According to that indispensable tome Midnight Movie Madness by Ian Watson (now available on Kindle), if you want to see a really weird horror movie, you have to look overseas.
Bear in mind, we are not talking about those twee, underwhelming ghost stories that were popular in the early 2000s. You know: a young woman comes into possession of an object haunted by a vengeful spirit, typically a longhaired female ghost, that uses her as an emissary to wreak havoc in the physical world.
In Ringu, the object was a videocassette, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce which objects were being haunted in the films Mirrors, Cello, Phone and The Red Shoes. Most hilariously awful was The Wig, about a hairpiece that caused the wearer to become possessed. Platinum Dunes is planning a remake called Hell Toupee.
We are talking about movies where Mexican wrestlers fight mummies, Neo Nazis eat the living and genetically-enhanced gangsters encounter bikini-clad ninja androids – pictures that pull out all the stops in their quest to give the viewer the wildest ride imaginable.
These are the ultimate riposte to bland multiplex product, and if the following article leans heavily on Japanese cinema, that’s because the country produces the most extreme movies currently available.
See for yourself.
20. The Mummies Of Guanajuato (1972)
When a mummy murders a midget tour guide, Mexican wrestlers Blue Demon and Mil Mascaros investigate and discover that the mummy is a former wrestler seeking vengeance on El Santo. You see, a hundred years ago, Santo’s great-grandaddy beat this fella in the ring, and it stuck in his craw a little bit, so he had himself mummified and vowed to return from the grave to avenge himself on the luchador’s ancestor, who he somehow knew would also be a luchador.
For all the talk about El Santo, though, he’s barely in this one, and mostly sits the movie out until the final reel, when he appears out of nowhere and vanquishes the mummy menace in a few minutes. Until then, several bizarre musical numbers pad out the running time.
The Mummies of Guanajuato may have three of lucha libre’s biggest stars, but it doesn’t really offer three times the excitement, so if you can’t take troubadour bands, be prepared to fast forward.
19. Zombies: The Beginning (2007)
Imagine a cheap-looking rip-off that recreates entire scenes from Aliens, steals footage from Crimson Tide and uses dialogue from both films and you’ve got Zombies: The Beginning, the final film from Italian schlockmeister Bruno Mattei.
The “plot” is basically Aliens with zombies – the lone female survivor of a zombie outbreak returns to the remote island where her friends died with the marines in tow, and much ass is kicked.
Remember how Aliens had an armoured vehicle that was shoulder-high in exterior shots yet the cast was able to stand up inside? There’s no such discrepancy here because they have a van that must’ve been rented for the production – not only do the actors drive v-e-r-y carefully, there’s also a Caution: Driver Has Limited Vision sticker on the shotgun side.
Come the finale, our heroine encounters the movie’s take on the Alien Queen – a creature that uses a length of pipe to extract zombie foetuses from living hosts and is controlled by a talking brain in a glass case. If you’re going to rip off a classic, this is the way to do it.
18. Ebola Syndrome (1996)
No stranger to playing slimeballs, Anthony Wong pulls out all the stops in this would-be comedy, portraying a character who when he’s not shooting his load onto a steak he allows to be served to a complaining customer, wets himself in public, blows his nose on undergarments in a clothes store and berates hotel employees who’re unable to procure prostitutes for him. And he’s the hero.
While working in a restaurant in Johannesburg, Wong witnesses a Zulu tribeswoman’s collapse and, sensing an opportunity, starts raping her (“these black babes are great!”). When he falls ill, he’s eventually diagnosed as having contracted Ebola, which he shrugs off and casually passes on to most of Johannesburg and, later, Hong Kong.
Any film whose protagonist sucks out a woman’s eyeball before snapping her neck and grinding her and her family into hamburger (which he allows to be served in his restaurant) could not, strictly speaking, be considered a laugh riot. That said, watching Wong, transformed into a human torch by flame-thrower wielding cops, charge down the street while screaming “How dare you bully me!” is pretty amusing, and when was the last time you heard a film’s protagonist say, “Your wife bullied me, so I screwed her”?
17. The Machine Girl (2008)
When a girl in a movie directed by Noburu Iguchi, who gave us Zombie Ass: The Toilet Of The Dead and Mutant Girls Squad, informs her brother that “violence doesn’t solve anything”, you know it’s only a matter of time before she’ll avenge his murder by machine gunning everything in sight.
When the local Yakuza clan realize what she’s done, Ami (Minase Yashiro) has her arm cut off as punishment, so she seeks medical advice from her local mechanic (wouldn’t you?), who stitches up the wound with a needle and thread. Ami also gets a replacement limb in the form of a custom-made machine gun that can blast flesh from bone and blow gaping holes in its targets, which so terrifies the Yakuza that they hire a group of samurai warriors in bulletproof football helmets and shoulder pads.
Indefensible, senseless and as subtle as a chainsaw, Machine Girl exists for no reason other than to see how much gratuitous bloodshed it can squeeze into its running time. There’s really no reason not to like it.
16. Samson Vs The Vampire Women (1962)
Mexican wrestler El Santo was renamed Samson for this English dubbed version, which appeared on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in 1995. If you’re familiar with the film at all, that’s probably where you first saw it.
Made in 1962, Vampire Women emerged during a peak in popularity for horror films in Mexico, so the film takes visual cues from the Universal and Hammer Dracula pictures and even throws in a Professor in the Peter Cushing mould. He’s not the hero, of course, just a supporting character who recruits Santo to save his daughter from an army of vampires.
In common with the Hammer films of the time, the female vampires are all astonishingly beautiful, yet the men are about as far removed from Christopher Lee as it’s possible to get. Impossibly muscular and about 100 years too contemporary to be believable, the actors look ill at ease in their cheap rubber capes and don’t really come into their own until they attempt to take Santo in a headlock.
15. Junk (2000)
Following a bungled robbery, three men and their female getaway driver escape to a US Army facility in Japan, unaware it’s being used to store the “experiments” of a mad doctor who’s developed DNX, a serum that duplicates the “complex combination of chemicals” that create life but has the unfortunate side effect of turning the recipient into a flesh-eating zombie.
The gory mayhem kicks off with the arrival of the thieves’ bosses, whose planned double cross is interrupted by the arrival of an undead army. Fortunately, the doc is hip to the slaughter and leads an attack on the base, little realizing that the zombie horde is commanded by his late fiancée, the prototype recipient of DNX, who in death has developed a taste for fright wigs and pancake make-up.
“Torn up flesh, gouged entrails and splashing blood,” promised the Japanese press book, giving a fair idea of director Atsushi Moroga’s intent.
Like Robert Rodriguez, he can stage a gun battle and loves comic book violence, but his make-up effects are on a par with Zombie Creeping Flesh and the ‘acting’ of the English-speaking players, whose scenes appear to have been tacked-on to expand the running time, are mostly good for laughs. If you can put that aside, then Junk is everything a zombies versus gangsters movie ought to be – loads of fun.
14. Big Tits Dragon (2010)
It may not come as a total shock to you to learn that Big Tits Dragon is another of those movies where strippers with chainsaws save the world from the zombie apocalypse, but unlike Zombie Strippers and Strippers Vs Zombies, it never outstays its welcome and the jokes are surprisingly funny.
The director is Takao Nakano, who also brought us such immortal classics as Sumo Vixens and Killer Pussy, and being a Japanese production, it naturally features samurai sword fights and zombie sushi. The cast includes real-life porn star Sora Aoi, but get this – the film has more on its mind than exploiting its female leads (well, slightly more).
BTD just wants wants to give the viewer a good time, and Nakano throws in everything except the kitchen sink to make that happen. When they’re not fighting a disembodied head or a zombie that spits fire from between its legs, the girls joke about how cheap the movie looks and point out that Hollywood would never attempt something like this. They’re right, so if you’re tired of Fear The Walking Dead, say hello to your new favourite film.
13. Frontiers (2007)
Proving that French culture isn’t all Gerard Depardieu movies and Marcel Pagnol adaptations, Frontiers starts off as a blistering social commentary, takes a swing into dark horror and ends up in Texas Chainsaw Massacre country, only with the rednecks replaced by Neo-Nazi cannibals.
Making his feature debut, Xavier Gens (Hitman) takes no prisoners and delivers one of the best meat movies never to feature Leatherface. Better structured than Hostel and more palatable than Martyrs, Frontiers is one of the few “torture porn” movies to really stand out.
There are all the usual decapitations and characters who are eaten alive, but how many films have as their villain a Nazi war criminal who kidnaps women with the intent of breeding a new master race (and abandons them in a mine when they disappoint him)? It’s this kind of blackly comic material that makes you wonder if Gens is wasting his time in Hollywood.
12. Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky (1991)
No list of outrageous foreign movies is complete without this Manga adaptation, the first non-erotic Hong Kong movie to receive a Category III (Adults Only) rating. Though not as much silly fun as director Ngai Choi Lam’s The Seventh Curse, Ricky is just as cartoonishly excessive, with enough crushed heads, severed limbs, gouged-out eyeballs and exploding bodies for two movies.
It’s the not-too-distant-future – well, 2001 – and prisons are run as for-profit franchises by corrupt wardens that grow opium poppies on the grounds, use the inmates as cheap labour and terminate with extreme prejudice anyone who stands in their way. Business is a-boomin’ until the arrival of Riki-Oh, a seemingly indestructible martial artist who can tear off jaws, gouge out eyes, hack off limbs and punch holes through his opponents.
This makes Riki-Oh a fly in the ointment, so the warden hires an army of thugs to torture him. One of these fellas is so tough that, rather than admit defeat, he disembowels himself and starts strangling Ricky with his intestines. Prison Break, this is not.
11. Zombie Self Defence Force (2006)
Remember when Peter Jackson made zombie films that were heavy on the red stuff as well as the bad taste gags? Naoyuki Tomamatsu does, so here’s a movie that packs flying saucers, mutant babies, cyborgs and samurai zombies into its 76 minutes.
The plot is best described as “uncomplicated.” When a flying saucer crashes in rural Japan, it brings the dead back to life (“How unscientific,” remarks one character), causing a disparate group that includes a pop star, a soldier and a gangster to seek shelter at a nearby hotel, unaware that the owner has just killed his pregnant mistress. You can probably guess what happens next.
You don’t watch this sort of thing expecting to see finely nuanced characters delivering Shakespearean soliloquies but to see a zombie baby using its umbilical cord as a lasso while a cyborg soldier, the prototype for a proposed invasion of America, shoots up the place. As such movies go, Zombie Self Defence Force is top of the list.