Expect exploitation flicks with an eye for craftsmanship and plenty of earnestness.
It's no secret that Quentin Tarantino loves pulpy movies. He has long styled himself as an ambassador for B-movies and exploitation flicks and has recommended dozens of low-budget genre films over the years. Some of his favorites include movies that critics derided, failed to receive a wide release, or have been largely forgotten.
Tarantino has good taste, and his selections tend to be interesting. Even the worst of his favorites usually have some redeeming qualities. His recommendations range from heartfelt indie dramas to horror movies about killer pigs and practically everything in between. Fans of the director are sure to find a few gems to enjoy among his picks.
Lana and Nico Rockwell star as two siblings trying to find stability as they deal with their neglectful mother and alcoholic father. After their mom starts dating an abusive man, the kids run away from home and embark on an adventure with their friend Malik (Jabari Watkins). It's a heartwarming and realistic story, with outstanding performances from the young leads.
The film boasts an interesting mix of black-and-white and color cinematography, alongside an eclectic soundtrack (it's probably the only one featuring both Carl Orff and South African icon Miriam Makeba). Sweet Thing received positive reviews but hasn't found nearly as many viewers as it deserves.
This comedy-horror-drama is one of the early films written and directed by Jay and Mark Duplass. It follows a group of aspiring filmmakers who spend a few nights in an isolated cabin to work on a screenplay. There are romantic subplots aplenty: Chad (Steve Zissis) likes Michelle (Greta Gerwig), but Michelle has a thing for Matt (Ross Partridge), who is supposed to be with Catherine (Elise Muller).
All this becomes explosive after a man with a bag over his head enters Michelle's room one night, but Chad and Matt insist it wasn't them. The film mashes genres together cleverly, morphing at a moment's notice from rom-com to horror. It's a rough and low budget, but that's also its charm. Most of its cast and crew would go on to bigger, better projects, but Baghead remains an interesting glimpse at the young Gerwig and the Duplass brothers' budding directorial style.
An archeologist discovers artifacts in the Amazon and ships them back to the museum in New York. The shipment contains the idol of a lizard god, along with a few mysterious fungus-like eggs. Spoiler alert: the eggs hatch, and soon a monstrous reptile-mammal hybrid wreaks havoc on the museum.
The Relic is like Night at the Museum meets Alien, in the best way. Sure, it doesn't hold a candle to Ridley Scott's creature feature masterpiece, but it's still breezy, enjoyable, and well-crafted, with winning performances from Penelope Ann Miller and Tom Sizemore. The CGI gets a little clunky at the end, but the practical effects are great.
Tarantino raved about this low-budget thriller on his Video Archives podcast with Roger Avary. It's a Frankenstein's monster of a police procedural mixed with a slasher flick, which revolves around a secretive group of businessmen who hire vigilantes to kill criminals.
Things spin out of control when one of their mercenaries, a Vietnam vet named Charlie (Nick Panouzis), goes berserk and starts wantonly murdering everyone he comes across. Delirium starts fairly stereotypically but later takes some exciting twists and turns. It received overwhelmingly negative reviews, but fans of Video Nasties should get a kick out of it.
In 2012, Tarantino placed Pretty Maids All in a Row on his list of the 10 greatest films ever for Sight and Sound magazine. To some, that's going a little too far, but the film is definitely not bad. It's an unusual blend of sex comedy and murder mystery set in a high school. It follows a shy student named Ponce (John David Carson), who is mentored by "Tiger" (Rock Hudson), the football coach and guidance counselor.
The plot kicks into gear when a girl is found dead on campus. Detectives arrive at the scene, and secrets bubble to the surface. It turns out that Tiger has been pursuing sexual relationships with multiple students. Pretty Maids All in a Row is worth it for the performances by the main actors, including an amazing appearance by Telly Savas as the head detective.
Tarantino is a devotee of Abel Ferrara, the director most famous for Ms. 45, King of New York starring Christopher Walken and Bad Lieutenant with Harvey Keitel. One of Ferrara's less-acclaimed movies is his take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The film takes place on an army base in Alabama, where clones replace the personnel as part of a massive conspiracy. Steve (Terry Kinney), an EPA agent sent to the base, seeks to find out more alongside his teenage daughter (Gabrielle Anwar). At just 87 minutes, Body Snatchers is a lean, well-made sci-fi romp with some interesting themes around conformity and freedom.
This sci-fi horror film was director Tobe Hooper's follow-up to his 1982 classic Poltergeist. While it doesn't quite reach the heights of that movie, Lifeforce is still worth checking out. Its original title was The Space Vampires, which sums up the plot: a space shuttle crew discovers three humanoid aliens in suspended animation. These extraterrestrial vampires crash-land on earth and unleash all kinds of bloody carnage.
Lifeforce was a critical and commercial failure, but it has more than enough to justify a viewing: well-designed spaceships, brutal murders, Patrick Stewart. It's one of the most unique vampire movies ever made, if not necessarily the best. Even critic Gene Siskel admitted it was a "guilty pleasure."
Tarantino ranked Crawl among the best films of 2019—and he's not wrong. This disaster thriller follows a woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her father (Barry Pepper), who are trapped in their home during a hurricane. To make matters astronomically worse, several monstrous alligators invade their crawlspace. The two fight for survival as the water level rises and the crocs start hunting.
It's a goofy premise, but director Alexandre Aja successfully crafted it into a surprisingly potent two-person horror movie. He's helped a lot by Scodelario's great, believable performance. The film also features impressive cinematography and well-rounded characters, which set it apart from similar (worse) flicks.
Tarantino is a big fan of exploitation auteur Jack Hill, especially his films Switchblade Sisters and the Pam Grier-starring Coffy and Foxy Brown (the latter was a big influence on Jackie Brown). This project follows Kate (Jo Johnston), a journalist who goes undercover and joins the cheerleading squad to write an article about sexism. In the process, she stumbles across a much bigger conspiracy.
The Swinging Cheerleaders is very much B-movie fare. Still, it packs a few good gags (especially from Johnston, who has a knack for physical comedy) and some surprisingly thoughtful takes on relationships and gender dynamics. The ending gets a little silly, but overall the film is entertaining and deserves a higher score than the 5.1 it currently holds on IMDb.
Carl (Gregory Harrison) travels to Australia in search of his missing wife, Beth (Judy Morris), a journalist who had been documenting the hunting of wildlife. His mission brings him face-to-face with a giant boar that has been terrorizing the outback. Carl joins a hunter and farmer to take on the beast.
Razorback's premise is truly ridiculous, but the filmmakers are so committed to it that they somehow pull it off. It's Jaws by way of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except with Australian accents and worse acting. It's fun, though, mainly due to the well-designed animatronic pig and lead actors who are totally down with the ridiculousness. As one of the main characters says, "There's something about blasting the sh*t out of a razorback that brightens up my whole day.”
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Luc Haasbroek is a writer and videographer from Durban, South Africa. A lifelong movie nerd, he’s written for sites like Paste and Briefly. Luc has also worked behind the camera on short films and other projects. When not writing or watching LOTR marathons, Luc hangs out with his cats and generally forgets where he’s left his keys.
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Expect exploitation flicks with an eye for craftsmanship and plenty of earnestness.