Halloween may have come and gone, but two things, at least, remain: Candy bloat and horror movies! As I mentioned last week, watching scary movies is not an activity that should be relegated to one day a year, like, say… visiting your mother-in-law. Yeah that’s right, I went there. (What, you didn’t know that I’m actually a 1960s stand up comedian?)
As made evident in last week’s column, my newest passion seems to be telling people what to watch. In keeping with that idea, here are ten movies that I dig but that you may not have seen yet. They may be underrated or flat out ignored, but no matter: Each has a special little place in my heart and now I’m sharing them with you. What can I say? I’m a giver. My only rule regarding this list is that each movie is currently available on DVD — recommendations for VHS hunters would comprise a list worth another column entirely. So in chronological order:
1. Carnival of Souls
(1962): This cult classic is just plain damn spooky. I mean, what else
would you call the story of a young woman who’s drawn to an abandoned
amusement park and who’s followed around by a bunch of weirdo
ghosty-zombie type figures? This is low budget filmmaking with, at
times, decidedly amateurish acting, but it’s also incredibly
atmospheric and the black-and-white cinematography is gorgeous.
(1974): Who says that homicidal cannibals always have to be the inbred,
deformed types who live in gross shacks in the woods? Can’t that sweet
old lady who lives next door to you be a homicidal cannibal as well?
Why, yes she can — and in this effort from British horror vet Pete
Walker, she is. Surprisingly, Frightmare is far subtler than the words “homicidal cannibal” indicate. There’s still ample bloodshed, though, and creepiness abounds.
3. Long Weekend
(1978): Those of you turned off by “mood” movies simply might not find
enough amok in this Australian animals run amok flick. A bickering
couple totally disregards nature during their weekend getaway, but
nature don’t take no guff from bickering couples! Evocative, gorgeous,
tense, and even horrific, Long Weekend is a dread-filled slow burn.
4. Just Before Dawn (1980): Here we have an early-’80s
slasher that’s actually good and downright scary. It’s full of tropes
we’ve all seen before: Backwoods weirdos stalking kids in the woods,
lame duck authority figures warning the kids not to “go up there”…
yet director Jeff Lieberman and composer Brad Fiedel present it all in
a way that leaves JBD‘s contemporaries in the dust.
5. Bloody Birthday (1981): No list of horror movies would be complete without a killer kids entry, and Bloody Birthday
is one of the lesser known yet more awesome efforts out there. Three
children are born during a solar eclipse, an event that somehow renders
them all soulless, murderous sociopaths. Isn’t that always the way?
It’s feels a bit odd to call a movie that features children killing
with wanton abandon “fun,” but that’s the first word that comes to mind
when I think of Bloody Birthday.
(1981): “Bastard! Bastarrrd! Basssssstaaarrrrrd!” Long after you see
this crappy slasher from director Jaun Piquer Simon, that line will be
ringing in your ears. Yeah, I said “crappy”… and yet I’m recommending
it! Doesn’t that fly in the face of the laws of physics or something?
No, see, Pieces is one of those positively delightful crappy
slasher movies. Like, so delightful that you’ll want to press the “do
over” button as soon as it’s over. Like, so delightful that you’ll want
to marry Pieces after you’ve seen it, but you can’t… hands off, it’s mine!
7. The Convent
(2000): Sometimes, it all comes down to simple math. Adrienne Barbeau +
evil nuns + liberal doses of gore + liberal doses of humor + day-glo
paint + possession = See this right now and thank me later.
8. Cookers (2001): Don’t hold the fact that Cookers stars a
founding member of the Pussycat Dolls against it. This fantastically
creepy flick about a bunch of paranoid meth-heads holed up in an
abandoned farmhouse is a true gem. Seriously.
9. Session 9
(2001): Abandoned insane asylums flicks are pretty much a dime a dozen
these days, but writer-director Brad Anderson entered the subgenre
early and he hit it hard with this incredibly spooky tale. David Caruso
is actually watchable, but the real star of Session 9 is its
setting: The decaying Danvers State Hospital. Anyone who’s not creeped
out during this movie is obviously a robot or a pod person, and he or
she should be avoided at all costs.
10. Wilderness (2006): This Lord of the Flies meets Friday the 13th
flick from British writer-director Michael Bassett is big on both
action and bloodshed. On an island “retreat,” two groups of youth
offenders find themselves stalked by persons unknown. Whistles have
never sounded so chilling. Well, except maybe in gym class.
there you go, ten overlooked movies I think you should watch. Tune in
next week when I tell you what you should get on your pizza and what I
think you should do with your hair. Like I said, I’m a giver.
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.
Stacie is supporting Buffy in the Master Monster Hunter Tournament:
“I know it’s cliché, perhaps, but come on. She protected the world from
the baddies of the Hellmouth AND she dealt with the daily hell of high
school. Killing demons and vampires while juggling homework and acne
control? That’s pretty damn badass. Buffy Summers for the win!