Collins’ Crypt: This Is How I Celebrate My Birthday

With really fucked up movies.

In a few weeks, I'll be "celebrating" the one year anniversary of when I ceased the "A Day" part of my Horror Movie A Day site (sometimes I've even missed the "A Week" part, which bums me out), something that seems a little crazy to me. A year later, and I STILL get a feeling I've forgotten something, or mistakenly block out two hours for it when I know I have a busy day ahead - it's sad, but in an endearing way. I wouldn't say I actually miss the site, since I've been able to get other things done I never would have had the time for (I'm even trying to learn guitar!), but I kind of miss the discipline behind it, if that makes sense.

However, that doesn't mean all of its traditions have to end. Today is my birthday, and I hope to find the time to discover and watch a really disturbing or offbeat horror movie to celebrate with, as that was my ritual for all seven birthdays I celebrated during HMAD's "canon" years. The reasoning tied into part of why I eventually quit the site: I was watching too many movies that left no impression on me. Cookie cutter slashers and Saw wannabes (now replaced with Paranormal Activity ripoffs) made up so much of what I was seeing, leaving me with nothing left to say on them beyond constant comparison to the last and/or best one I saw. So I figured, if I was going to dedicate part of my damn birthday to this thing, I was gonna make damn sure that, good or bad, it would give me something to talk about later.

So if you'll indulge me, I'd like to run down the list, as it's a surprisingly solid bunch - think of it as a list of recommended titles you may have missed! Also it's the only list on the internet where no one can argue with a selection or tell me I "forgot to mention _____", so I'm really happy about that.

2007: CALVAIRE (aka THE ORDEAL) (2004)
The one that started it all! Obviously I wasn't "burnt out" yet, as this was only a few weeks into HMAD's lifespan. It just so happened that I had the place to myself for a few hours and knew it was the kind of movie my wife would get upset by (i.e. it featured rape and/or torture), so I wanted to get it out of the way when I had the chance. And what a delight it was! Sure, the rapey stuff (male on male, for the record) is hardly fun, but any movie that features an entire bar's worth of rednecks suddenly dancing around to a little polka ditty is definitely worth your time. A film that works best without any inkling as to what it's about, though I will say it starts off like (too many) horror films - a car breaking down in a remote area. In the immortal words of Buzzfeed, what happened next will blow your mind.

I like that the most accessible movie on this list is a gruesome horror film that is sung from start to finish and takes place in a near-future where repo men are employed to repossess human organs that weren't paid for on time. Boasting a cast as random as they can come (Paul Sorvino, one of the Spy Kids, horror icon Bill Moseley, stage legend Sarah Brightman, and Paris Hilton - all of whom sing!) and gory moments that rival those seen in director Darren Bousman's Saw sequels (Saw IV even shares a few sets with this film as they were produced practically simultaneously), it's truly like nothing you've ever seen before. Lionsgate understandably didn't know what to make of it and dumped it in a few theaters (presumably due to poor test screening scores - this viewing was actually part of that test!), but it's become a bit of a cult gem over the years, a la Rocky Horror - it continues to show theatrically at midnight shows, 5 years later. It's hardly a perfect film, but the sheer insanity of it all impressed me quite a bit (and Paris isn't that bad! She's basically playing herself, but she does a fine job with it.)

2009: HOME SWEET HOME (1981)
On the surface, this is a pretty typical slasher movie: a guy escapes from an institution, makes his way to some sort of gathering, and offs almost everyone there. But Home Sweet Home is almost certainly the most peculiar of the 1981 slasher cycle - the fact that one of its main characters is a second-rate (often talking) mime isn't even one of the top 5 weird things about it. Odder things include a strange obsession with peas, the mime guy referring to seeing his parents in bed as his "lucky day" (he's not saying it sarcastically), and the fact that the "family" celebrating Thanksgiving dinner is never clearly defined - I've seen the movie twice and still have no idea how most of them relate to one another. Then there's the killer himself, played by Jake Steinfeld, later of "Body By Jake" fame. He makes Adam Sandler faces and giggles maniacally during his kills (including a ridiculous hit n run of an old lady that comes off like a parody of these movies), and has no backstory or motive whatsoever - he's just a guy. A guy in an obscure slasher that is nearly impossible to find on DVD nowadays. Enjoy the insane opening sequence below!

In the 6+ years I did the site every day, rarely have I been as disturbed as I was during this movie, when Clu Gulager, sporting terrifying fishbowl lens glasses, began molesting a corpse (and impregnating it!). It's a squeamish moment anyway, but it has been my privilege to know Mr. Gulager for the past several years, as he is a regular at the New Beverly Cinema and has a nearly perfect attendance record at my midnight screenings. He always has great stories to tell and finds something to enjoy about just about everything*, so his grandfatherly appearance and demeanor is always a highlight of my visits there, and thus watching him do these things made me legitimately upset. The rest of the anthology film is pretty good too, with a fun Vincent Price turn and some good variations on what seem like traditional short film concepts.

2011: I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)
The best of the lot! While all of these struck a nerve and stayed with me long after they finished, this was the only one that received the highest honor I can give a horror film: selecting it as my favorite of the 365+ I saw that year. I sadly admit that I haven't seen as many of Kim Jee-woon's films as I should (Tale of Two Sisters and his American debut The Last Stand are the others), but of all the Korean (hell, I can broaden the scope to merely "Asian") filmmakers I encountered for the first time while doing the site, he's up there with Chan-wook Park as one that made it all worthwhile - it's possible his Arnold vehicle would have been my first exposure to the man (and it hardly would have made me run out to find more). A terrific, brutal film.

2012: POSSESSION (1981)
No "The"! Later this same year, a movie called THE Possession opened and it was a pretty standard PG-13 supernatural thing, and forever annoyed those who'd like to discuss this somewhat obscure 1981 shocker from Andrzej Zulawski. The always awesome Sam Neill and the utterly fearless Isabelle Adjani star as a couple who are going through a messy divorce - and the mess isn't confined to shouting matches. Vicious beatings, self mutilation with electric knives, doppelgangers, and even a damn monster factor into the utterly fucked-up proceedings, highlighted by the lengthy "miscarriage" scene that should have won Adjani an Oscar. Don't open!

2013: STRANGE CIRCUS (2005)
I closed things out with this bizarre, but somewhat sad revenge film from Sion Sono, which featured rape, incest, and suicide - all the things a birthday should be about, right? I admit I had a bit of trouble following some of the movie's twists and turns (it's a story within a story, featuring an unreliable narrator to boot), but I was certainly never bored while watching. It was also my introduction to Sono, and I closed my review out with a promise to see more "soon", which I haven't fulfilled, literally a year later. Should I give one of his other films a look today? Or keep with the "around the world" tradition (the last three were from Korea, France, and Japan, respectively) and look for something with an Italian or Spanish flavor? I've had my eye on The Last Circus for a while, so maybe today will be the day (even though it's not traditional horror, from what I understand). By this time next year I'll have a 9 month old son to consider when choosing my viewing options, so it might be the last fucked up birthday movie I see for a while - gotta make sure it's a memorable one.

What about you hardcore horror fan readers? You have any genre-specific birthday traditions? List em below instead of arguing with the below sidenote!

*Sleeping bag kill and Jason's makeup notwithstanding, I commonly rank Friday the 13th Part 7 among the lowest of the F13 movies, and whenever I do someone will tell me I'm wrong and make me doubt myself. That is, until I hosted a screening of it at the Bev (even though I didn't like it much, it was one of the few I hadn't seen theatrically and wanted to see if it would make a difference), and Clu told me after that it was the only movie I ever showed that he didn't like. Since I've shown some movies that are certainly no classics (Dr. Giggles, Terror Train) and he's always found something nice to say about THOSE, I consider the matter closed. The movie undeniably sucks!