Turkish Remakesploitation

This April, we’ll be screening restored and newly-subtitled classics of Turkish fantastic cinema for the first time. Ahead of Remakesploitation Fest 2020, read our primer on the weirdest film scene in world cinema, originally published in 2011…

Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam AKA The Man Who Saved The World (Çetin Inanç, 1982) doesn’t make it too far past the endearingly handmade titles before it demonstrates the elements that gave it its better-known title, “Turkish Star Wars”. Edited into new Turkish scenes are newsreel clips of NASA rocket launches, instantly recognisable shots from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (chopped from a print in a different aspect ratio from the rest of the Inanç‘s film – making the Death Star an odd shape), and identifiable footage from Sodom and Gomorrah (Robert Aldrich,1962) and The Seven Curses of Lodac (Bert I Gordon, 1962). The roguish leads, Cüneyt Arkin (Murat) and Aytekin Akkaya (Ali) are shown in space battle, their commitment to their performance overriding the viewer’s disbelief as projected footage from Star Wars cuts haphazardly between scenes behind them. Nobody in Lucas’ Rebellion ever had to deal with their spaceship appearing and disappearing around them, and even Luke Skywalker probably wouldn’t have dared flying backwards down the trench in the Death Star, even if it was oblong. But then daredevil Ali reckons the enemy are too sour-faced and he’d prefer “if some chicks with mini-skirts were coming”.

Cüneyt Arkin’s spaceship manifests from one frame to the next in “Turkish Star Wars”, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (Çetin Inanç, 1982)

While the provenance of the visual effects is immediately and jarringly obvious, the soundtrack is equally dubious. The music not sourced from library stock is bastardised from an impressive array of high-profile soundtracks, including John William’s score for Raiders of the Lost Ark (The Raiders March and Chase Suite), Giorgio Moroder’s disco cover of the Battlestar Galactica theme, Ennio Morricone’s theme for the TV mini-series Moses the Lawgiver (Gianfranco De Bosio & James H Hill, 1974), music from Planet of the Apes, Moonraker and Silent Running, and then Queen’s score for Flash Gordon – a film which also provides key sound effects. Even JS Bach’s Toccata gets a showing. Such audacious theft cannot help but overshadow the homemade costumes, mannered stunt work (particularly Arkin’s trademark trampolining) and lunatic storytelling that the film otherwise consists of, but Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is still more entertaining than The Phantom Menace.

Such pithy comparisons have revived international interest in a peculiar sub-section of Turkish film that thrived domestically in the late 1970s and early 1980s, of which Turkish Star Wars is only one among many. There are now countless blogs and webpages dedicated to lists of bizarre and poorly-made foreign versions, some official, some not, of Hollywood films. Usually light on context and high on derision, these articles have nevertheless brought to light a whole spectacular genre that may be described as Turkish Remakesploitation.

Most of these films were made during a particularly tumultuous period for the Republic of Turkey that saw the country experience the third coup d’etat since its formation in 1923. The 1980 military coup followed coups in 1960 and 1971 and brought a temporary end to violence but also ongoing political instability that has continued to the present day, with the country engaged in a long struggle towards multi-party democracy. Contrary to some reports, there was no general ban on American films in Turkey, even during the period of the military coup (from September 1980 to November 1983) beyond the individual bans on Midnight Express (Alan Parker, 1978) and A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1973). The more serious censorship affected domestic films and directors, most famously Yılmaz Güney who, in the middle of this period, orchestrated the production of Yol AKA The Way (Serif Gören, 1982) from a Turkish prison cell. One of the biggest movie stars in Turkey (of a rough and roguish type similar to Arkin), Güney was also one of the most politicised, first jailed in 1961 (for publishing an allegedly ‘communist’ novel) then again in 1972 and 1974. Escaping prison in 1981, he completed Yol in Switzerland and it went on to win the Palme D’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Exiled in Paris, Güney died of cancer in 1984 and he is now internationally renowned as a key figure in modern Turkish cultural history.

Yılmaz Güney (middle) at the Cannes Film Festival, 1982

However, the kind of low budget oddities that decades later would become known as Turkish Jaws, Turkish Dirty Harry or Turkish Exorcist, among many others, belong in a world parallel to the politically and socially conscious filmmaking of the likes of Yılmaz Güney. Even filmmakers sometimes mentioned in the same breath as Güney took part in the Remakesploitation trend. Memduh Ün, who garnered early international notice for his film Kırık Çanaklar (The Broken Pots, 1960), also directed the Turkish James Bond rip off Altin Çocuk (Golden Boy, 1966) and, much later, Turkish Death Wish AKA Cellat (The Executioner, 1975). With the spotlight on the highly entertaining, low-budget escapism of Turkish Star Wars, it’s easy to overlook that Turkey, even in such adverse conditions, had no shortage of “respectable” films and, after a wilderness period from the early 1980s through into the 1990s, has resumed producing world-class films.

Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam is probably the most famous of the Turkish Remakesploitation films, by dint of having Star Wars as its template and because it so blatantly ripped off whole special effects shots and sequences. Truth be told, even though it cribs some broad ideas along with a bucket-load of special effects, it tells a distinctly different story than Star Wars and it is not even close to being the most thorough Rip-Off in this genre. Nor is Süpermen Dönüyor, even though Kunt Tulgar’s movie makes liberal use of stolen music cues and copyrighted characters. There are far more explicit offenders in this category, films that are practically shot-for-shot remakes of the originals. Crucially, none of them are authorised adaptations of the source material, distinguishing them from the standard and continuous back-and-forth nature of movie remaking across national borders.

Films belonging to the genre take a variety of forms, from those shot-for-shot remakes (Sevimli Frankeştayn AKA Turkish Young Frankenstein (Nejat Saydam, 1975)), to straight retellings adapted for a Turkish audience (Süpermen Dönüyor, Kunt Tulgar, 1979), to films that took elements of foreign films and incorporated them into ‘reimagined’ versions of the originals (Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam). All three types regularly feature in Top Ten Terrible Foreign Rip-Offs lists, their puny budgets, brazen appropriation and lunatic energy frequently compared ironically to their muscular Hollywood forebears. The common links between them are the international fame and success of their source material and a focus on any combination of action, sex, adventure and violence – the key constituents of any so-called B-movie and bread and butter for their contemporary domestic audience. The films were broad, easy to comprehend and entertaining to a fault – so no Turkish Chinatown, but Turkish Young Frankenstein was a no-brainer.

The films that can be described as part of the classic wave of Turkish Remakesploitation also belong to a larger genre of Turkish Fantastic Cinema. This term encompasses many kinds of genre films, from horror and science fiction to the hugely popular masked hero film. B-movies by any description and obscure to say the least, these films are not widely available even in Turkey, where the original prints have long since been sold off to television stations or simply disappeared entirely. Often the best sources for viewing them are VHS copies of pre-digital Turkish television broadcasts and/or German rental copies, ripped for the internet. Luckily and somewhat miraculously, a decade ago MTV Turkey began screening many of these films, previously believed to be lost altogether, in a weekly Fantastic Cinema slot. Otherwise, tiny independent companies like Onar Films, based in Greece, distributed DVD versions sourced from original prints. While these were lovingly packaged, carefully cleaned and prepared for release and much better quality than YouTube uploads, they were hampered by the extremely poor quality of the existing prints, which had never been high priorities for preservation or digital remastering.

“Turkish ET” waves goodbye in Badi (Zafer Par, 1983)

From a modern, western perspective, cataloguing and delineating these films is a nightmare, due to a number of factors. First and foremost, the lack of an international audience even at the time means that the films and filmmakers have very little status in the west. Awareness of them now is really due to some hard work by fans of the genre(s) and a whole lot of wry internet ‘appreciation’. Even now, the documentation and availability of these films is very limited, automatically granting canonical status to a handful of high-visibility Rip-Offs – Turkish Star Wars, Turkish Superman and Turkish ET (Badi, Zafer Par, 1983) among them. The films that are available, one way or another, often have sub-standard English subtitles (with no disrespect to the efforts made, for which we have to be very thankful) and most have no English subtitles at all. Additionally, there seems to be very little behind-the-scenes information available and attempts to frame these films in any kind of context are very rare. Bill Barounis of Onar Films produced a helpful Turkish Fantastic Cinema Guide and while there are surely more scholarly tomes on the history of Turkish cinema, Fantastic or otherwise, they are, by and large, written in Turkish and in any case not widely available.

Fortunately, as the films of particular interest here have benefited from the widest modern audience, it’s still possible to discuss them in context and to trace their origins somewhat. While the key period for these films is the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s, their roots go much further back. Prior to World War II, the Turkish film industry was dominated by a handful of companies importing foreign product into the major cities of Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara. After 1948, when the municipal tax on exhibition was reduced from 75% to 25% (leaving the tax on imported films at 70%), there was an explosion in domestically produced Turkish cinema. By the mid 1960s, Turkish cinema had expanded rapidly to become one of the biggest film making economies in the world, centred around Yesilçam (literally ‘Green Pine’ and named for a street in Istanbul that housed many production companies), which became a by-word for Turkish cinema in the same sense Hollywood is for classic American film.

However, while there were over 1,000 cinemas in Turkey at the peak of this wave, Hollywood product was still limited to theatres in the major cities and the coasts, leaving the huge Anatolian population in the south at a disadvantage – which is to say, there was a huge demand for the kind of westernised product epitomised in the Western and Action genres which was not being fully catered for. Starting around 1962, the Turkish Western became a hugely popular genre with 15 films a year being produced at the peak of the genre’s popularity in the 1970s and an audience happy to consume up to three films a day. In this period, the power of the regional distributors was paramount as they could and would demand films to their own specification, according to the discriminations of their local audiences. Unfortunately, due in part to the decentralisation of the system (with hundreds of companies making films), the general tilt was towards private enterprise, meaning that profits from films were not directed back into future film production, but removed for private gain. This was essentially a cash-flow business, with the success of one film providing the budget for the next, and one that could not sustain itself under any adversity. Eventually, Yesilçam’s output became dominated by soft-core porn productions.The encroachment of television and VHS meant that cinema revenue took a dive in the late 1970s and 1980s, which, in combination with that still thirsty-for-action Southern audience, created the perfect environment for Turkish Remakesploitation to thrive, albeit briefly.

Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam speaks to the audacity of some Turkish filmmakers, but the copyright situation in Turkey then is extremely vague from a modern perspective and it seems clear that there was no pertinent law of any kind in Turkey at that point. Indeed, there was a similar approach taken to the recording of foreign songs, at least up until the 1990s. At any rate, most of the films to be made in this golden age were well under Hollywood’s radar, probably more so than even Tarzan Istanbul’da (which had attracted the attention of Hollywood lawyers), and catered to an audience that had very little access to Hollywood product. Up until this point, it was standard practice in Yesilcam to freely adapt English-language novels, scripts and movie serials. There had been numerous Turkish bootlegs of Hollywood properties like The Lone Ranger, Zorro and Flash Gordon as well as oddities like Tosun and Yosun, the Turkish Laurel and Hardy clones, and innumerable Turkish Westerns. The spirit of the classic Turkish Remakesploitation can be traced in some of those Westerns, in their enthusiastic appropriation of American Western tropes and types (in similar fashion to the Italian Spaghetti Westerns), and their giddy disregard for international copyright concerns.

Graham Humphreys’ poster for “Turkish Star Wars”

Una Pistola Per Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965), the now-classic Spaghetti Western, spawned many unauthorised spin-offs and unofficial sequels (as indeed it did in homeland of Italy). Similarly, Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966) soon inspired the likes of Cango Olum Suvarisi (Django Rider Of Death, Remzi Conturk, 1967). Then came Çeko (Çetin Inanç, 1970), featuring a Turkish analogue of the Spaghetti Western anti-hero. Çeko opens with music stolen from Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966) and goes on to utilise his Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968) score and Riz Ortolani’s music for Day Of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967). Even with the relatively low budget director Inanç had at his disposal, and the hasty production schedule – which would rapidly earn him the sobriquet “Regisör Jet”, the Jet Director – it was yet more economical to plagiarise pre-existing music. There were, of course, composers at work at the industry, but they would have cost too much, even in the form of the library music that they were most frequently employed to produce. With the materials at hand in the form of worn American prints and with impatient theatre owners on the phone, representing a waiting audience, directors like Inanç could churn out cheap copies quickly and to demand.

All of which begs the uncomfortable question of why filmmakers did not simply manufacture and distribute bootleg prints. The answer is in the question, and it is because these were filmmakers and not criminals. It seems clear that these films could not exist without a certain level of raw enthusiasm for the source material, the genres they represent and the filmmaking process itself. In any case, such blatant theft could easily be considered too likely to provoke the attention of litigious Hollywood studios that, after all, were still screening their product in the major cities, though they would not have a presence in the country as distributors until the 1990s. Equally probable is that the audience responded more enthusiastically to representations of these stories through a Turkish prism, which the filmmakers were only too eager to provide. It’s presumptuous and perhaps condescending to consider that the language barrier when screening original American films was an important element, but it likely would play a part. What is more than likely is that the significant delay between the initial American release and the widespread distribution of American films – even to the extent that they reached – provided a window ripe for exploitation.

Serdar Kebapçilar, “Turkish Rambo”, in Korkusuz (Çetin Inanç, 1986)

Inanç is the most prominent behind-the-scenes character in the story of Turkish Remakesploitation. Weaned on the same comic books and serials that inspired his contemporaries Lucas and Spielberg, his first notable work was writing the screenplay for Kilink Istanbul’da (Yilmaz Atadeniz, 1967), a rip-off of Italian comic strip Killing, itself a rip-off of another called Kriminal, which was again a rip-off of Diabolik – making Kilink Istanbul’da a kind of bastard cousin to Danger: Diabolik (Mario Bava, 1968). His first film as director, Çelik Bilek (1967), was a Rip-Off of another Italian comic series, this time Il Grande Blek. After Çeko, he churned out carbon copies of Bonnie and Clyde, Dirty Harry, Mad Max, Jaws, First Blood, Rocky and Rambo II, making him by far the most prolific of the Remakesploitation directors. Those films, however, are only a sampling of the 136 films he made before moving into television in the mid 1980s. His transition then was emblematic of the general refocusing of the industry around television and its revenues in the 1980s and 1990s.

The key to understanding the films of Turkish Remakesploitation is to see them in context, not as part of a bungling criminal enterprise, but as the work of inventive, cash-strapped pragmatists. They were opportunists, certainly, but no more than Roger Corman or, indeed, any other Hollywood producer. The films were, after all, made for and enjoyed by an audience that could be described as undiscerning, but is more properly seen as enthusiastic, extremely receptive and, ultimately, forgiving, if the entertainment was worth the price of admission. There are comparisons to be drawn between Turkish Remakesplotiation and some Blaxsploitation (eg “The Black Exorcist” – Abby, William Girdler, 1974) in the way that mainstream (white, American) content is recreated but transformed to reflect the appearance and cultural specificity of the ‘niche’ audience. They’re also a worthy example of the hijacking and détournement of the Hollywood juggernaut to produce films for local consumption and, to a very limited extent, local profit. It’s hardly Robin Hood and it doesn’t beat a genuinely creative original and non-derivative industry, but it’s a lot more attractive, culturally, than simply swallowing what America doles out wholesale.

But their worth is not merely academic. And it’s not simply found in their superficial comic value, or even in their oddball energy, strange logic and generally singular approach to genre filmmaking. It’s in the spirit they were made in, the sheer will to make films overwhelming the paucity of available resources. It’s about making films of a certain kind when logic perhaps should tell you that you are not able to and not being constrained by your material limitations – certainly not when there is the prospect of expanding your material wealth. Fundamentally, Turkish Remakesploitation survives because it’s still doing what it was created to do – entertaining, even if that enjoyment sometimes takes the shape of snarky, ill-informed criticism.

Comparing the intent of Çetin Inanç and his contemporaries to their Hollywood counterparts is perhaps the most instructive measure. The cultural influences they share, taking for granted the international success of American comics and movie serials of the 1930s and 40s, seem as important as their distinct national identities. How different would the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies look if they were made with a fraction of the budget, talent pool, shooting schedule and basic infrastructure that they found in Hollywood? And though posterity has not been kind to the films of Turkish Remakesploitation, the smiles they engender and the basic thrills they offer are undiminished. As Kunt Tulgar has said, “Action and adventure never die in our culture.”

Sean Welsh

Remakesploitation Fest 2020 takes place 25-26/04/2020 at Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow. Tickets available from our online shop here. Keep up-to-date with the Facebook event page here.


NB This article was originally published in 2011 at physicalimpossibility.com. Thanks to Gokay Gelgec of the Sinematik website and the sadly departed Bill Barounis of Onar Films for invaluable background information on these films and the culture they were made in. Wherever possible, we’ve referred to the best-presented and ‘official’ versions of these films available.

#WeirdHorror Countdown

31 of our favourite wonderfully weird horror films

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…

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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…


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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…


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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).


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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!”


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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!


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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?”


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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!


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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.


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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“)


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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.


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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!


Our 2018 #WeirdHorror countdown is complete, but Like us on Facebook or join our mailing list here to stay up-to-date.