We present the best of The Daily Dig — five hidden genre gems from the 80s and 90s that should make it onto the queue of every horror fan.
As we’re a couple hundred films into The Daily Dig, most of which we covered this year, I thought it was time to look back on the journey so far while reflecting on the digs that left the biggest and most lasting impression on me.
I am looking back fondly on all the cheese and filth that had to be sorted through to find those rare gems worthy of polishing off and cherishing — the treasures that either slipped through the cracks due to poor distribution or personal negligence. It has been a labor of love.
To close out 2021, I’m bringing you my five favorite Digs uncovered since the start of this series. They most certainly belong in a museum.
5. Fade to Black (1980)
A genre film with tons of heart and depth, you would be hard pressed to find a better executed example of an outcast gone mad. Certainly, you can’t find one as stylized.
The makeup is creative and well done. The story is interesting and poetic.
Fun Fact: Gwynne Gilford who plays Officer Anne Oshenbull was pregnant at time of filming and the baby on board was none other than Actor Chris Pine of Star Trek (2009) and Wonder Woman (2017) fame.
Read the full dig here and check out the film now on Shudder.
4. Dust Devil (1992)
I’ll repeat myself: True art makes no false steps.
Formerly maligned director Richard Stanley brought forward South African storytelling that bridged cultural barriers. A western supernatural thriller at heart, it breaks free of limiting categorization with rich artistry and fully conceived direction but has enough grotesque imagery to satiate genre fans. In my opinion this is Stanley’s best, and I’m thrilled as a fan that he’s back behind the camera.
Fun Fact: The story for Dust Devil originates from a dream Richard Stanley had in film school.
Read the full dig here and consider renting the film to stream on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes/Apple TV; trust me, it’s worth it.
3. Primal Rage (1988)
If you are hankering for an eighties fix look no further. The music, the outfits, the practical effects and makeup, the uber creative costume design and fabrication from the legendary Carlo Rambaldi, the Halloween party scene, none of it is disappointing.
I have watched this film multiple times since I first dug it up, and it has not lost its luster. I can’t recommend it enough.
Fun Fact: The track “Knight of the Night” by Steel Grave was also featured in Dario Argento’s Opera, which shares a composer with this film — none other than Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti.
Read the full dig here and check out the film now on FlixFling…or, you may even be able to find it on YouTube.
2. The Day of the Beast (1995)
The most fun I had with this column was discovering this film and specifically Santiago Segura, who keeps his jeans high and tight.
It’s slapstick without being spoof, dark without being depressing, and acted masterfully without taking itself too seriously. In the vein of del Toro and Peter Jackson, it’s the type of foreign genre film that should have awarded its creator (Alex de la Iglesia) carte blanche to make a Hollywood film.
Fun Fact: Director Alex de la Iglesia was offered to direct Alien: Resurrection (1997) based on the reception of this film but ultimately that film would be directed by The City of Lost Children (1995) director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Read the full dig here and check out the film now on multiple platforms, including Shudder, Tubi, and Vudu Free.
1. Possession (1981)
Carlo Rambaldi makes another appearance on this short list, this time for Andrzej Żulawski’s most beautiful and grotesque expression of cinematic art.
The emotion this film elicits is pure and every shot feels as if it were placed by desire. He shows us angles that give such a full range of life to the story, from gutter to penthouse. Brilliant, gorgeous, genius. Not to mention validating Sam Neill’s fame a decade and a half before he ran from dinosaurs.
Fun Fact: This film was heavily edited (US) or banned (as a video nasty in (UK) upon its release and didn’t see a proper US release until Mondo Vision put out a beautiful director’s cut in 2014 and the UK removed it from their nasty list in 1999.
Read the full dig here.
It is often a bad idea to revisit films from your childhood with an adult, analytic eye but I did so with American Gothic (1987) and Waxwork (1988) and neither disappointed me. American Gothic is just as weird and macabre as I recall, and Waxwork was just as fun. Both are worth a watch, again.