The strangest, sickest and scariest midnight movies ever
Depraved new shocker The Greasy Strangler recalls a tradition of late night cult favorites, full of severed limbs, psychedelia and fecal matter
The Greasy Strangler hits the big screen this week and is a strange, grisly homage to cult films and to the midnight moviegoing tradition. From the mad, the bad and the weird, the shocking to the surreal, here are a few of the late-night movies that set the scene for greasy strangling.
With El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky did not think hed simulated a psychedelic experience, he believed hed created the psychedelic itself. It was the first midnight movie, an acid western and an eastern, an experiment in cinematic alchemy featuring occult symbols, castration, self-immolation, a man savoring the taste of a high-heeled shoe, a game of Russian roulette played in church. To the uninitiated El Topo was confounding, but to its devotees, it was a religious experience, like midnight mass with more marijuana.
A film about characters vying for the title of the filthiest person alive. As its tagline suggests, Pink Flamingos was an exercise in poor taste, but it was also a celebration of the outr, a tribute to freaks, degenerates, rejects, anyone whos ever lived in a crib and really loved eggs. It existed outside the system, beyond the fringe, beyond pornography according to New York magazine. It established Divine as a cult icon and defined the midnight movie. Pink Phlegm-ingo Barf Bags were distributed at screenings if anyone vomited during the film, John Waters considered it a standing ovation.
Enter the Dragon
It is like a finger pointing a way to the moon. Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. Enter the Dragon dropped Bruce Lee into a James Bond storyline, one with no guns and a whole lot more ass-kicking. It introduced Jim Kelly as a black power hero who beats up racist cops trying to keep him from the martial arts tournament where the film takes place. It brought the kung fu craze to America, graced us with the legendary cool of Lee, and taught us the art of fighting without fighting.
Dario Argentos Suspiria is a fairytale about a womens ballet academy run by witches where students die more often than dance. Like all great midnight movies, it ushers us into another world, one governed by dream logic. The hypnotic pull of danger drives its plot, as inexorable as a nightmare with images to match: a woman running through the woods, a blue-lit room inexplicably filled with coiled wire, yellow eyes watching in the dark, a McDonalds in Germany. Its a fairytale influenced by Bluebeard, Snow White and stories of witchcraft recounted by co-writer Daria Nicolodis grandmother.
The Warriors is Walter Hills modern Odyssey. The one and only Cyrus seeks to unite all the gangs in New York City, and delegates from these gangs come together to hear him speak. But hes shot and killed, and the Warriors are framed. Hill presents these criminal protagonists as classical heroes as they traverse the dreamscape of their city and battle their way home from the Bronx to Coney Island. Pauline Kael wrote that The Warriors communicated the anger of the dispossessed, but it also showed us their heart, their valor, and their cool leather vests.
A woman dressed as a nun kisses a bullet alone in front of her mirror, then aims a gun at an unseen enemy. This is Abel Ferraras Ms 45, also known as Angel of Vengeance. Zo Tamerlis Lund plays mute seamstress Thana, a woman raped twice in the same afternoon, who kills one of her attackers and keeps his gun. Ferrara and Lund bring humanity to Thana, choosing not to play her like a maniac but a woman dealing with PTSD. Ms 45 is like Death Wish from a womans perspective, the Platonic ideal of rape-revenge movies, and a powerful indictment of male violence.
Evil Dead II
In Sam Raimis revision of The Evil Dead, an ancient evil is unleashed in a cabin in the woods when passages are read from the Book of the Dead, and Bruce Campbells iconic hero Ash descends into madness and Kandarian demons. Evil Dead II had more humor and pathos than its predecessor: Ash kills his girlfriend when she becomes possessed and then he must fight his own hand and sever it with a chainsaw after it turns against him in a balletic, slapstick one-man show. Its The Three Stooges meets the Grand Guignol to create ingenious postmodern horror.