Having trouble figuring out what to screen at this years Devil’s Night party? Let L.A. RECORD‘s Nolan Knight help you with these twenty-five often overlooked and somewhat-obscure horror titles sure to scratch that gruesome itch. (In more ways than one.) Most are available through Netflix and others need to be hunted down at Cinefile or Vidiots. And on with the bloodshed…
1. Zombie Holocaust (a.k.a. Doctor Butcher M.D.) – This is a fan favorite over at the Grindhouse Film Festival that screens almost annually. With a tagline like, “He’s a depraved, homicidal killer… and he makes housecalls,” why the fuck not? Fun and gory—think Zombie meets a PETA-friendly Cannibal Ferox.
2. Beyond the Door – One of the better Eurotrash possession films to cash in on The Exorcist hype of the early seventies, this film combines itself thematically with Rosemary’s Baby and delivers a ‘better than you thought’ experience. Highlights go to the satanic doll sequence and the foul-mouthed butt-ugly daughter.
3. Maniac – Quite simply, William Lustig’s slasher opus. Joe Spinell (Nighthawks, The Godfather) redefines creepiness, taking the serial killer with mommy issues to a whole new realm. He makes Norman Bates look like a Jonas brother. The gruesome ending and infamous shotgun scene are a must-see.
4. God Told Me To … Kill – Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, The Stuff) truly outdoes himself with this one when random New Yorkers start killing each other and all blaming it on the man upstairs. Keep your eye out for Andy Kaufman in his first film role and don’t get up to piss—you might miss the man-gina.
5. The Beyond – “Behind this doorway lie the terrifying and unspeakable secrets of hell.” Lucio Fulci really takes you on a ride in this one. From the awesome intro to the WTF ending, if you’re a fan of his and haven’t experienced this yet, you’re in for a real treat.
6. Sisters – Siamese twins are usually twisted enough, but in the brain of Brian De Palma (Scarface, Body Double), that’s only the beginning. Margot Kidder shines in this horrifying tale of weirdness and murder. Smoke a doob and try to keep the shit inside your body.
7. Don’t Look Now – Nicholas Roeg (The Man Who Fell To Earth) really fucks with your instincts as he takes you into the strange underbelly of Venice, Italy, and forces you to experience a couple’s decline after the death of their only child. The shocking ending with Donald Sutherland will leave you happily freaked.
8. Autopsy – Stranger than your standard giallo, the film deals with random suicides, featuring a depressed pathologist who visualizes corpses in coitus and a racecar driver turned priest who’s out for vengeance. Throw in a score by Ennio Morricone (The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly) and you’ve got yourself a stunner.
9. The Sinful Dwarf – Wow. This Danish title really speaks for itself. But wait—it also involves girls lured into white slavery by mechanical toy poodles and various musical numbers by a drunken mother in a Chiquita costume. Only in Denmark.
10. Deathdream (a.k.a. Dead of Night)– Before Bob Clark set out to make A Christmas Story, he was hacking up shitty kids in horror films. When a soldier killed in Vietnam returns home as a zombie, he isn’t exactly met with a ticker-tape parade. An overt statement on the horrors of war and the disintegration of the American family, this one has its rough edges but overall is brutally gratifying.
11. Dolls – Next time your car breaks down in the rain, try not to seek refuge with magical toy makers who turn humans into evil dolls. Great death scenes that make Chucky look like “My Buddy.”
12. Night of the Demons – Teens and séance parties—when will they ever learn? This is a fun one with great special effects and over-the-top eighties fashion. I dug the FEAR sticker on their boombox and Linnea Quigley slutting it up is always a thrill.
13. The Devil’s Rain – A rampant group of small-town Satanists, lead by Ernest Borgnine and Anton LaVey, are using their evil powers to melt people’s faces off and the only one who can stop them is… William Shatner? If you thought Borgnine looked like a goat before, wait till you see this.
14. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein – This one has it all—juggling comedy, horror, and romance in just the right way to make that ultra-rare and perfect cinematic experience. You get Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Cheney Jr. as The Wolf Man, Glenn Strange as Frankenstein and Vincent Price as the Invisible Man. How can this not be loved?
15. Spider Baby – Before Sid Haig went on to immortalize exploitation cinema and land in the hands of Rob Zombie, he was a bug-eating inbred for Jack Hill (Coffy, Switchblade Sisters). A demented look at family and greed with an aged Lon Cheney Jr. standing out as the protective chauffeur-slash-guardian.
16. Last House On The Left – Pure sadism at it’s worst. The girls just wanted to score a little dope for the rock concert; the last thing they expected was to be kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed at the hands of psychotic convicts. David Hess (Hitch-Hike) cements his status as cinema’s #1 sleazebag in this Wes Craven cult favorite.
17. Werewolf Woman – A mind-fucking Eurotrash featuring a woman who dreams of being a werewolf and goes out to hunt men, only to rip their throats out after using them for cheap sex. Check please!
18. Race with the Devil – Come hop in the brand new R.V. with Peter Fonda and Warren Oates as they journey into the countryside with their trophy wives for a vacation of dirtbike riding that quickly turns into a race for their lives after they witness a human sacrifice and black mass.
19. Daughters of Darkness – The DVD promises, “An erotic nightmare of vampire lust.” This is a very artsy and moody piece that succeeds at putting a new twist on the vampire genre as well as subtly tackling human sexuality. Also included on this Blue Underground disc is The Blood Splattered Bride—double score!
20. Black Candles – A Spanish film involving Satanism that includes virgins being raped by goats before they are sacrificed. ‘Nuff said.
21. The Prowler – Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs, Dillinger) and Farley Granger (They Live by Night, Rope) star in this underrated eighties slasher featuring a killer in WWII army fatigues out for blood at a college spring dance. Pretty sweet knifing to the face and shower scene.
22. House of Dracula – John Carradine takes a stab at Dracula as he and the Wolf Man set out to find a cure for their vampirism and lycanthropy. Mayhem ensues after the Frankenstein monster awakens, spawning a monster battle royale where only one will survive.
23. Taste of Fear – This is an excellent William Castle-produced Hammer Studios film with Christopher Lee that will keep you guessing all the way to the unpredictable ending. A cut above most Hammer films, this one keeps you at the edge of your seat and includes one of cinemas greatest drop-kicks.
24. The Conqueror Worm (a.k.a. Witchfinder General) – A brutal piece of cinema featuring Vincent Price as a witch hunter out to burn heretics at the stake or drown them into salvation. The violence is way ahead of its time and Price considered this to be his finest performance.
25. They Live – Roddy Piper is a nomad who stumbles across a pair of sunglasses that exposes the world for what it really is—a consumerized slave farm controlled by zombie-looking aliens. Heavy on its economic, political, and social overtones, this one also features one of the funniest bare-knuckle brawl scenes ever to be filmed.
Honorable Mentions (more common titles but always horrific): Demons, Near Dark, The Monster Squad, Freaks, I Spit on Your Grave, Susperia, C.H.U.D., Waxwork, Fright Night, She-Freak, Astro-Zombies, Re-Animator, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, The Hills Have Eyes, Deep Red, and Blood Diner.