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Outside the Box - PHOENIX's Top 100 Not Quite Obscure Films

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I forgot the opening line.
✿༺ 3 ༻✿

THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

Director : Sam Raimi


The way I look at The Evil Dead has changed over the years. In the early '80s it was the bad boy of horror movies - from what there was, and what you could rent it was the one that went over the top in every direction. It was a giddy low budget movie that made no bones about being low budget - actually incorporating that into how fun it was. It was inventive by going to extremes - the volume of blood and gore far outweighed it's 5 characters, and it's outlandish features pushed the envelope so hard you could hear it tearing. When it wasn't being scary it was being deliriously funny. Over time, all of that wears off - The Evil Dead is no longer unique, nor is it the most gory or outlandish horror film out there. So, is my fondness for it pure nostalgia? No - while it does have a huge tick in the nostalgia column, what I get from it when watching it now is an appreciation of novice filmmaking that is beautiful to sit back and observe. The shots and the sound - what a labor of love. Unlike most films, every shot in The Evil Dead has been carefully thought over, planned, rethought, tested, tried, re-shot and finally accomplished. The editing has been carefully managed. The sound bristles with invention, and is well thought out. Now I'm not a kid enjoying the kicks I get out of a high-impact horror film - I'm appreciating The Evil Dead as a work of art. There's no artificial gloss, CGI, popular music soundtrack, prima donna acting, cliched story or high-minded purpose. It's pure. The simple love I had for it in the past has matured, and the 40 years I've had with this movie has distilled that love into a belief that it's truly great. Moment for moment, this is one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies for me. It might not make sense when you objectively compare it to movies like The Tree of Life or The Grand Budapest Hotel - but it's simply the way it is for me. The Evil Dead is a blast, and coded into it's DNA is everything I love about the filmmaking process - pure invention, and a love of making movies.

I tried to find an interesting YouTube video to include here (I almost posted Into the Woods, but I don't know - it's not great watching) - this one is called "What Evil Dead is Really About" and gives a good overview of Raimi and the film's evolution.


How do I match The Evil Dead with an honorable mention? There's been much like it in the interim, though nothing like it can outdo it. One movie I've seen a few times that really takes the right kind of inspiration from it though is Deadstream - it's fun, low budget, full of ghosts, ghouls and monsters and has wonderful art and set decoration. So while many of the Evil Dead sequels and remakes are well worth checking out, I needn't reference them and waste the spot. Just imagine if Evil Dead 2 had of been a found footage film, and you're getting close to what Deadstream is like. I'll be watching it yet again soon - it rewards rewatches, is very funny, and full of nice touches. It's not an easy balance to strike - so few of these are as rewarding.

3.5

DEADSTREAM (2022)

Director : Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter

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How do I match The Evil Dead with an honorable mention? There's been much like it in the interim, though nothing like it can outdo it. One movie I've seen a few times that really takes the right kind of inspiration from it though is Deadstream - it's fun, low budget, full of ghosts, ghouls and monsters and has wonderful art and set decoration. So while many of the Evil Dead sequels and remakes are well worth checking out, I needn't reference them and waste the spot. Just imagine if Evil Dead 2 had of been a found footage film, and you're getting close to what Deadstream is like. I'll be watching it yet again soon - it rewards rewatches, is very funny, and full of nice touches. It's not an easy balance to strike - so few of these are as rewarding.

3.5

DEADSTREAM (2022)

Director : Joseph Winter & Vanessa Winter

I enjoyed this one. I thought the lead did a good job of making a potentially obnoxious character a likable goober instead. I laughed often.



I forgot the opening line.
✿༺ 2 ༻✿

THE CONVERSATION (1974)

Director : Francis Ford Coppola


Taking stock of the paranoia birthed in the 1960s and running wild in the 1970s - actually boosted and supercharged by Watergate from 1972 to 1974 - it's the paranoia itself that interests me. I've found that the bigger the conspiracy theory, the less that's actually there. Governments are far too incompetent to implement complex conspiracies, and when there's ever more than 3 people involved, secrets are tough to keep - unless there's a good reason for them. But nevertheless, there was an unravelling that has as it's epicenter the assassination of John F. Kennedy - and it was a societal and governmental unravelling that has never ceased to this day. The Conversation has never been bettered in giving us a chilling sense of the dynamic between the rot and the obsessive paranoia that feeds on it. As far as Francis Ford Coppola is concerned, I like this film more than The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and Gene Hackman gives his best ever performance in this. The atmosphere - that festering, suspicious, whispery atmosphere hinting at a secret world and how to become hopelessly obsessed with an lost within it is quietly worked at and perfected - and I come away wowed every time. One of the best films ever made. This has to be close to being in at least the Letterboxd Top 250, but it isn't quite there. That's my gain for this list. The video below talks about the making of The Conversation, and specifically, the influence Blow-Up and Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four had on it.


There's only one film that fits neatly with The Conversation - Brian De Palma's Blow Out came 7 years later and put Coppola's film along with all of it's influences and mixed it up inside of a Hitchcock thriller. Blow Out appears like old Hitch himself had been inspired by The Conversation to make one of his films based on it - but De Palma's most major influence is well known, and what's most surprising is how good a job he does with it. Neither The Conversation nor Blow Out did well at the box office, but they ended up being two major films of their time, and have become more everlasting than some of the biggest box office hits back then. There's much solace to take from that.

2.5

BLOW OUT (1981)

Director : Brian De Palma




I know I've mentioned this before, but The Conversation was the first DVD my family ever owned, because a family friend worked on sound design for the film and they got copies to give out.

I enjoy it more on every rewatch. So much detail, and a film where the meaning of a scene totally changes with a simple inflection of a word.



I forgot the opening line.
The best Coppola movie and almost the best DePalma.


So...two of the best movies ever made?
Indeed they were - two of the greatest films ever made, playing to empty theaters as audiences flocked to Airport '75 and The Cannonball Run. That's really the key indication that we're pretty much doomed as a species.



I forgot the opening line.
✿༺ 1 ༻✿

HEREDITARY (2018)

Director : Ari Aster


Hereditary might be a controversial number one, but I owe it a debt of gratitude. I remember reading a review before I saw it that basically said "You know how we still discuss films like The Shining to this day? Well, people will be discussing Hereditary the same way, many years from now." I'm paraphrasing there, but I basically read that and thought it was a big call. I was excited to see it - and when I did it still exceeded my expectations, by a long shot. So seeing it in a cinema, I got to experience something I hadn't for all my life going back to when I was a boy - a kind of wonderment for cinema as if I were only just discovering it now, that almost translates into a little long lost boyhood magic that had been trapped in an air-pocket for decades and got released. Something absolutely unique - I was seeing something new, was being surprised and completely losing myself to what was on that screen. Considering how long it's taken for a film to do that to me, who knows if it'll ever happen again. Ari Aster just went and made my movie - the exact movie I wanted to see, with shades of all the best horror can do. A real throwback to my introduction to movies that included seeing the likes of Jaws, The Shining and An American Werewolf in London and many other great late 70s/early 80s movies on the big screen. Something that got past my jaded, weary, cynical movie-watching mind. If I have any other #1 selections on a movie list, they're all inside the IMDb or Letterboxd Top 250 - so that makes it easy for me here - Hereditary is always going to top the list. It's my latter-day favourite film. Below is one of the myriad videos examining Hereditary on YouTube.


Okay, from a similar period here's one as an honorable mention that I missed upon release. Word of mouth got me there in the end though - I love a good horror movie that's also a great conversation piece as to what it's about. It Follows didn't need effects, blood, or big name actors. It only needed someone's twisted nightmare imagination - and that it has.

1.5

IT FOLLOWS (2014)

Director : David Robert Mitchell




I forgot the opening line.
Should Have, Could Have, Would Have

My list of films that were overlooked - many of them based on an assumption they'd be in the Letterboxd or IMDb Top 250, but others for lord knows what reason...



Yeah, McCabe & Mrs. Miller is up at the top of what I think are the best films ever made - and I'm certainly one of it's staunchest fans. This one I totally thought would be up in the Top 250s, but 7.6/10 on the IMDb (from only 27k of votes) and 4.12/5 on Letterboxd (37k ratings), while really good scores, doesn't get it in.



3 Women - good lord. Here I had an absolutely marvelous movie that I love, and it could probably squeeze into that "obscure" category. Again - this is so good I just carelessly assumed that at the very least it would crack the Letterboxd Top 250. 7.7/10 on the IMDB (this time only 17k votes) and 4.12/5 on Letterboxd (35k ratings). Silly, this not being on my list.



Crumbsroom mentioned Windy City Heat in relation to Bobcat Goldthwait and I did have a bit of regret not including it on my list - my reasoning here is that I've never quite thought of it as a movie. It is, of course, one of the greatest things ever made - and an endless source of fascination for me that I refuse to look deeply into. If it really is what it says it is, then it's possibly mankind's greatest ever achievement.



Blair Witch was squeezed out because I was looking for less known stuff and that film is about as famous a horror movie as you can get - but it's possibly the greatest. If I were going anything not in the Top 250s this would have been up inside my Top 25.



More than a couple is too many films from as recent as 2022, and once it got those Oscar nominations, Triangle of Sadness suddenly became much more mainstream.

Any more I think of, I'll post - otherwise, it's bye bye from me - and my first ever Top 100 list is done. Next time, I'm probably aiming for my Top 100 Worst Movies I've ever seen (adjusted for budget).