The Last Wave (1977) Peter Weir’s enigmatic follow-up to Picnic at Hanging Rock is almost a spiritual sequel to its cryptic predecessor, raising many questions but providing few answers. David Burton (Richard Chamberlin), a Sydney lawyer, defends a group of aboriginal men accused of murder. While the group’s nominal leader, Chris Lee (David Gulpilil), is Burton’s link to the truth, he only offers answers in riddles that ultimately lead to cataclysmic dream visions. Weir’s deliberately paced film doesn’t spoon-feed explanations. Instead, it requires our patience, as we’re left to make sense of it all. Mesmerizing.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
The Juniper Tree (1990) Writer/director Nietzchka Keene’s bleak, lyrical film (based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm), set sometime in Iceland’s early history, exploits the Nordic country’s stark landscape with stunning black and white cinematography. Björk stars as Margit, the younger sister of Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir). Katla marries Jóhann (Valdimar Örn Flygenring), a still-grieving widower, much to the indignation of his petulant son, and things only get worse from there. The Juniper Tree entrances and beguiles, depicting a world where witchcraft and nature entwine.
Rating: ***½. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Kanopy
Stacy (aka: Stacy: Attack of the Schoolgirl Zombies) (2001) A worldwide pandemic affecting 15- to 17-year-old girls transforms them into mindless, flesh-eating zombies (the movie’s title references the slang term for the animated corpses). Director Naoyuki Tomomatsu’s low-budget horror/comedy (based on a novel by Kenji Ôtsuki) is scattershot in its approach, but manages to provide some commentary about isolation and human connection in modern society. Despite the cheap shot-on-video production values, the gory practical effects are surprisingly good. There are also some fun references to other zombie films, notably the paramilitary organization RRK (Romero Repeat Kill) Corps, and designer chainsaws called “Bruce Campbell’s Right Hand.”
Rating: ***. Available on DVD
Winterbeast (1992) A Massachusetts park ranger (Mike Magri) investigates the disappearance of several people in his jurisdiction. Signs point to a Native American curse and a deranged resort owner. All sorts of demons, who seem to be from a different flick altogether, unleash their vengeance. Writer/director Christopher Thies’ indescribable mess, cobbled together from different footage over a span of several years, features amateurish performances, sub-par stop-motion animation, and bad rubber makeup effects. Yet despite all its deficits, it’s never boring (always a plus in my book), and the rough edges only make it more endearing. If you’re looking for a selection for bad movie night, look no further.
Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray (included in Home Grown Horrors Volume I), DVD (as a double feature with Nudist Colony of the Dead) and Shudder