There are crazy movies on SBS On Demand. Critic Travis Johnson picks five of the weirdest.
SBS has always been a wild ride. Since day dot, Australia’s multicultural broadcaster has been home to some of the strangest slices of cinematic sweetness from around the world, and things have certainly not changed in the streaming age, with oddities from ever corner of the globe available to the discerning cineaste at the click of a mouse button.
It’s a movable feast, though, and the canny viewer needs to keep a close eye on the listings in order to catch the best stuff before it recedes back into the mysterious ether of international cinema. With that in mind, hear are five quintessential curios streaming on SBS On Demand right this second that are well worth inserting into your sensorium.
Accion Mutante (1993)
In a bleak post-apocalyptic city ruled by the beautiful, a terrorist organisation of disabled and disfigured people kidnap a billionaire’s heiress in hopes of forcing societal change – and getting rich off the ransom.
Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia has reveled in pushing buttons and boundaries over the course of his career, delivering up shockers and schlockers such as The Day of the Beast (1995), Perdita Durango (1997), Witching & Bitching (2015), and The Bar (2017). But he was never wilder than in this, his completely off-the-chain debut feature. Channeling the anarchic, satirical spirit of Britain’s 2000 AD and France’s Metal Hurlant comic books, it’s hyper-violent, hyper-funny, and hyper-offensive in the best possible way.
Body Melt (1993)
The residents of a sleepy Australian cul-de-sac are in for a remarkably horrible time of it when they are subjected to a secret experiment. The diet pills they’re being fed are meant to produce the perfect healthy human specimen. The actual result? Well… (gestures vaguely at title).
Taking his cues from Peter Jackson’s early splatterers like Bad Taste (1987) and Braindead (1992), Australian provocateur pulled out all the stops for this you-beaut body horror opus, delighting in putting a full roster of familiar soap opera faces (Gerard Kennedy, Andrew Daddo, Vince Gil, Brett Climo, Lisa McCune, William McInnes, et al) through gory, goopy, slimy, squicky hell. No gore gag is too OTT for Body Melt, an Ozploitation gem that absolutely deserves rediscovery.
In a fog-shrouded, green-lit seaside city, dark doings are afoot. A mysterious cult of cyclopes is snatching children from their beds. A pair of conjoined twin crime lords are running a gang of pint-sized sneak-thieves. A lowly flea is employed as an instrument of assassination. A sideshow strongman searches for his missing brother. And, on an abandoned off-shore oil-rig, an evil mad scientist and his bizarre coterie of henchmen are laying diabolical plans…
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French filmmakers Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro had already made a big noise on the arthouse circuit with their 1991 post-apocalyptic comedy, Delicatessen, and Jeunet would go on to solo acclaim with his whimsical romantic comedy, Amelie, in 2001. But The City of Lost Children stands as their most singular achievement: a dark, dreamlike post-modern fairytale that feels like nothing so much as a Gallic take on Terry Gilliam’s best work. Richly imagined, wonderfully acted (genre mainstay Ron Perlman and acclaimed French actors Dominique Pinion and Daniel Emilfork feature) and weirdly resonant.
In point of fact, both Delicatessen and Amelie are streaming now, too. Triple feature the lot.
Banshee Chapter (2003)
After her old college buddy, James (Michael McMillian) goes missing, young journalist Anne (Katia Winter) decides to investigate. This proves to be a very bad idea, as her friend vanished while investigating the notorious CIA mind control project codenamed MK Ultra. Following James’ research, Anne soon finds herself deep in the conspiracy rabbit hole, following mysterious radio broadcasts, tracking down a burnt out counterculture writer from the ‘60s (Ted Levine), and eventually coming face to face with Things Man Was Not Meant to Know.
Banshee Chapter is a horror film incorporating found footage elements, but don’t let that put you off: director Blair Erickson has injected new and unsettling life into the played-out subgenre by mashing together CIA conspiracy fodder with the works of tentacular horror grandmaster H.P. Lovecraft – specifically his short story, “From Beyond” (previously filmed by the great Stuart Gordon in 1986). The result is a steadily, inexorably unsettling dive into a fringe world where black laboratory drugs enable contact with otherworldly entities – you know, that old chestnut. Plus, you get Ted “Buffalo Bill” Levine basically playing Hunter S. Thompson, which is a gas.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
In the mid-18th century, the French province of Gévaudan is ravaged by a mysterious creature that slaughters peasants by the dozen. The superstitious locals are convinced they are being stalked by a ravening werewolf. Dispatched to the remote region by the King, royal naturalist Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Behan) and his Iroquois buddy, Mani (Marc Dacascos) are determined to put an end to the killings, but what they’ll uncover is stranger even than run-of-the-mill lycanthropy.
Loosely based on a true story (no, it really is), French director Christophe Gans’ lurid romp quickly casts off all pretense of historical fidelity to serve up a dozen-course feast of action, horror, and intrigue. Gans jams as many genres as possible together for his breakneck monster hunt: it’s a horror movie, a costume drama, a political thriller, and a martial arts action movie (you don’t cast Marc Dacascos and leave his head-kicking skills sitting on the shelf, after all). Plus, it co-stars Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel, which makes it even more French.