Justin’s 15 favorite cult discoveries from 2021

While the ongoing pandemic relaxed enough this year — at least for a while — to allow for more regular visits to the movie theaters, I only got out a few times to see releases on the big screen. For me, the easy highlight of 2021 in terms of new releases was Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which I felt took us on an hilarious and moving journey without being a clone of the original. I also caught a couple of new releases from this year on video later on, such as the greatly entertaining Nobody and the rather charming The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.

But new movie releases isn’t what I’m here to talk about, nor is it what we usually cover at Mutant Reviewers! Nay, we are intrepid explorers of cinema’s weird and odd past. I had a blast zipping around the decades these past 12 months watching all sorts of crazy bits of filmmaking, from the mundane to the absurd to the delightfully awful. To wit, I’ve combed through all of the movie reviews of films that I saw for the very first time in 2021, picking 15 of my highest recommendations to share with you.

Chopping Mall

“Killer robots in a mall” is a concept that only the ’80s could produce, and it is glorious. There are a lot of likable characters, completely ridiculous situations, bizarre deaths, and, of course, robots rolling all over the place blasting people with laser beams. I’m so happy this was made.

Dead Heat

This one will get my Zombie Pick o’ The Year, if only for the fact that the zombie is a good guy here — and also happens to be a cop with a day to “live” and solve his case.

Oblivion

This goofy space western made me all sorts of happy with its over-the-top characters, bad puns, and general commitment to the premise. Long before Firefly there was Oblivion, and it deserves the same love.

Happy Death Day / Happy Death Day 2U

I’m really not much for modern horror any more, but these movies came so highly recommended that I had to see them. I’m glad I did, because the Happy Death Day duology ended up being less horror than comedy, science fiction (the second movie is blatantly inspired by Back to the Future Part II), and a platform for one of the best heroines in the form of Tree. Man, I hope they make a third one!

Split Second

Rutger Hauer’s ’90s scifi-horror-noir is messy, weird, and absolutely wonderful. It’s a smash-up of genres that shouldn’t work this well together but does so anyway. Favorite Hauer movie I saw this year, and I saw a lot of them.

Samurai Cop

I know this “so bad it’s good” flick is quite famous across the internet these days, so I was pretty behind in seeing it. And, yup, it’s so bad it’s good. Very bad, very good in that inexplicable “what just happened?” sort of way.

Honor and Glory

Some movies have a single hook to draw audiences in. Honor and Glory has ALL the hooks. Kung fu? A sneering villain the likes of which you’ve never seen before? Nuclear triggers? FBI agents? TV reporters? Training scenes? Spies? A guy named “Seafood?” This has it all, baby.

Crimson Peak

Simply put, this is the most beautiful and eye-catching haunted house I’ve ever seen committed to film.

Death Machine

A nerdy love letter to Aliens, Terminator, Die Hard, and Evil Dead, Death Machine revels in its homages and unleashes the amazing Brad Dourif on us (along with his killer robotic T-Rex).

Critters 2: The Main Course

Far, far better than its predecessor, Critters 2 delighted me with so much weirdness, over-the-top humor, and amazingly likeable characters. This became an instant favorite cult flick for me.

The Gate

Take one part Goonies, one part Evil Dead, one part Poltergeist, and one part Monster Squad, mash ’em all together, and you’ll get the weirdly delectable The Gate. It’s so ’80s, it hurts in the best of ways.

Timescape (Grand Tour: Disaster in Time)

Getting a strong dose of homey ’90s Jeff Daniels is the prescription for any bad day, more so if he’s plopped in the middle of a time travel disaster flick by David Twohy. So, so good and very overlooked.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar

Barb and Star made me laugh more than any other movie did this year, and my youngest son keeps pestering me to play him the Seagull Song. This whole feature is bonkers goofy with a dorky friendship at its core. Made me miss the days of the weird SNL comedies.

Trancers

While the sequels quickly declined in quality, the original Trancers is a heckuva scifi ride with zombies, time travel, time pauses, and Helen Hunt playing a punk.

Space Truckers

Truckers… in…. spaaaaaaaace! There was nothing about this movie that didn’t entertain me, from Dennis Hopper’s blue collar piloting to Tywin Lannister as a very lonely cyborg to killer robots running wild.

Bonus: Microsoft Windows 95 Training Guide

When the cast of Friends — well, two of them at least — show up to teach you how to minimize, taskbar, and surf the world wide web, you best shut up and listen to their wisdom!

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