Rockie’s Vulcan Video Staff Picks #4
Rockie has been working at one of the last video stores standing, Vulcan Video in Austin, TX, for nearly a decade. The best part about working there is being able to share a recommendation with a customer. Sure, some of his recommendations have been shot down in flames, but the ones that hit always make it well worthwhile. For his Staff Picks, he has a few selections mined from the mighty Vulcan Video.
Stir of Echoes
One of the unsung horror films of the 90s, Stir of Echoes, is a murder mystery wrapped in a rather touching ghost story. Tom Witzky, played excellently by Kevin Bacon, is cursed with visions after a family member subjects him to hypnosis. The visions are of a poor teenaged ghost who desperately needs to get something off her chest to be at peace. As the visions get worse, Tom begins to tear his family apart by trying to solve the spirit’s cryptic appeals. Stir of Echoes was destroyed at the box office by critic darling The Sixth Sense, and while both films are worth your time no doubt, I feel pound for pound this one is the better of the two. Here’s to hoping my recommendation finds this film a few more fans. Also, this film has one of the greatest sex scenes ever put on film, if that’s your bag.
Cheap Thrills fits the bill of a pitch black, dark comedy, and it’s arguably one of the greatest things the Drafthouse Films distribution company has released. Actor Pat Healy plays Craig Daniels, a poor guy who keeps getting kicked around in life. After losing a job and receiving an eviction notice on the same day, he decides to drown his sorrows at a local dive bar. He then bumps into his old friend Vince, played unpredictably by Ethan Embry. They end up having the most memorable night of their lives when they meet a crazy couple (Sara Paxton and David Koechner) who puts them through a series of challenges, that get exponentially worse, for quick cash pay outs. The film asks, “How far will a desperate man go to salvage his home life?” Greed and desperation fuel this raw compact comedy, with every actor involved bringing something special to the table. If you’ve been keeping score, you will notice that I love final shots in films and Cheap Thrills has one that is the stuff of legend. Dog lovers beware, this film goes to some very dark places.
Before Deadpool came swaggering in with its R rating, Blade was years ahead of the curve as a super bloody Marvel yarn. A hunter and slayer of vampires, Wesley Snipes plays our tough-as-nails superhero, Blade. Half man, half vampire, Blade is better prepared than most, in his quest to eradicate the creatures of the night. Doing all the fight choreography himself, Snipes truly embodies this lesser known Marvel character, allowing him to shine with a nothing-to-lose attitude. He also brought the growl voice before Christian Bale’s Batman, too. Now when I say R rated, I mean it; vampires explode like blood-filled water balloons and lines getting thrown around regularly include, “Some motherfuckers are always trying to skate uphill.” Blade is not the present day, kid friendly Marvel ride we see today. This film is also wacky enough to cast Kris Kristofferson as Blade’s partner, Whistler. Stupid fun with solid action scenes, I implore you to not sleep on this weird comic book film.
There are three important worms in all of Sci-Fi Cinema: those sexy Dune worms, the Wrath of Khan ear critters and Upstream Color’s trippy creepers. After ingesting a worm that causes you to lose your faculties for a few days (an oversimplification of what happens, I promise you), several people are drawn to one another, trying desperately to understand why their lives have been tossed about so violently. In all honesty, I don’t know what this film is truly about, I just know how it hit me on a heartfelt level. One of the most emotional sci-fi films ever made, Upstream Color marked the return of filmmaker Shane Carruth, director of the indie wonder Primer, after a 9 year absence. Carruth seems to have already mastered the low budget, high concept movie faster than any indie filmmaker out there. Every shot in this film is beaming with importance. It feels as if you remove anything at all from the piece, you would destroy the poetry being recited. Its mysterious tone may feel inaccessible to some, but I encourage you to let this one sink under your skin because it is one hundred percent original.
A luxurious cruise ship is the prize for a bunch well-armed looters, however upon their arrival they are met with a seemingly empty vessel. Unfortunately for them, just hours before their nefarious boarding, the crew and passengers were eaten in droves by a huge multi-tentacle Leviathan from the ocean deep. Still hungry and searching for more easy meals, the monster proceeds to hunt the thieves down. Even with great weaponry, they are thrust into an extremely desperate survival mode. Can they survive this deadly encounter against a creature with an insatiable appetite, that has tendrils that extend the length of the ship? Funny and action packed, the film also features an oddly stacked cast, with Famke Janssen, Treat Williams and Kevin J. O’Connor riffing off one another perfectly. I seriously doubt director Stephen Sommers will ever top this film. It is perfect 90-minute creature feature with a dash of action adventure, topped with a flawless ending.