MIKE JUSTICE’S TOP 10 FAVORITE HORROR MOVIES FROM MY CHILDHOOD

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Justice is the only illegitimate offspring born of a short-lived union between a frustrated English horror movie star and an American film festival groupie. His legacy, therefore, is to obsessively pursue a litany of ill-defined ambitions in the industry (editor, director, actor) while also falling hard and fast for anything with an accent and/or mutton chops. Fortunately, he’s pretty good at distilling his various fizzles, faux pas, and let-downs into uproariously absurd, snarky tales filled with wit, wisdom, and (sometimes) redemption.

Mike is also one of my favorite people and his top ten lists on Facebook deserve to be preserved as much as this digital website can preserve his words. I am so happy that he has allowed them to be reprinted here. You can follow Mike on Facebook

10. See China and Die AKA Momma the Detective (1981): An NBC movie written and directed by Larry It’s Alive Cohen starring Esther Rolle as a headstrong amateur detective sleuthing around to find out who’s killing off wealthy Manhattan art collectors. Originally conceived as a pilot for a proposed Murder She Wrote-style series where Momma the Detective would solve a new mystery each week. Unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up. Reviews were unkind, saying that Rolle and her son (played by Ken Holliday) were bright spots but “surrounded by an inept and tacky group of white stock characters.” Sounds great to me. Anyway, Paul Dooley plays a country singer, Laurence Luckinbill gets stabbed, and Rolle is chased around by a killer in a Chinese dragon mask. Available on YouTube.

9. The Great Alligator (1979): Jungle movies and Jaws ripoffs were big—so Sergio Martino (Torso, Screamers) combined them into this terrifying tale of a vengeful South Asian god who’s so furious that greedy Europeans have built a shitty swinger resort on sacred land that he turns himself into a giant plastic alligator and starts eating tourists. Oh, and the local native population takes the alligator’s side and starts killing tourists, too. Claudio Cassinelli and Barbara Bach are the heroes, Mel Ferrer is the mercenary land developer who wants to hush everything up so drunk Germans will continue wife swapping at his no-tell hotel. American distribs gave this a hard pass, so it was sold directly to network TV where it remained a staple of late-night and Saturday afternoon-programming for decades. The monster effects suck, but it boasts a great bongo-heavy Italio-disco score by Stelvio Cipriani.

8. House of Psychotic Women (1973): I miss when you could switch on the TV and catch dubbed European crap like this playing on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It isn’t really as provocative as the title would infer—it’s more of a romantic whodunit than anything else. A burly ex-con shacks up in a crumbling mansion along the Spanish-French border with three neurotic sisters—a disabled brunette, a nympho redhead, and an ugly duckling with a clunky prosthetic hand who’s bitter because she’s forced to chop chicken all day without makeup. Oh, and there’s also a hot nurse with Connie Francis eyelashes who tends to the brunette. Unfortunately, no sooner does he arrive than a black-gloved giallo slasher starts killing random blond-haired, blue-eyed women and gouging out their eyeballs. Is it the handyman? One of the sisters? The nurse? Some periphery character like the shady town doctor, or the sharp-tongued waitress played by Pilar Bardem (Javier Bardem’s late mother)? In my day, you had to tune into USA Network’s Saturday Nightmares or Commander USA’s Groovie Movies to find out.

7. Kingdom of the Spiders (1977): When I was a kid, no summer was complete without a network primetime showing of this movie. Looking back, it’s like the 1970’s was all about wild animals that wanted to kill and/or eat you for revenge against man’s environmental ineptitude. This one has tarantulas gang up on an Arizona tourist town just in time for the county fair because they’re pissed off about pesticides. It’s sort of like Jaws meets a loose remake of The Birds — but with spiders instead of birds, and William Shatner in the Tippi Hedren role. Reportedly, 10% of the film’s budget was allotted for tarantulas. I’ve never liked spiders, and I don’t get people who do. I think it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome; folks who cry about not killing spiders are always the same ones who’d say something like, “Yeah, my parents abused me, but I was a brat and probably deserved it.”

6. Trick or Treats (1982): Who wouldn’t love a Halloween-themed slasher movie about a homicidal maniac stalking a terrified babysitter? It’s a fool-proof concept, but it turns out Gary Graver — the writer, director, producer, cinematographer, and editor of the this $55,000 movie — may have been the fool to ruin it. If you’re a jerk who can’t appreciate Number 6 on my Top 10 Favorite Horror Movies from Childhood list, that is. Think of everything that made Halloween an instant classic. Now, forget all that, and settle for this comedic anti-classic about a 30 year-old aspiring actress/babysitter stuck in a dark house with a mean brat (played by the director’s son) who terrorizes her all night while an escaped lunatic who looks like Meat Loaf in drag keeps threatening to stab her. Then toss in blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em cameos from Carrie Snogress, David Carradine, and Paul Bartel, tons of “hilarious” practical jokes, and a cheap library score—and you’ve got this unlikely (and reluctant) childhood favorite of mine (due in no small part to it playing continuously on the USA Network for years). It’s not a great film, or even a good one—but the seasonal atmosphere is on-point, and it features actress Catherine E. Coulson (who later found fame as “The Log Lady” on Twin Peaks) as a horny asylum nurse. Plus any movie featuring a socially awkward kid picking on adults is going to get my vote for life.

5. The Midnight Hour (1985): Number Five on my Top 10 Favorite Horror Movies from Childhood list is also one of my most beloved All Hallow’s Eve-themed monster-mashes, an ABC TV movie that premiered on November 1st, 1985. Much like Hocus Pocus — another seasonal cult favorite that it shares DNA with — this comedy/horror/musical mash-up of teenagers, witches, magic, and monsters initially happened decidedly NOT during Halloween season. The plot is simple: a group of “playful teenagers” (played by decidedly non-teenagers Sheri Belafonte, LeVar Burton, Peter DeLuise, Michelle Pheiffer’s sister, and the kid from Burnt Offerings) living in a small Massachusetts town that looks suspiciously like the backlot where they shot Elvira, Mistress of the Dark head to a smoky cemetery to jokingly invoke a centuries-old curse that supposedly raises the dead. Then they all naively head to a rockin’ Halloween party, not realizing that they have, in fact, created an army of werewolves, vampires, zombies, and a cute 1950’s cheerleader who’s inexplicably well-preserved and serves as a love interest for the kid from Burnt Offerings — all of whom crash the party. Romance, mayhem, and vampire attacks ensue—all while offscreen DJ Wolfman Jack plays an endless and surprisingly diverse stream of diegetic hits. Take Hocus Pocus, GreaseFameAmerican Graffiti, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, MTV, Back to the Future and the 1980’s as a whole, throw them in a blender, divide that by TV movie production values, and you’ve got this amazing piece of cinematic history.

4. Mausoleum (1983): I don’t think I’ve ever loved any man, woman, child, family member, or cat as much as I love Mausoleum. I can’t imagine a world without it. Mausoleum is a terrifying 80’s horror classic about a rich housewife named Susan with very large breasts who wakes up one day to find herself possessed by a centuries-old demon intent on making her break dishes, shoplift cheap art, seduce and destroy gardeners and delivery men, and generally act like a real bitch. Former evangelist preacher-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner is her dimwitted bimbo husband who gets eaten by her boobs. No, really. LaWanda Page (Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son) is the smartest person in the movie (she takes one look at the demon, packs a suitcase, and bails). Telekinesis, monster transformations, dry ice smoke, and levitation murders abound. It’s rumored this movie was produced by the Mafia. If that’s the case, I’ll die for ’em, gimme a chair, man, I’ll fry for ’em, and if I gotta take the stand, I’mma LIE for ’em! Mausoleum is my ride or die.

3. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976): When I was a kid, I wanted to be Rynn Jacobs, protagonist of this movie. She lives in a handsome two-story house with hardwood floors and a fireplace on the outskirts of some cozy Canadian village with lots of bookstores and crab restaurants. The local cops are chill, there’s a cute neighborhood nerd who does magic tricks for her to hang out with, and her hobbies are gathering firewood and studying Hebrew. Most importantly, her parents are never around—and whenever any nosy Karens or creepy molesters invade her solitude because they’re annoyed that they can’t control her, she just kills them and stashes them in the basement. Shit, I’m a 46 year-old man and I STILL want to grow up to be Rynn Jacobs.

2. Asylum (1972): What’s better than one scary movie? How about four scary flicks in one. AKA House of Crazies, the all-star British anthology from the director of The Vampire Lovers and Dr. Jekyll and Sister HydeRobert Powell interviews a bunch of nut-bags in a madhouse to deduce which one is a former shrink who went insane, and their flashbacks—adapted from short stories penned by Robert Bloch (the author of Psycho)—form the basis of the plot. In one, Barbara Parkins is a femme fatale who talks her married boyfriend into chopping up his ball-busting wife, only to get chased around by the body parts. In another, Peter Cushing is a mysterious “believer of Astrology” who asks some old Jewish tailor to make a magic suit that can bring back the dead. Then there’s Charlotte Rampling and Britt Ekland as murderous BFFs, and Herbert Lom as a maniacal doctor who creates killer dolls. It’s got my favorite wraparound of any omnibus horror of the period, with a real sting in its tail that’ll put you off therapy for at least a week.

1. Halloween (1978): My Number One Favorite Horror Movie from Childhood is the one, the only, the original Halloween. Did you think it would be anything else? John Carpenter’s lean, mean, lethally efficient suburban paranoia thriller about a real-life boogeyman stalking and killing teenagers in small-town Illinois had more menace, suspense, and sheer popcorn excitement than the best campfire tales and urban legends. Its innovative combo of nihilistic 1970’s crime thriller-meets-guileless John Hughes-esque characters made an impact unmatched by any of its 12 (and counting) sequels, remakes, reboots, and re-quels. Some are good, some are not, but honestly, I say just nuke ‘em all from orbit and stick with the original.

MIKE JUSTICE’S TOP 10 FAVORITE FORGOTTEN BAD FILMS OF THE 90S!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Justice is the only illegitimate offspring born of a short-lived union between a frustrated English horror movie star and an American film festival groupie. His legacy, therefore, is to obsessively pursue a litany of ill-defined ambitions in the industry (editor, director, actor) while also falling hard and fast for anything with an accent and/or mutton chops. Fortunately, he’s pretty good at distilling his various fizzles, faux pas, and let-downs into uproariously absurd, snarky tales filled with wit, wisdom, and (sometimes) redemption.

Mike is also one of my favorite people and his top ten lists on Facebook deserve to be preserved as much as this digital website can preserve his words. I am so happy that he has allowed them to be reprinted here. You can follow Mike on Facebook

10. Bad Girls (1994): Remember the one starring Madeleine Stowe, Andie MacDowell, Drew Barrymore, and Mary Stuart Masterson as outlaw prostitutes in 19th-century Colorado who shoot their way out of a whorehouse and then head west to open a sawmill? The #10 spot on My Top 10 Favorite Forgotten (Bad) Films of the 90’s marathon is going straight to Bad Girls (1994), a godforsaken sexy-lady Western that’s actually not that bad. Well, it’s bad. But it’s not boring. In fact, it’s pretty entertaining. It began life as a low-budget, female-scripted drama to be directed by Tamra Davis (Guncrazy). A few weeks into production, 20th Century Fox decided it would be more fun to fire Davis, replace her with Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused), and bring in a half-dozen dudes to re-work the entire project into a big-budget, quasi-feminist Young Guns-with-chicks. I saw it opening night, and felt that what it lacked in authenticity, it made up for in gunfights, jail breaks, and dialogue like, “We sold our bodies, why can’t we sell some wood?” and “Kiss my sister’s black cat’s ass!” Bad Girls was #1 at the box office that weekend. Unfortunately I think it set a record for the lowest-grossing film to ever top the box office.

9. Final Analysis (1992): Kim Basinger plays a gangster’s wife with a medical condition called “Pathological Intoxication” that causes her to murder people whenever she drinks wine or NyQuil—and Richard Gere is the moody psychiatrist who loves her. This is a San Francisco-set Hitchcock “homage” featuring killer blondes, double-crosses, twists, turns, the requisite cable car chase, Kim Basinger in crazy bitch mode, and a very young Uma Thurman as Basinger’s sexually repressed sister who keeps dreaming about vagina-shaped flowers. It’s like if the director of Three O’Clock High got together with the writer of Arachnophobia to remake Double Idemnity while slavishly ripping off Vertigo because, well, that’s exactly what it is. But Hitchcock never had his leading lady brain Eric Roberts with a dumbbell. For that reason alone, this film makes the list.

8. A Stranger Among Us (1992): Melanie Griffith is a tough-as-nails homicide detective who goes undercover in the Hasidic community to catch a killer.  This was maverick filmmaker Sidney Lumet’s stab at helming a crime drama/murder mystery/fish-out-of-water romance in the style of Peter Weir’s Oscar-winning Witness—except with Melanie Griffith and Jews. A “Vitness,” if you will. Someone’s knocking off Hasidic diamond cutters, so “untouchable shiksa” Griffith convincingly infiltrates their ranks by dying her hair two shades darker. Then she moves into the Rebbe’s house and starts throwing herself at his son. Romance, suspense, culture shock, and scenes of Melanie Griffith fucking up Hasidic customs ensue. But among the Ultra Orthodox, she discovers the true meaning of friendship and self-sacrifice. Or something. If I were a nineties-era Joel Siegel, my blurb on the poster would read: “Great cinematography, some decent action, and lots of fun scenes of Melanie Griffith’s character embarrassing herself make this a winner!”

7. Used People (1992):  A Borscht Belt Moonstruck ripoff where Shirley MacLaine is a cantankerous Jewish widow living in 1960’s Queens who can’t get Marcello Mastroianni to stop trying to seduce her, Used People is a Neil Simon-esque cranky-family comedy that’s crafted with all the subtlety and finesse one can count on from the director of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995). If you crave bad accents, mean-spirited one-liners, a bouncy, tuba-heavy Rachel Portman score, and a parade of smart-assed grotesques masquerading as fleshed-out characters (as I do), then this is your jam. It’s basically To Wong Foo with Jews instead of drag queens. Critics’ main gripe was that, for a heartwarming romantic fable, the characters weren’t lovable. In fact, they were spiteful. And hateful. Well, I grew up in a family of hateful, endlessly bitching women, so I can attest to the authenticity. As for whether you should spend two hours with these slobs, ask yourself how you’d feel if John Waters remade Hannah and Her Sisters. If that sounds appealing, give this a go.

6. The Quick and the Dead (1995): Sharon Stone had some great roles in the 90s: icepick killer, frigid book editor, Vegas whore. But my favorite is her vengeful gunslinger dying to shoot Gene Hackman in the face in Sam Raimi’s Revisionist Western The Quick and the Dead. Hackman is the sadistic mayor of a frontier town called “Redemption” who treats the residents like crap, beats up Russell Crowe, and mocks son Leonardo DiCaprio for having farmer’s hands. Naturally, everyone wants to kill him. Enter mysterious stranger Sharon Stone who signs up for Hackman’s quick-draw contest and starts blowing away every sweaty, dust-covered dude in town to get to him. Stone plays her part as Clint Eastwood, and it’s basically a flamboyant B-Movie; a two-hour Spaghetti Western homage with tons of visual flourish. Rolling Stone said, “Despite director Sam Raimi’s hyper-stylized efforts to whip up action and laughs, The Quick and the Dead is deeply shallow and damned silly.” And?

5. The Associate (1996): Whoopi Goldberg is a crackshot investment banker who can’t get ahead on Wall Street, so she gets some drag queen to dress her up as an old white man and hilarity ensues? If you loved Mrs. Doubtfire, then you’ll probably like The Associate. One reviewer said Whoopi’s titular getup looks like “a cross between Marlon Brando and the guy on the Quaker Oats box.” That’s pretty accurate, but it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this flick. It’s no Sister Act. It’s not even Jumpin’ Jack Flash, but as directed by Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, Grumpy Old Men), it’s still a bright, fairly edgy big-budget farce in the mold of something Bette Midler would’ve headlined in the1980’s. Speaking of, it came out exactly one month after another female-driven, New York-set comedy with a similar “Don’t get mad, get even!” philosophy: The First Wives Club (1996). Unfortunately, The Associate grossed about 6% of what that film made, and was promptly consigned to oblivion. Perhaps rightfully so, but anything with Dianne Wiest, Lainie Kazan, Bebe Neuwirth, and Tim Daly under one roof deserves another look.

4. French Kiss (1995): Meg Ryan plays a neurotic Canadian who trails her cheating fiancee to Paris and then falls in love with Kevin Klein doing an Inspector Clouseau accent in maverick filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan’s first and only foray into rom-coms. There were many mediocre Meg Ryan vehicles in the 90’s, but this is the best of them (and funniest); Kline’s mustachioed dirtbag Frenchman with a heart of gold is as sleazy-hot awesome as you’d expect, and Ryan is refreshingly more in Innerspace/Joe vs. the Volcano mode here. Equal parts slapstick, screwball, and Yank-in-Europe adventure, there’s even a magical trip to the South of France, and a cops-vs-robbers subplot because God forbid Hollywood set a movie in Europe during this era and not have anyone get chased. Not to be confused with Forget Paris (1995) starring Billy Crystal and Debra Winger that opened two weeks later to equally mixed reviews and grossed the exact same amount. That movie makes my ass twitch.

3. The Net (1995): Remember the one where Sandra Bullock orders pizza on the internet?  I love this movie. It’s The Pelican Brief meets North By Northwest meets Hackers; a summer action thriller for nerds. Bullock is a reclusive freelance analyst who stumbles onto an international cyberterrorism conspiracy and is targeted by bad guys who erase her identity and frame her for murder. Now she’s forced to fight back and save the day with nothing but her extensive knowledge of computer systems and a virus on a floppy disk. Although it aims for John Grisham-meets-Hitchcock with its falsely accused hero and cloak and dagger chases, The Net truly succeeds as a techno-thriller, somehow managing to turn escape keys, IP searches, and file upload progress bars into instruments of nerve-wracking suspense. It’s also nostalgia on a stick; I still want to grow up to be Angela Bennett, chillin’ in my Venice craftsman, listening to Annie Lennox while I chat online with “Cyberbob.” Brad Duncan on Letterboxd put it best when he said: “I miss when dumb, mid-budget trash like this was actually watchable and not boring sludge that gets dumped to Netflix and forgotten about immediately. The 90’s really was a theatrical Golden Age.”

2. Mars Attacks! (1996): Remember that all-star alien invasion spectacle where martians blow up the White House? But not that insufferable dumpster fire with Will Smith? Mars Attacks! (1996) might be the least-forgotten forgotten film so far, but it’s still criminally unappreciated. I usually hate star-studded CGI extravaganzas, but I love Mars Attacks!—probably because it was such an unfashionable train wreck. In 1996, the highest grosser in the U.S. was Independence Day—a bloated, overhyped, flag-waving suckfest aimed straight at the lowest common denominator. That Christmas, Warner Bros released Tim Burton’s similarly plotted, albeit far more schlocky and surreal sci-fi epic. Of the two, I obviously preferred Burton’s theremin-heavy Irwin Allen throwback to what Jason Bailey of Flavorwire calls “a loathsome, soulless husk of a garbage movie” (sorry, I just really hate Independence Day). Only seven years earlier, Batman (1989) was the most popular film stateside. It’s interesting to note how, by 1996, Tim Burton’s zany retro campiness was falling on deaf ears in an America hungry for jingoistic horseshit. Whatever. Mars Attacks! has Martin Short and Pam Grier. It wins.

1. 200 Cigarettes (1999): My favorite subgenre may be “The Ensemble Comedy Underscored by a Stream of Jukebox Hits that Unfolds Over the Course of One Night,” so it makes sense that this movie is my #1 Forgotten (Bad) Film of the 90’s. I consider it a minor classic, though despite its Rogue’s Gallery of hip indie darlings (Paul Rudd, Courtney Love, Dave Chappelle, Christina Ricci, Ben Affleck, Kate Hudson, Janeane Garafalo, Martha Plimpton) it’s definitely more Midnight Madness than Dazed and Confused. Think Love, Actually but written and produced by casting agents. The plot is simple: hipsters, yuppies, punks, and bridge-and-tunnel floozies drink, flirt, and yap their way through the East Village on New Years Eve 1981 (more like 11 or 12 comic subplots—some better than others—that converge at the end). For me, it’s an endlessly quotable comfort film, but for others they’ll need to dust off their DVD players because it’s one of the toughest movies from that era to stream (I’ve heard the soundtrack is a deal-structure nightmare nobody wants to touch). It’s interesting that, when first released, it was merely a period comedy about 80’s New York—but now it pulls double duty as a nostalgic time capsule of late 90’s Hollywood. It’s also weird to think this movie is older now than 1981 was in 1999.

MIKE JUSTICE’S TOP 10 FAVORITE TRASHY 90’S THRILLERS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mike Justice is the only illegitimate offspring born of a short-lived union between a frustrated English horror movie star and an American film festival groupie. His legacy, therefore, is to obsessively pursue a litany of ill-defined ambitions in the industry (editor, director, actor) while also falling hard and fast for anything with an accent and/or mutton chops. Fortunately, he’s pretty good at distilling his various fizzles, faux pas, and let-downs into uproariously absurd, snarky tales filled with wit, wisdom, and (sometimes) redemption.

Mike is also one of my favorite people and his top ten lists on Facebook deserve to be preserved as much as this digital website can preserve his words. I am so happy that he has allowed them to be reprinted here. You can follow Mike on Facebook

 

10. Body of Evidence (1993): Nothing like 2022 to make one nostalgic for a more innocent era of sex, murder, courtrooms, and bondage. My TOP 10 FAVORITE TRASHY 90’s THRILLER marathon starts with Body of Evidence, a Basic Instinct ripoff starring Madonna as a Portland art gallery owner on trial for fucking people to death. Willem Defoe headlines opposite as her boy-toy lawyer who can’t resist her monotone charms. Julianne Moore co-stars as Defoe’s wife who we recognize as an authentic and tragic figure because she’s not blond. Even tacky thriller royalty Anne Archer turns up for a minute to snarl, “I wanted to keep my job—that didn’t include telling him his girlfriend was a coke-head slut!” Other choice lines of dramatic intrigue include: “It’s not a crime to be a great lay!” “Can you really screw someone to death?” and “She’s a killer, and the worst kind. A killer who disguised herself as a loving partner!”

9. Mother’s Boys (1993):  A Hand That Rocks the Cradle-inspired “suspense shocker” starring Jamie Lee Curtis as a Betty Broderick-esque mother from hell who’ll stop at nothing to reunite with the family she stomped out on three years earlier (especially her creepy Edward Furlong-knockoff son who she’s got the hots for). Since nobody’s interested in reconnecting with her crazy ass, she settles for terrorizing them instead. Scheming, chain-smoking, frog stabbing, forehead slashing, Volvo spray painting, attempted dog murder, attempted Vanessa Redgrave murder, and incestuous bubble baths ensue. The New York Times denounced it as a “confusing, fifth-rate imitation of Fatal Attraction” but Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times said it was “a handsome picture” that afforded Jamie Lee Curtis “the most bravura role of her big-screen career.” Mother’s Boys is a big, brassy breakfast scramble of family melodrama, abnormal psychology, bonkers dialogue, jump scares, and Peter Gallagher eyebrows. I love it.

8. The Temp (1994): An intentionally hilarious (?) corporate whodunit from the director of Fright Night and Child’s Play about a sketchy secretary (Lara Flynn Boyle) who infiltrates a struggling Portland cookie company and may or may not start bumping executives off using, among other weapons, a paper shredder. It’s one of two “femme fatale on the corporate ladder” thrillers to make my list, but it’s the only one to co-star Miss Faye Dunaway as a ball-busting CEO who stomps around in tennis whites while hissing lines like, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed whore!” and “I’ve had more knives stuck in me than Julius Caesar!” Miss Dunaway was reportedly VERY demanding while on location in Portland, Oregon—and, according to her biography, VERY disappointed in the way her character turned out after Paramount ordered reshoots to turn “a darkly humorous satire” into a more straightforward thriller. “Once again, I could see myself being thrown into playing the extreme,” Dunaway sighs. “The new ending wasn’t enough to salvage the film, though. By the final scene, it didn’t matter who was the killer, the film had been dead for an hour at least.” Indeed, Paramount’s meddling resulted in a film so tonally inconsistent—and with a conclusion so ill-conceived—that reviewers were still furious weeks afterward. The Los Angeles Times published an anatomy of its box office failure, calling out studios for ruining movies “by committee.” The Temp is still very worthwhile, though—just ignore the ending.

7. Color of Night (1994): A bombastic, overhyped $40M “psycho-sexual” melodrama fashioned entirely from hubris and cocaine that’s every bit as unhinged as the psychotics it portrays. More of a slashy, stabby Brian DePalma throwback than a nineties-style erotic thriller, the Body Double-esque plot concerns Bruce Willis as a traumatized Manhattan psychiatrist (!) who ventures out to LA to take over a therapy group for violent neurotics (played by an unholy assemblage of some of the hammiest character actors in Hollywood), all of whom have a real problem using their indoor voice. Murders, plot holes, and scenery destroying ensue—“Everyone’s a suspect!” Then Willis starts banging a dangerous mystery chick with multiple personalities and a wig fetish. Then he’s attacked by a Pontiac Firebird. Then Leslie Ann Warren is a nymphomaniac who can’t stop screaming at people. Reviews were less-than-kind (but thoroughly on-the-nose).

Color of Night approaches badness from so many directions that one really must admire its imagination.” — Roger Ebert

“The enthusiastically nutty Color of Night has the single-mindedness of a bad dream, and about as much reliance on everyday logic.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times

“This wholly terrible movie is far more enjoyable and astonishing than many halfway good ones.”— Kim Newman, Sight & Sound

6. Diabolique (1996): Sharon Stone stars as a chain-smoking elementary school teacher in leopard-print lingerie who drowns her abusive lover in a bathtub. Then he comes back to life. Then Kathy Bates shows up as a detective with one breast. It’s (ostensibly) a remake of the elegantly perverse French classic Les Diaboliques (1955), only now it’s an eccentric neo-noir (set in Pittsburgh!) chock full of retro flourishes, campy costumes, and bitchy, hard boiled dialogue. If you take a shot every time Sharon Stone deadpans one of her trademark smart-ass one-liners, you’ll be dead by the 10 minute mark.

5. Jade (1995): Ever wonder what would happen if the director of The Exorcist teamed up with the writer of Showgirls to make an erotic action-thriller about a bored San Francisco socialite/clinical psychologist who moonlights for kicks as a blackmailing prostitute and might also be chopping up her johns with an antique hatchet? Well, this collaboration exists, and it’s called Jade. Entertainment website The Indiependent says, “Jade reads like it’s written by an A.I. robot that has watched 100 hours of erotic thriller movies and then produced a screenplay out of the jumble,” and it’s true. It’s a preposterous, ridiculously acted, aggressively mid-90’s hodgepodge of axe murders, alter egos, sleazy rich people, vehicular homicide, mysterious Asians, Dutch angles, Michael Biehn with a Joe Pantoliano mustache, a Loreena McKennitt theme song, and Linda Fiorentino, um, “making love” to a man with her high-heeled shoe. Another reviewer put it best when he said: “Every scene contains a beautiful or grotesque element, all of it incomprehensible. Whether it’s David Caruso’s portrait of dumb-ass rage as an assistant DA operating like Dirty Harry, to pubic hair collections and Giallo crime scenes, to a hit-and-run that viciously morphs into an insane car chase right out of Bullitt (1968). Jade somehow still has time for a steely-blue mansion climax that flows like Michael Mann in a stupor.” Although it was trashed by critics and bombed at the box office, William Friedkin maintains that JADE is his favorite out of everything he’s directed. Yes, he loves it more than The Exorcist, The French Connection, Cruising, To Live and Die In LA, Boys In the Band or his music video for the Barbra Streisand song, “Somewhere.”

4. Wild Things (1998): What TOP 10 FAVORITE TRASHY 90’s THRILLERS marathon would be complete without Wild Things (1998)? Called “The Ultimate 90’s Neo-Noir” (Slant Magazine), what begins as a humid sexploitation drama about two Florida high school vixens (Denise Richards, Neve Campbell) who accuse their guidance counsellor (Matt Dillon) of rape soon takes so many sweaty, sordid, wholly unpredictable turns that you’ll get whiplash. Extortion, blackmail, cat fights, threesomes, and murder ensue. Critics called it, “vulgar,” “demented,” and a “three-way collision between a soft-core sex film, a soap opera, and a B-grade noir”—and those were the POSITIVE reviews! Wild Things was to erotic thrillers what Scream (1996) was to slasher movies; a clever, self-aware, solidly entertaining throwback, more than happy to wallow in its own trashiness. Toss in some Kevin Bacon dick, some Theresa Russell camp as Denise Richards’ slutty mom, and Bill Murray (!!!) as a sleazy storefront defense attorney in a neck brace, and you’ve got one hot, steamy pile of entertainment.

3. Double Jeopardy (1999): Remember the one where Ashley Judd discovers her husband faked his death and framed her for his murder—so now she can kill him for real due to the “double jeopardy” procedural defense that states no one can be tried and convicted twice for the same crime? Oh, and Tommy Lee Jones is the dedicated parole officer/ex-law professor who’s chasing her? What a trashy-fun revenge thriller this is. Mystery, action, suspense, chills; it’s Deceived meets The Fugitive meets The Net—and it spent three weeks atop the U.S. box office during what was clearly a more innocent era. You wouldn’t think the guy who made Driving Miss Daisy (1989) would make such a great action director.

2. Disclosure (1994): Remember the one where Demi Moore is the new whiskey-voiced VP of a Seattle software firm who jumps Michael Douglas in her office, and then sues him for sexual harassment when he won’t bang her? Then he sues her back? Based on a novel by Michael Crichton, this Seattle-set techie-thriller starts off like a sleeker, more A-list version of The Temp (1993) but segues into a corporate conspiracy about defective CD-ROM manufacturing about halfway through. Along the way there’s backstabbing, sinister emails, clever dialogue, and Donald Sutherland in full reptilian mode as the smarmy CEO. Disclosure ticks all the boxes: power politics, courtroom battles, killer set design, colorful supporting characters, an Ennio Morricone score, and Michael Douglas being chased down a virtual reality corridor by Demi Moore’s avatar. Roger Ebert said watching Disclosure was like seeing “a Sharper Image catalog that walks and talks” and Gene Siskel called it, “Pure and simple trash masquerading as significance.” So?!

1. Malice (1993): Remember the one where Alec Baldwin plays a creepy-hot doctor with a God complex who moves to a New England college town and people start dying off? But that’s really not what it’s about? My favorite trashy thriller of the 1990’s is Malice. There are so many reasons why I love it, not the least of which is its completely bonkers script by Aaron Sorkin that serves almost as a proto-Wild Things (1998) in terms of how many plot twists can be crammed into one narrative. Furry surgeon Alec Baldwin rents a room from Nicole Kidman and her professor husband. When Nicole doubles over with abdominal pains, Alec rips out her ovaries. Fair enough, but now Nicole sues him for $20M and they both disappear. Then her dejected husband starts to uncover a labyrinthine conspiracy plot going back decades. “Malice is a medical thriller! No, it’s a courtroom drama! No, it’s a murder mystery!” Toss in a Jerry Goldsmith score, some warm, handsome Gordon Willis photography, and a surprise appearance by the late, great Anne Bancroft as a foul-mouthed, scotch-guzzling sociopath, and you’ve got what Roger Ebert called, “one of the busiest movies” he’d ever seen, and the only film he could recall “in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere.”