History shows that entertainment isn’t always appreciated in its time. As years pass, some movies age with a special kind of charm that incites reevaluation. Interpretations change with the times and if there’s one thing Shout! staffers love doing, it’s restoring honor to these cult classics that have been disgraced – if not outright hated – by film critics.
Gather ‘round the water cooler. We’ve assembled our team to discuss their most beloved Shout! selections that were maligned by critics upon release. Some are proud endorsements of reclaimed fan favorites, others are scalding hot takes you might not see coming.
Jason X - Mark D.
If I may quote someone in the row in front of me after a recent screening of Jason X: “well…that was the best movie ever made.”
The later Friday the 13th entries’ hard-turn into horror-comedy puzzled viewers at the time but none has aged better than the absolute blast that is this tenth film. After knocking off a certain beloved horror director in the opening, everyone’s favorite mama’s boy is sent into the future and into space where he’ll commit some of his most impressive kills across sets that look like leftovers from Disney Channel’s Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century before evolving into his coolest look and battling a redheaded android. Courtesy of a destroyed space station, this film sports the slasher icon’s highest body count.
Tongue is firmly in-cheek throughout, particularly in a hilarious holodeck sequence that briefly sends Jason back to Crystal Lake, and every absurd moment is topped by another one. Our Blu-ray is the best way to experience the film outside a theater and it truly is an experience.
The Poison Ivy Collection - Emily H.
With massive stars and forbidden romances, The Poison Ivy Collection is a must-own for fans of the thriller genre. The original Poison Ivy features Drew Barrymore as the difficult but enviable Ivy, whose attentions turn to her friend Sylvie’s father (Tom Skerritt). Sylvie (Sara Gilbert) is a teen who feels alone and lashes out with a dad who has more money than sense and an ailing mother (Cheryl Ladd). The only people who are really innocent in all this are the bed-ridden mom and Leonardo DiCaprio in the critical role of “Guy,” his first role in a theatrically released film. He had no lines. Poison Ivy 2: Lily features Alyssa Milano as an introverted college student who finds Ivy’s diaries and begins engaging in risky behavior as the writing inspires her to get out of her shell and she takes things too far. Ivy’s sister (Jaime Pressly) takes center stage in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction, perhaps the most fun entry into the series because Jaime tears into the scenery with aplomb. Over a decade passed before the final film in the quadrilogy was made, Poison Ivy: The Secret Society. This time, college student (Miriam McDonald) faces off against a secret sisterhood known as The Ivies. Bring this set home for plenty of thrills and chills!
The Thing - Joey G.
Just one month prior to the release of Carpenter’s violent, nihilistic take on alien lifeforms, Steven Spielberg dropped E.T. on the world. At the time, the U.S was going through a recession (and there was that whole Cold War thing happening), so the idea of watching something warm and fuzzy was much more appealing than something as black and bleak as The Thing. Spielberg’s film was rosy, endearing, life-affirming. Worst of all, cute. But that’s exactly what audiences wanted; there’s no arguing $360M in ticket sales.
Slasher films were also at an apex by 1982; masked killers stalking teens through a house (or the woods, or a school, or a mall, or…) was what audiences were wanting – or at least expecting. Brainless filler aimed at young audiences. So, moviegoers and critics were turned off by the somewhat subdued sci-fi thriller that took its time building suspense, creating unease, and ran about 20 minutes longer than your average slasher flick.
There was also the truly repulsive gore that Rob Bottin created for The Thing. Sure, audiences were used to seeing some gnarly stuff, thanks to Tom Savini’s work in the genre. But for The Thing, Bottin created the stuff of nightmares – dogs that split open and were filled with worm-like appendages that lashed around; heads that tore themselves off the body and crawled away; painful transformations.
So, while it may not have gotten its due in 1982, time has been kind to Carpenter’s The Thing, and audiences are finally able to appreciate it for what it is and always has been: a jaw-dropping and truly terrifying piece of sci-fi horror made by one of the greatest genre directors of our time.
Escape From L.A. - Adam P.
A surrealist journey through a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles that violently skewers every L.A. stereotype and ends in an explosive confrontation at Disneyland (or at least a legally distinct stand-in), Escape From L.A. takes everything that made Escape From New York work and ramps it up to a stunning level of hyperbolic satire.
This is Snake Plissken in Wonderland, our eyepatch-clad antihero doing everything from surfing with Peter Fonda to making three-pointers at gunpoint to escaping unwelcome plastic surgery; every scenario moving the iconic badass further and further from his gritty roots into a cartoon of speculative sci-fi absurdity. Then again, like They Live before it, even Carpenter's most seemingly absurd swings here have only felt more prescient with age. Come for the bonkers action, stay for the increasingly relatable dystopia.
House Of Wax - Daisy A.
The 2005 remake of House Of Wax is a modern take on a thriller that cuts right to the murderous chase and doesn't spare any gory details. It's a somewhat predictable but still riveting horror-filled adventure that follows a group of friends as they head to a football game and stop by a small, backwoods town for some rest.
After a tense encounter with a creep in a pickup truck, they awaken to discover their car broken down. To find help, they stumble upon an eerie wax museum that seems to have a life of its own. Filled with life-sized wax figures that are set up to imitate a still scene, it quickly becomes apparent that something sinister is going on. The friends soon find themselves in a terrifying showdown with murderous townsfolk. One by one, they fall victim to a mysterious and overly-strong killer reminiscent of Michael Myers with nearly unstoppable strength. The museum’s traps and decor lets you know this isn't just any ordinary reprobate.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra and featuring Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, and even Paris Hilton, House Of Wax offers outstanding special effects that create a creepy atmosphere. While the ending is good, it leaves room for more as a third secret brother is revealed to be waving off the EMTs and victims once they are rescued. Ultimately, this film has plenty of suspense and an almost perfect blend of horror and mystery; the ideal recipient for a dishonorable mention.
Screamers - Ben S.
Credit where credit is due,1995’s Screamers knows its limitations and knows to rarely stray outside of them, declaring right out of the gate: the future will be shabby. Having already directed some highly entertaining Scanners sequels, Christian Duguay took on the task of following big budget Philip K. Dick adaptations Blade Runner and Total Recall without nearly as many resources as those legendary pictures.
True to its budget, the film keeps a relatively small scale that befits its short-story source and Dick’s typically unadorned prose...possibly the most faithful PKD adaptation this side of A Scanner Darkly. Receiving mostly a critical drubbing upon release, a few reviewers and a generation of VHS renters admired Screamers strengths: a convincingly bleak and lonely world, hard boiled dialogue, and numerous great performances, including Peter Weller’s top-level deadpan.
Mac And Me - AJ M.
Let’s address the alien in the room: Mac And Me is an easy target for film critics. This ‘pal from outer space’ comedy made in the spitting image of Spielberg’s classic isn’t afraid to let its E.T. flag fly. From its inclusive-minded casting to its whimsical Alan Silvestri score, Mac And Me offers an endearing sort of charm that other benevolent alien movies cannot.
Set in a suburb outside Los Angeles when the new kid in town Eric (Jade Calegory) befriends a stranded alien child, the movie lifts into orbit like a satellite of nostalgia that replicates 1988 in all its McDonald’s-colored glory. Despite cold critic reviews that borders on being flat-out mean, Mac And Me is fondly remembered by its small but loyal fanbase who relish this cosmic, kid-friendly adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
A Walk To Remember - Emily H.
Before she made us cry weekly on This Is Us, Mandy Moore was tugging at our heartstrings in the Nicholas Sparks film A Walk To Remember. The film captures the most melodramatic elements of being a teen with the added tearjerker of terminal illness and plenty of sweeping romantic gestures. Before “Sick Teens” was its own multi-million-dollar genre that launched the careers of the biggest young names in Hollywood, the millennial dream team of Mandy and Shane West was almost too much Teen Beat charm to handle. Jamie Sullivan the good girl and Landon Carter the rebellious boy were the ultimate star-crossed lovers. Ignore the bad reviews and let these characters charm you, but remember, “You have to promise that you won't fall in love with me.”
House On Haunted Hill - Adam P.
In 1999, Tales from the Crypt co-creators Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver launched Dark Castle Entertainment, a production company (at least originally) dedicated to remaking the classic low-budget spine-ticklers of genre legend and noted showman William Castle. The first entry in the line was this flip on the Vincent Price classic House On Haunted Hill. While it borrows some key elements of the original (party favor guns in tiny coffins, a violently toxic marriage at the center, the essential plot structure), the 1999 version embraces thrills more suited for a late-90s, post-Scream audience. For one, it firmly makes its threat definitively supernatural, casting horror veteran Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, From Beyond) as an insane surgeon who created an asylum full of violent specters after years of torture. It also leans hard into the gore and quick cutting, an aesthetic it arguably helped popularize and one that led to 00s horror hits like Hostel and Rob Zombie's Halloween. It's easy to criticize House On Haunted Hill for favoring shock over suspense, but the core FUN of the Castle film is still its beating heart. As soon as Chris Kattan's delightfully irritable Pritchard says "I lied. The house is alive. We're all going to die," it's time to throw your arms up in the air and enjoy the ride.
Lake Placid - AJ M.
The late ‘90s were a breeding ground for campy monster movies and Steve Miner’s Lake Placid stands out among the gamiest of them. Lake Placid follows the gory trail of a giant, man-eating crocodile that terrorizes a small lake town in the Northeast. On paper, that concept is derivative enough to give critics the motive to label it as ‘B-movie schlock’ and go about their merry way.
Its designated cult fandom, however, found much to enjoy in the way of execution, from its outrageous kills to the brilliant creature effects by Stan Winston Studios. The cast is a smorgasbord of talent that includes Oliver Platt, Bridget Fonda, Betty White, and Bill Pullman. Roger Ebert might’ve mentioned it among the 10 worst films of 1999, but Lake Placid has lived on to find an audience among those seeking late-night thrills, and nothing less.
Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood - Emily H.
There is a charm to ‘90s horror that modern films are hard-pressed to recapture. Tales From The Crypt Presents: Bordello Of Blood features all the snark and cheesiness that made the decade so fun. A powerful vampire, Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart) is resurrected and so decides to… open a bordello? When a private eye played by Dennis Miller starts looking into her affairs, she tries to use her feminine wiles to stop him. The film also features costume changes reminiscent of Bedazzled, over-the-top kills, and a cast that includes Chris Sarandon, Erika Eleniak, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, and Phil Fandacaro. It’s a perfect addition to the Tales Frm The Crypt universe and a fun watch for those looking for some silly scares.