Most average horror fans have seen every classic from Dracula (1931) to Halloween (1978) and way beyond anything in between, including any movie with Leatherface, Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, Chucky, Jigsaw, or a certain desirable Alien. So just to be different, below is a list of ten offbeat suggestions to pop your corn to come the witching hour on October 31. Some may be hard to track down, but they’re all worth haunting for. (I’ll be presenting the first two films on this list as part of my “Forbidden Thrills Halloween Un-spook Show” at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge in Alameda this coming Monday, October 24, 7:30.)
THE UNDEAD (1957) – Roger Corman’s lurid, low-budget tale of witchcraft and reincarnation is a moody little masterpiece, with warlocks, dwarves, and hypnotism, enlivened by the voluptuous presence of Allison “Fifty Foot Woman” Hayes.
THE UNEARTHLY (1957) – how can you miss a shamelessly pulpy mad scientist movie starring two genre icons, John Carradine and Tor “Plan 9” Johnson, along with, once again, scream goddess Allison Hayes? Answer: You can’t. Could’ve also been called Don’t Go in the Dungeon…
HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958) – American International Pictures’ self-reflexive drive-in gem pits Teenage Werewolf against Teenage Frankenstein (sorta), with cameos (kinda) by some of their other infamous monsters of cheapjack filmland, including the Saucer Men, The She Creature, and the giant cucumber alien from It Conquered the World. The last few minutes are in color, so it’s not the drugs or the booze, don’t worry.
THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF (1961) – idiosyncratic auteur Jess Franco’s first (out of literally hundreds) Eurotrash classick is shot in noir-ish B&W and is a creepy little cinematic cocktail of Gothic horror, jazz/stripper nightclubs, sleazy sex and mad science.
SANTO AND BLUE DEMON VS. THE MONSTERS (1970) – along with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, this is my all-time favorite monster rally, Mexican style. They’re all here – Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, vampire babes, a mad doctor, zombie henchmen, an evil dwarf, and even a Cyclops thrown in for good measure – battling our luchador heroes (driving sports cars and dating go-go dancers) in vivid, saturated color.
FADE TO BLACK (1980) – Vernon Zimmerman’s bargain basement psycho-killer-thriller is an under-rated portrait of insanity, with Dennis Christopher superb as lonely loser/rabid film buff Eric Binford, who seeks out revenge against his “enemies” dressed up as his favorite movie characters, like Dracula, the Mummy, Hopalong Cassidy and James Cagney, all imaginatively staged. Linda Kerridge is outstanding as the Marilyn Monroe look-alike with whom Eric becomes obsessed, and young Mickey Rourke has an early supporting role as an ill-fated bully. The excellent soundtrack by Craig Sefan (Cheers) is finally available.
FEAR NO EVIL (1981) – 26-year-old Frank LaLoggia shot this unjustly neglected, atmospheric classic in Long Island, featuring demons, devil worship, zombies, a rare male nude shower scene, and an incredible punk rock soundtrack with the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and more, making it a crucial slice of early ‘80s cheese.
FLESH EATER (1988) – sure, we’ve all seen Night of the Living Dead, but you haven’t “lived’ till you’ve experienced this outrageously exploitative B rip-off written and directed by its star, H. William Hinzman, who was the original “zombie” (he’s the one staggering through Night’s opening graveyard scene, when the famous line “They’re coming to get your Barbara” was uttered).
THE DEAD PIT (1989) – Brett Leonard’s deliciously decadent grindhouse-zombie movie looks just like a re-animated EC comic book come to life, and shapely starlet Cheryl Lawson, running around an accursed insane asylum wearing nothing but a cut-off t-shirt and panties, should’ve had a long career as a scream queen, but instead she became a successful stuntwoman.
INNOCENT BLOOD (1992) – for my money, this unduly forgotten horror comedy from John Landis is right up there with his more celebrated 1981 classic An American Werewolf in London, offering a female vampire twist to the same basic formula, setting the action amid a gangster war in Pittsburgh. Foxy French femme fatale Anne Parillaud is slyly seductive as the sanguinary star, putting the bite on co-stars Anthony LaPaglia and Robert Loggia. Throw in some steamy sex and Sinatra on the soundtrack, and you’ve got yourself a bloody good B movie feast.
Happy Halloween, suckers.
Will “the Thrill” Viharo is a pulp fiction author and B Movie impresario.