6 Underrated Movies That Deserve More Attention
Occasionally you'll hear about how some classic like The Shawshank Redemption or Blade Runner bombed at the box office and wonder how that was even possible. Maybe the better question is why audiences came around later. How can you tell which films are destined to become cult classics, and which will just be trash forever? I'd say the ones with the best shot at the former are good, unique films that are initially ignored due to arriving on the scene at exactly the wrong time and in exactly the wrong way. Like these ...
Crawl Is The Kind Of Tight, Tense Horror Movie Nobody Is Watching Right Now
If I could describe the horror output of 2019 with one motion, it would be me checking the time on my phone and hoping that no one in the theater shouts at me for it. The two most notable scary movies of 2019 were ambitious, overlong slogs (It Chapter 2 and Midsommar), and the rest seemed like fairly typical Conjuring spinoffs. (Did you know that we're on our third Annabelle movie? That doll prints money, y'all.)
So when Crawl -- a film about a father, a daughter, and a dang ol' good boy dog getting trapped in a flooded house filled with alligators -- came out, I was as happy as an alligator trapped in a flooded house filled with people.
First, note that it's just 87 minutes long, making it the shortest horror film with a wide theatrical release in 2019. I know that a shorter run time does not automatically equal a better horror film, but it seemed like Crawl was one of the few spooky flicks this year that took advantage of the fact that sometimes horror works best when it's claustrophobic, tightly paced, and constantly moving. The large reptiles and gore didn't hurt either.
Don't get me wrong, it did decently at the box office. On a $13.5 million budget, it made $39 million domestically, so it was profitable. But I'm guessing hardly any of your friends or family saw it. It made about half as much as Annabelle Comes Home, and about a fifth as much as It Chapter 2. Still, it was directed by Alex Aja, who's been known to deliver a cult classic or two in his time (High Tension and Piranha 3D), and it was produced by Sam Raimi, who is the king of cult classics -- the Evil Dead series, Darkman, The Quick And The Dead, etc.
Honestly, it'll be really weird if Crawl isn't eventually regarded as one of the best non-Jaws creature features. I think that a decade from now, this one is destined for an abundance of "Remembering the Underrated Crawl On Its 10th Anniversary" pieces.
Triple Threat Is Full Of The "Real" Stunt-Driven Action We Claim We Want
Everyone poo-poo's CGI action because "It's clearly not real people, so it doesn't have any sense of danger or stakes." And then something like Endgame comes out and we give it billions of dollars because we're all full of crap. Meanwhile, a movie like Triple Threat comes along -- one with actual trained martial artists/actors fighting each other in a way that doesn't have to rely on effects or a shaky camera. But no one has any faith in it doing well, so it gets released for a single day in the U.S. before turning into a thumbnail buried in a streaming platform sub-menu.
And why should it turn out any other way? The Raid, which had amazing word of mouth and is the best action film of the decade that doesn't star Max Rockatansky, only made around $4 million. Ong-Bak did similar numbers. Tom-Yum-Goong was heavily edited by The Weinstein Company and even renamed to the more "My favorite martial arts film is Rush Hour 2" title The Protector, and it only garnered around $12 million, and it's STILL the most successful Thai film at the U.S. box office.
But I have a feeling that, just like these films, Triple Threat will be lauded in a few years, despite its relatively standard script. It's certainly got the right cast: Iko Uwais ( The Raid), Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), Tiger Chen (Man Of Tai Chi, friend and teacher of Keanu Reeves), Scott Adkins (Universal Soldier: Day Of Reckoning and Undisputed 2 and 3), and Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite, Blood And Bone). That's an all-star line up, turning Triple Threat into everything that the Expendables movies promised they'd be.
Related: Stupid PR Stunts That Backfired Hard
The Kid Who Would Be King Is Great, But Was Doomed By Its Genre
When it comes to retellings of English myths on the big screen, we can't seem to get audiences of any kind to care. Guy Ritchie filled his King Arthur with a duel between 2019's Most Instagrammable Dude Charlie Hunnam and 2003's Most People-Magazine-able Dude Jude Law, and the box office results made it seem like some kind of Producers-style money-losing scam. You see the same result for every Robin Hood reboot they crank out. (Did you know they made one in 2018?)
So The Kid Who Would Be King, the long-awaited follow-up to Joe Cornish's first film (and first cult classic) Attack The Block, had a lot going against it. It, um, could've done better, making $16.8 million domestically on a $59 million budget. And that sucks, because unlike those other films I mentioned, The Kid Who Would Be King was a lively, refreshing story that actually put a cool spin on the Excalibur legend, rather than doing what the others did and just kinda filling a screen with beards.
Also, like Attack The Block, The Kid Who Would Be King is a film about kids and young people that doesn't talk down to anyone. Both films have actual action and are actually funny, and I really hope that one day it shows up on Netflix or something and millions of people realize that they were wrong to skip out on an extremely watchable movie just because it had the word "Merlin" in its plot description. Who knows, maybe the whole genre will make a comeback.
High Life Got Lost Among Other Bleak, High-Concept Sci-Fi Movies
If you're a fan of science fiction movies that ask questions about humanity, the last few years have been great for you. We have Interstellar, the one-two punch of Alex Garland's Ex Machina and Annihilation, Ad Astra, Arrival, and a many more. So it's to be expected that some of the lesser ones might fall through the cracks. Sadly, a really good one seemed to fly under people's radars: Claire Denis' High Life, a film about condemned criminals who are sent in a spaceship toward a black hole and experimented on along the way. It's not exactly a laugh riot.
On a budget of 8 million euros, it only made $2.1 million. But it's full of the kind of things that made films like Annihilation so cool, like the constant uneasiness between the characters, the flashes of intense, macabre gore (as it turns out, black holes and human organs don't mix), and a tone that always keeps you a little off balance.
But its greatest reason for rediscovery in the next few years is its star, Robert Pattinson, who in his pre-"I'm Batman" countdown has established himself as a darling of independent movies. High Life is right on up there with stuff like Good Time and The Lighthouse in firmly making it known that Pattinson is a hell of an actor. Sadly, it only got a release in 146 theaters, but you can totally watch it on Amazon Prime for free. So get to it before it appears on dozens of "Robert Pattinson films to watch before Batman" lists.
Her Smell Got Buried By A Series Of Mega-Hits In The Same Genre
The last year or so has seen a flood of movies in the "sad/troubled musician" vein, ranging from biopics (Judy, Bohemian Rhapsody) to emotional powerhouses (A Star Is Born). And they usually have a hook, whether they're about real musicians or they're a grand experiment that tests logic itself. (Casting Lady Gaga as a dramatic lead, directed by also-star Bradley Cooper, all sounds like box office disaster Mad Libs, but they pulled it off.) However, this means that movies that don't really have a hook but are still really good get ignored by the public. And Her Smell was one of them.
Her Smell isn't as brain-numbingly depressing as, say, Sid And Nancy, but it is a great look at a band's short rise and sad fall. It also shows what happens when one person's loss of control can take down the people around her, and how desperately everyone tries to stay afloat. Elizabeth Moss plays Becky, a punk singer who can't seem to stop self-destructing, and because she's Elizabeth Moss and could make a role as an old shoe a tour-de-force, she's able to escape any cliches that might otherwise plague a plot that we've seen onscreen a lot recently.
Its widest release, though, was 69 theaters, and while that's very nice, it only earned around $260,000. So it was never really given a chance to swim through its oversaturated genre. However, it's also appeared on the AV Club's list of the top 100 films of the decade, and there's a petition by the director to get Moss a Best Actress Oscar nomination. So who knows? Maybe she'll win, everyone will watch this film, and it'll be too well-known and respected for "cult classic" status.
Dolemite Is My Name Deserves To Be Seen; Will People Find It Buried On Netflix?
Netflix is weird, in that we only know if their shows or movies is successful if they tell us or keep making more of them. So we'll probably never know how many people watched Dolemite Is My Name, a movie that should've gotten a wide release. All we can really go off of is other movies that lovingly embrace, um, inconsistent filmmakers. Like Ed Wood, which flopped at the box office and later found an audience on cable.
Both movies definitely have cult casts. Dolemite stars Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore, a jack-of-all-trades entertainer who seems to be pretty inept at all of those trades. However, he finds success with the character "Dolemite," records best-selling albums, and even makes a film about Dolemite's outlandish exploits. It's a nice return to form for Murphy, as he joins Adam Sandler and Nic Cage in the group of actors who've recently found ways to play to their strengths after years of living on the Island of Hollywood Misfit Toys.
Along with Eddie are Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and WESLEY SNIPES. This is the first movie since Blade II that Snipes looks like he actually wants to be a part of, and an excited Snipes is a national treasure. But this hasn't received the marketing push of something like The Irishman, so I can only hope that if it didn't find its audience in 2019, people will discover it over the years and learn that hey, Eddie Murphy is actually pretty good at his job.
Daniel Dockery is a writer and editor for Cracked.com. His Twitter will be a cult classic in a few years.
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