3 Weird, Old Horror and Sci-Fi Movies and Why You Should Watch Them
Yes, yes, I know we still have weird movies that will leave you scratching your head being made, but almost none of them have that old shade of absurdness that some movies from the 90s and before always had. Maybe its the outdated special effects, or maybe its the absurd minds behind their creation.
For whatever the reason, these movies have weirded us out in a special way, leaving us pondering about possible hidden meanings and just how many drugs did the directors take while making them. Be it the mind bogglingly absurd plots or the confusing and strange narratives, there's a special thing about old sci fi and horror movies that current day cinema just can't match.
Here's 3 weird horror and sci fi movies that will leave you scratching your head!
As you can see from the (fan made) trailer, Videodrome isn't the kind of thing what you regularly watch Netflix.
Videodrome, a Canadian science fiction horror movie directed by Dave Cronenberg, tells us the story of Max Renn, the sleazy and sensasionalistic CEO of a small television station called CIVIC-TV, who's looking for new content to captivate its dwindling audience.
After trying to find new content for a while, Max's friend Harlan, who operates a pirate station for CIVIC-TV with an antenna that can intercept international signals, calls him to watch something he saw on a signal he recently intercepted, which apparently originates from somewhere in Malasya: A strange and terrifying show called Videodrome.
The show, which Harlan recorded on tape for Max to watch, consists of what seems to be hour long amateur footage of horrible torture sessions, after which the victims are eventually murdered in an reddish orange room. Max believes that all of it is actually a staged snuff film, and that this is the future of entertainment on television. Max proceeds to order Harlan to pirate the footage for future use.
Next, Max goes on a radio talk show in which he strongly defends his television station's programming as he is questioned by Nicki Brand, a beautiful but sadomasochistic psychiatrist who hosts the show, and Professor Brian O'Blivion, a strange philosopher that only appears if his image is broadcasted directly onto a television in the studio, and who believes in a future in which television will somehow supplant real life. Max ends up having a date with Nicki and shows her the recorded footage of Videodrome, causing her to become aroused and having sex with Max while they watch it.
After this, Max's life takes a turn for the worst and the surreal. Max eventually finds out Videodrome is actually being broadcasted from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hearing this, Nicki excitedly goes to Pittsburgh to investigate, and never returns. Max eventually finds out through a softcore pornographer named Bianca (who is Dr. O'blivion's daughter) that the footage is not only real, but that it represents the agenda of a secret political movement.
In his quest to find Nicki again, Max finds more and more info about the people behind the creation of Videodrome, and starts to experiences surreal hallucinations in which a suspicious looking cavity develops in his torso, through which he inserts the video tapes. These hallucinations are apparently caused by a malignant brain tumor that Videodrome is supposedly designed to cause.
Max goes on to meet Barry Convex, Videodrome's producer, who informs Max that the footage's purpose is to purge North America of "lowlifes" interested in extreme violence and sex, by giving them ultimately fatal brain tumors. Barry then inserts a video tape in Max's torso cavity, which "reprograms" him into murdering CIVIC-TV's staff and eventually attempt to murder Bianca.
Max fails to kill Bianca, who manages to reprogram Max against Videodrome, causing him to murder Harlan (who was apparently working with Barry all along) and then murder Barry while he was doing a presentation for a crowd. Max then escapes and takes refuge on a boat, where he meets Nicki through a television, who informs him that to truly defeat Videodrome, Max has to "leave the old flesh".
Max points his gun to his head and kills himself after saying "long live the new flesh".
What The Hell Did I Just Watch?
So, erm, Videodrome! There you have it.
Videodrome's apparent message, according to the director, is to demonstrate the corruptive potential of television and its negative impact on society in general. The, uh, "cavity" in Max's chest and the insertion of video tapes into it is (supposed to) signify the union between humanity and television, creating a new but degraded humanity, by supplanting aspects of human life with television, such as social interaction. It is a rather hamfisted (no pun intended) way of criticizing modern media's violent content and the negative effects of such influence.
Its the old argument that says watching violent content will eventually desentisise its viewers to said things.
Whether you agree with the director or not, Videodrome is quite a ride, which will shock you and leave you scratching your head time and time again.
Unfortunately, it was a box office failure, earning only a bit over 2 million dollars, just over a third of its budget of nearly 6 million.
From the mind of legendary american director and screenwriter John Carpenter came They Live, a science fiction horror thriller film about how your boss is actualy an alien.
They Live narrates the actions of John "Nada", a homeless drifter who finds a contruction job in Los Angeles.
As John walks through Los Angeles, he comes across a blind priest preaching to a crowd about the evils of the rich and the powerful, calling loudly at the crowd to "wake up" and see the truth about the world, all while a police helicopter scouts them from above. Next, John meets another drifter, who complains to him about how his TV signal keeps being interrupted by a strange broadcast of a man giving warnings about the true nature of "those in power".
Little time later, John discovers that the church is actually a front for some sort of organization, and that it is filled to the brim with electronic equipment and cardboard boxes. He tries to investigate a hidden box he finds, but has to escape after the priest catches him.
In the next day, John finds out that most of that area was bulldozed by the police in the night before. He enters the now empty church and finds the hidden box he found previously, and on opening it, sees that it is full of sunglasses. He proceeds to take one and then hides the box in the garbage.
John decides to try wearing the sunglasses, and through them he sees the world in black and white, advertising and other media are riddled with totalitarian messages to obey and conform with rules, and that pretty much everyone in a position of wealth or power is actualy an alien being with large, odd looking reflective eyes and a face that looks like a skull.
John, understandably, is shocked at all this, and confronts an alien woman on the streets. She then warns others of his presence through a communicator on her wristwatch, causing two alien police offers to try and arrest John. John kills them and takes their guns.
John then goes on a violent murdering spree, shooting aliens he comes across and taking and witnessing some of them teleporting away, while being followed by flying saucer - like drones, and spouts the famous line "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... And I'm all out of bubblegum". Eventually, he kidnaps a cable station assistant named Holly, and after getting her to take him to her house, tries to convince her of what he's seeing. He also begins suffering from intense migraines seemingly caused by wearing the sunglasses. Holly uses this opportunity to knock John out of the window and calls the police.
Trying to hide from the police, John heads back and finds the box full of sunglasses in a garbage truck. Not long after, his work colleague Frank finds him to give his paycheck, and John tries to convince him to wear one of the sunglasses and see the truth about the world. Frank refuses and they have a fight, after which John manages to force a pair of the sunglasses on Frank's face, who becomes shocked at everything he now sees. They join forces and end up meeting with a man who claims to be a member of a group of activists fighting against the alien control.
In the meeting, John and Frank meet with their leader, the bearded man who was interrupting broadcasts, who gives them contact lens, which are apparently improved versions of the sunglasses, and explains to them that the aliens are using Earth primarily as a source of resources, and that once they deplete them, they'll move on to another world. The aliens use a special signal to camouflage themselves, and that destroying the source of the signal will allow all humans on earth to see the aliens' true nature.
John also meets with Holly, who apologizes for before and apparently joins the activists.
John and Frank eventually arrive at a secret headquarters where the aliens and their human collaborators meet. A man mistakes them for collaborators and takes them for a tour of the place. John and Frank find the source of the camouflage signal and attack it, eventually finding the broadcasting device. Holly then betrays them, revealing herself as a collaborator of the aliens.
John kills Holly and destroys the signal's source, but is then mortally wounded by the aliens. He gives them the finger as the signal finally goes down, and several humans around the world now see the true nature of the aliens, including a woman, who notices that the man she's currently having sex with is actually an alien.
What The Hell Did I Just Watch?
John Carpenter said that the original inspiration for They Live was a short story titled "Eight O'Clock In The Morning" by Ray Nelson. It involves a man who's put into trance by a stage hypnotist, who later awakens to find out that all of humanity is being controlled by aliens, and that he has until 8 AM to try and save the world. Carpenter acquired both the film and book rights of the story, and made They Live.
While not nearly as moral or political in its message, They Live criticizes modern's media way of constantly trying to make us buy or do something that we actually don't want. In a far more direct way, it is also a critic to Universal Pictures, who was at the time buying and taking over many other small film producing venues and Ted Turner, who was colorizing old black and white movies and re-releasing them. The fact that pretty much all of the high class people depicted in the movie are either aliens or collaborators reflect this critique.
Unlike Videodrome, They Live was a box office success. While it costed only an estimated 3 million to produce, it earned about 13 million in the box office.
However, there are some similarities. An interesting feature of both "They Live" and "Videodrome" is that neither movie actually explains what is actually happening that well. This leaves you to interpret whether or not the protagonist is hallucinating or if he's just being shown a layer of reality he never saw before.
And this leads us to the next movie...
And finally, we have Zardoz...
Zardoz holds a special place in my memory, for several reasons. You've seen one already at the top of this hub. Semi-naked Sean Connery, be it good or bad (but more bad than good), is not the kind of memory one can easily forget.
Zardoz is a 1974 movie by english director John Boorman, starring english acting heavyweights such as Charlotte Rampling and Sean Connery, of James Bond fame.
Zardoz takes place in a post apocalyptic future, in which humanity has become divided into three distinct castes, of which only two interact with eachother directly.
Sean Connery plays the role of Zed, one of the exterminators, the all male nomadic caste that roams the world killing and eslaving the brutals, another caste composed of poor men and women, forcing them to produce food, which is then collected by the eternals, a caste of technologically enhanced humans who are immortal, have developed a certain measure of psychic powers and live in a separate place called "the vortex".
The exterminators are secretly indoctrinated by the eternals through their worship of a huge flying head they call "Zardoz". They're taught that "the gun is good, the penis is evil", since "the gun shoots death, which purifies the land of the brutals" while "the penis is evil, the penis shoots seeds that makes new life to poison the earth through the plague of man, as once it was".
Go Forth And Kill
During one trip of the flying head to deliver guns, Zed hides aboard and manages to kill its operator, an eternal named Arthur Frayn. The head takes him to the vortex, home of the eternals, where he's subdued and questioned. An eternal leader named Consuela advises that he should be destroyed immediately, since he is a dangerous exterminator, while eternals May and Friend want him to be kept alive for study.
Zed goes on to learn of the nature of the vortex and of the tabernacle, an artificial intelligence device that is linked to every eternal through a crystal implanted on their foreheads. The tabernacle give them eternal lifespans, but due to spending such a long time living in luxury, the eternals have forgotten their purpose and have become bored of their lives, eventualy resorting to ever more hedonistic practices to keep them entertained.
The lack of need for reproduction has rendered the male eternals impotent. and several of them have simply fallen into catatonia, with the affected eternals being called "apathetics" by their peers. The eternals live their lives meditating, eating the special bread they produce from the grain grown by the brutals, and trying to find answers for all problems that led to the current state of the world by browsing through a vast repository of all knowledge gathered by humanity, a purpose they have grown tired of, since they've seemingly been unable to solve several key problems, which have remained unsolved since.
To try and give their limitless lives more meaning, the eternals have established several social rules to be followed. Offenders of these rules are punished by being artificially aged, with the worst ones being permanently kept in a stage of old age, with all the physical problems associated with it, but still immortal. Death to the eternals is a mystical dream of release, which is impossible to achieve as, whenever an eternal does die (through accidental fatal injury), they're immediately reborn in a new synthetic body produced by the tabernacle.
Eventually, Zed shows that he is far more sophisticated than the eternals think he is, and it is revealed to him, through the investigations of May and Friend, that he is the product of a century spanning eugenics program perpetrated by Arthur Frayn, as the Zardoz god, in the hopes of creating a new man, capable of penetrating into the vortex, destroying the eternals
Turns out that Arthur was in charge of controlling the exterminators to guarantee that the eternals had grain to eat. He took this opportunity to craft this ingenious plan, to eventually release the eternals from the inescapable stagnation and creating a new humanity based on Zed, whom he personally, but subtly, guided.
May finds out through Zed's repressed memories that Arthur encouraged Zed to acquire knowledge, eventually leading him into questioning the true nature of Zardoz, which led him to hide on the Zardoz head and penetrating the vortex. As Zed finally remembers all of this, he is deeply disturbed, but decides to find the truth behind all of this manipulation.
The other eternals find out about this, and try to capture the trio. May is captured and Friend is artificially aged, but Zed escapes and eventually manages to absorb all of the tabernacle's knowledge. Zed then proceeds to allow the exterminators into the vortex, causing the death of many eternals, who welcome it, due to having lived extremely long but empty lives. Some eternals escape and end up living the rest of their existence as brutals.
The film ends in a time lapse shot of Zed and Consuela, who has fallen in love with him, wearing matching robes while sitting in a cave. They have a son who grows up and eventually leaves them. They grow old and die.
What The Hell Did I Just Watch?
And Here's The Actual Thing
Zardoz is... A mixed bag. There's no horror about it, if you're wondering, although it is full of "risqué" shots of less than clothed actresses (and of course, Sean Connery). Zardoz is quite original in regards to science fiction themed films. The premise is similar to the other two movies we've read about already. It involves a man who is suddenly and traumatically exposed to a new layer of reality he didn't knew.
Unlike the other protagonists however, Zed doesn't fall victim to this new reality, but prevails over it and eventually destroys it to create a new, supposedly better reality. He is a true hero who rises above the crisis, and creates a new life out of the corpse of the old one.
Unfortunately, Zardox was a box office failure, earning only about 300 thousand dollars more than its 1.5 million dollar budget. It received mixed views, being praised by being visually interesting but criticized for its poor pacing and strange acting. The director himself called it an exercise in self indulgence, and full of hubris on his part, implying he tried to many things while disregarding their appeal possible appeal in a movie, and ended up with a substandard product.
Many more recent reviews have given Zardoz better ratings, however. Honestly, I also think Zardoz is unappreciated for what it is. It is a decent movie and full of quirky moments and visuals, and it is certainly memorable, both in good and bad ways.