Fascinating Underground Worlds in Film

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One of our must-see movies this fall celebrates its theatrical opening this weekend. Nightcrawler by first-time director Dan Gilroy finds Jake Gyllenhaal as the driven, out-of-work Lou Bloom who falls into the fast-paced world of freelance L.A. crime journalism. Time called Gyllenhaal’s character a “mesmerizing cipher” and “spiritual descendant of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver.” We unlocked the doors to other underground worlds and set the scene for several secret societies in film that share an element of danger.

Crash

Chrome, leather, backseat sex, broken glass, shattered bone, steel braces, bruised bodies, Jayne Mansfield’s head, James Dean’s Spyder.

David Cronenberg’s adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s novel of the same name, is centered on a group of car crash fetishists who recreate famous deadly accidents and prefer to f*ck while locked between a steering column and twisted steel.

Cruising

Sweltering summer, sticky bodies, West Village dungeons, leather, subterranean sex, amyl nitrate.

A serial killer stalks gay men in New York City leather bars and becomes the target of an undercover investigation led by Al Pacino’s brooding detective.

Snuff

Bikers, gore, sleaze, shock, “life is death.”

Marketed as a real snuff film — in which a person is killed on camera — Michael and Roberta Findlay’s 1976 splatter epic sparked a real-life investigation and contributed to the mythology surrounding snuff films. Producer Alan Shackleton took a low-budget slasher movie, spliced the footage with a ten-minute epilogue featuring the “snuff” scene, and an urban legend was born.

13 Tzameti

Despair, the dark woods, a sadistic journey, Russian roulette.

A destitute Georgian immigrant is drawn to a cruel criminal underworld after stumbling upon mysterious instructions about a job that promises big money. He is led to a house where men play deadly games and exploit each other’s desperation.

To the Devil a Daughter

Excommunicated heretic, black magic, devotion, deadly avatar, stone altar, baby’s blood.

Christopher Lee plays a Satanic priest who secretly prepares an innocent nun to become the living embodiment of the demonic crowned prince of hell. An occult novelist battles him to the finish, but he also has to contend with the priest’s cult members who will do anything to please their master.

Metropolis

Looming cityscape, darkness, catacombs, toil, grime, sweat, sinister machines.

A class war breaks out in a futuristic city where the workers slave away underground in Fritz Lang’s silent expressionist classic.

Exodus

Complacency, assassination, fluorescent lights, suspicion.

Pang Ho-Cheung’s satirical thriller reveals a conspiracy in which women plot to overthrow men by whatever means necessary. They hold secret meetings in bathroom stalls — giving new meaning to the female ritual where women use the ladies’ room en masse.

The East

Train cars, drifters, abandoned, forest hideout, poison, freedom.

Brit Marling spent two months adopting a freegan lifestyle, also sleeping on rooftops and joining an anarchist collective while writing The East with director Zal Batmanglij. The film centers on a similar group — eco-terrorists whose allegiances convince Marling’s undercover operative that there is truth in their radical acts.