Today I get a chance to talk about some weird movies that I got the pleasure of seeing during DreadXP movie nights.
To my understanding, all good stories have to start with the line “Once upon a time”. So that’s how I’m starting this story. Once upon a time I was miserable and working for a big retail company. Through some hard work, good writing, and luck, I was picked up to write full time for DreadXP, and also to start helping with their marketing arm. Now I am no longer miserable. All of this has come with an unexpected boon: movie night.
DreadXP movie night isn’t really exclusive to DreadXP staff. If you want, you can hop onto our Discord and join it right now in fact. Or rather you can join it when it happens every Friday and Saturday night. We also do game nights on Sunday.
Our host, DreadXP lead Ted Hentschke, usually plays 3 movies a night, and we started at the start of April. What this means is, at this point, we’ve seen something like over 200 movies. There are no plans to slow down. However, as someone that hasn’t really gotten into horror movies until recently, it has opened my eyes to how weird and wild the world of independent horror can really get. As such, I took the time to write about some particular obscure favorites coming out of the event.
Never forget your first. This was my introduction to DreadXP movie night. We made it our quest to find some found footage horror movie, and we settled on the 2018 film Headgame. The reason why? The poster art for the movie features a woman with a camera sticking out of her head. Naturally, this must be a found footage movie, right? Oddly enough, Headgame is anything but. This is basically just a regular movie that very very rarely shows the perspective of the characters but with an overlay that looks like it was taken straight out of Halo.
The movie features a group of characters who are trapped inside of what’s basically a combination of Saw and The Hunger Games. There are some rich people who are betting on who’ll win, and for some reason, the person who bets on the last to die (aka: the guy who came in second) dies. It doesn’t really make much sense, and I’m not going to pretend like this is some super high-quality movie. However, it does have a fun amount of gore and some neat traps.
There are two parts of the movie that really stick out in my head though, both for being a little absurd. Right at the beginning, there’s a character named Mike the Stripper, played by Edward Gelhaus (if you happened to see The Forever Purge, he also plays the Nazi who monologues about how gunfire is an American symphony). Despite maybe having five minutes of screen time total, everyone loved how absurd Mike was, screaming and flailing about in the first challenge. Also, his face melts in a genuinely neat gory scene. The other big moment? Two of the rich dudes have a vape off in a super bizarre scene where one guy vapes so hard he dies. It’s worth it for those two parts alone.
The Curse of Professor Zardonicus (2021)
I won’t lie: we originally picked The Curse of Professor Zardonicus because it looked like a low-budget bad movie. The movie doesn’t have much of a budget either, so we were right about that part. However, 30 minutes in, something strange happened. We started to fall in love with it.
I know it’s not just the movie club that loved Professor Zardonicus. Everyone we’ve gotten to see it has gone for it. An amazing comedy/drama, the movie follows Greg who’s trying to film his magnum opus school project and chooses a student named Darren to follow. The only catch? Darren is obsessed with the mythical creature known as Professor Zardonicus, who he believes haunts the college.
What follows is the two running around the college trying to figure out the truth behind Professor Zardonicus, and more importantly for Greg, the truth behind Darren. The movie is hilarious and manages to genuinely make you feel for both characters in a way that few other films have managed.
Stakeout (2020) and Cult Following (2021)
I’m cheating a little by combining these two into a single entry, but honestly, they’re similar enough that I think it works out. The basic premise of both movies is the same: a person does a weird job that no one believes is real and a documentary crew follows them to see what’s up with them. In Stakeout the crew follows a vampire hunter who may or may not be making it all up. In Cult Following they’re following an occult expert looking into a cult who may or may not just be making it all up.
Both movies are horror-comedy movies where the main source of comedy is if the subject matter is real or not. The main source of horror is the feeling that it may be real and the truth’s about to be revealed at any moment. You’re never quite sure which direction the movie will take. Both movies also have extremely similar third acts that I’m not going to spoil here, but they follow the same formula and include the same last-scene twist.
Is this a bad thing? Nah. If you’re into that format then there are two movies that you’re going to enjoy. If I had to pick one, I thought Steakout was a little better shot/funnier than Cult Following. But there’s a reason this is a tried and true format that other movies have used. You should have no problem getting into either one. Plus, there are at least four lovable dorks spread out in these two movies, and I can always get behind more lovable dorks in my horror-comedy movies.
For my job, I have to watch a lot of video game streams. It’s just sort of a thing you do. Additionally, a lot of live streamers love to play horror games. So what if the game was actually haunted, and had real-world consequences? This is the premise of Livescream.
The movie follows Scott as he, well, streams himself playing a game. Today he even has a new game, one which appears to be a combination of several different horror games. There’s just one catch: the further he gets in the game the more difficult it gets. And worse still, if he messes up members of his chat die. Unable to leave the game, Scott is forced to keep playing and hopefully keep himself from dying.
With so many evil technology movies, it feels like the “evil video game” hasn’t been tackled since 2006’s Still Alive, so it’s really nice to see Livescream do so. Is it good? If you’re not really into the game streaming niche there’s a solid chance you may bounce off the movie. If you are, however, there’s an equal chance you’ll pull something out of it, and it’s well worth paying attention to for that.
The entire Bad Ben series (2016 – 2021)
We watched all nine Bad Ben films one after another. It’s important that you know this. Never heard of Bad Ben? Well, let me take you on a journey. A journey of one man who wanted to film a horror series in his own home, and created a franchise of horror-comedy movies that may have changed how we see movies forever.
The short and simple is that director and actor Nigel Bach plays Tom Riley, a man who gets a new house in a sheriff’s sale. Unfortunately, it turns out the last owners of the house are rather dead and the house is haunted by Ben. Specifically the bad one. The end result? Tom wanders around the house, swears at ghosts, and then tries to go to bed while they kick his ass. It’s hilarious.
Best of all, it keeps happening. There are nine of these movies. After a small initial dip in quality (sorry Nigel, the second movie is pretty bad for the wrong reasons), they never let up on the laughs. Bad Ben becomes such an amazing, unbelievable, comedic achievement. So much so that it even inspired DreadXP to create the Bad Ban video game. Have you played it? You totally should.