After that last post, where I warned of the dangers of engaging too much in online life, I should really balance things out with a nicer post about it. As someone who enjoys watching old films, particularly low budget bad films, the last few years have seen an embarrassment of riches being placed online and for free. In the past, I would have to go to the now closed Virgin Mega Store in Times Square or Kim's Videos on St Marks Place (also NYC) to and browse their vast collection of cult DVDs (or back in the day, videos) in order to find trash classics like The Baby, She Devils on Wheels or Sticks and Stones. Back in the 1990s I built up a large cupboard of video cassettes, which were stacked on top of each other and which was always at risk of toppling over and crushing me (imagine being trapped under hundreds of cult movie videos forever!) Once DVD took off, I started buying disks online from places like somethingweird.com, and storing the disks in wallets (alphabetically because I'm a bit Type A), which saved space, but even so, I can still see myself running out of space eventually.
Fortunately, plenty of the sorts of films that only a very tiny minority of the population of the world would ever seriously consider paying actual money for, are now available on youtube... for free. The picture quality isn't that great, and sometimes you have to watch them in little 10 minute chunks. But there are so many long-lost friends and "new" (I mean old but I've never seen them before) films that I've discovered recently. Here are a few, with my comments. If you ever find yourself with cancelled plans on a Saturday night, or suffering from a debilitating illness which means you can't go out at all, you could do a lot worse.
If you watch any of these films, let me know what you think of them, or feel free to recommend your own youtube grindhouse favourites...
Devil Times Five
A bus full of deranged children from a mental hospital crashes on an isolated road, and the little
Let's Scare Jessica to Death
The titular Jessica is recovering from mental illness and has retreated to a countryside farmhouse location with her husband and another friend. They're a bit weird (they drive a hearse and like to take rubbings from gravestones) and the locals don't really take to them. But then weird things start to happen, and Jessica can't decide whether she's going mad, or the victim of some sort of wicked conspiracy to make her think she's going mad, or whether she's just dreaming the whole thing, or whether the weird things are actually real. It has one of those 1970s endings and afterwards you'll wonder whether you dreamt the whole thing yourself. Really, with a title like that though, I'd have watched this even if it had been the most rubbish, boring awful film ever made.
Link to full film
A group of teenagers have to spend the night in a spooky old house as part of an initiation into their silly fraternity. But the planned adolescent tricks on them are nothing in comparison to the real psychopath who lives in a series of underground tunnels under the house and doesn't like unwanted guests. The film morphs from an episode of Scooby Doo into something much more disturbing, and it particularly picks up in the last third, with a couple of genuine scares. Linda Blair (from The Exorcist) follows in the footsteps of Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver and gets to play the Final Girl - the slightly asexual one who gets left to last, while the pretty blonde girls are all bumped off first as a punishment for having sex (1980s morality is so complicated). Even though the characters should have been one-dimensional and annoying, there are attempts to make them likeable and rounded (in an early bit Linda's character says she's learned how to fix cars, and it's actually turns out to be relevant to the plot!)
Messiah of Evil
In a very HP Lovecraft-inspired tale, Marianna Hill (one of the weirdo sisters from The Baby) is looking for her missing artist father in a small Californian beach town. Her father's house is full of his disturbing giagantic art installations, making for an interesting film set. She teams up with an odd trio who are implied to be in a threesome relationship (Michael Greer who was more well-known for playing outrageous gay characters in films like Fortune and Men's Eyes, the rather unsubtly named Joy Bang and B Movie stalwart Anitra Ford (from classics like The Big Bird Cage and Invasion of the Bee Girls). But gradually, the heroes are overwhelmed by the zombie-like residents of the town. There are two stand-out scenes in a supermarket and a cinema, which start off normal and gradually descend into horror. A bit like "Jessica", this has a nightmarish quality to it where the characters question what is real.
The House that Screamed
An isloated French boarding school for wayward girls is full of shennanignans, including peeping toms in the shower-room, lesbian initiation games in the cellar and a kind of weekly sex-lottery with the man who delivers the wood. But girls keep "running away", although actually they're not running away at all. While this film was made in 1969, it has more of the feel of a 1979 film, and a lot in common with a later movie Suspira. It's also notable for featuring John Moulder-Brown, who plays the main role in the weird bath-house film Deep End.