My devotion to Kindertrauma verges on the Squeaky Fromme-like. I was initially drawn in by the witty, insightful movie reviews but became impressed by the interaction from other bloggers, trauma addicts and movie fans. Kindertrauma is the film club I wish had existed when I was in college.
It even inspired me to start my own dark corner of the internet, DESCENT INTO MADNESS.
Thanks to Kindertrauma, I have discovered many new favorite movies and books (SCISSORS jumps to mind, and I am eternally grateful to this website for introducing me to Kier-la Janisse’s HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN). I would like to express my appreciation by submitting my own FIVE UNDERRATED list.
And since I am lifelong Southerner, how about five underrated flicks set in the South?
I’m a native Texan, so I’ll start there. Having grown up in a family more dysfunctional than the Manson Family, I’m a difficult person to frighten, but I still can’t watch FRAILTY without getting chills. I’m envious I did not write its brilliant screenplay (by BRENT HANLEY) myself. With mental illness, an Old Testament God, a tormented father, ax murders, a child locked in a storm cellar, an obsession with sin and salvation and bodies buried in a rose garden, FRAILTY is Southern Gothic at its finest. It gets extra points for also featuring the ever-underrated POWERS BOOTHE. And kudos to BILL PAXTON for not only turning in a layered, outstanding performance as the eerily nameless Dad, but for evoking just the right East Texas atmosphere (and from Los Angeles locations at that!).
ALL THE KIND STRANGERS (1974)
This one is one of my Wallpaper Movies (ie I frequently have it playing in the background) as it contains all the elements I find as comforting as an oversized sweater and a hot cup of tea: it’s a ‘70s made-for-TV-movie drenched in creepy atmosphere, and features not only a family of homicidal Tennessee backwoods teens with a twisted sense of family values but also STACY KEACH and SAMANTHA EGGAR! Hey, I’d want to kidnap them and make them be my parents, too!
BLOOD SALVAGE (1990)
I know the praises of this one have been sung elsewhere on the pages of Kindertrauma, but I want to reiterate its greatness here. My love for the Peach State overfloweth and therefore I have a special affection for horror movies set in Georgia. It’s a lovably demented homage to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I may be alone in this but I actually think it more deftly combines horror and twisted humor than similarly-themed MOTEL HOTEL. Atlanta master thespian and Cates Pickle spokesman DANNY NELSON is outstanding as Jake, the scripture-quoting, homicidal populist patriarch. And no, I did not forget JOHN SAXON.
Like BLOOD SALVAGE, SCALPEL was also shot in the Atlanta area and has woefully not been released on DVD. It’s a deliciously sleazy potboiler featuring ROBERT LANSING as a homicidal, megalomaniacal plastic surgeon and a laundry list of Southern Gothic tropes such as familial dysfunction, warped sexuality (in this case it’s latent incestuous obsession – YUCK), a scheme for a coveted inheritance, mental illness and jazz funerals. Crystal-eyed JUDITH CHAPMAN is terrific in a dual role, but my personal favorite is ARLEN DEAN SNYDER as the eccentric and suspicious Uncle Bradley.
THE BEGUILED (1971) and SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)
Though neither are traditionally classified as horror movies, I think both deserve mentioning here as I think both do a better job of eliciting a sense of dread and foreboding than many other films in the genre. A great number of my favorite films take place in Louisiana and these are no exception. There’s just no place quite like Louisiana: the culture, the folklore, the food and it’s filled with insane people who want to be your best friend. Some denounce it for its poor educational system, but the way I see it, Louisiana is that beautiful delinquent who doesn’t give a damn, smokes behind the school and pushes the student council president down the stairs. With its foreboding atmosphere, decaying mansion, dark secrets, sexual repression and tortured, neurotic heroines, THE BEGUILED is pure Southern Gothic. Watching it will give you the same feeling you get from reading a book of Edgar Allan Poe short stories. Even better, it features a cast of complex and flawed female characters. GERALDINE PAGE, ELIZABETH HARTMAN, and MAE MERCER particularly give amazing performances. The first time I watched it, I felt haunted for days, in particular by the look on MS. HARTMAN’S face in the final scene.
And once again, I may be in the minority, but I prefer SOUTHERN COMFORT to the similarly-themed DELIVERANCE. It perfectly captures the beauty and menace of the Louisiana swamps and I can’t think of many scenes more suspenseful than the climactic scene in the Cajun village. And don’t get me started on the lovely score by RY COODER. POWERS BOOTHE as sarcastic, chain-smoking transplanted Texan Charlie Hardin may be one of my all-time favorite movie characters too.
Small sidebar: To my horror, thanks to the recent Sunday Streaming post about it, I realized I used to live in the same town where THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY was filmed. Metairie, Louisiana: strange suburban wasteland of strip malls, drive-through daiquiri stands, mafia real estate and, scariest of all, Dave Treen supporters.
And now, how about a lagniappe for your trouble?
HOME SICK (2007)
I know a lot of people don’t understand why, but I love Alabama. Zelda Fitzgerald, Kate Jackson, Harper Lee and Tallulah Bankhead are from there, how can it not be awesome? I’ll admit, when I first gave the DVD of HOME SICK a spin back in 2008, I didn’t care for it. Either I was in a bad mood or I’m becoming increasingly warped and misanthropic, because now this gleefully mean-spirited, bat-shit crazy low-budget wonder warms my dark heart. It’s imaginative, surreal and has a sick sense of humor. Picture a combination of CLERKS, GUMMO, the mania of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and strong dashes of giallo and you will not be far off the mark. I think the nihilistic twenty-something pasty-faced weirdoes working dead-end minimum wage jobs (in the grocery store, the school cafeteria, the funeral parlor) and spending their off time drinking too much beer and watching EVIL DEAD TRAP II reminded me of my post-graduate nihilism.
A scene featuring a coked-out TIFFANY SHEPIS and her recently murdered mother is jaw-dropping to say the least, but MATT LERO as the abrasive Tim and BRANDON CARROLL as the unhinged Devin stand out in a cast of unknowns. But wait, I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: the force of nature known as TOM TOWLES as unrepentant redneck and chili fanatic Uncle Johnny. We sadly lost Mr. Towles this year. By all accounts he was a really funny, nice guy and always attacked every role with gusto. I think my initial dissatisfaction with HOME SICK was due to the fact that he’s not in more of the movie because every scene he’s in crackles with deranged electricity. Also features BILL MOSELEY as grinning maniac, Mr. Suitcase.