People embrace the enchanting glow of the big screen for all manner of reasons; to journey to faraway places they could only ever imagine, to experience the escapism of a captivating story, or maybe to indulge in an obsession with the world of cinema. For me, all three of these reasons apply - and many more - but first and foremost is the satisfaction of recommending obscure films to other like-minded individuals who adopt them as their new favourites.
With over 100 years worth of films to choose from, and many of these now available at the click of a button, it can be extremely difficult to narrow your choices down to pick a film to watch. Although cinema has been around for over four times longer than my life on this earth, I have spent what some may consider an unhealthy amount of these years delving into the history of films to discover some of the best hidden gems out there.
This series of articles aims to highlight the overlooked masterpieces that I have unearthed whilst exploring the forgotten recesses of cinema. Take a gamble on any one of these films and I guarantee that you will be eagerly awaiting all future instalments in this series. You may well have heard of a number of these films; my aim isn't merely to shine a spotlight on the most obscure films out there, but to share my enjoyment of those films which don't have the cult following I believe they deserve.
Runtime - 138 Minutes
In 2013, Escape from Tomorrow enamoured audiences at the Sundance Film Festival with its audacious approach to guerilla film-making. Sequences of this fantastical horror were secretly shot inside Disney World, Florida, and although the film as a whole was flawed, this generated enough hype and publicity to garner Escape From Tomorrow a cult following.
It escaped my attention until a few years later that another bold and intrepid film-maker had explored this very idea before, albeit with scenes captured at Universal Studios over a decade earlier. The end result was Reflections of Evil, an unconventional masterpiece that subverts the film-making techniques used by so many Universal Pictures features to confront and provoke audiences in a far more effective way than Escape From Tomorrow did. I recommend this film cautiously, as its radical perspective is divisive among cineastes; some (myself included) claim it to be a breathtaking achievement, whilst others view it as worthless garbage. I would expect that those with an open mind set will surely revel in the warped world of Director Damon Packard.
The bizarre sensibilities of Packard are apparent from the very first scenes of his film. We are introduced to Reflections of Evil by none other than actor Tony Curtis whose voice has been dubbed over to convince us that the words of immense praise he is expressing are directed towards star and Director Damon Packard. When Packard's character eventually appears on screen - a larger than life bumbling watch salesman - he proceeds to fail miserably whilst selling watches, vomits intermittently and occasionally stumbles headfirst on to the floor, spraying blood over the pavement with every exaggerated impact. These are not the acts of a sane individual, nor are they the actions you would expect to see depicted by a credible film-maker, but the humourous delivery of Packard's encounters work well with the gross out elements and will certainly help to establish if this is a film you would be willing to sit through. At this point, my curiosity had been suitably enticed, how on earth would this deranged opening segment be sustained into a film that lasts close to two and a half hours?
The carnage continues in a similar vein for the next two thirds of the film, with little discernible plot to speak of - imagine if Lynch and Linklater collaborated on a Troma picture - and the onslaught of violence, foul imagery and erratic camera movements will inevitably leave viewers drained. Stick around for the ride though and you will reach the films crescendo into brilliance as Packard's character descends upon Universal Studios, the culmination of his constant beration of Spielberg's cinematic world through cheap imitations that showcase his perverted sense of humour.
Here we take a darkly hilarious journey through the E.T. ride and also see the directors own interpretation of a film related attraction that is so twisted I find it hard to believe that Packard followed through with it. The foul, disgusting character we are introduced to is finally superseded in repulsiveness by an abhorrent concept that is cruel and shocking yet utterly engaging. If you have the stomach to sit through the previous two hours of the film then there is a very high chance that you will appreciate the route Packard takes. This is black humour so close to the bone you will begin to question your own morality if you find yourself amused by his heartless creation.
There are only certain types of audiences who are going to enjoy this film - hell, I haven’t even risked showing this to some of my closest friends, but I can imagine it going down particularly well in the late night slot at a horror festival. There is nothing quite like it out there and films that tread a unique path will always appeal to me, particularly when they are pushing the boundaries of that which is deemed acceptable. If, like me, you get a kick out of the depraved side of cinema, then hopefully my praise for Reflections of Evil will be enough to convince you to take a punt on this crazy piece of guerrilla film-making.
If you take the time to watch Reflections of Evil then it would be awesome if you could also take the time to let me know what you thought of it, either by commenting below or tweeting me @filmbantha. Thanks, and enjoy!