SICKWEAR Christmas 2015 Design AnnouncementOctober 29, 2015
Mario’s Underground Corner Presents:
2015: A YEAR IN REVIEW The Top 10 Underground Releases of the Year
After a long hiatus, Mario’s Underground Corner is back! Yes, Uncle Mario was busy this past year with promoting his book “Exploring the Underground” and attending festivals and conventions galore! But he’s back with a vengeance to give you that exciting coverage of the most outlandish, original, inventive, gory, sick and artful films the underground has to offer.
2015 was quite the year for all “Sick Fucks” with two amazing underground film festivals, one being Slaughter in Syracuse in the summer courtesy of Vultra Video’s Jason West with the help of Beneath the Underground’s Nick DeCarlo and The Underground at the Hollywood in Pittsburgh in September presented by Rich Dalzotto and Sandy Stuhlfire of the Horror Realm convention and the fine folks of Pittsburgh’s wonderful Hollywood Theater. There was much to celebrate throughout the year with new releases from companies like TOETAG, Unearthed Films, Massacre Video, and Synapse Films. Whether it was new Blu-Ray/DVD releases of long sought after cult films or new indie gorefests, these four companies had plenty to offer. With all that said, let’s have a look at what I feel were the best underground films to make their DVD premieres and festival screening premieres in 2015.
1) FLOWERS – Directed by Phil Stevens, this bizarre, dreamlike and artsy gore flick is a visual spectacle totally unlike anything flooding the direct-to-video market today. Produced with the help of Ronnie Sortor and Borderline Cinema, Phil Stevens’ picture explores a world in which female victims of a serial killer find themselves caught in situations where they are no longer human beings but rather animated components of a spirit world made of dirt, decay, excrement, and earthworms. Trapped in secret tunnels and passages of a
dirty house, they find themselves stitched back together after their bodies were mutilated and their organs have been replaced with soil essentially making them the “flowers” of the psychopath who brutalized them in their original plains of existence. A story told without any dialog, filled with gruesome imagery, and grotesque but beautiful set designs, FLOWERS is a surreal, spiritual, thinking man’s horror story that can best be described as BEGOTTEN meets SINGAPORE SLING as directed by Ingmar Bergman. It’s a movie where you can’t pin down exactly what you saw upon first viewing. After repeat views, it becomes a puzzle you put together on your own with the symbolism and nonlinear set pieces. Issued earlier in the year
on DVD by Phil Stevens and Ronnie Sortor themselves, the film was picked up for North American distribution by Unearthed Films and was released in a beautiful 3-disc limited edition DVD set with numerous special features including commentaries, interviews, audition footage, a behind-the-scenes documentary, early short films from Phil, and a CD of the film’s soundtrack. This release by Unearthed is a breathtaking package that should be essential to all collectors of underground films. A standard single disc edition is also available from Unearthed. Phil is now finishing post-production on a prequel to the film entitled LUNG II which is premiering at the beginning of 2016.
2) TANTRUM – James Bell is becoming one of indie cinema’s most creative shoestring budget artists. His first film DOG DICK was an offbeat look at life in his hometown and the lifestyles of the people around him. The film has often been compared with the works of Harmony Korine (most notably GUMMO) and has seen its share of praise from many underground film reviewers who have publicized its weird and sometimes shocking moments and occasional experimental filmmaking techniques. Bell would follow this one up with MANUER, a gross out horror quickie that goes in a different direction with its “toilet humor” (LOL!) and its similarities to STREET TRASH with a story centered on a homeless person and total body meltdown gore effects. For his third effort TANTRUM, Bell has given us his most ambitious project to date. TANTRUM is a surrealist horror outing which, much like BEGOTTEN, focuses on non-traditional cinematic methods. It delivers some outrageous gore and disturbing imagery in a short amount of time and gives you a glimpse into a plain of existence where the laws of normalcy don’t seem to apply as a troubled individual taking his own life experiences a transition to what can best be called a fucked up nightmare world. If you need something that messes with your head, look no further than TANTRUM. James Bell has created the ultimate art house gore short with this one. I look forward to seeing where his artistic methods take us with his next film NUTSACK.
3) ANDROGYNYM – Beneath the Underground Films’ third release (following MORRIS COUNTY and AGONI) is this unusual horror-drama which comes to us courtesy of writer-director Nick Iway and producer/story developer John Lauterbach. Nym (played by Iway himself) is in a bit of a bind as he flees town to go into hiding after a deal he was ordered to carry out by the criminal organization he works for goes wrong. In the meantime, Nym is dealing with a sex addiction and decides the time has come to free himself from this addiction by conducting his own “sex change” operation. His penis removed, he dons women’s clothing and seeks refuge in a new town where he meets up with a filmmaker (played by Lauterbach) who interests him in a sci-fi film he’s making with paper cut out figures. The story of the sci-fi movie that he shows to Nym as it’s in development seems to carry elements that coincide with the situations Nym is experiencing. As their friendship develops, things seem to go in a positive direction until Nym’s past catches up with him, leading to an intense, dramatic conclusion. ANDROGYNYM is a totally unique movie that shows you how to do a psychological drama on a small budget. It manages to be beautiful and touching as well as tragic and gut wrenching. It doesn’t take the usual splatter/gore route that so many low budget horror films take today (though it does have a few gruesome moments) and instead tells us a story with a genuine human element and much emphasis on symbolism. Iway and Lauterbach have created what may become a modern masterpiece in contemporary micro budget filmmaking. They deserve all the accolades they have gotten and hope they get more recognition in the future.
4) AMERICAN GUINEA PIG: BOUQUET OF GUTS AND GORE – After distributing the infamous GUINEA PIG flicks from Japan on DVD over a decade ago which kicked off things for Unearthed Films and put them on the map as a top DVD distributor for underground gore flicks, Stephen Biro looked to revive GUINEA PIG in America and has given us the first of what has become the AMERICAN GUINEA PIG series. Directed by Biro and featuring gore FX by Marcus Koch (100 TEARS, FELL) and 8mm camera work by the great Jim Van Bebber, BOUQUET OF GUTS AND GORE kicks off AGP and is a gritty, grimy, gore-soaked sleaze fest featuring two women kidnapped and subject to the perverse activities of snuff filmmakers who proceed to horrifically torture and mutilate them while filming the atrocities with a modern Digital Video camera and old school Super 8 camera. BOUQUET OF GUTS AND GORE is a depraved mash up of LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET and FLOWER OF FLESH AND BLOOD that gleefully blends old school grindhouse cinema and modern found footage movie styles. Biro, Koch, and Van Bebber have raped my senses with this one. Look for the next entry in the AGP series entitled BLOODSHOCK in 2016. BLOODSHOCK is directed by Koch and stars Dan Ellis (GUTTERBALLS, HANGER). BOUQUET OF GUTS AND GORE is available as a limited edition 3-disc DVD set from Unearthed Films as well as a single disc DVD edition.
5) HEADLESS – A year after Scott Schirmer’s brilliant FOUND was given a North American release, the production team went on to follow it up with a film that focuses on HEADLESS, the film-within-the-film of FOUND. With Arthur Cullipher at the helm as director, the footage shot for the HEADLESS segments in FOUND has been expanded upon and Cullipher and a great cast and crew have made it into the amazing feature film HEADLESS. Shot to look like a lost slasher movie from the ‘70s, HEADLESS is a sick and depraved flick with plenty of gore and nudity and a great cast of indie horror regulars such as Ellie Church, Brian Williams, Dave James Parker, Haley Jay Madison, and more! Forbidden Films released HEADLESS on DVD and Blu-Ray themselves in 2015. It’s a gorefest that should make for a great purchase for sickos looking to spend their holiday bonus money.
6) AGONI – A small project shot by Ryan Vincent Logsdon, I was particularly intrigued by AGONI when I saw it described by ArME/LUST filmmaker Keith Voigt Jr. as “if AUGUST UNDERGROUND got tag teamed by INLAND EMPIRE and GUMMO, and they couldn’t figure out which one was the father.” I almost immediately contacted Ryan to
obtain a copy. Ryan said the movie was something he shot for fun and was just giving the DVDs out to folks at conventions. As for my expectations with the movie, I expected it to be another “serial killer’s found footage” flick, but when I went to watch it after getting the DVD in the mail, I found it to be a unique flick that had qualities that set it apart from other found footage flicks. The picture carries a “Property of Agoni County District Attorney’s Office” notice on the bottom of the screen throughout the movie. It is obviously shot to look like evidence in a criminal investigation, a gimmick that I thought was very clever and unique to this kind of film. The film focuses on atrocities
committed by Maxwell Edison, a psychopath living in rural Pennsylvania. We watch as he and his accomplice lure their victims into their realm and focus on the aftermath of their crimes with their home video camera. There’s a particularly disturbing scene in the picture where small needles are dipped into the HIV-infected blood of a victim. What this is used for should particularly be terrifying to those who are paranoid about germs and diseases. I’ll just leave it at that. AGONI was the second movie picked up for distribution by Beneath the Underground Films and is one that’s deserving of the attention of fucked up cinema enthusiasts. I look forward to seeing what Ryan Vincent Logsdon brings us next.
7) HUNTERS – The latest outing from Adam Ahlbrandt, creator of CROSS BEARER and THE CEMETERY, is his sickest film yet! HUNTERS is a backwoods horror story that focuses on sadistic rednecks running a snuff filmmaking ring. A filmmaker and his friends working on a project in the area have the misfortune of running into this group of psychopaths, who have raped, tortured and killed their way from one end of the sticks to the other and sent tapes of their activities to victims’ family members in the mail. HUNTERS is filled with outrageous gore, torture, brutality, nudity, sex, and has an incredible cast of underground and B-movie icons, including Linnea Quigley, Tina Krause, Haley Jay Madison, Victor Bonacore, Dave James Parker, Genoveva Rossi, Ellie Church, and Ahlbrandt himself! HUNTERS is set to be released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Massacre Video in 2016. It is part of an amazing line-up of releases Massacre has set for the New Year!
8) HORSEHEAD – One of the first titles in Artsploitation Films’ distribution line-up of 2015, HORSEHEAD is a unique art house horror effort from French filmmaker Romain Basset. Featuring beautiful European locations, HORSEHEAD tells the story of a girl named Jessica who’s plagued with recurring nightmares. She tries to figure out whether or not there’s a meaning behind them. After her grandmother’s death, Jessica moves in with her mother (played by Catriona MacColl of Fulci’s THE BEYOND). As the nightmares continue, Jessica suspects that something from her grandmother’s past is related to what occurs in the dreams. She uses the dreams to put a puzzle together. The dreams become more vivid and horrifying as the surrealistic nightmare world slowly reveals something shocking. HORSEHEAD is full of amazing imagery and breathtaking production design. The FX are extremely well done too. Also featured in the movie is an appearance by French extreme cinema regular Philippe Nahon (I STAND ALONE, CALVAIRE, HIGH TENSION, etc.) as a priest. First distributed in Canada on DVD and Blu-Ray by Black Fawn Distribution and then given US distribution by Artsploitation Films, HORSEHEAD has shown Romain Basset is a director to watch and is a film that should definitely please those who love surreal cinema.
9) INVALID – What more can I say that hasn’t already been said about Dustin Mills? He is one of indie cinema’s busiest directors. He has given us “puppet” horrors like THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE and SNUFFET, zombie flicks like ZOMBIE A-HOLE and BATH SALT ZOMBIES, extreme and disturbing flicks like HER NAME WAS TORMENT, SKINLESS, and KILL THAT BITCH, experimental cinema like THE HORNET’S STING AND THE HELL IT’S CAUSED and A BLACK HEART IN WHITE HELL, and now he has given us what he calls his tribute to Italian horror with INVALID. INVALID stars Joni Durian as a girl given the responsibility of caring for her disabled brother who is bed-ridden and unable to move or talk. He seems to have developed an ability to communicate with her telepathically. He uses this power to make demands. Those demands to his sister: Kill so he can recover! INVALID is like a Giallo version of PATRICK. It has gory violence, nudity, and a very creepy atmosphere. Dustin Mills regular Dave James Parker is also featured in the cast. INVALID is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Dustin Mills Productions.
10) DIARY OF A DEADBEAT: THE STORY OF JIM VAN BEBBER – Victor Bonacore was hard at work on this project for at least five years. He set out to create the ultimate documentary on perhaps the most influential underground filmmaker of them all. His work has been called daring and dangerous and his style is almost never equaled. I’m of course talking about the one and only Jim Van Bebber! DIARY OF A DEADBEAT covers Jim’s career from his early childhood short films up until GATOR GREEN and interviews Jim and several of his filmmaking collaborators as well as several of his fans, fellow underground filmmakers, musicians, journalists, etc. It is the single most detailed biographical work I’ve ever seen on an icon of low budget cinema. Among the interviewees are actor Marc Pitman, actress Leslie Orr, cinematographer Mike King, journalist Heidi Honeycutt, filmmakers Ron Atkins, Damon Packard, Bill Hellfire and Richard Kern, Superfan Rob Steinbruegge, Phil Anselmo, Mitch Davis of the Fantasia Festival, Vic Noto of STREET TRASH, Nivek Ogre, R.A. The Rugged Man, Stephen Biro, and many others! Also featured is footage from Jim’s appearance at the Cinema Wasteland convention in 2010 and some behind-the-scenes stuff from GATOR GREEN. DIARY OF A DEADBEAT is being released on Blu-Ray and DVD by Massacre Video in 2016. Another great addition to Massacre’s incredible 2016 roster!
My hat goes off to all the filmmakers who made 2015 such a memorable year in underground cinema! Hope this list serves you all well! Here’s to a great year and hopefully another great one in 2016!
Spread the Sickness Socially!
Spread the Sickness Socially!