Exploitation Movies of the 2000s

Exploitation Movies of the 2000s: 5 Lurid Flicks That Prove the Grindhouse is Alive & Well

What is an exploitation Movie?

This is a question cinema virgins often ask and it’s a difficult one to answer without prompting a debate over whether exploitation is a pejorative term or a badge of honor. Most horror hounds can sniff out an exploitation movie by a poster or cover art alone.

A reverse shot of an attractive woman:

Her torn shirt dangles from one arm, her frayed underwear exposing ripe haunches that have been kissed by the same lashes scoring the small of her back. A hunting knife rests in the palm of her hand. We see only the delicate nape of her neck as her head is hidden behind a black bar with white writing, which tells us who this mystery chick is: “This woman has just cut, chopped, broken and burned five men beyond recognition… But no jury in America Would Ever Convict Her!” Her voluptuous thighs are censored by a black bar with red writing, which screams, “I Spit On Your Grave.”

A fanged face in mid-yowl, its jowls melting off its head, one eye socket empty and the other brimming with gelatinous distress as flesh drips off in all directions and a bloody font shutters beneath, announcing, “I DRINK YOUR BLOOD” above that infamous razor-sharp MEDIA Home Entertainment logo. And the back of the cover with its green squares of anguish and frothy-mouthed agitation above the best logline in history: “A terror-bath of homicidal madness… A satanic cult sets up camp near a small town. Can the horror of men acting like mad dogs be checked before the bloody orgy spreads?”

Sadly, the streaming age has rendered such pleasures obsolete. Most low-to-no-budget releases never get a decent thumbnail on streaming services; never mind professional cover art or lobby cards. But that doesn’t mean the exploitation movie has gone away. On the contrary, it lives right where it started… on the fringes.

A good example of latter-day releases that carry on the genre’s tradition of exploiting trending headlines would be the works of Sean Weathers, a prolific DIY actor/director from New York. Weathers’ consumer camera carnage recreates the scuzz of exploitation’s heyday, while boasting tabloid-worthy titles like Bill Huckstabelle: Serial Rapist and The Fappening.

But exploitation movies aren’t simply films that exploit the latest hot button issues. The category can be recognized across a multitude of genres and themes.

So, what is an exploitation movie really?

It’s like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said in his 1964 Jacobellis v. Ohio ruling: I know it when I see it.

But where can you see it? That’s the question and it’s one that a lot of people are asking.

Whatever happened to exploitation movies/B movies/VHS nasties? This is a common refrain among young horror fans or those who have only scratched the surface of sub-mainstream entertainment.

The truth is, exploitation movies haven’t gone anywhere. If anything, they are more prevalent in 2023 than they have been in decades. Platforms like Tubi, Screambox and Shudder have opened the floodgates, unleashing innumerable genre films on an ill-prepared public.

Grab your work gloves and galoshes because you’re going to have to wade through a lot of shit to dig up the golden gems in this ocean of grue.

Whether you’re looking for bikersploitation movies, nunsploitation, rape revenge flicks, or Satanic panic, you’ll find plenty of gory, sleazy old-school goodness on the platforms mentioned above.

In the interest of dropping you into the shallow end of these brackish waters, I’ve compiled the following list of the five best exploitation movies you need to see right now. Stick with me afterwards as I answer some commonly asked questions about this stigmatized subcategory of motion pictures.

What Exploitation Movies Would You Recommend?

I could rattle off hundreds of deep cuts from the golden age of grindhouse cinema and probably will down the road. But we’ve only got so much time here, so I’ll keep this short, sweet, and relatively current.

The following are my picks for the five gnarliest exploitation flicks of recent vintage:

5. Nun of That (2009; currently available on Tubi)

Nun of that Exploitation Movies

Richard Griffin is one of the most idiosyncratic figures working in microbudget horror at the moment. He’s one of those guys whose style and taste are so sui generis that you can tell the movie is one of theirs simply by reading a two-sentence logline. Impressively, Griffin is versatile enough to vaccilate from starkly realistic nightmares (Normal) and warped rom-coms (Accidental Incest) to dreamy erotic head trips (Before the Night is Over) and hilariously bananas alien invasion romps (Atomic Brain Invasion) without losing sight of his aesthetic or his sense of humor.

Like The Disco Exorcist, Griffin’s Nun of That is one of his finest exercises in exploitation and also the hardest to find at the moment. Justwatch would have you believe it’s on Freevee and Tubi, but neither service appears to list it in their respective catalogs.

Regardless, this is one for the history books as Griffin marries the nunsploitation of stuff like Dark Habits and Satanica Pandemonium to a mob plot that seems lifted from a missing Duke Mitchell (Massacre Mafia Style, Gone with the Pope) joint.

Sister Wrath and her janky band of judgment-dealing nuns disturb the activities of an equally janky mob syndicate after Wrath is killed in a drive-by and comes back from the dead. The newly re- animated Sister Wrath has some killer moves thanks to strength training by none other than Gandhi, Moses, and the son of God himself.

It’s dirty, dastardly, and deliberately cheap down to its dangling fake mustaches and papier-mache throwing stars, and the best part is, Griffin goes all-in on this aesthetic. The results are enchanting as always.

Good luck finding this esquisite wedge of vieux lille without losing your shirt. Last I checked, a new copy of the DVD went for anywhere from $103 to $165 on the open market. Here’s hoping you have steady pay or a side hustle.

What to watch next: If you appreciate this obscene bit of erotic apocrypha, you’ll probably appreciate Daniel Falicki’s Accidental Exorcist (on Tubi) and Nude Nuns with Big Guns (also on – you guessed it – Tubi).

4. Stressed to Kill (2016; on Tubi)

Stressed to Kill exploitation movie

And so began my love affair with the down-and-dirty films of Mark Savage. Bill ‘the Beast’ Oberst, Jr. plays against type as a nebbish put-upon former-alkie who gets tired of life shitting on him at every possible turn and decides to take matters into his own hands.

After all the stress puts Bill in the hospital with a cardiac episode, my man is told to eliminate the stress from his life. And believe me when I say, he takes that shit seriously. Bill follows his doctor’s instructions to the letter, snuffing out the flame of any fuck who attempts to harsh his mellow.

Stressed to Kill is essentially a homicidal mash-up of Falling Down and Office Space, which makes it a dream come true for fans of both (or either). It is also full of satisfying surprises from its very first karmic albeit accidental kill.

Stressed to Kill tips the scales in favor of the guy who’s forced to put up with your constant lack of consideration. As Bill Johnson, Oberst, Jr. is a cauldron slowly boiling over with rage. If you’re wondering how to counter this kind of cat’s burgeoning form of crazy, the answer here is cue Armand Assante.

Yes, the one and almost certainly only Armand Assante, who barks his way on to the screen with all the wild bravado of a pitbull in a Panama print shirt. Assante strides on to the first crime scene with the look of a man who could break a dude in two just by mean-mugging him.

Stressed to Kill‘s ancillary players are mostly below-average in the acting department, but Assante and Oberst, Jr. are the duel pistons that drive this puppy through its occasional lulls in gonzo action. If they are the pistons then Savage is the crankshaft keeping this murder ride from going off the road.

If there’s one thing Stressed to Kill lacks it’s the variety where Bill’s kills are concerned. Although his weapon of choice is kind of brilliant (especially as he perfects its delivery system), it gets tiring after awhile. For a genre flick, Stressed to Kill is woefully lacking in the red stuff.

Fortunately for those of us who like our exploitation medium rare, Savage has lived up to his name by directing a thoroughly vicious Stressed to Kill sequel entitled Painkiller (now available on DVD), which finds Bill donning a mask and blowing away the bad guys after his daughter’s death from opioids.

It is Oberst, Jr.’s convincing performance that saves this mostly bloodless affair from venturing into Lifetime Crime for Women territory. Although this isn’t Savage’s best (arguably that honor would go to Sensitive New-Age Killer, AKA Hitman’s Hero), it was my introduction to his body of work and what an intro it was!

A second act drag sequence (paying obvious if hilarious homage to the 1971 Florida shlocker Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things) arrives at just the right time to keep things interesting. And speaking of interesting, Assante provides much of the awesome sauce here, with his particular brand of casual intensity and manic humor.

What to Watch Next: Falling Down (1993); God Bless America (2011); Super (2010)

3. Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009; you betcha it’s on Tubi)

Dead Hooker in a Trunk exploitation movie

Fans of American Mary frequently forget that the legendary Soska Sisters got their start with this homegrown Canuxploitation picture, which deftly blends elements of horror, comedy, and road movie into something truly impressive for its microbudget.

Canuxploitation is something of a catch-all for any low-budget movie made by Canadians, but Dead Hooker in a Trunk is one of the purest examples.

In my original review, published by the now-defunct Kotori Magazine, I said, “Dead Hooker in a Trunk has just about everything you could want in a grindhouse-style killer roadtrip movie. It’s a flick that houses chainsaw-wielding Yakuza, apple-chomping drug dealers, goats, gore and assorted goodness all under one roof, without ever once feeling like a sloppy mish-mash.

“There are times when DHIAT seems, with its splatstick sight gags and bleak landscape, like The Doom Generation minus the bisexual coupling pre-occupation, but it is nothing if not its own movie through and through. Gregg Araki hasn’t done this kind of street level gritty punk yuck-fu since The Living End and, even then, it didn’t have characters as brutally hep as the Sisters Soska’s Geek and Bad Ass.

“The guts, gunshot wounds and blood spillage looks better than in just about any debut fright flick, and the convincing character work from every actor involved helps to sell anything the slightest bit dubious. Not that there is much questionable on display (unless we’re talking moral boundaries, which we’re not). If I was gonna take a bullet I’d rather it wasn’t fired from Bad Ass’s gun, which seems to have the ability to paint entire objects in grue like someone hurling a full can of paint.

Dead Hooker in a Trunk rates very high on the WTF Scale, with multiple Wow Moments, including a post-bloodbath face twitching, an unexpected eye gougeroo that sucker-punches us almost as hard as the impact on the offended party’s skull, a flawless bit of CGI that seems way beyond the film’s financial means, a verbal outburst to rock the Heavens (“Ya ever been skull-fucked after an ass- rape?!”), and a hella crazy ending.”

What to Watch Next: Hobo with a Shotgun (on Pluto, Prime, Tubi, and more) and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (on Hulu).

2. 3:33 a.m., AKA The Witching Hour (2014; on Tubi)

3:33 a.m., AKA The Witching Hour

If you’re in the mood for some occultsploitation, you can’t beat the DIY flicks of Daniel Falicki, a Michigan-based filmmaker with 13 features to his name, almost all of them involving evil or the occult in one form or another.

This one is among his weirdest, campiest, and most engaging. It’s right up there with 13 Demons, his role playing game from Hell movie. Where 13 Demons plays things seriously, 3:33 a.m. revels in its own absurdity.

The film focuses on a new arrival to Wellhome, a low-rent halfway house for degenerates and ex-cons. 3:33 a.m.‘s plot revolves around the mysterious light that pours forth from a neighboring window at 3:33 in the morning and the murders that result, but the real focus is the characters.

If you’re in the mood for some occultsploitation, you can’t beat the DIY flicks of Daniel Falicki, a Michigan-based filmmaker with 13 features to his name, almost all of them involving evil or the occult in one form or another.

This one is among his weirdest, campiest, and most engaging. It’s right up there with 13 Demons, his role playing game from Hell movie. Where 13 Demons plays things seriously, 3:33 a.m. revels in its own absurdity.

The film focuses on a new arrival to Wellhome, a low-rent halfway house for degenerates and ex-cons. 3:33 a.m.‘s plot revolves around the mysterious light that pours forth from a neighboring window at 3:33 in the morning and the murders that result, but the real focus is the characters.

As I stated in my full review, 3:33 a.m.‘s biggest draw is its loud characters and whacko dialogue. Ms. Cresne, the house mother of Wellhome, is one of many standouts in Falicki’s bag of mixed nuts.

Those of you who grew up watching The Gate and Witchboard on repeat will likely eat up everything Falicki makes (I know I have), but fans of John Waters may also enjoy the camp craziness of 3:33 a.m. What are you waiting for? Get your pastrami ass over to Tubi and ogle this oddity while you have a chance.

What to Watch Next: If you aren’t offended by 3:33 a.m. congratulations on having a bulletproof sense of humor and excellent taste. Proceed at once to 13 Demons (also on Tubi), And Hell Awaits (Disney Plus… nah, it’s on Tubi), and the supernatural prisonsploitation slasher Shapeshifter (::sighs:: you know where it is).

1. Butt Boy (2019; on Dark Matter, Roku, Tubi, Vudu, and more)

Butt Boy

Does the impossible (in more ways than one) by daring to take itself just seriously enough to deliver a completely straight-faced take on something that would have been tired one-note kitsch in anyone else’s hands.

An alcoholic detective investigates a spate of recent disappearances. As he follows the clues and his gut instinct, the breadcrumb trail leads back to his AA sponsor. More specifically, the trail ends at his AA sponsor’s ass.

This dark bizarro comedy-drama hybrid plays like some sort of Quentin Dupieux – Todd Solondz circle jerk culminating in a police procedural cream pie brimming with blood and shit and bathed in neon light. It’s little wonder that actor-director Tyler Conrack’s next flick, Tiny Cinema (also on Tubi), was a six-story anthology. One narrative isn’t enough to efficiently hold all the ideas he’d like to cram in our crevices.

What to Watch Next: If you like the feeling of living inside someone’s orifice, you’ll absolutely cream yourself when you see We Are the Flesh (on Arrow and I’ll let you figure out where else. Hint: it rhymes with ‘booby.’)

Why Aren’t Exploitation Movies Released to Mainstream Theaters Much?

The answer should be fairly obvious. Not only were these films always fairly esoteric due to the nature of niche genres, but we’re living through an epoch of almost awe-inspiring outrage where children’s films get pulled from cinemas and re-edited so as not to offend people with peanut allergies. The days of good-humored irreverence appear to be on the wane and political correctness has taken precedence over quality entertainment.

This may seem like bad news on its face, but it’s actually stoked a fire that may have otherwise been snuffed out by content over-saturation. Cue the rise of Fathom Events, a limited run paradigm that has given rabid fans of exploitation and cult movies access to stuff like Rob Zombie’s 3 from Hell and Damien Leone’s Terrifier 2 on the big screen where they belong.

The legions of fans who have shown up to these select screenings have be been so effusive in their support that additional nights have often been added to the Fathom Events calendar to accommodate demand. This demonstrates the movie-loving community’s ability to affect change in the accessibility of exploitation movies in the future.

Bob Freville is a writer, producer and director from New York. His LoFi vampire film Hemo was released by Troma. His X-rated bikersploitation novella The Filthy Marauders is available from The Evil Cookie Publishing. He is the writer-producer of the forthcoming Norwegian drug comedy The Scavengers of Stavanger. Look inside his head: @bobfreville

The Heart and Soul of Horror Movie Review Websites

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *