For movie lovers, there are few experiences more enjoyable than staying up into the wee hours of the night watching a good, old-fashioned fright flick or indulging in the kind of film that perhaps works best after a few bong hits. While you can certainly go combing through Netflix looking for choice nuggets — the New Zealand horror-com Housebound is quite good, while the haunting Oculus is pretty badass — Amazon Instant Video is your best bet to catch a first-run genre flick while it's still in theaters. In our latest horror and sci-fi roundup, you'll find an insightful documentary about a Hollywood train wreck, an apocalyptic thriller out of Australia, and a time-travel mind-bender that highlights Ethan Hawke's emerging role as the go-to actor in low-budget genre films.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau Starring Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk Directed by David Gregory NR Amazon Instant Video
The annals of Hollywood history are filled with terrible tales of troubled productions, from Gone with the Wind to Titanic, Apocalypse Now to World War Z. But few films are as notoriously problem-plagued as John Frankenheimer's 1996 box-office bomb The Island of Dr. Moreau, a genre flick whose greatest contribution has been delivering the singular weirdest performance of Marlon Brando's career — he dressed like a ghost in a muumuu and wore an ice bucket on his head for Pete's sake. The film also provided comedian Mike Myers with the inspiration for Mini-Me in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me — Brando insisted that the titular doc should have a pint-sized doppelgänger. Of course, Brando's particular brand of creative narcissism is not solely to blame for this disaster. A considerable amount of Dr. Moreau's woes can be placed at the feet of Frankenheimer, who treated the cast and crew with disdain, rewrote the script on the fly, and allowed Brando and his co-star Val Kilmer to otherwise behave as petulant children on the set. Case in point: Kilmer refused to leave his trailer before Brando and Brando refused to leave his trailer before Kilmer. And then there's Richard Stanley, the movie's original screenwriter and director. A one-time indie genre director with a love of witchcraft, Stanley was the single driving force behind the film before his constant confrontations with his two stars and his major-studio ineptitude forced the film's financiers to pull him from the project. Much like Jodorowsky's Dune, director David Gregory's Lost Soul is a meditation on a movie that might have been, but it doesn't shy away from Stanley's many flaws, both personal and professional. Like Stanley himself, Gregory's film is flawed — the director interviews numerous members of the cast but somehow doesn't score bits with the movie's lead, David Thewlis, or main "monster" Ron Perlman. These omissions are glaring but surprisingly inconsequential.
These Final Hours Starring Nathan Phillips, Angourie Rice, and Jessica De Gouw Directed by Zak Hilditch R Amazon Instant Video
In the new Australian drama, These Final Hours, it's the end of the world, and our pro tagonist Jesse (Nathan Phillips) just wants to greet oblivion with a coked-up, booze-soaked smile on his face. And in order to make that happen, he leaves his pregnant girlfriend behind and trucks it back to the city for the party of a lifetime while a gigantic wave of fire sweeps across the planet, destroying all in its path. However, along the way Jesse runs into trouble. First, he gets carjacked by a machete-wielding maniac, and then he witnesses two men drag a tween girl kicking and screaming into their abode, most likely to commit the most heinous of crimes. For just a second, Jesse debates what to do next before bursting into the house to save the girl (Angourie Rice) and embarking on a dark journey that leads him to the party to end all parties with his ward in tow. Taut, hallucinatory, and heartfelt, director Zak Hilditch's film will not only force you to ask yourself how you would act in such a situation, but it serves as an apocalyptic poem about a self-absorbed man who suddenly has fatherhood thrust upon him.
Predestination Starring Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor Directed by The Spierig Brothers Rated R Amazon Instant Video
Based on sci-fi great Robert Heinlein's 1958 short story, "' — All You Zombies — '" The Spierig Brothers' Predestination is arguably the most low-key genre film of the year. Aside from one fiery confrontation in the first scene, there is next to no action, and very few special effects in this flick. In fact, the bulk of the movie actually takes place in a bar, where our two leads, a cheery barkeep (Ethan Hawke) and the grizzled male writer of a column called "The Unmarried Mother" (Sarah Snook), are engaged in a conversation every bit as chatty as Hawke's work in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise trilogy. An easy 40 minutes go by during which the writer reveals his curious past — he was born intersex, was raised a girl, but after a medical mishap is turned into a man. And all of this takes place as the bartender, who in reality is a time-cop, is trying to capture a mad bomber, a man he has been tracking for decades and who might quite possibly be the Unmarried Mother himself, er, herself, er, you get what we mean. Slow in the initial stages, once Michael and Peter Spierig's Predestination gets up to speed after its "red pill, blue pill" moment, you'll be thoroughly enthralled and confused and mind-fucking-blown. While you may ultimately pat yourself on the back for seeing one or two of the twists coming, the film still manages to reach a conclusion that is unique in cinema. A word of warning: If you normally get your knickers in a knot over time-travel paradoxes, steer clear of this one.