Interview: Lone Fleming on TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and more

In conversation with an icon of Spanish horror

Legendary Spanish horror actress Lone Fleming on her role in TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and its sequel ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD.

There was a period, a golden age for European horror, one that coincided with a demand in the US for grittier, sexier material, a wave launched post BONNIE AND CLYDE and one that evolved right in the middle of the visceral media coverage of the Vietnam war. With the MPAA loosening their belt, a wave of “new guard” young filmmakers emerging and the movies at the drive-in mirroring the real sex and shenanigans that went on in teenagers back-seats, European distributors saw an opportunity to make some money by injecting their fantasy films with grand dollops of suddenly commercial and permitted sex and violence, while never sacrificing that patented atmosphere, eccentric narrative arcs and textural sensuality.

In the middle of that wild wave came Spanish director Amando de Ossorio’s terrifying and surreal 1971 chiller LA NOCHE DEL TERROR CIEGO or as it was known in the US and other English language territories, TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD (or in the truncated AIP version, simply THE BLIND DEAD). Often dismissed as a Latin redux of Romero’s groundbreaking zombie classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, TOMBS is something richer, darker and ripe with mythology. In it, three friends – macho Roger, his girlfriend Virginia and her college friend Betty – go for a pleasant train ride into the Portuguese countryside. However, as the ride progresses, we learn in flashback that Virginia and Betty had a lesbian relationship in school and now, as Roger and Betty appear to be getting a little chummier that she’d like, Virginia has a momentary breakdown, jumps from the moving train and wanders to the ruined nearby church nestled at the foot of the hill.

And that’s when the terror begins.

Virginia’s comely presence rouses a mummified sect of blood-drinking, centuries dead Templar Knights, their skeletal, eyeless and hooded visages shambling out of their graves in a mass of fog, wielding swords, riding equally desiccated horses and looking for victims. Shot in gauzy slow-motion, the Templar attack sequences are the stuff nightmares are made of and the horror film that supports their appearance is equally eerie.

Ossorio’s signature magnum macabre opus would spawn three more Templar companion films 1973’s ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD (aka RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD), 1974’s THE GHOST GALLEON (aka HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES) and 1975’s NIGHT OF THE SEAGULLS,  but none would reach the heights of fright that TOMBS offers in its finest hour.

At the center of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD’s humanity is a compelling turn by actress Lone Fleming as Betty, a strong woman whose love for her murdered friend spurs her on to solve the mystery of the blind monsters. And Fleming is no stranger to horror. Along with TOMBS, she would star in Ossorio’s ATTACK OF THE BLIND DEAD and his 1975 EXORCIST clone, DEMON WITCH CHILD as well as others like Mario Sicilano’s BLACK CANDLES and 1973’s IT HAPPENED AT NIGHTMARE INN directed by her husband of many years, HORROR EXPRESS legend Eugenio Martin.

With her blue eyes, strong features and earthy sensuality, Fleming’s presence always added a kind of intelligent beauty to whatever picture she graced and it’s that intellect that makes her one of the most interesting survivors of the Spanish horror boom.

Now in her 60’s,  Fleming looks fantastic, embraces her cult movie past and now has a successful career as a fine artist, working in paint and sculpture.

ALEXANDER: Let’s go back to your early days in cinema. What was the climate in Spain like at the time, creatively speaking? Was it hard to find roles? Did you have to audition a lot?

FLEMING: You know there were a lot of films going on when I came to Spain. Really, it was almost an industry because we had a lot of comedies, a lot of terror or horror films. Everybody was really working and we didn’t get a lot of money. You know I started from the bottom but I’m very professional and that is one of the most important things for you to get the role. If you’re good, if they like you and you’re professional then it’s much easier.

ALEXANDER: At what point did you meet your husband? Was it during a film?

FLEMING: We met on the film, as you call it in United States, DEATH AT THE DEEP END OF THE SWIMMING POOL  (aka THE FOURTH VICTIM) with Carroll Baker and Michael Craig.

ALEXANDER: Ah, so you met on set. That’s fantastic. What was that initial connection? Was it love at first sight?

FLEMING: Yeah it was. And then we went out and it went on and off and I went to Denmark and I came back and it went on and off again for many years and of course it was a secret.

ALEXANDER: Do you ever go back and watch any of your older films?

FLEMING: Sometimes if I have to go to a festival and I know they want to ask me about something then I go in and have a look at it. I never like myself in films.

ALEXANDER: Why is that?

FLEMING: I don’t know (laughs). When you do a role you sink yourself so much into it that you don’t know how you’re going to come off on the screen. I never think about if the light is correct on my face, if I look better this way, I just jump into the role and I couldn’t care less if I’m not pretty from that side or the other.

ALEXANDER: The late Jess Franco spoke often about how hard it was to make these kinds of films in Spain initially because of General Franco’s pious rule. Did you feel any effect of that? Did it adversely affect the arts in your opinion?

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Interview: Paul Koslo on THE OMEGA MAN

Late, great character actor discusses the making of a horror fantasy classic

In 1971, late actor Paul Koslo starred in director Richard Sarafian’s existential 1971 automobile thriller VANISHING POINT. But that same year, Koslo also starred in the second adaptation of Richard Matheson’s influential novella I AM LEGEND, THE OMEGA MAN, whose magnificent Ron Grainer score we discussed here last week.

In THE OMEGA MAN, Koslo plays the laid back Dutch, a motorcycle riding refugee of a dead world inherited by a legion of deranged, hooded mutants intent on destroying any trace of humanity left on the planet, chiefly two-fisted survivor Robert Neville (Charlton Heston).

And though Koslo would also star in many other notable ‘70s film, including the TRUE GRIT sequel ROOSTER COGBURN, the Charles Bronson vehicle MR. MAJESTYK, Jack Starret’s THE LOSERS and Michael Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE, it’s his tales of fighting side by side with the larger than life Heston in Boris Sagal s brilliant THE OMEGA MAN that concerns us today.

Here’s some words I once had (excerpted from a longer chat I published in the pages of FANGORIA) with Koslo, who we lost in 2019 and who remains one of the greatest character actors of 1970’s cult cinema.

ALEXANDER: Can you tell us about your humble beginnings?

KOSLO: Well, I was born in Germany during the end of the war and, you know, the whole country was decimated, totally destroyed; so all of our parents were like disoriented, like, what the hell happened?” and the kids, well, we were running amok. I was 4 or 5 and there was tanks rumbling down the street and the Brits and Americans were throwing out Wrigley’s spearmint gum and Hershey bars and the kids were going crazy. We had no supervision. We started to fantasize about America, about cowboys and Indians, or what we thought were cowboy and Indians. Then, when I was 7 we immigrated to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. This is in 1951. We couldn’t speak any English so in school they would say stuff like “Germs are bad I thought they were saying Germans. I ended up fighting with people a lot. We were like aliens. We were always in trouble.

ALEXANDER: Did your parents embrace your decision to become an actor?

KOSLO: Actually, my dad was a career soldier and so was my grandfather and my great grandfather. He was a hard guy to get to know. So I up and left home when I was 13 and never looked back. See, to him, I was never an actor. It didn’t matter that I had been in over 100 TV shows and movies. He wouldn’t hear it.

ALEXANDER: Let’s talk about how you ended up as the other last man on earth in one of my favorite films, THE OMEGA MAN. Tell me about Charlton Heston; what did you learn from him?

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On THE OMEGA MAN

Why Boris Sagal’s 1971 pulse-pounder is a terrible adaptation of a perfect book, but still a great movie.

I got to know iconic author and genre-lit icon Richard Matheson during the last stretch of his life and, while I’m forever grateful for that 11th hour connection, the version of Matheson I met was anything but cheerful in regards to his work. And really, he had many reasons to be irate. When Matheson first began self-adapting his stories for Rod Serling in THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Serling left the author alone to transpose his own tales to fit the show’s format. Later, TV horror hero Dan Curtis (DARK SHADOWS) also ensured Matheson’s many scripts remained untouched (THE NIGHT STALKER, DRACULA etc.) and the resulting pictures speak for themselves. The reason guys like Serling and Curtis did this was because they fully understood just how good a scribe Matheson was and how well he was able to bring his words to simple, cinematic life.

Among that trove of tales and tomes penned by the late, great Matheson, its his terrifying, cerebral and existential 1954 novella I AM LEGEND that has perhaps most greatly defined his legacy. I AM LEGEND pioneered a gap-bridging between science fiction and Gothic fantasy, with its lurid, skin-crawling story of a plague that eliminates the living, only to resurrect them as blood-hungry vampires. In it, only one human has inexplicably remained immune to this apocalypse, a suburbanite named Robert Neville, who boards himself up at night with mirrors and garlic to ward off the monsters who want to drain him, while sifting through the city by day and staking the ghouls in their lairs. It’s a sparse set up for a book, but at its core its an epic tale of one man’s journey into his own soul, a personal, harrowing, meditation on loss, love, loneliness and what it is to truly be “alive”.

The novella (my favorite book of all time, incidentally) is written, in typical Serling fashion, practically, with a few key locations and characters (both living and undead); a packaged gift to Hollywood, elemental to adapt, economical to produce. Really, all one needs to make a proper screen version of I AM LEGEND is faithfulness to the story, a sense of style and mood and one helluva a central actor to embody Neville and his exhausting evolution.

Matheson knew this.

“So why does Hollywood keep fucking it up?!” he said to me back in 2003.

That’s the eternal question. The answer is anybody’s guess.

Britain’s Hammer studio hired Matheson to adapt his text as NIGHT CREATURES in the early ’60s, but the project died after the UK censor pre-banned it for being too violent in concept alone. Annoyed by this, Matheson took his script to producer Robert L. Lippert who took it to American International Pictures and mounted a low budget Italian/American picture called THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. Matheson was told Fritz Lang would direct, but instead he got Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo Ragona, with AIP standby Vincent Price starring as Neville, who was inexplicably renamed Robert Morgan during re-write. More changes were made to the script against Matheson’s wishes, causing the exasperated writer to slap his pen name Logan Swanson on the credits. The resulting film is – despite Matheson’s sneering – an excellent little horror drama and embodies much of the soul of the source book. But the changes that ARE made are so odd and pointless, one wonders why they were done at all.

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On MUTANT

John “Bud” Cardos’ underrated eco-ghoul film still packs a punch

The dawn of the 1980’s saw more than its share of eco-minded, “human monster” movies, a sub-genre spawned most likely by the one-two-punch of George A. Romero’s ghoul virus 1978 masterpiece DAWN OF THE DEAD and James Bridges shattering and successful 1979 thriller THE CHINA SYNDROME. Films like director Graham Baker’s Meg Tilly and Tim Matheson vs.Freudian-zombie vehicle IMPULSE (itself somewhat reminiscent of David Cronenberg’s 1975 breakthrough exploitation film SHIVERS) and Hal Barwood’s underrated 1985 toxic-zombie chiller WARNING SIGN; movies that mixed corporate cover-ups with sacrificial small-town paranoia, usually dealing with some sort of spill that mutates average people, causing them to do terrible things to any non-infected person within biting distance.

One of the best of this lot is KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS helmer John “Bud” Cardos’ lean and mean horror gem NIGHT SHADOWS, widely released on home video and cable in the 1980’s as MUTANT, a title it retains to this day.

It’s a shame its distributor decided to slap that moniker on such an eerie, urgent and earthy horror film; MUTANT is the alternate title for Roger Corman’s ALIEN ripoff FORBIDDEN WORLD and the packaging for Cardos’ film had that handle displayed, widely-spaced letters a la ALIEN and even featured a Giger-like fanged face on the front. In some European markets it was even released as MUTANT II.

Those looking for a deep-space shocker in line with Ridley Scott, were bound to be bummed.

MUTANT does have a dose of science-fiction at its core, but it’s the maddest kind of science, spawned by man, not the stars. Rather, the movie is an atmospheric, unpretentious down-home horror flick that, more often than not, feels like Meth-fueled remake of Tobe Hooper’s 1979 TV movie adaptation of Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT.

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On CRISIS

Sprawling drama takes on the horrors of the opioid industry

Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki’s mesmerizing anti-opioid film CRISIS is being marketed as a thriller, which it is, I suppose. Structurally, its triple-arc, multi-character, puzzle-box narrative behaves like many drug-centric thrillers that have come before it (Steven Soderbergh’s TRAFFIC being the obvious comparison) and certainly, it occasionally has some of the dizzying flash of a Scorsese film as it zips around explaining the mechanics of an international narcotics operation, complete with narrated expository sequences slathered in The Rolling Stones. But really, at its core, CRISIS is a kind of horror movie; a human tragedy where the monster is not the drug itself (as in something like, say, Darren Aronofsky’s REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, where the smack was the villain) but a kind of banal, socio-economical bottom line; one exploited by fringe-dwelling hustlers, status-quo intellects and corporate kingpins alike. And while CRISIS shines lights on the grafters and amoral parasites who push these pills around, its focus is mainly on the victims of their trade, who sell their souls and who are often duped into doing so while trustingly filling a prescription.

Armie Hammer (THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.) stars as Jack Kelly, a dangerously deep undercover DEA agent posing as the middle man for a Canadian/Armenian opioid drug cabal that has wound its way into America and who lives in constant fear of his ruthless associates discovering his true identity. Meanwhile, in Detroit, straight-laced professor Dr. Tyrone Brower (Gary Oldman, late of MANK) slowly begins to realize that a supposedly safe painkiller his University has helped develop is anything but. And elsewhere at the same time, architect Claire Reimann (Evangeline Lilly, ANT-MAN) is shattered when her teenage son is found dead after an apparent Oxycontin overdose, a truth that doesn’t sit well with her when an autopsy reveals that he has in fact been battered about the skull, the pills potentially poured down his throat instead of being ingested willingly. All three of these tenuously connected stories come together in ingenious ways to hit home a singular truth: our society is in the grip of a passive, silent enemy that infested the corners of our lives like vermin and, if not addressed soon, will continue to breed and evolve. A crisis, indeed.

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On THE SENTINEL

A look at Michael Winner’s leering 1977 theological horror film

What are horror films but morality tales whose serpentine roots lie deeply grounded in campfire ghost stories, myth, folklore, fairy tales and of course, in theology. Organized religion has almost universally employed narratives of fear and terror as warning signs to obey the rules and exist divinely, to avoid the pitfalls of base temptation and vice lest ye be tossed into the bubbling cauldrons of Hell itself. And Since Edison first ran his one reel Frankenstein through a Kinetiscope, this pious, raw, stripping-down of elements both spiritual and corporeal have exemplified the best efforts our beloved genre has to offer.

Now, as any good student of history should know, the 1960’s were a time of change in America and abroad; of social and political upheaval. With JFK getting his noggin shattered on live television and the bloody shadow of the Vietnam conflict looming large, the people – fresh out of the pastel perfect 1950’s-were no longer blindly trusting of their flag, of themselves…or of their God.

Right and wrong became blurry. Black and white dissolved into various shades of grey. Good didn’t always conquer evil and sometimes The Devil would win and there was nothing your endless bible-to-bosom clutching could do about it. As the 60’s oozed into the 1970’s, Americans were shell shocked and, much like the angry youth coming out of post-war Germany, Italy and France, they began to seriously question their previously unchallenged beliefs. And, as mainstream pop culture began to reflect this disenfranchisement, so then did horror movies become more morally checkered, delivering the bleakest, most nihilistic answers imaginable.

So too then were the streams of guarded religious idealism attacked with profitable and controversial relish. This cycle of irreverent, theology-based pop-terror started in 1968 with Roman Polanski’s adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestseller ROSEMARY’S BABY; it went sexually rabid with Ken Russell’s depraved 1971 melodrama THE DEVILS; it perfected itself with William Friedkin’s 1973 classic THE EXORCIST and it climaxed with the operatic pulp of Richard Donner’s 1976 shocker THE OMEN. But one picture that sought to ride this potentially blasphemous wave got lost in the shuffle, coming out after films about the persuasive power of The Devil were popular, receiving its cinematic communion perhaps a wee bit too late. Though many people that saw it theatrically back in 1977 still cite it as one of the scariest movies ever made, for whatever reason THE SENTINEL has kind of, sort of just disappeared from those omnipresent “best horror movies” discussions. It still exists primarily on the fringe.

Pity poor Alison Parker (Christina Raines, NIGHTMARES), beautiful model and actress by day and nail biting nervous wreck by night. As a teenager she accidentally stumbled upon her father engaging in a tawdry threesome with two rather rotund whores and, after being beaten by her old man for the intrusion, promptly dragged a razor blade across her own wrist. Though she survived the bungled suicide, years later she tries again after her lover’s wife, who, upon discovering her hubby’s infidelity, jumps from a bridge to her own emotionally devastated demise. Again, Alison lives through it. Now shacked up with said lover, a slightly sinister high priced lawyer named Michael (FRIGHT NIGHT’s Chris Sarandon), the terminally tortured starlet, feeling she needs some much needed independence and space to figure out who she is, rents an apartment in a looming NYC brownstone.

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On HIDEAWAY

A closer look at Brett Leonard’s punishing 1995 thriller

Much has been said of the 1990s in regards to the genre, with many moping about the dearth of good stateside, American horror the decade produced, while others – mostly, those who came of age during the period – speaking of how Wes Craven’s SCREAM and its stabby, self-referential ilk “saved” contemporary horror. I suppose both arguments are valid, and sure, the ’90s also saw a wave of notable faves like CANDYMAN and NIGHTBREED slinking out from the multiplex, eventually becoming classics. Still, a majority of horror films from this era were very safe, slick and clean affairs. Few had the arch angles and WTF moments that make the genre so interesting. Sure, SCREAM may have hit hard with critics and the Friday night date crowd, but I felt then and even more so now, that its smugness, its faux-witty dialogue and its small-screen sensibilities were miles removed from everything I love, respect and, yes, fear about stranger cinema. When I close my eyes and think of the ’90s silver screen, all I see is an endless succession of samey-same posters with pretty alabaster young people standing in cascading lines, glowering at the lens. And – in my opinion – most of the movies they helped shuck were equally as uninspiring. It was as if the FRIENDS-ification of domestic pop culture dumped a kind of pretty glue over every moving entertainment in its path. Blech…

However there were a few bright, spastic cinematic spots that stuck out from the pedestrian pack. Stuff like RAVENOUS and FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, though I can’t really cite that latter picture as a true horror movie and I’ve always felt its second-half horror component paled in comparison to its straight-up crime drama set-up. No, to me, the greatest of all arcane offerings coming from the last-gasp of the past millennium was a picture everyone seemed to hate. They hated it then. They probably still hate it now, though perhaps that contemporary hate is closer to ignorance as I’m willing to bet folks have either forgotten about it or didn’t even know the movie existed in the first place. The visionary, violent and merciless slab of mad-science slasher mayhem I speak of is Brett Leonard’s muscular and ultra-stylish 1995 mind-bending psychic stab-a-thon HIDEAWAY and it’s about goddamned time people started paying attention to it.

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On THE GRAPES OF DEATH

Jean Rollin’s nightmarish dream thriller is the strangest zombie movie ever made

The enduring fascination – to pull from the title of one of his most famous films –with the work of French horror film director Jean Rollin doesn’t rest exclusively with sex. Certainly, as with his much studied Eurohorror colleague Jess Franco, the surface hook for Rollin’s oeuvre is his use of overt female eroticism blending with ample bloodshed, and like Franco, both directors have dabbled in hardcore pornography to make ends meet. But with Rollin, really, it’s that certain je ne sai quoi that keeps his admirers coming back, addicted to dissecting his pictures and pushing to have them spoken about just as seriously as the work of his New Wave countryman like Goddard, Truffaut et al. More plainly put, Jean Rollin was the poet laureate of European exploitation; a true artist who found himself making movies that had to be easily classified as simple genre works and whose vision was ghettoized by distributors looking to sell his unique, personal films to unimaginative consumers seeking a quick thrill.

And while Rollin will forever be associated with his now celebrated series of dreamy, sensual feminine vampire pictures like SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, REQUIEM FOR A VAMPIRE and his ultimate fanged-femme masterpiece LIPS OF BLOOD, one of his lesser discussed efforts dabbles in a different kind of undead fiend, that of the zombie.  Filmed as PESTICIDE, released in France as LES RAISINS DE LA MORT and eventually known stateside as THE GRAPES OF DEATH, this 1978 ghoul-fest is indeed a story of outbreak and the murderous, mindless, diseased monsters it creates. But we promise you, THE GRAPES OF DEATH is unlike any zombie film ever made, a picture that pulls in the pundits with promises of post-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD frissons and then subjects its audience to meandering, mesmerizing passages of death, decay and dream-state horror.

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On CONTAMINATION

A 40th anniversary tribute to Luigi Cozzi’s delirious science fiction shocker

It’s almost impossible to think that it’s been 40 years since the release of CONTAMINATION. It’s equally unimaginable that some of you reading these words have no idea what CONTAMINATION is. But for that lucky legion of fans that have indeed long-loved Luigi Cozzi’s delirious 1980 Italian sci-fi/horror romp (and former “Video Nasty”), your pulses were likely pounding as soon as you saw the headline of this piece. And for you curious lot still in the dark, allow me to illuminate.

CONTAMINATION stars ZOMBI 2 and ZOMBI HOLOCAUST legend Ian McCulloch as alcoholic ex-astronaut Ian Hubbard who is roped back into action by Colonel Stella Holmes (Canadian actress Louise Marleau) after a ghost ship drifts into the New York harbour carrying crates of acid-spewing death-sacs, the likes of which have just caused a crew of investigators to explode like blood piñatas.  Seems Hubbard was part of a doomed Mars mission many years prior in which fellow astronaut Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch) fell under the spell of some sort of egg-laying terror and vanished. When Hubbard returned to earth, raving about Martians and half out of his mind, no one believed his tales and he slipped into deep depression and hopeless addiction. Horrified to learn that the pulsing poison eggs he encountered in space are now on earth, but exhilarated that there is finally proof of his career-killing claims, Hubbard joins forces with Colonel Holmes –and NYPD cop Tony Aris (Marino Mase) – to track down the source that’s shipping the deadly, toxic eggs around the world, a journey that takes them to the steamy jungles of Columbia. Seems Hamilton had also returned to earth where he runs a coffee plantation and has become a puppet of the insidious alien lifeform, who has psychically ordered him to help bring the earth to its knees via its evil ova, packed discretely in boxes of coffee beans.

Calling CONTAMINATION an ALIEN rip-off is no insult to the film, nor is it a slight on Cozzi’s integrity or intentions. During that period of Italian exploitation moviemaking, no producer worth his salt would have dared finance any genre film that wasn’t a direct quote on an existing, profitable picture – especially if it was a profitable American picture as ensuring U.S. screens was an essential component to a European film’s success.  And that is indeed exactly how CONTAMINATION began its swollen galactic pustule-popping life, with Cozzi – fresh of the modest success of his wild space opera STARCRASH – walking into producer Claudio Mancini’s office and promising a movie that boiled down to being “ALIEN made for peanuts”, one that was originally to be called CONTAMINATION: THE ALIEN ARRIVES ON EARTH. As Ridley Scott’s masterpiece was a ground-breaking, instant global sensation, without blinking, Mancini agreed to do the movie and it was rushed into production.

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On 8MM

Another look at Joel Schumacher’s devastating neo-noir horror film

It’s as good a time as any to scribble about a motion picture that I cite as one of the most underrated horror films of the past quarter century and certainly, the most undervalued in the Nicolas Cage cannon. It’s a movie that positions itself as a noir-steeped murder mystery but goes so deeply into phantasmagoria that it becomes, almost imperceptibly, a full blown horror film. And while there isn’t anything explicitly supernatural in the film, there is a leather-clad Frankenstein monster-esque porn stud-gimp named “Machine” who acts as the angel of sexual death for an egomaniacal snuff film pimp named Dino Velvet who is so over the edge with his grim villainy that he makes Dracula look like a milquetoast by comparison.

Indeed, the movie I’m about to rave about is the Andrew Kevin Walker (SEVEN) scripted psychodrama 8MM, released in 1999 and directed by the Hollywood the late gun-for-hire Joel Schumacher, he of slick and empty entertainments like THE LOST BOYS, FLATLINERS, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, the risable BATMAN FOREVER and the even more dire BATMAN AND ROBIN. Outside of the latter two pictures, however, I actually rather liked Schumacher’s solid journeyman work. He was a sleazier Tony Scott in some ways, making glossy, easily packaged product that nonetheless had covert personal kinks splashing around on the peripheral and very often, a palpable passion for movie-making at their cores. I believe 8MM to be his masterpiece and certainly, it’s further evidence that Cage is one of the great dramatic screen presences when used properly and when dialing down his patented eccentricities (though I am indeed a huge devotee of said eccentricities).

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