Adam Cesare Selects
Adam Cesare is the Bram Stoker Award-Winning author of the young adult slasher novel Clown in a Cornfield, its sequel Clown in a Cornfield 2: Frendo Lives, and Clown in a Cornfield 3: [Incendiary Subtitle to be Revealed]. His other works include the cult hit novels Video Night and The Con Season, several produced horror screenplays, and the Dark Horse Comics graphic novel Dead Mall, with artist David Stoll and available in trade paperback now.
With the Clown in a Cornfield series--especially the upcoming Part 3--serving as a blood-drenched celebration of Americana, an examination of what brings the country together (and tears its people apart), he limited his Selects choices to American-made films. So come on, hop in, we're taking a road trip across America, starting in Hollywood and ending up very far away from *Hollywood*:
This was maybe my favorite movie growing up? But it and BEN were only stocked at the smaller, mom & pop video rental store in town. And once Blockbuster and Hollywood Video had put them out of business, I went years and years without seeing them, until our house got internet and eBay was introduced as a thing. Yes, it's fairly set-bound, but it still *feels* Californian to me in a way I can't quite explain? That patina of the early 70s, sitcom colors and styles breaking down as Willard and his rats are pushed to violence. Beautiful.
THE STYLIST 2020
The midwest has a fine tradition of in-your-face filmmaking (see Jim Van Bebber's DEADBEAT AT DAWN, also on Arrow Player), and hopefully Jill Gevargizian is never lured to the coast, so she can keep making the region proud (I have it on good authority that her next movie was shot in Maryland, which: still regional filmmaking!). I mean, just looking at this list, I clearly have a predisposition toward films of the 1970s, but maybe that's why I love THE STYLIST as much as I do. Undeniably modern, it still feels "classic" to me in how unhurried in its tension building but at the same time unashamed in its bloodletting. A brilliant character study that manages to showcase some nice Kansas City flavor, when we're not in the claustrophobic interiority of our titular scissor-happy Stylist.
STING OF DEATH 1966
This (paired with Grefe's THE DEATH CURSE OF TARTU) is one of the earliest Something Weird Video releases I can remember melting my mind, in the early days of DVD. I'd already been a HGL devotee, and you were telling me that there was another wild man making movies in Florida at ~the same time? Candy colored and silly and full of the natural beauty of the Sunshine State. The fact that Arrow has *most* of William Grefe's films available to stream? I mean, I know who I'm picking to win the streaming wars.
THE CRAZIES 1973
I know the remake is good enough that a lot of people like to give it the rare "it's better than the original!" boast when discussed, but I don't think those people have watched the original recently. In some ways more prophetic than all his (still super prophetic and incisive) DEAD films, THE CRAZIES also showcases a Pennsylvania we rarely see on film. Fog-saturated small towns giving way to fields and hills and forests of almost menacing beauty... all blighted by modernity and angular 60s/70s administrative architecture.
DARK AUGUST 1976
Oh yeah, this is the stuff. I wanted to make sure I had a film from Arrow's American Horror Project represented on this list, but I recommend all 6 (Volume 3 coming soon? Please? PLEASE?). You want to simultaneously desire to book a trip to Vermont but then get there and be too scared to turn the lights off in your rented cabin? This is the movie. An unheralded folk horror masterpiece.
1971 • United States • Directed by Daniel Mann
A social misfit, Willard is made fun of by his co-workers and squeezed out of the company started by his deceased father by his boss. His only friends are a couple of rats he raised at home, Ben and Socrates. (And their increasing number of friends)...
Obsession gets a makeover in The Stylist, a deliciously twisted slice of female-led psychological horror, nominated for the New Visions Award for Best Motion Picture at the 2020 Sitges International Film Festival and based on co-writer/director Jill Gevargizian’s award-winning short film of the s...
Deadbeat At Dawn
Written by, directed by and starring Van Bebber, Deadbeat follows the story of Goose - a gang leader whose girlfriend is brutally slaughtered when he attempts to leave the thug life behind. Pulled back into the gang, who've now formed an uneasy alliance with the thugs that butchered his girl, Goo...
Sting of Death
A group of college students travel south to Florida on spring break with their friend Karen (Valerie Hawkins), whose father, Dr. Richardson, is a marine biologist currently studying jellyfish. At the party, Karen's friends insult and ridicule Dr. Richardson's assistant, Egon, who is in love with ...
Death Curse of Tartu
Made in Florida in the mid-1960's, Death Curse of Tartu tells the story of a group of young people who venture into the everglades to party. However by going there they disturb the burial ground of Tartu, a witch doctor who has been dead for 400 years. Not wanting strangers on his ground, Tartu c...
1973 • United States • Directed by George A. Romero
After the experimental outings of There’s Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch, Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero returned to rather more distinct horror territory with his 1973 infection opus The Crazies.
When a plane carry...
1976 • United States • Directed by Martin Goldman
Witchcraft and psychic phenomena abound in this criminally-neglected slow-burn chiller from director Martin Goldman, starring Academy Award-winner Kim Hunter (A Streetcar Named Desire). J.J. Barry plays Sal, an out-of-towner relocated to a small ...