5. The Changeling (1980)
In this Canadian horror film, John Russell is a New York composer who moves to Seattle following the deaths of his wife and daughter in a traffic accident. He soon rents a mansion and not long after moving in, he begins to experience unexplained phenomena. West has made his own ghost film in “The Innkeepers” which is a good film enough but when it comes to his own favorite ghost stories, “The Changeling” is right up there. He saw it when he was working at a video store when he was a young man, No movie has terrified since he was a kid, so watching this was a big deal for him.
The movie stars George C. Scott and as you can expect from him, he gives a powerhouse performance once again. “If George C. Scott is afraid of a haunted house, none of us have a chance” says West and it’s hard to disagree with him. Its plot is something familiar for the fans of haunted house movies but it works well because of the craftsmanship put by its director who creates such an otherworldly atmosphere. There are interesting layers to the script and very interesting lead character that turns it into two hours of compelling cinema with a brutal ending.
4. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982)
Its low-budget and maybe didn’t have a strong marketing but it’s still weird that “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains” didn’t do better than it did. Most people haven’t seen it even though it had a MTV-ish last scene and was coming from the world of punk rock movies. It even featured Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, Paul Simonon from the Clash, and Vince Welnick and Fee Waybill from the Tubes.
The movie stars Diane Lane as Corinne, a lost teenager seeking fame and fortune with her cousin and sister in a band with no talent. It’s interesting because she later played someone with more talent and more charisma in “Streets of Fire” and she was effective there too, probably because it’s easy to buy her as a rebel. It’s “one of her best performances” even, says Ti West. He’s particularly impressed by how the film treats the commercial world and counterculture mentality.
It’s indeed one of the finest, and most underrated satires of the rock music world. The music is also great since it features the real bands. West also compares it to “Rock ‘n Roll High School”, another movie he enjoys. The film also features Laura Dern who calls it some kind of a masterpiece and had lots of fun while filming it.
3. Prince of Darkness (1986)
Part of John Carpenter’s “Apocalypse Trilogy” which started with the “Thing” and ended with another underrated film “In the Mouth of Madness”, this movie is probably the least critically-acclaimed film of Carpenter’s 80s output. Ti West disagrees. Not just disagrees but he also considers this to be his favorite John Carpenter movie. He admits he doesn’t exactly understand everything going on in the movie but the subjects of metaphysics, the entire theme of Antichrist existing in a liquid in a bottle in the basement of a church in LA and bunch of quantum physics students coming together to investigate it is more than enough to fascinate him. The entire thing is just unique and there’s even Alice Cooper in cool part. Similar to other Carpenter movies, it’s also be discussed for its subtext. Some critics argued it might be a parable for the AIDS epidemic.
“Prince of Darkness” might not be as great as “The Thing” or “They Live” but it’s not hard to see West’s point because it sure is a very good film. Carpenter is the master of building an atmosphere of suspense and his terrific scores always help. Those dream sequences are certainly something. It also once again reminds us how Carpenter is the master of using single location and claustrophobia, just like he did in “Assault on Precinct 13”. To set up an antagonist of Satan in the form of a cylindrical green liquid is a bold idea if you don’t make a comedy. It could just turn out laughable but you can’t bet against Carpenter. It did turn out effective, very effective.
2. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
His “Sight & Sound” top 10 featured “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”. So, maybe he has changed his mind now but few years ago he has said that “Peggy Sue Got Married” is his favorite movie by Francis Ford Coppola, a film he wasn’t even supposed to make but ended up doing it and delivered. These days this time travel movie is more remembered for Nicolas Cage’s performance. Cage based his character’s voice on Pokey of “The Gumby Show”, which West also agrees that it’s a bold choice to make as an actor.
However, the movie is much more than Cage’s very unique performance. Kathleen Turner is splendid in the leading role as a teenager. They didn’t pull a stunt and made her look younger, we’re believed that everybody else sees her as a teenager and only we see her as an adult. Her body language, without going over-the-top, is so nuanced that it’s so easy to believe.
While having all the elements of teen comedies of its time, “Peggy Sue Got Married” is also incredibly mature movie that is not afraid of exploring rather darker themes compared to similar films including the divorce, failed relationships, and just analyzing your past mistakes. There is also some Capra-esque sentimentality which works really well in the context of the movie. Back to Cage, how is this their latest collaboration? Hopefully, there’s a surprise cameo in “Megalopolis” somewhere.
1. The ‘Burbs (1989)
West calls himself “a huge Joe Dante fan” and it makes sense, because the man has made countless great films over the years with lots of creative freedom. When you watch something like “Gremlins” and “Innerspace”, it’s amazing how he made it all work out because it could end up as a disaster in the wrong hands. West is not sure if “The ‘Burbs” is his favorite or not but it’s definitely the one he watched most and is something he’d call “a perfect film”. Compared to other Dante movies, this one did well at the box office thanks to Tom Hanks but critics were mixed on it.
Nowadays, of course, more people realize how amazing this one was. There are many reasons: a very engaging premise, hilarious look on suburban life, sharp satire with lots of subtext as you can expect from a Dante movie and a fantastic Bruce Dern performance who probably gives the best comedic performance of its year. Dante, once again, masterfully blends comedy and horror and delivers one of the most inventive and insightful films of its genre in the 80s.
Just even the beginning, when the Universal Studios logo appears, the camera zooms into Earth and to where the film takes place. That blew Ti away because that’s first he understood how the very first second can make you prepared for the style of the film. He also has that cartoon-like sensibility which he brings to most of his films and it always works really well. Overall, “The ‘Burbs” is a terrific film that has every element that made Dante a special filmmaker in the first place.