(Posted: 31 December 2009)
Written by Preston
with help from: Ronny

Cinephile, movie geek, film fan, cinematic-fanatic, movie-buff or whatever you prefer to call yourself. You’re the one who is often more involved when it comes time to watch movies in comparison to the flyby night movie-goers, who are simply looking to be entertained for a period of time. Although still find yourself watching just about anything especially if it falls into your preferred genre /subgenres, the ones you tend to be most passionate about. Even though you watch everything that you can get your hands on, there are some movies that you’ve come to view that helped shape and form you into the film fan that you are. These are the ones that you could have seen when you were young and made you decide that film's particular genre was the one that you were going to opt for with every trip to the video store or the theater. Or maybe it's the type of movie that caused you to set a standard for movies and made you realize what it is that you're looking to get out of each film you view. Better yet, it's that one movie that changed your entire perspective of world of cinema and goes beyond a simple movie viewing experience and becomes something much more personal to you.

No matter where you sit on the totem pole of movie geekdom, we all have movies that can qualify as one of these. Ones that in general changed the way we watch movies, the way we view them, what we experience with them, how we digest each one, what we look for in them and what we take out of them. It could be anything from the z-grade trash that you would find at the bottom of a dumpster, or one of the most engaging and provocative films ever made. It doesn't matter as it's always a personal experience and differs with each of us. Like everyone else, I didn't get to where I am as a movie fan over night and I certainly didn't start off this way either, even though I've run into folks who claim they have. I started with the basics; whatever played on TV that I could watch, whatever I could get from the video store, or whatever I was taken to see at the theaters. Which is why I decided to put together this article, I wanted to go through some of the movies that had the biggest effect on me and molded me into the film geek that I am. Like I said, everyone is this way which is why I also had Ronny contribute a list as well, not to mention it's always interesting what other movies had similar effects on different people

Last House on the Left (1972)
Now this maybe nothing special to most folks, but up until the time I had watched "Last House on the Left", I had never seen any exploitation movie that wasn't mostly a horror film first. Plus, the only movies I had seen that had that gritty feel to them was the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and William Lustig's "Maniac". So viewing "Last House on the Left" was quite an eye opening experience; ignoring the comedic and lacking elements of the film. I had no idea that a movie could contain such a sadistic and a mean-spirited nature to it, all the while maintaining a level of realism. Instead of the usual masked killer with a stalk-n-slash formula from horror movies. This is the movie that catapulted me into exploitation films and made me realize that a movie didn't need to have zombies, ghosts, masked killers, and monsters to be scary. Although these days, depending on what day you catch me, I'll either love "Last House on the Left" or I'll hate it. Now that I'm a more experience and well-rounded film fan, I realize now that this movie wasn't anything more than a shameless rip off Ingmar Bergman's superior film "Jungfrukällan" or "The Virgin Spring" if you prefer. Even though Wes Craven is only just now acknowledging the movie after being called out on it for so long, but even, only saying the Bergman’s film “inspired” him. (Not to mention I find Craven to be one of the biggest hacks in the horror genre.) With that aside though, I still owe "Last House on the Left" a lot because of the genre, sub-genres, and all the movies it opened me up to.
Videodrome (1983)
As far as I can recall, the only movie of David Cronenberg's that I had seen before "Videodrome" was "The Fly", in which I was really to young to appreciate all that Cronenberg puts into his films. It wasn't until I watched "Videodrome" that I understood the term "body horror" and came to understand that a movie can be layered with subtext and go beyond the standard plot, sub-plots and basic-generic filmmaking. I was well aware that movies could have a message, like "Dawn of the Dead", but "Videodrome" was an entirely different beast. It not only had a story but it had different themes and many layers to it; different plot points touched on different ideas that Cronenberg tends to explore. On one hand it runs this psycho-sexual gamut, and then it goes on with the relationship between humans and technology. While the technology in the film maybe dated, the ideas are certainly not, nor any of the other ideas explored in the movie. "Videodrome" was also one of the first movies that I watched where I realized it was designed to mess with the mind of the viewer. It's a movie that helped to show that films can be more than a form of simple entertainment and escapism for an hour or two out of my life, and that they can be truly engaging. Though it also hasn't stopped from enjoy some mindless fun with trash cinema.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
"Tetsuo" is a movie that I probably would have never watched had a friend not strongly recommended it to me. Even then he never told me what to expect, he simply said it was something that I had to watch. In a way, I'm glad he did because nothing could have prepared me for the kinetic nightmare that is "Tetsuo". I was aware and had seen some that have style and a strong artistic direction, but I never knew that something could be as visually powerful as "Tetsuo" was. There was nothing traditional or typical in the movie and I had never seen anything close to it. So the first time viewing it was as if I was watching a nightmare that had been filmed. Much like how "Videodrome" showed me that there could be more than just superficial entertainment to a movie, "Tetsuo" showed me that a movie doesn't have to follow unwritten rules to filmmaking or a set of guidelines to be good. That it can be and do its own thing and be just as good if not better. While I am aware that "Tetsuo" was not the first of its kind, with films like "Eraserhead" or "Un Chien Andalou" that came before it, however "Tetsuo" was the one that introduced me to this style cinema. One that has also managed to have the strongest resonance with me as I have only been able to find one other movie that has struck such a strong chord with me. (Nacho Cerdàs' "Genesis", if you're wondering.) It is also what helped in deciding to explore amazing world of art-house, surreal, and experimental style cinema.
Evil Dead II (1987)
Don't judge me. I'm well aware people are tired of hearing "The Evil Dead" series being brought up in horror discussion, or how often they're brought up in film lists. I'm more than aware of how extremely popular the films are, hell I even had a bank teller compliment me on an "Evil Dead" t-shirt I was wearing while standing in line at the bank. The fact remains though that "Evil Dead 2" was a movie that I watched early on in my young horror-viewer career and one that showed me that horror movies don't have to be scary to work, they can simply be entertaining. It's something I still hear today, especially from those who criticize the types of movies I tend to watch and are covered on Film Bizarro. That true horror movies need to be scary, if they're not scary then they're not horror movies. Bullshit. I'm old enough and at a point in my life that real life is far scarier than anything I'll ever find in a motion picture. Not to mention when you’re an adult and have been watching horror for many, many years, it’s hard to find any of them scary anymore. New or old. For that matter, not all horror movies or movies in general need to be made the same or with the same elements; some can go for scary, others can go for a gross out factor, while some can go for being sophisticated, and some can simply be fun. It doesn't matter. Each movie should be taken for what it is and not for what types of other movies it should be like. "Evil Dead 2" showed me that and that horror movies can simply be entertaining, and it's also what helped me to pursue the notorious b-movie. Because not everything needs to come out of Hollywood with big budgets and big names to be good. Let's face it, that's never been truer than it has now.
Tromeo & Juliet (1996)
Why? Well because everyone always remembers their first Troma movie fondly and while for most it's normally "The Toxic Avenger" or "Class of Nuke'em High", for me it was "Tromeo and Juliet". Besides the fact that "Tromeo and Juliet" is a shit load of fun to watch, and it finally gave Shakespear all the nudity, blood, car chases, and explosions that he always wanted but could never manage. The movie opened the gates of Tromaville for me, in which I really enjoy my current residency in, but it also opened the gates for me to appreciate "truly independent" filmmakers. Without this movie and Troma in general, I probably wouldn't be able to enjoy and have respect for those who do what they can to get their movies made. Whether it means that they have to make sacrifices and shoot their projects with no-budgets, or some that become one-man films. Sometimes it works out as there are some genuinely good movies that were made for next to nothing with very few involved. Other times it results in some of the worst movies you could ever see, which can be fun to view in their own right. So it's not really so much "Tromeo and Juliet" itself, but rather what it did for me and opened me up to. It allowed me not to become a cinema snob (not entirely) and to be able find enjoyment in any movie, even z-grade trash flicks. Also to appreciate and have respect for those who will do anything to get their movies made, but don't have the benefit of a multi-million dollar budget and endless resources.
And now, Ronny's picks:
Silvet Bullet (1985)
When Preston told me he wanted me to contribute to this article, this was the first movie that popped into my head. And honestly, it was the only one I knew belonged here. At the age of 5 I watched this werewolf movie, and I really do believe that this movie is the reason for me not only being a horror movie fan, but I also think it layed the ground for me being a fan of werewolves, monsters and Stephen King adaptions. If there is one movie that formed my taste in movies, "Silver Bullet" is the one.
Return of the Living Dead (1985)
"Return of the Living Dead" is one of my earliest zombie experiences. Tarman, the basement zombie, made me realize how awesome zombie make-up can be and after watching the tape of this movie about a thousand times or so, it's safe to say that I was a zombie movie fan. Many, many, many zombie movies later and I still consider this one to be one of the best out there.
Guinea Pig: Devil's Experiment (1985)
I remember the feeling I got the first time I sat down to watch this movie. It felt like I was watching something illegal. I knew this was all just a movie, but this movie was the first time I got the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I shouldn't be watching this. Later in life that has happened while watching movies like "August Underground" and such, but this was definitely my first experience with the underground pseudo-snuff/torture films that today is one of my favorite genres when done right. It might not stand the test of time as well as some of the other genre movies, but I still like it, and above all I respect the first movie to make me feel like a criminal by just watching a screen.
Grizzly (1976)
There is something I like about bears (and I don't mean the gay type called "bears"), and I think my small fascination for these creatures started with this movie. I also "blame" this movie for being the first animal horror I ever watched, a sub-genre that is mostly filled with shit, but when done right they're brilliant ("Jaws", "Razorback"). Atleast I think "Grizzly was the first one, unless it was "Jaws". But even then, "Grizzly" has been a huge part of my life. I originally watched it on an old recorded-from-TV VHS at a boyfriend of mom's. I believe I watched it close to 5 times or so, but then the movie disappeared from the face of the earth. Mom stopped dating that guy, and we moved to a different town. "Grizzly" was no longer to be found. My friends honestly thought I made it up because no one I knew seemed to be able to find it. I sent letters to the TV station that originally aired it in Sweden, but no luck. And yes, this was way before internet hit, and being a little kid in Sweden, I wouldn't say it was too easy to find some movies. Many, many years later, I got it from my brother on DVD and it's safe to say that I haven't looked as much for a movie since then. "Grizzly" is without a doubt the first movie that I have really worked for to find, something I struggle with alot more often nowadays with all the golden releases and films I've stumbled upon since.
The Beyond (1981)
Italian horror was pretty much non-existent in my little mind before seeing "The Beyond" on a bootlegged VHS over at a friends house. I remember the recommended age on the cover was 21, something that I obviously thought was kickass because in Sweden 18 was the highest rating. Anyway, there isn't much to say about this movie other than it being the first Italian movie I ever watched, and also the first gore film.. That is, my first SERIOUS gore film. Splatters, that's a different kind of thing. Knowing gore like this existed made many, many of my old favorites bleak in comparison, and need I say that I still prefer good ol' sickening gore over splatter gore? Thank you for that, Fulci.
Well there you have it, five movies that had a major impact and influenced myself and five that influenced Ronny. I'm sure some people will have their opinions about the movies listed, but remember these lists were narrowed down to the five that we felt had the most impact. There were definitely a number of other films to choose from, but this seemed like a good number to go with especially given the importance that each movie had. All that really leaves then is what movies had the most impact on you and helped to change your perception of movies?


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