6. Demon Seed (1977)
By now, audiences are used to movies about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. From Ex Machina to Child’s Play, there are innumerable takes on this particular subject matter. Because of the sheer quantity of AI-focused movies, it can be hard to get excited about this particular subgenre.
This is especially true when it comes to older releases. After years upon years of tweaking the formula, it’s easy to assume that earlier attempts at these types of stories might feel antiquated or stale. In some cases, this is correct. That being said, you’d be hard-pressed to find something as wild and unrestrained as Demon Seed even when compared to comparable modern releases .
Demon Seed is a horror film first and a sci-fi film second. It revolves around a villainous artificial intelligence program that essentially haunts the protagonist. It takes control of surrounding pieces of technology and wreaks havoc on anyone that stands in the way.
It can feel a little cheesy at times, especially when you look at more artsy releases that tackle the same topic. Still, there’s a lot to like about this wicked piece of work. The twists and turns are bound to keep viewers on their toes, and the visuals surprisingly stand the test of time. It doesn’t dig particularly deeply into any complex themes, but as a science fiction horror hybrid about the dangers of artificial intelligence, it more than gets the job done.
7. The 10th Victim (1965)
Before The Hunger Games and The Purge, there was The 10th Victim. This 1965 action flick focuses on an event known as “The Big Hunt.” This program pits two contestants against each other in an effort to prevent unplanned acts of violence. One person is given the role of hunter, while the other acts as the victim. The film focuses almost exclusively on one pair of contestants.
These contests are Caroline Meredith and Marcello Poletti. They are tasked with succeeding in their own roles, but they face other challenges outside of the primary cat-and-mouse game. Namely, they must separate emotions from the equation. This turns out to be more difficult than they anticipated, which results in a game that’s as psychological as it is physical.
When it comes to the film’s overall quality, there’s a lot to appreciate. The 10th Victim tells a creative story that melds political satire with stylish action. On top of that, Elio Petri’s distinct visual style gives the film a clear-cut advantage over its contemporaries. This all adds up to an experience that feels as unique and invigorating today as it did over fifty years ago.
8. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971)
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most influential pieces of gothic literature. There have been countless adaptations, which ultimately means there are countless takes on the well-worn source material. While plenty of the adaptations stick pretty closely to the source material, others take the essence of the original story and warp it into something unique. Results tend to vary, but some of the more experimental ones really shine. This brings us to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde.
Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde is peak Hammer Film Productions horror. It takes Stevenson’s original novella and spins it into something that remains especially relevant today. By adding a gender-bending twist into the mix, viewers get something a little more daring than they may initially expect. Although it doesn’t take its premise far enough to tackle too many thought-provoking ideas it does make an active effort to challenge viewers’ expectations.
The result is messy, chaotic fun. Martine Beswick’s feminine take on Dr. Jekyll’s alter ego is one for the horror history books. Her sultry allure makes her the star of the show. Though the film shares plenty of characteristics with the competitors in the slasher subgenre, you won’t find a bland, faceless personality here. You’ll be getting a chilling villain with noticeable depth.
Overall, Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde feels like it was made with care. It’s a meticulously crafted cinematic experience that successfully pushes a literary classic into unexpected directions. There are obvious blemishes here and there, but they rarely detract from the value on display.
9. Trancers (1984)
Trancers isn’t a good movie in the traditional sense. It’s a ridiculously campy slice of pulpy science fiction that borrows elements from significantly better movies. In spite of its numerous faults, it largely succeeds because it focuses so heavily on schlocky fun. It’s not art; it’s just Charles Band doing what he does best.
For the uninitiated, Charles Band is responsible for countless B movies, including The Gingerdead Man, Blood Dolls, and Evil Bong. Most of his work gets eviscerated by critics, but he has a few gems buried beneath the rubble. When you look at every one of his directorial efforts, it becomes clear that Trancers is his magnum opus.
The film introduces us to Jack Deth, a retired police officer who attempts to hunt down a criminal with bizarre psychic abilities. This hunt is made significantly more complicated when the target travels back to 1985 to evade capture. This forces Deth to follow him back to the past in order to capture him and prevent him from harming the population. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is, but it’s also ridiculously fun.
In spite of its low budget and hammy acting, Trancers offers legitimate thrills. Thanks to breakneck pacing and a hugely likable protagonist, it’s hard not to be enraptured by the film’s charm. It’s not intellectually stimulating by any means, but that’s not really the goal. Trancers works so well because it’s so uninvested in challenging heavy-hitters like The Terminator. It just wants to do its own thing, and its own thing works.
10. The Super Inframan (1975)
The first Chinese superhero movie is absolutely bananas in the best possible way. It’s about as deep as a shallow body of water, but it has monsters, robots, and kung fu, so what’s there to complain about? This isn’t a film school favorite or anything; it’s just a daft action movie with well-choreographed fight scenes and tongue-in-cheek silliness.
The Super Inframan is heavily inspired by Japanese tokusatsu cinema. Tokusatsu franchises tend to be heavy on special effects and large-scale action. The most famous examples include Godzilla, Ultraman, and Kamen Rider. Ultraman is probably the clearest inspiration here. It might borrow a little too heavily from the bigger Japanese blockbusters, but by amping up the zaniness, it holds its own. You could easily attribute the quality to unintentional humor, but that doesn’t give the filmmakers enough credit.
Although The Super Inframan is ridiculous, it’s also filled with carefully staged fight sequences and likable characters. Maybe these things don’t stand up against the larger budget blockbusters of today, but they remain impressive in their own way decades later. There’s a certain charm to this movie, and even though not everyone is going to get it, there’s clearly an audience.