By George Rose
May 13, 2009
In honor of this rare moment where I expected little yet gained newfound faith, I have chosen a few films that went above and beyond my expectations. I'm not talking about Pixar movies here, the kind that I hold on a pedestal. I'm talking about movies that came out of nowhere and blew my mind, the kind I would rather wet myself watching than miss a moment of. There are obviously more than five but these are the few that have made it to the forefront of my memory or at least were on my DVD shelf when I was looking for movies to recommend.
The horror/thriller genre has become a bit of joke in the recent past, thanks in large part to Michael Bay and Japanese horror remakes. Aside from maybe The Ring, Identity was among the few great fright flicks in the last decade and snuck up on the public to make a name for itself. Nothing about the movie suggested it would be of great quality. The cast has a bunch of established actors that never went full A-list (John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta, Alfred Molina) and seemed to mash two previously successful horror concepts together into an ill-conceived mess (the hotel location and insanity from Psycho and plot from Ten Little Indians). Lo and behold, I was proven wrong.
The plot does contain those two elements but in no way was it an ill-conceived mess. The movie was frightening, puzzling and intense. Twelve strangers all find themselves trapped at a run-down motel and must race to discover what connects them before their time runs up. As the body count rises, a psychiatrist nowhere near the site fights to have a mental patient freed of murder charges based on his insanity. Who are these 12? Why are they relevant to a psycho who isn't even near this Bates-esque Motel? Why am I so scared that I can no longer control my bladder?
There are plenty of questions asked throughout the film but only one afterwards: why didn't I see this movie sooner? Probably because nothing Hollywood has offered us with regards to horror has actually been frightening. Faith was lost. If you looking for it to be restored, at least when it comes to scary movies, I offer you Identity. It may also restore your faith in John Cusack. Because of Identity I decided to give Cusack's 1408 (based on Stephen King's story) a shot and was also more than pleased, but Identity was the real surprise and deserves this spot on the short list of shockers.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I hadn't seen Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket or Rushmore by 2001, when his third film was released. I was also 16 and didn't have much interest in the unknown indie films that often made their way to Academy Award recognition, expect for those nominated for Best Special Effects. Going to the movies is expensive when you're part of a family of six so our choices were often limited to Disney releases and seasonal blockbusters. However, on a fateful trip down South to see family over Christmas break in 2001, my one cousin that is as in love with movies as I am decided to take me to see The Royal Tenenbaums. I don't know why I listened, maybe because of the childish assumption that Owen Wilson would have me laughing fountain soda out of my nose. That didn't happen. Instead I had been hand walked into the indie-elite by my cousin (also named George) and finally started to appreciate the true meaning of humor and all the potential this new meaning had.