Phantom Joe Kane has been prowling the cult and exploitation movie beat for the New York Daily News since Christmas 1984, and his new book, The Phantom of the Movies' Videoscope is an offbeat gift for fans of offbeat movies that don't always make other critics' end-of-year lists — not that they're all horror and sexploitation.

"Ironically, when I started reviewing, the marginal movies were mostly the gore and sexy stuff," he tells TV Guide Online. "Now it's often low-budget independents and foreign movies — so many art house theaters have closed that I find myself chasing down movies that aren't necessarily exploitative, but can hardly get screen space."

His magazine, also called Videoscope, covers a wild mix of new-to-video titles, from sci-fi oddity Liquid Sky, "about miniature aliens who feed on orgasms and drug-induced endorphins," to Whity, "a very obscure spaghetti western by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Among his 2000 picks are documentary Beyond the Mat, "a surprisingly good look at pro wrestling," and Time Code, "which got great reviews but only played on a few screens. It uses four-way split screen, kind of a throwback to vintage stuff like Wicked, Wicked and early Brian De Palma, and on video you can rewind and really examine the tremendous juggling act Mike Figgis pulls off." And don't forget American Psycho, "featuring a great performance by Christian Bale," Joe Gould's Secret, Ghost Dog and Pups, "a kind of adolescent Dog Day Afternoon."

Kane family holiday movie traditions include watching the ghoulish Black Christmas on tape. "It was one of the first of the horror-themed Christmas movies, and a lot of people don't realize director Bob Clark also made the classic A Christmas Story. We also like the notorious Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, with eight-year-old Pia Zadora; Reckless, in which every Christmas brings Mia Farrow a new tragedy, and Don't Open Till Christmas. The original advertising copy was: 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring... they were all dead!' The movie doesn't quite live up to that, but what could?"

Not that Kane has anything against the holiday season, mind you. "After all, A Christmas Carol is pretty dark and twisted, isn't it?" he chuckles.