Ready for a deep dive into horror? Each week, acclaimed director, writer and producer Eli Roth compiles a curated list of films that best exemplify horror’s various sub-genres. Whether you’re a new horror fan or a die-hard expert, “Eli Roth’s Deep Cuts” has a recommendation ready for you.
The “Killer Creatures” genre is home to some of the most acclaimed films of all time: Alien, The Thing and The Birds, to name just a few. It is also home to some of the most notorious films of all time. Take a deep dive into some of these indelible, illicit entries into monster movie infamy, featuring psychic homicidal frogs, the “best worst movie,” a tornado full of sharks, and, of course, snakes on a plane.
Then, watch the latest episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror to see Stephen King, Tippi Hedren, Joe Dante and more weigh in on the classic movie monsters that stalk the screen.
Cat-Women of the Moon (1953; dir. Arthur Hilton)
A scientific expedition to the moon encounters the last members of a race of telepathic Cat-Women who are intent on taking the scientists’ ship back to Earth. As if leotard-clad Cat-Women wasn’t enough, the scientists must deal with a pair of giant moon spiders! This film is among the first films scored by Academy Award winning composer Elmer Bernstein (whose name was misspelled in the credits).
Night of the Lepus (1972; dir. William F. Claxton)
An experiment in population control results in a new breed of giant carnivorous rabbits terrorizing the countryside. If you’ve ever wanted to see actual bunnies romping around miniatures and devouring people, this is the film for you!
Blood Freak (1972, dir. Brad F. Grinter)
A biker is mutated into a murderous turkey mutant after eating drugged turkey in this low-budget horror film. The cheap papier-mache mask worn by the killer adds to the absurdity and camp value.
Phase IV (1974; dir. Saul Bass)
A cosmic event causes desert ants to band together and wage war on humans. The cover of the film depicts ants boring a hole into a human hand, and a scene in the film lives up to its promise. Phase IV was given the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in the KTMA days, prior to the show airing on The Comedy Channel.
Frogs (1976; dir. George McCowan)
Frogs psychically induce other animals, including snakes and even butterflies, to terrorize an affluent southern family in this eco-horror film from 1976. Imagine if animals attacked the cast of Dallas (which would have been amazing). It isn’t hard to do, since Joan Van Ark, who played Gary Ewing’s wife Valene on Dallas and Knots Landing, is in the film. Although the advertising features a human hand sticking out of a frog’s mouth, there are no giant frogs or any giant sized animals to speak of in the film.
Kingdom of the Spiders (1977; dir. John ‘Bud’ Cardos)
A stampede of killer tarantulas is making its way through the populace in a rural Arizona town and it’s up to the town veterinarian, played by William Shatner, to put a stop to the menace. Although the film presents tarantulas as man killers, actual tarantulas have a mild bite, comparable to a bee sting.
Empire of the Ants (1977; dir. Bert I. Gordon)
Based on a short story by H.G. Wells, in Empire of the Ants a barrel of toxic waste causes ants to grow giant in size. The unlucky residents of the nearby town find themselves under the control of the queen ant, who secretes a mind-control pheromone. Joan Collins plays an evil, greedy real estate agent who is trying to sell substandard condos to a group of suckers, many of whom become ant food. In classic Bert I. Gordon fashion, many of the film’s effects were achieved (that might be too strong a word) by compositing real footage of ants with footage of the actors.
Tentacles (1977; dir. Ovidio G. Assonitis)
A giant, mutated octopus terrorizes the California coastline. Director Ovidio G. Assonitis was great at ripping off movies in a jaw-dropping way, and gathering remarkably unlikely all-star casts to appear in them. In Tentacles, the sea creature goes up against John Huston, Shelley Winters, and Henry Fonda. Worth seeing for fans of bad and/or crazy creature movies.
Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988; dirs. Donald G. Jackson, R.J. Kizer)
In this campy cult classic, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper plays Hell, one of the last fertile male humans in post-apocalyptic America. Hell is tasked with saving a group of fertile females who are being held hostage by mutant frog-human hybrids.
Troll 2 (1990; dir. Claudio Fragasso)
A family on vacation find themselves at the mercy of vegetarian goblins who must turn their victims into plants before eating them. Known for its terrible acting and dialogue, the film garnered a cult following among bad movie aficionados. Twenty years after its release, the cult success of the film inspired a documentary entitled Best Worst Movie, which follows up with the cast and explores the fandom that the film has inspired.
Anaconda (1997; dir. Luis Llosa)
Featuring an all-star cast and a giant CG snake, Anaconda follows a crew of documentarians who are kidnapped by a crazed poacher hell-bent on finding an elusive giant anaconda. The film has maintained a certain amount of notoriety, partially due to its inclusion in the The Official Razzie Movie Guide’s list of 100 of “The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.”
Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997; dir. Brian Trenchard-Smith)
In the fourth installment of the Leprechaun franchise, the titular leprechaun is back, but this time, he’s—obviously—in space! He terrorizes a cadre of space marines, is killed, returns through a Marine’s penis, and eventually injects the commander with a cocktail of DNA made from a space princess named Zarina, a scorpion, and a tarantula, which turns the Marine into a monster. (You have to appreciate the leprechaun’s ongoing resourcefulness.) Warwick Davis returned to the role for two more installments, both set in “the hood.”
Snakes on a Plane (2006; dir. David R. Ellis)
The film’s title garnered it a fan base long before its release. It’s about a group of passengers who are forced to deal with snakes on a plane after assassins release them to eliminate a witness in a court case against a mob boss. Samuel L. Jackson is on hand, kicking ass and cementing his place in cinema history.
Sharktopus (2010; dir. Declan O’Brien)
Sharktopus features a genetically engineered shark/octopus hybrid designed by the military that wreaks havoc on beach goers. Roger Corman makes a brief cameo appearance as a beach bum who is completely unimpressed by a bikini-clad woman getting devoured by the titular monster.
Sharknado (2013; dir. Anthony C. Ferrante)
Created by noted B-movie factory The Asylum, Sharknado turned into a viral sensation due to the movie’s goofy premise: what if there was a tornado filled with sharks? The success of the film has garnered five sequels, a documentary, a mockumentary, and a spin-off series about lava-breathing tarantulas.
Zombeavers (2014; dir. Jordan Rubin)
A play on the tried and true horror trope of teens vacationing in a cabin in the woods, Zombeavers features a group of teens terrorized by beavers that have been exposed to toxic chemicals, turning them into flesh-eating zombeavers! The horror-comedy’s trailer went viral prior to its release, garnering more than a million views in its first week on YouTube.
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