Dan Martin – special effects artist – Infinity Pool, Possessor, The Banshees of Inisherin, Censor, In the Earth and much more
“Hello, I’m Dan Martin, special effects artist, co-host of the Arrow Video podcast and film fan. I’ve poured through the massive selection of fine titles on Arrow’s streaming service to select a collection of titles that I love. My tastes are very varied and I think that is well represented here, although I’ve tried to select things that I feel deserve a spotlight shone on them, things that are maybe less seen (although there’s a couple here people may consider obvious choices).”
[REC] - 2007 - Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza.
This fresh, unique action-horror, found-footage movie absolutely blew me away when I caught it on the festival circuit nearly 20 years ago. The claustrophobia, the frenetic feeling of panic and the justified aesthetic conceit of the fire-department ride-along news broadcast gone awry all come together to create one of the best modern examples of every one of the multiple sub-genres it combines. If you’ve seen it, as many have (this is one of the “obvious choices” I mentioned) you’ll already love it. If you haven’t seen it before, read no more, just dive in.
Aniara - 2019 - Pella Lagerman
A dreamy, minimalist sci-fi using all pre-existing locations with minimal but notable and effective digital overlay is a brilliant, if miserable, ride. A concept that, for a moment, seemed likely to be over-used in the art-sci-fi sphere (parallels to Claire Denis’ Hight Life and Armando Ianuchi’s Avenue 5 are unavoidable) but, in my opinion, this film outclasses all other offerings in this humanity-in-peril, space-ark disaster sub-genre.
Bat Pussy - 1970 - Unknown
This astonishing, unearthed curio nearly didn’t make the list for the same reason I suspect it will have been dropped from a fair few others: it is hard-core pornography. However, if you can stomach it, this deeply un-arousing short feature is baffling to behold. Not a single decision in the film seems one a human would make. The heady cocktail of unattractive people bickering their way through awful, mechanical sex while a copyright-ignoring sexual Batwoman travels across the city on a Space-hopper will live in your mind forever.
City of the Living Dead - 1981 - Lucio Fulci
Not quite the Zombie madness you may expect from legitimate “Godfather of gore” Lucio Fulci, this lightly Lovecraftian splatter classic has a much wider range of goods on offer than just reanimated Corpses. One of the best from a master of the genre.
Evil Dead Trap - 1988 - Toshiharu Ikeda
This woefully under-seen Japanese thriller plays like a cross between a top-quality Argento giallo and the goriest of the Fulci splatter films. A great, twisted detective story where an amateur detective (a reporter, as is so often the case) is pulled into a complex web of murder, mystery and snuff films is combined with genuinely shocking gore.
Five Deadly Venoms - 1978 - Cheh Chang
One of the better-known Shaw films in the West, this is one of the best Wuxia movies ever produced. Shaw studio stalwart Cheh launched a franchise with masterful and balletic choreography and a solid focus on action. A worthy favourite amongst western Shaw fans and a fantastic introduction to the studio for newcomers.
Giant and Toys - 1958 - Yasuzo Masumura
A charming comedy and a searing satire of capitalism, Masumura’s beautiful movie (shot masterfully by Hiroshima “sword of Doom” Murai, showing his range here) is a delightful mix of Pygmalion and Michael Clayton; all with a wonderful pre-60’s pop-aesthetic. Every aspect of this movie is miles ahead of its time.
Hotel Poseidon - 2021 - Stefan Lernous
I had the opportunity to see this one when Arrow were still considering it for acquisition and it was like finding hidden treasure. A wonderful, grimy mirage of a movie, it evokes early Jean Pierre Junet. I’m a big fan of dream-logic films and this one washes over you like the onset of general anaesthetic in a flooded hospital.
Love Exposure - 2008 - Sion Sono
This perverse, sacrilegious epic from a master of the unhinged is a rollercoaster of sexual dysfunction, cults, blasphemy and young love. Don’t be put off by the 4-hour run-time, it flies by. Considering the sex and violence on display, it’s a surprisingly touching (literally and figuratively) coming-of-age film that grabs you from the start and drags you along for its raucous tangled narratives of love, self-loathing, voyeurism and love triangles.
My Life as a Dog - 1985 - Lasse Hallström
I came to this one comparatively late but it resonated with me tremendously. I occasionally go through phases of watching films specifically to crush myself emotionally and this was included in one-such self-programmed festival of misery. Kind of the opposite of Love Exposure, it’s a tender drama about troubled childhood in rural Sweden, it tackles not just the usual coming-of-age subjects but the impact of loss and disconnection from parents on a young child. It’s visually and emotionally beautiful. I wept.
Schramm - 1993 - Jörg Buttgereit
Like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer if it was dipped in muck, Schramm is Buttgereit’s micro-budget study of a sad, isolated murderer. More experiential than McNaughton’s classic, it’s playing field is more insular, showing us visual metaphors of the titular character's life mixed in with recollections of his heinous acts. It’s a brief, extreme, art-house horror film with an amazing soundtrack for those with strong stomachs.
The Boxer's Omen - 1983 - Kuei Chih-Hung
For a long time, this absolutely bananas WTF fest was very hard to find in anything approaching reasonable quality but we didn’t care, it became a stalwart of late-night, intoxicated viewings and truly has to be seen to be believed. Now available in shiny HD it’s never looked better, or crazier. It’s a perfect example of the sheer breadth of the Shaw Brothers’ output. I suggest viewing with a group of friends and the strongest intoxicants you can legally acquire and morally countenance.
The Human Condition hexology/trilogy - 1959-1961 - Masaki Kobayashi
I first saw this when Arrow released the box set and watched it in its Japanese release format (as six films, rather than three); one a week for a month and a half. It’s in my top ten films of all time; a legitimate masterpiece. Kobayashi would deal with Japan’s role in WWII several times in his illustrious career but Human Condition is his perfect, heart-wrenching tale of morality eroded, of bitter persistence in the face of cruelty and of the horrible pointlessness of war.
The Third Murder - 2017 - Hirokazu Koreeda
Like a procedural noir, Koreeda’s poetic and, at its core, deeply sad murder mystery deftly plays with guilt, motive and atonement. Beautifully photographed and brimming with exceptional performances, this lesser-known, recent J-thriller is an absolute gem.
*not all titles are available in all territories