You know, I’ve written so many columns here that I really feel as if we’ve gotten to know each other a bit, you and I. Since we’ve obviously become BFFs of a cyber-variety, I feel that it’s time I impart to you a secret, to let you know that I’m in it to win it… I have a little notebook I carry around, in which I write down movie titles and the such.
That might not sound like much, but this little notebook is actually quite important to me. I’m constantly seeking out new stuff to watch; if I didn’t write it all down and consult the list from time to time, I’d probably end up watching Shark Attack 3: Megalodon over and over again… not that that’s a bad thing, but a little variety never hurt anyone. My list of things to see has grown over the years thanks to the recommendations of readers like YOU, and I’m ever so grateful. I’ve been introduced to many fine slices of horror thanks to word of mouth, and I hope to return the favor once in a while. That’s right — all of this has been a long-winded way of saying, “Remember that time I recommended some lesser-known horror movies I like? Well, I’m totally doing it again because I think it’s a valuable service. I fancy myself a genre ambassador, if you will, like a horror-flavored Angelina Jolie.” Alright, so that was pretty long-winded, too.
1. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971): Though the title may lead you to believe this is some “drive someone crazy, steal the inheritance” flick, believe me, Jessica is anything but. The slow, moody tale of a woman trying to put the pieces of her life back together after a stay at a mental hospital — and the evil she encounters in a small Connecticut town — is positively eerie. The dreamy cinematography and haunting score enhance the ambiguous, unearthly feel; be warned, though — it’s not a movie for viewers with short attention spans.
2. The Child (1977): What would my life be like
if I could telekinetically control zombies? I’m not going to claim I’d
be above using them to intimidate people so I could, say, cut in line
at the post office. In fact, I think having my own zombie posse would
turn me into a jerk. It certainly turned little Rosalie in to a jerk —
a homicidal jerk, at that. The Child is a low budget shocker
plagued with horrible dubbing and sound editing; in fact, it’s got most
everything stacked against it, and yet, somehow, this movie works. It
works big time. You’ll be creeped out in spite of yourself.
3. Tourist Trap (1979):
Preceding the slasher boom by a couple of years, this flick bears all
the hallmarks of the subgenre: A group of good-looking teens end up
stranded in a remote location (Slausen’s Lost Oasis, a rundown roadside
attraction joint) on their way to a weekend of partying, only to find
themselves hunted by a masked killer. What sets Tourist Trap
apart, however, are the finer things: Creepy mannequins, telekinesis,
Chuck Connors hamming it up, and a closing shot that’s one of the true,
bizarre, insane joys in all horrordom.
4. Dead and Buried (1981):
You know what weird little subgenre I love? The one that involves towns
which are closed off and homicidal — not at all places where you’d
want to stop, even if you have to pee wicked bad. Dead and Buried
is set in one such town, a quaint little seaside town called Potter’s
Bluff. Of course the Bluff has its secrets, like the answer to the
question, “Why do the recently deceased keep reappearing in town,
bearing new names?” Thinking that places like this really exist make
road trips a whole lot more exciting.
5. Hell Night (1981):
A sorority/fraternity hazing ritual goes awry in this gothic slasher
featuring genre icon Linda Blair. By “goes awry”, I mean “there’s a
weirdo psychotic monster killer guy living in the spooky mansion where
the kids are locked in overnight; chaos and Linda Blair in a puffy,
flouncy top ensue.”
6. American Gothic (1987): The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced audiences to the wackadoo family of killers; American Gothic
takes that concept and cranks it up to eleven. Veteran actors Rod
Steiger and Yvonne DeCarlo head up a family that puts the “homicidal
50-year-old woman who still dresses like a five-year-old” in
“dysfunctional.” Bizarre, over-the-top fun through and through.
7. Night of the Demons (1988): There’s a Demons
remake on the horizon, and even if it’s only half as entertaining as
the original, audiences will be in for a real treat. A group of
obnoxious ’80s stereotypes inadvertently resurrects a demon during a
séance (isn’t that always the way?). One by one each member becomes
possessed as the grue flies. There’s a chance you’ll hate yourself for
loving this piece of B-grade schlock… but you’ll only hate yourself a
little. Besides, Linnea Quigley’s infamous lipstick scene alone is
worth, like, ten times the price of admission.
8. Below (2002):
A US submarine picks up three shipwrecked Brits as they patrol hostile
German waters in this WWII-era ghost story. The claustrophobic setting
adds to the sense of gloom and doom in this mature effort penned by
Darren Aronofsky. It’s a low-key haunted boat story; you know the
CGI-enhanced, bombastic Ghost Ship? For what it’s worth, it’s pretty much the opposite of that.
9. Dead End (2003):
Ah, the old “this shortcut down a dark, wooded road was a really bad
idea!” routine. We’ve seen it a million times in horror, but Dead End
amps up the formula with enough twists, turns, and genuine scares to
leave you feeling unsettled throughout. The cast, led by Ray Wise and
Lin Shaye, make familiar characters feel fresh. Though the ending is
fairly predictable to genre vets, the fun is in the ride that gets you
10. First Born (2007):
I picked up this DVD on a complete lark one fine day; I’d never even
heard of it, but the cover seemed to promise Elisabeth Shue as a crazed
mommy and that was all I needed to know to take First Born home. The cover is slightly misleading: Shue is indeed a crazed mommy, but not of the Mommy variety. She’s more a Yellow Wallpaper-type
— a woman driven mad by her insecurities and the pressure of
motherhood. This movie wasn’t at all what I expected; rather, it was
much more. It’s a stylish, taut, enthralling psychological character
study in the horror/thriller vein that deserves a look.
seems that my work here is done. Now you recommend something to ME so I
don’t feel like I’m doing all the work in this relationship!
A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.Read More