Rentals of the Damned

In celebration of All Hallow’s Eve Month, Adam Clarke and Rodney Wall set out to write Blogowe’en, a chronicle of fantastic horror movies—one movie a day for a month. While the films on that list range from stuff you can find at Capitol to videos you can only acquire via the internet, here they’ve prepared a completely different list of overlooked horror movies which are all out on DVD and ready for all your Hallowe’en horror marathon needs.

Boo!

Black Sunday(1960)

Mario Bava’s directorial debut is a Gothic horror masterpiece. With gorgeous black and white photography and an iconic performance from Barbara Steele, this story of witch burning and the vengeful dead returning to life plays out like an old Universal picture, but with more violence and sexuality. The truth is that there are at least a half-dozen Bava films that rank as horror classics, but this is a great place to start. RW

The Call of Cthulhu (2005)

H.P. Lovecraft’s most famous short story was long considered unfilmable, but the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society (or HPLHS) proved otherwise. The group, which had grown out of live action gaming, spent a little over a year producing the movie—done in the style of a silent German Expressionist film. The decision to abandon realism allowed the filmmakers a lot of leeway to bring the story to the screen almost exactly as Lovecraft had written it. The result is magical. By the time Cthulhu himself shows up (in stop motion glory) even the most jaded viewer will be lost in wide-eyed insanity. RW

The Changeling (1980)

Veteran horror fans know that it’s a cold day in Hell when a Canadian horror film doesn’t suck green weenies, but this overlooked gem is terrifying. The premise is simple: George C. Scott just lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident and moves into a house, only to find it’s already occupied by the spirit of a murdered boy. Yet, with that simple premise, the film’s thoughtful script twists the ghost story conventions into something melancholy and very spooky. The boy isn’t connected to Scott’s character in any way, save the house, nor is the boy a harmful ghost trying to scare or harm him, despite doing plenty of the former. Ultimately Scott and the spirit deal with their losses and try to make do with their loneliness. AC

Exorcist III (1991)

Don’t harp ‘cuz it’s a sequel, because Exorcist author William Peter Blatty’s film is, in some ways, superior to the original, and is certainly the only Exorcist sequel worth your time. Based on Blatty’s novel, Legion, George C. Scott (again!) plays Kinderman, an avuncular detective investigating a series of murders that emulate the M.O. of long-dead mass-murderer James Venamon (Brad Dourif). Eventually, he finds the spirit of Venamon alive and well… in the undead body of father Damien Karras (Jason Miller, reprising his role from the first film).

With a verbose, striking script, unusual pacing and breath-taking direction, Blatty crafts a film that is complementary, but completely different from its predecessor. Though the film was re-edited and given a new ending—the original unseen ending was closer to the book—Exorcist III is undoubtedly one of the scariest and most underrated horror films of the last twenty years.

Watch for the hallway scene. You’ll know it when you see it. AC

Gojira (1954)

Most remember Gojira from its heavily-edited, dubbed version which added scenes of Raymond Burr for American audiences, which reduces an iconic and eerie masterpiece into an above-average monster romp. For decades, only bootleg copies were available of the uncut original, but Classic Media now offers a beautifully remastered version of this classic daikaiju eiga (“giant monster film”). The film can finally be seen for what it is: a creepy atomic bomb-fueled horror epic.

The film’s “man in suit” effects, mixed with claymation and some of the earliest animatronics used on film, are effective because of the stark, moody photography. Director Ishiro Honda creates some memorably nightmarish visuals—like the sight of Godzilla rising from the ocean and later when we briefly see him from the perspective of a panicking bird, fluttering helplessly in its cage. Honda’s camerawork is well met by the doom-laden music of Akira Ifukube—who would score 11 of the film’s 28 sequels—and an intelligent script that plays nicely off of still-resonant fears of war. AC

Ils (2006)

A French couple living in Romania find themselves terrorized by unknown assailants in the middle of the night. First chased from room to room in the large and isolated farm house they are renting, and finally outside and into the woods of the surrounding property. Ils pulls off a pretty neat trick—it maintains a constant level of tension for almost its entire running time, with almost no on screen violence. It becomes almost exhausting. RW

Raw Meat (1972)

The tragedy of contemporary horror films is that so few of them are about ideas—following the shift in focus from adult characters to goofy teens by the mid-80s. This film is no different, using the horror genre as window-dressing for a sly commentary on the English class system. Raw Meat (aka Deathline), stars Donald Pleasence (Halloween, Cul-de-Sac) as Inspector Calhoun—a working-class cop who despises the haughty accents and endless spending of the upper classes. This film is a real treat for anyone who likes variety in their horror films. While Gary Sherman’s (Dead & Buried) sparse direction is good for scares, Pleasence completely steals the show as the eccentric, acid-tongued, but smart copper investigating the disappearance of a cabinet minister. It’s hysterical to watch him chew out everyone in sight as they take it all in good humor, like everyone in England has had a run-in with the detective and they’ve grown used to it by now. The scene where he confronts snooty MI6er Christopher Lee, in particular, is downright incendiary and the perfect clash of two horror icons. AC

Night of the Demon (1957)

You believe in Satan, don’t you? Sure, everyone does. After all, if you deny his existence, a Satanist will conjure up a giant devil dog to tear you to pieces, because they enjoy that sort of thing. Such are the lessons learned in Jacques Tourneur’s film, sometimes titled Curse of the Demon, when a gruff scientist (Dana Andrews) rubs an oily Aleister Crowley-type the wrong way, he finds his skepticism put to a potentially fatal test. Tourneur (best known for the Cat People films) maintains suspense throughout as Andrews’ days grow shorter and stranger and he is forced to question logic. It also boasts one of the scariest creatures from all of black and white horror—a surprisingly well-done demon. The real star of the show is Neil MacGinnis, who plays the Satanist Karswell with such a child-like glee that it’s a shame to ever see him go… especially when he moonlights as a birthday clown. AC

Peeping Tom (1960)

A psychological British horror film about a disturbed young man who kills women, and films their final moments. It was released only a few months before Psycho, which it has much in common with, but received a lot of flack from critics for its violence and themes. Though the film bombed and just about destroyed director Michael Powell’s career, it’s now hailed as one of the best British films ever made. Watching it now, you’ll see a psychologically complicated thriller that explores the voyeurism of the main character, and also questions our motivations as an audience. RW

Wild Zero (2000)

If Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park actually ruled, it’d be this. Japanese punk rockers Guitar Wolf take on zombies, sleazy club owners, and even an alien invasion in this rock & roll horror comedy. With exploding heads, guitar-swords, an incredible soundtrack, and subversive sexuality, this is the kind of B-movie experience you pray for. Invite some friends over and have a steady supply of beer on hand. Remember: “LOVE KNOWS NO BORDERS, NATIONALITIES, OR GENDERS!” RW

Blogowe’en—31 days of the most fantastic horror movies you’ve never seen—can be found right here.

One comment

“Anything With Legs” by Banded Stilts

Former Human Soundtrack members Steve Haley and Brad Lannon have reunited to form Banded Stilts.

2 August 2011

  1. Adam Clarke · August 2, 2011

    Barbara Steele bears an unfortunate resemblance to late-period Michael Jackson in that poster.