We’re celebrating the run up to Halloween with some of our favourite odd and awesome horror films. Mostly we’re doing this on our Facebook page here, but we’ll update this post as we go too. We’d love to know your favourite weird horrors too – or what you think of ours…
1/31 | DEAFULA (Peter Wechsberg, 1975)
A theology student finds himself turning into a vampire and hunting other students for their blood, in the first feature film produced in American Sign Language (or “Signscope”). Writer-director-actor Peter Wechsberg lost his hearing during Nazi Germany’s World War II bombing of London and had grown dissatisfied with his work as a videographer for a financial institution. His Deafula inexplicably incorporated a giant rubber nose, of which producer Gary Holstrom explained, “The deaf loved it, the hearing didn’t.” Read Cashiers du Cinemart’s interview with Holstrom here.
2/31 | NEON MANIACS (Joseph Mangine, 1986)
“They’re the Neon Maniacs—an unstoppable, hideous incarnation of evil zombies terrorising the residents of San Francisco. ‘Neon,’ because they can only be seen in the dark; ‘Maniacs,’ because they kill at will!”
The Neon Maniacs include Ape, Archer, Axe, Decapitator, Doc, Juice, Mohawk, Punk Biker, Samurai Warrior, Slash, Soldier, Stringbean and Thing. They each, for some reason, have their own in-film tarot/trading card.
3/31 | INKUBO (Leslie Stevens, 1966)
Marc, a soldier of pure heart, becomes the target of a beautiful demon who wants his soul.
Starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner, Incubus is one of only two films produced entirely in the constructed language of Esperanto. At the premiere, a group of 50 to 100 Esperanto enthusiasts “screamed and laughed” at the actors’ poor pronunciation of the language. Once thought lost, the only remaining print was discovered in France in 1996. You can read more about Esperanto in cinema here.
4/31 | VLČÍ BOUDA (Věra Chytilová, 1987)
AKA Wolf’s Hole or Wolf’s Lair, this is a science fiction horror hybrid in the vein of The Thing, from the director of Daisies (Sedmikrásky).
In an old mountain cottage called the Wolf’s Lair, 11 carefully selected teenagers participate in a skiing workshop. Tension and suspicion mount as the strange instructors insist that one of the 11 is an intruder…
5/31 | PURA SANGRE (Luis Ospina, 1982)
An old, bedridden sugar tycoon, who communicates with the outside world by CCTV, consumes constant supplies of blood plasma from kidnapped and murdered children.
Pure Blood is a prime example of the Tropical Gothic genre, mainly associated with Colombian cinema of the 1980s. A flurry of productions were based in the country’s third largest city, Cali, where a very intense cinephile culture was flourishing. The most emblematic of these cinephile filmmakers were fans of Roger Corman as well as cinéma vérité documentarists, and part of a politically radical art scene.
6/31 | ŞEYTAN (Metin Erksan, 1974)
A 12-year-old girl living with her mother in cozy Istanbul high society plays with a ouija board and becomes possessed by Satan himself. A troubled psychiatrist and an archaeologist become the girl’s only hope for salvation.
AKA Turkish Exorcist for obvious reasons, Erksan’s film is a classic remakesploitation in the bold shot-for-shot-copy category. William Friedkin’s original was banned in Turkey, so the filmmakers traveled to a London screening and transcribed the script. However, the audacious “theft” – Turkey actually had no copyright laws to speak of – belies the numerous ways Erksan (who won the Golden Bear in 1964) adapted The Exorcist to reflect Turkish culture.
Read more about Şeytan and other Turkish remakes here.
7/31 | 狂った一頁 (Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926)
A retired sailor becomes custodian at a mental hospital to be closer to his estranged wife, one of the patients at the facility. Their daughter is soon to be married, but the father’s fear and pain surrounding his wife’s mental state threaten the future happiness of the family.
Completely lost for 45 years, the print of Kurutta Ichipeij (A Page Of Madness) discovered in a rice bin in Kinugasa’s garden shed in 1972 was only 2/3 of the original print, which would also have screened with live narration and musical accompaniment.
8/31 | PARENTS (Bob Balaban, 1989)
Meet the Laemles. Dad, Mom and little Michael…they’re the all-American family of 1954. With one small exception. Michael can’t figure out why they are eating leftovers every night, but he’s got a scary suspicion. Dad’s bringing home the bacon and a whole lot more!
Character actor Bob Balaban (a familiar face for Christopher Guest and Wes Anderson fans) made his directorial debut with this black comedy horror. Too strange and deadpan to go over commercially, its deliberate tone, pace and aesthetic help it linger in the corner of your mind, like a childhood nightmare.
9/31 | A RETURN TO SALEM’S LOT (Larry Cohen, 1987)
“Salem’s Lot. Population: Dwindling. Primary industry: terror.”
A weird horror hiding in plain sight, this is so much more than a straight-to-video Stephen King sequel. For one thing, it has nothing at all to do with Stephen King, or even the original Salem’s Lot. What it does have is the unmistakeable Larry Cohen touch, since the writer-director created this “sequel” basically from scratch. The cast features some of Cohen’s signature players (particularly Michael Moriarty and James Dixon), a young Tara Reid and…Samuel fuckin’ Fuller, the iconic director playing a gun-toting Nazi/vampire hunter. Watch it for the Larry Cohen joint it is, and it’s 10/10.
10/31 | BLOOD AND DONUTS (Holly Dale, 1995)
“There is a place between the living and the dead…and it’s open 24 hours.”
This comedy horror follows a vampire, napping since the Moon landing, who’s woken with a bump into 1990s Toronto. Eschewing human blood, he falls in with a donut shop waitress and a taxi driver needing protection from a Crime Boss (David Cronenberg!). Also his 1969 girlfriend is quickly on his trail…
11/31 | BEGOTTEN (E Elias Merhige, 1990)
“A godlike thing dies giving birth to a quivering messiah thing; then the villager things ravage and bury them, and the earth renews itself on their corpses.”
The debut of writer/director Merhige, better known for directing Shadow of the Vampire (2000), and even better known for directing the music video for Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar (1996).
12/31 | MIRROR MIRROR (Marina Sargenti, 1990)
“Megan (Rainbow Harvest) is experiencing the usual problems of adolescence, magnified by a change of home and school. Stranded and outcast, she retreats into a world of insecurities, craving a means of comfort and escape from the depths of her own fantasies. In her new home, the desolate and eerie Weatherworth House, Megan finds a curious-looking mirror, which entices her into a dream world where her imagination can stray. At first, the mirror seems magical, but once the innocence of her initial fascinations fade, it begins to take on a more sinister and evil dimension. Its power combines with her adolescent mind and sucks her into a nightmare from which she cannot escape!”
13/31 | DUST DEVIL (Richard Stanley, 1992)
“He came from the beginning of time to take your soul.”
Writer-director Richard Stanley followed his debut, the 2000AD inspired Hardware, with this unsettling South Africa-set slasher arthouse folk horror. Dust Devil, described at the time as “Tarkovsky on acid”, spent just a week in cinemas before being released to home video. Stanley’s 2-hour cut had been brutalised by balking financiers down to just 87mins, leaving early audiences confused. Stanley’s Final Cut is now available, best resembling his original vision.
14/31 | HOUSE (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
“A schoolgirl travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home, only to come face to face with evil spirits, bloodthirsty pianos, and a demonic housecat.”
No weird horror countdown could possibly skip Nobuhiko Obayashi’s psychedelic, phantasmagoric, absurdist masterpiece, quite possibly the weirdest and best film ever made, any more than words could do it justice – just watch it, IMMEDIATELY.
15/31 | SCREAMPLAY (Rufus Butler Seder, 1985)
“Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allen’s best attribute is his wild imagination. He imagines scenes so vividly for the murder mystery he is writing that they seem to come to life…and they do! As mysterious murders pile up, Edgar Allen must confront ageing actresses, rock stars, and the police in the bleak setting of broken dreams in Hollywood.”
Shot in black and white, this budget weirdo comic-melodrama recollects Forbidden Zone in its expressionistic sets and John Paizs’ Crime Wave in its meta themes. Screamplay was a one-and-done from writer-director-star Seder, who also managed to recruit underground legend George Kuchar for a rare role outside his own productions.
16/31 | THE MASK (Julian Roffman, 1961)
“After the shocking death of a disturbed patient, a psychiatrist comes into possession of the ancient tribal mask that supposedly drove the young man to his doom. When Barnes puts on the mask, he is assailed with nightmarish visions of monsters, occultists, and ritual torture. Believing that the mask has opened a portal to the deepest recesses of his mind, the doctor continues to explore this terrifying new psychic world – even as the mask reveals a latent violence in Barnes’ nature that threatens those closest to him.”
Canada’s first horror feature, a remarkable, surrealist black and white B-movie, that integrates its 3D elements into the narrative – when you heard “put the mask on NOW”, the film erupts into vivid abstraction.
17/31 | MESSIAH OF EVIL (Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck, 1973)
“After receiving a series of chilling letters from her reclusive father, Arletty drives to the remote seaside town of Pointe Dune to discover the reason for her father’s developing madness. Upon her arrival, she encounters a mysterious trio of strangers investigating a local legend known as ‘The Blood Moon’, a curse that has transformed the inhabitants of the town into a terrifying horde of blood-thirsty maniacs!”
From the husband and wife team who wrote Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (and later directed Howard the Duck), this atmospheric showcase for the creeping uncanny was also released under the titles Return of the Living Dead, Revenge of the Screaming Dead, The Second Coming and Dead People.
18/31 | THE KILLER SHREWS (Ray Kellogg, 1959)
“On a remote island Dr Marlowe Craigis has been performing well-meaning research using test animals. The doctor wishes to shrink humans to half their size in order to reduce world hunger, but unfortunately, his experiments have created mutant giant shrews that are now reproducing in the wild, growing larger and more voracious day-by-day.”
The Killer Shrews took fear of large rodents to a level which cinema had never reached before or has since. Limited in budget and ability, but not in imagination, the mutant shrews are simply dogs in costumes – but perhaps that only adds to the terror.
19/31 | THE LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM (Ken Russell, 1988)
“Peak District archaeologist Angus Flint (Peter Capaldi) unearths a mysterious skull, believed to be that of the legendary creature knows as the D’Ampton Worm. When a wealthy local recluse, the smouldering and sinister Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) gets her hands on the skull all hell breaks loose. Soon the Derbyshire locals, including Lord of the Manor James D’Ampton (Hugh Grant) whose ancestors were said to have slain the mythical beast hundreds of years ago, come to realise that the D’Ampton Worm may be more than a legend after all.”
Uproariously funny, boldly experimental and genuinely shocking, The Lair of the White Worm is a bizarre, psychedelic masterpiece that defies categorisation.
20/31| BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Panos Cosmatos, 2010)
Held captive in a specialised medical facility, a young woman with unique abilities seeks a chance to escape her obsessed captor.
The debut of Mandy director Panos Cosmatos. Set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of the year 1983, Beyond The Black Rainbow is a Reagan-era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies and Saturday morning cartoons.
21/31 | THE WITCH (Robert Eggers, 2016)
New England, 1630. Upon threat of banishment by the church, an English farmer leaves his colonial plantation, relocating his wife and five children to a remote plot of land on the edge of an ominous forest—within which lurks an unknown evil. Strange and unsettling things begin to happen almost immediately—animals turn malevolent, crops fail, and one child disappears as another becomes seemingly possessed by an evil spirit. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, family members accuse teenage daughter Thomasin of witchcraft, charges she adamantly denies. As circumstances grow more treacherous, each family member’s faith, loyalty and love become tested in shocking and unforgettable ways.
A slowburn classic of witchcraft, black magic and possession in the New England wilderness.
22/31 | BLOOD DINER (Jackie Kong, 1987)
“First they greet you, then they eat you.”
The Tutman Brothers run the most popular restaurant in town. Popular, that is, if you’re the county coroner. The ‘Head’ chef has a real human touch with this special recipes – a killer line-up of delicacies made from human flesh!
23/31 | ETERNAL EVIL (George Mihalka, 1985)
“Paul, a young television director, feels his life has become too routine – he’s tired of his job, his family and himself. Janice (KAREN BLACK!) will change that forever. As a worshipper of black magic and the occult, Janice teaches the infatuated Paul the art of astral-projection: the ability to travel outside one’s body! A disbelieving Paul begins to experience bizarre nightmares where victims are brutally beaten right before him. But these are not dreams. He is projecting his visions outside of himself and HE is doing the killing! The key is Janice – the link to the murderous mayhem. Will her secret identity cost more innocent lives or will she cast a spell of ETERNAL EVIL?”
24/31 | ARCADE (Albert Pyun, 1993)
“All the kids in town are dying to play the hot new video game ARCADE. Trouble is once you play the game you can kiss reality good-bye. Arcade has seven levels of excitement, adventure and terror for its players. The game transports you to another world with its stunning graphics, thrilling sound effects, and virtual reality simulation. It is the ultimate experience in a video game. But excitement like this doesn’t come cheaply – when you battle with ARCADE you’re putting your life on the line. The kids have accepted the challenge and are absorbed into the game. Only Alex (Megan Ward) realises that their mysterious disappearances are linked to ARCADE. She must battle the game, alone. Too bad she’s never been very good at games…”
Directed by Albert Pyun (Dollman, Radioactive Dreams), written by David Goyer (the Dark Knight trilogy, Blade) and produced by Charles Band, this post-Tron, pre-Lawnmower Man straight-to-video sci-fi horror had to be re-configured before release, either when Disney spied familiar-looking light-cycles in a trailer or when the Pyun and Band weren’t happy with the original CGI.
25/31 | BAD RONALD (Buzz Kulik, 1974)
“When Ronald is locked away by his mother in a secret room to escape the police he has only his world of fantasy in which to escape. His mother’s death leaves Ronald alone still hiding in the house. Fantasy turns to evil when a new family moves in and Ronald falls in love with their daughter, Babs. When the girl is left alone one weekend, he strikes. The terrified girl has nowhere to hide. Bad Ronald has killed once before. Will Babs become his next victim?”
A made-for-TV thriller/horror, Bad Ronald is a rare cut – perhaps the choicest – of the hider-in-the-house/peephole genre, containing an iconic climactic moment that will make sure you never believe “that’s just the house settling” ever again.
26/31 | THE STUFF (Larry Cohen, 1985)
“The Stuff is the new dessert taking supermarket shelves by storm. It’s delicious, low in calories and – better still – doesn’t stain the family carpet… What’s not to like?! Well, for a start it has a life of its own, and we’re not talking friendly live bacteria…
Larry Cohen’s masterpiece was one of our very first screenings and our love for it is undimmed. Truly unpredictable and mad as a spoonful of shaving foam. Features career best turns from Michael Moriarty as industrial saboteur Mo Rutherford and Paul Sorvino as the slathering, jowl-shivering jingoist he was born to play.
27/31 | SUGAR HILL (Paul Maslansky, 1974)
The chief of the underworld sends some of his minions to muscle in on a successful nightclub operation. When the owner pays no heed, he is beaten to death. His beautiful fashion model fiancee, Diana “Sugar” Hill enlists the aid of a retired voodoo mamaloi and Baron Samedi’s army of zombies to get revenge!
28/31 | THERE ARE MONSTERS (Jay Dahl, 2013)
“The world is being taken over – slowly, quietly and efficiently – by creatures that look exactly like us. A graduate-student film crew on a work-related road trip discover evidence of these doppelgangers.”
A Glasgow FrightFest closer, this found footage-y, Body Snatchers riff was arguably stronger in the form of the short it originated from. Nevertheless, its gonzo jump scares par excellence, mixing in an absurdist body horror element, stick in the brain pretty effectively.
29/31 | BLACULA (Paul Maslansky, 1974)
“In 1780, African prince Mamuwalde pays a visit to the castle of Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the slave trade. Instead, the evil count transforms Mamuwalde into a vampire, imprisoning him in a coffin to suffer the unending thirst of the damned. Released nearly two centuries later by a pair of luckless interior decorators, Mamuwalde emerges as Blacula, to wreak unholy havoc on the mean streets of LA.”
“Dracula’s soul brother” sparked a wave of black-themed horror films – the sequel Scream Blacula Scream, Blackenstein and Abby (AKA “The Black Exorcist“)
30/31 | PATHOGEN (Emily Hagins, 2006)
“Do you know what happens when you drink the water?”
This middle school zombie contagion epic was directed by 12-year-old Emily, who also wrote, produced, shot and edited. The production was documented in the 2009 documentary, Zombie Girl: The Movie.
31/31 | DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE (Michele Soavi, 1994)
“Francesco Dellamorte is a cemetery watchman whose job is to slaughter the living dead when they rise hungry from their graves. But following a tragic tryst with a lusty young widow, Francisco begins to ponder the mysteries of existence. Is there long-term satisfaction in blasting the skulls of ‘returners’? Will his imbecile assistant find happiness with the partial girl-corpse of his dreams? And if death is the ultimate act of love, can a psychotic killing spree send Dellamorte to the brink of enlightenment?”
You may have seen the existential/nihilist comedy zombie horror AKA Cemetery Man recently on blu ray, or you may have first seen it in its wilderness years, broadcast on C4 in the wee hours one random night, but its weird quality endures no matter how or when it first casts its spell.
We’re very fond of Dellamorte Dellamore, though this Halloween list has been in no particular order – see you next year!