Kevin Strange’s Top 8 Obscure Monster Movies


I don’t know about you dudes, but when I was a kid, there was nothing cooler than finding a brand new monster flick at the video store. There was Godzilla and King Kong, horror monsters like zombies, demons, giant insects, werewolves, vampires, mummies, you name it. I loved them all. Sit me in front of the TV and all my worries went away as soon as those monsters hit the screen!

I was a fucking monster kid and still am. I used to wish I WAS a monster. To this day I still make movies full of monsters and write novels about monsters. And still to this day I LOVE to find new and cool monster movies that I never saw when I was a kid.

This list is my attempt to introduce you lot to some monsters you may not necessarily be familiar with. Of course since I’m an 80s kid, my list is going to be biased toward rad 80s flicks. Here are my top 8 obscure monster movies. Hope you like em!

8. Dead Heat

This whopper of a flick stars Joe Piscopo and Treat Williams and is so weird and wacky it flies right under most people’s radars. I can’t in good faith call it a good movie, but it IS an obscure movie so I can include it on my list and still sleep well tonight.

In essence, this is a zombie cop buddy movie but it takes such bizarre twists and turns and basically turns all of the main characters into monsters that I just HAD to include it on my list. Furthermore, I like this movie so much I dedicated a whole podcast to it.

Melty love interests, killer cold-cuts, violently murdered partners. This flick brings the monster gore!

7. Brain Damage

So if you’re worth your salt as a monster kid, you’ve probably seen the BASKET CASE series of films. They were displayed prominently at video stores in the 80s. Each subsequent sequel got weirder and weirder until there were musical numbers and shit. Totally wacky stuff.

But the BASKET CASE dude also made this weird little gem (and FRANKENHOOKER which will inevitably end up on another of my movie lists in the future) that most people haven’t seen. It’s called BRAIN DAMAGE which often gets confused with BRAINDEAD, the original title of the Peter Jackson zombie flick DEAD ALIVE.

This low budget nonsense is about a parasitic alien thing named Aylmer who lives inside a dude’s body and gets the dude hooked on his blue brain-piss or something.

It’s very reminiscent of the BASKET CASE storyline but with an even weirder monster and even more violent kills. Definitely a must watch if you’re into the body horror sub genre and love getting grossed out by bodily fluids.

6. Rawhead Rex

Just look at that goofy muppet face! How could yo not love RAWHEAD REX? Written by Clive Barker himself, this is probably his most obscure writing credit based on one of his most popular books.

RAWHEAD REX appeared in Barker’s Books of Blood short story collection series. The movie basically ends up being nothing like the story and has some of the worst practical effects for a monster shown so prominently and made to be taken so seriously.

Add in some great gore, some awkward monster-stalking and some bizarre priest-pissing scenes and you’ve got yourself one helluva monster flick most people have never even heard of!

5. Killer Tongue

This is another of my personal favorite flicks. KILLER TONGUE takes the hot chick zombie from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 and pits her against Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund as a sadistic prison warden bent on hunting down said hot chick’s boyfriend at all costs.

KILLER TONGUE features insane cannibalism, sexy leather body suits, a talking tongue monster, a gaggle of poodle-turned-transvestite sidekicks and you have one of the weirdest most batshit crazy monster movies you’re ever likely to come across.  I dedicated a podcast to this one, too.

4. Society

SOCIETY is a flick that I’ve already included in another one of my movie lists but we’re gonna go ahead and cover it again here because it’s both one of the coolest melt movies ever AND one of the most obscure monster movies you’ve probably never heard of.

The flick features literal “butt heads” a chick who turns her entire body around to soap up her own ass in the shower and a ton of other absolutely bonkers monsters and ends in a gigantic orgy where all of the monsters melt into a gigantic orgy of connected flesh.

It’s so odd that most people have never even bothered to watch it. But if you like the off-the-wall shit, you should totally check it out!

3. Hardware

Alright so this flick only has one monster in it and that monster is actually a killer robot but let’s take a damn second, settle down and talk about just how cool HARDWARE is.

Richard Stanley is an auteur renegade filmmaker who shamefully never got a real shot at making a gigantic visionary film. Well, he actually did. He was set to make that awful 90s ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU disaster but got fired part of the way through.

He’s never worked on another significant film which is a crying shame. BUT he did make HARDWARE and it is an absolute visual treat. It is the film equivalent of the 90s industrial metal music genre. In fact, it uses music from MINISTRY as part of its soundtrack.

The gore is brief but brutal and the killer robot’s design is magnificent. You’ve probably never seen HARDWARE but you owe it to yourself as a monster movie fan to rectify that immediately!

2. The Keep

THE KEEP for sure has one of the coolest soundtracks of any monster flick and also one of the coolest monsters that you’ve probably never even heard of. THE KEEP is Michael Mann’s red-headed step child. It’s never been released on Blu Ray or even DVD because he’s embarrassed that he made a low budget horror flick early in his career.

Well fuck him, buddy. This movie is fucking badass! It features Nazis getting the fuck killed out of them and one of the absolute coolest monsters you will ever see on film, guaranteed.

Nazis try to loot a citadel only to unleash a demonic force that proceeds to wipe them out to one of the best Tangerine Dream synth soundtracks ever! This demon spends the first half of the movie as some sort of anthropomorphic smoke with glowing red eyes. Seriously you have to see it to understand just how fucking cool it looks.

Find THE KEEP if you can. It’s worth every penny.

 

1. Return of the Living Dead 3

Known for its super sexy zombie girl Julie, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 has been surprisingly hard to find for years. It was recently released as a limited edition blu ray, like a lot of the movies on this list, but also like a lot of those blu rays is extremely over priced and will probably be out of print soon.

What’s often overlooked about this flick, though, is just how amazing the zombie monsters are. From the gang leader having his spine stretched up into some kind of horrific snake-like creature, to the homeless guy who gets screwed into a metal exoskeleton and the Trioxin barrel zombie who rips half its own face off crawling out of the barrel, this flick is LOADED with great gore and even cooler zombie monsters.

If you think zombies ended with Romero or the first ROTLD, you’re playing yourself. I put ROTLD 3 above almost any other zombie flick in terms of monster factor. This one is the business!

 

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Kevin Strange’s Phantasm: Ravager Review

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Fresh off a theatrical screening of the new 4K restoration version of the original 1979 PHANTASM film, I decided it was high time to man up and give the latest sequel of one of my favorite horror franchises a go. So I rented PHANTASM: RAVAGER and held on to my balls. So to speak. Get it? Balls? Spheres? Anyway.

As I finished watching the original Phantasm the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a prominent horror fiction editor about “it was all a dream” trope endings. He’d said, more or less, that if your book ended with all of the happenings turning out to have just been a dream or a hallucination, don’t bother sending him your work for publication. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he said that it felt cheap, like he’d wasted his time reading the story because none of it “really happened.”

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As Phantasm ended, I couldn’t help but think that this is maybe the only horror franchise in existence that sort of hinges its entire mythology on “it was all a dream” logic. I laughed as I exited the movie theater, thinking of how cool it was that a horror franchise had thrived and became a cult favorite off of a reviled story telling trope.

So imagine my glee when Phantasm: Ravager started and within the first five minutes of the movie, a startlingly old Michael sat with an even older Reggie at a retirement home and told him that everything they’d ever been through in THE ENTIRE PHANTASM FRANCHISE had been nothing more than Reggie suffering from early onset dementia. Forty years of storytelling right down the fucking tubes for that horror editor. A lifetime of fandom just… poof, up and gone, just like that.

Awesome.

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So this 4th sequel of the Tall Man franchise is every bit a loving tribute and fan service to a four decade long franchise full of head popping shiny spheres, creepy mausoleums, hooded dwarves and quadruple sawed off shotguns. Just look at the end credits. David Hartman was basically a one man band here. He directed, co-wrote with series creator Don Coscarelli, shot it, scored it, edited it, and did the visual effects for it.

I’m not gonna lie. When I heard that this movie was basically David and Reggie and a camcorder, shot over long periods of time when money allowed it, I was not at all excited to see the final product. But seeing it play out with all of the jumps in time and setting, it turns out that was the perfect way to shoot the script that David and Don wrote.

And so the film plays with this idea that Reggie is suffering from dementia, casting him in and out of vivid post-apocalyptic landscapes with awesome gigantic spheres laying waste to everything in sight.

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Angus Skrimm, The Tall Man, to his credit, old as the goddamn stars in this film, hits all his lines note-perfect. It’s like he was born to play the sinister Tall Man. And die playing him as well. Which is fine by this Phan. The man in the suit screamed BOOYYYYYYY! one last time, and it brought a goddamn tear to my eye.

PHANTASM: RAVAGER is cheap. Man, is it cheap. There are long passages of the film that reek of a made for Sci-Fi channel original. And much of the film’s visual effects are jarringly bad CGI. But you know what? Having just watched the 1979 original, there’s a fucking puppet fly monster that Michael and Jody beat to death inside a jacket.

This wasn’t a series based on fancy visual effects in the first place. It was about atmosphere and unique storytelling. And while much of the acting is stiff and lines are delivered halfheartedly, Reggie and Angus–really the two most important players here–play their roles with the utmost sincerity.

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Did PHANTASM: RAVAGER need to be made? No. But I’m glad it was. I’m glad Reggie got to fire that bad mother fucking four barrel shotgun one last time. I’m glad Reggie, Michael and Jody got to cruise in the ‘Cuda one last time. And I’m glad Angus’s Tall Man got to menace our heroes one last time.

Very few franchises get to keep their heart, their soul and their enthusiasm over the decades without being taken over by different writers, directors, or studios who want to change or re-imagine, remake or recast the characters and drastically alter the story.

The PHANTASM franchise went out on its own terms with its integrity intact and that, for me, was worth every goddamn sequel. I give it four out of five Strangeheads.

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