13. Hardcore (1979, Paul Schrader)
Though not strictly a horror film in the traditional sense, Hardcore is still pretty horrifying, so I’m saying it counts. Anyway, it’s my Horrorthon, not yours.
George C Scott puts in a terrific performance as a highly religious man whose daughter disappears into the murky world of late 70s pornography. In an attempt to locate her he goes deep undercover, posing as a porn producer and eventually finding himself coming face to face with real-life snuff movies.
It’s a lurid premise, but director Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver) never succumbs to his baser instincts. No doubt shocking in its day, the film seems tame now in an era where full frontal male nudity is de rigueur in every mainstream comedy.
Still, there’s a real sleazy feel to Hardcore, similar to Friedkin’s extraordinary Cruising the following year, though not nearly as offensive.
So if your idea of a good time is watching George C Scott parade around the porno stores of LA in a series of increasingly loud shirts, then pull up a chair and join me. They don’t make ’em like this anymore, and even when they do (Joel Schumacher’s 8mm), they don’t. You follow?
14. Panic Beats (1983, Jacinto Molina [Paul Naschy])
Everyone loves a bit of ol’ Paul Naschy, and Panic Beats is the first of his 80s movies that I’ve seen. Surprisingly, despite a supernatural set up, it turned out to be more of a crime thriller than horror, with the old drive-the-lady-mad-to-get-the-inheritance plot. Not to fear though, there’s still plenty of spooky goings on and a full-blown horror climax to look forward to.
Panic Beats (dig that senseless title!) opens with a naked lady being chased through the woods by a knight on horseback. He brutally murders her with a mace, and we cut to Paris, present day, where Naschy is advised by his wife’s doctor to take her to the country, or else SHE WILL DIE.
He does this, though of course there’s a lot more to his plan than meets the eye, and if you can’t figure it out within the first five minutes, you’re a maniac.
Naschy is an odd character in the history of writer/directors, as he doesn’t mind writing himself the part of a real slimeball every now and then. In Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, he plays the nominal hero, a convicted rapist.
Here, he’s a conniving scumbag who, true to form, has not one…
but three babes on the go at the same time. In the world of Paul Naschy, Paul Naschy is irresistible to women.
There are double-crosses galore, and even a twist or two that I didn’t see coming. Naschy creates some pretty good atmosphere in the crumbling mansion in the hills, and there are some good creepy moments too, like the resurrection of a dead maid and the reappearance of some thugs in the bathroom, looking decidedly worse for wear.
There’s also a skeleton in a suit of armour, which is always good for a laugh.
It’s a pretty fun, undemanding film that in some ways feels more like an Italian giallo with supernatural overtones, with its twisty plot and undressed Euro-starlets.
Naschy is a bit of a horror blind spot for me, probably due to the lack of availability of his films when I was growing up. Out of his extensive filmography, I’ve only seen five or six of his movies, but I’ve enjoyed every single one of them, and Panic Beats is no exception.
Nice one, Paul.
15. Leviathan (1989, George P Cosmatos)
There’s not a lot to say about Leviathan. From 1989, the year that was obsessed with aquatic horror (this, The Abyss, Deep Star Six), it’s a studio timewaster with a decent budget and better than average cast.
Peter Weller, Ernie Hudson and Amanda Pays are all pretty good, though Daniel Stern’s character should probably be fired for sexual harassment. Still, it was the 80s, and so the film ends with the crowd-pleasing moment of Peter Weller punching a woman in the face and making a quip.
Leviathan desperately wants to be Alien or The Thing, but the last act is a bit of a washout and I found myself losing interest. Even the usually reliable Jerry Goldsmith seems to be phoning in his score.
Maybe I should give Deep Star Six a go?