plastic surgery.
Like I said, typically Cronenbergian.
What surprised me on this viewing was how fast paced the damn film is. You think of 70s movies, you think of films that take their time to get where they’re going.
Not Rabid, no sir.
I estimate that at no point does 5 minutes go by without some violent event occurring, or perhaps 70s adult movie star Marilyn Chambers taking her top off again. The film flies by, building to a surprisingly moving climax.
Who says Cronenberg ain’t got no heart?
18. Event Horizon (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)
Goddamit Event Horizon, you almost did it.
You almost made a terrific, scary, adult horror movie from your dynamite premise.
Set in a future where Playboy centrefolds wear shiny space bikinis, Event Horizon is predicated on a brilliant idea. A space ship with some kind of space-folding hyperdrive disappears for 7 years, only to reappear suddenly.
Upon investigation, it becomes apparent that the ship had crossed over into another dimension, possibly Hell itself.
Paul Anderson, director of such disasterpieces as Resident Evil and Alien vs Predator, somehow restrains himself for well over an hour, allowing tension to build as the mystery unfolds.
It’s clear the film wants to be a cross between Alien and The Shining, which is a pretty high bar, I’m sure you’ll agree. But while it obviously misses the mark, there’s little to fault for a full hour, right up until the discovery of what is on the ship’s log, which leads to some of the most disturbing imagery in all of 90s horror.
After a brief glimpse of nightmarish torments that befell the original crew, what we get as the main threat is Sam Neill wandering around with a ridiculous prosthetic forehead.
It’s a disappointing end to what could have been one of the best horror films of the 90s.
Perhaps one day the original director’s cut will surface. Until then, we can but dream of the Hell that could have been.