Have You Ever Seen...
Cyber City Oedo 808 (1990)
Quick plug here for the Youtube channel In Praise of Shadows. I really love his videos and his spotlight episode for this titled The 90's Suicide Squad Cyberpunk Horror Anime instantly sold me on ordering a copy for myself. I highly recommend supporting his Patreon as well.
The series is really just three 45min episodes that each spotlight a different main character as they struggle to survive in this dystopian nightmare futurescape. These three criminals are given the opportunity to work off their 300+ year life sentences by going on various suicide missions and murdering other tech criminals. While each episode does act as a character highlight, they also spotlight various types of horror that all feature elements of economic horror as well. The first episode features the city's largest skyscraper and technical wonder being taken over by a ghost in the machine who was murdered by a coworker seeking advancement on the corporate ladder. The next features the state military and the police force essentially pitting their own lapdogs against each other for control of the city. And the final piece features the head of a corporation who basically becomes a genetic vampire that feeds off of the poor to extend his life.
It is all very very depressing, and very very well done. I greatly enjoy the animation style, the character designs, and the cohesive sense of world building that still feels horribly relevant today. It's worth watching the video I linked to as IPOS gets pretty deep into what the series is doing, but if you would prefer to avoid too many spoilers then I'll just say if you are a fan of dystopian cyberpunk then you should treat yourself to this ASAP.
Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here (1988)
So this was another one of those films where sequences were stuck in the deepest recesses of my brain and I only just recently figured out the title so I could exorcise this demon from my gray matter. I'm pretty sure I must have rented this far too many times from Blockbuster as a kid, mostly because the various clips of older monster movies must have caught my attention and I hadn't been exposed to MST3K just yet.
The framing device of the film focuses on aliens invading a small town, specifically a movie theater, where they are building a device that feeds off of human brainwaves. To help feed the device the aliens maintain a B-Movie marathon, so we get to see a bunch of clips of famous (and infamous) monsters. There are sub-plots of two teens and two younger kids attempting to thwart the invasion, plus short vignettes of the boss alien and his lackey plus quick comedy bits involving the audience. The best elements of the actual 'story' are whenever the aliens are interacting with each other as they are pretty much characterized as working class schmucks. It's also worth noting that one of the alien voice actors was the prolific Corey Burton, so hey it's got that going for it.
As a kid who loved monsters there was definitely a lot of fodder here. Besides the obvious heavyweights like Godzilla and Rodan, we get classics like Them!, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Blob. We also get stuff like It Conquered the World, The Crawling Eye, Reptilicus, and The Giant Claw, so I got exposed to some pretty great/horrible obscure monsters at an early age.
While there are moments to enjoy, I can't really say this is good. You definitely shouldn't pay for it, so the good news is that you can watch the whole thing free on Youtube. It's there if you want some low budget silly nonsense, and if you want to check out the classic clips so that you can track down the original monster schlock.
I do have to give them credit for that poster though, it's pretty great.
Needful Things (1993)
I was a bit surprised by how well this held up actually. I think that falls mostly on Max Von Sydow's charisma as the lead, but also because this movie does not waste any time getting into it and moves at a brisk pace.
On the off chance that you've never seen the film or read the book, spoilers ahead for this 29 year old film. The story focuses on a sleepy town that's visited by a supernatural entity named Leland Gaunt. He's pretty much a devil of some sort who corrupts people by preying on their material desires and tricking them into messing around with other people. This leads to a slow build up of violence and eventually a full fledged riot that usually ends with the destruction of the towns he's visited, so Ed Harris has to put a stop to it. Which he sorta does by yelling at people? Harris is just sorta there to represent some sort of order since he's a cop, but really there wasn't much to that character. I was rooting for Max Von Sydow the whole time.
Quick things to mention:
- J. T. Walsh put in a great performance and I really do miss him.
- The mini feud between the Catholic priest and Baptist minister was always a highlight as both those actors brought that seething hatred to life.
-I love having subtitles on older movies because you can read painful dialogue that was never meant to be understood in the background. Such as random citizens fighting during the riot scene and one screaming, "Let go of my Needful Thing!"
-Roger Ebert hated the film and claimed it had only one note, which hey it really does, but it is a really good note when Max Von Sydow plays it. Like seriously, just give me a tv series of him going from town to town and screwing with people, each episode offering a cautionary tale. With the devil winning most of the time because people suck.
I'm not going to say it's a great film, but I'm a sucker for a good lead villain and especially when the villain is sort of the star of the show. You do have to be in the mood for the typical Stephen King 'small town gets visited by something horrible' tropes and the usual 'we are the true monsters' stuff, but hey when it works it works.