Deep Cuts: 7 Hidden Gems of Horror for Halloween
Published Oct 27, 2015October means horror movies. Sure, you can rewatch the usual faves (and by all means, you should) but a Halloween movie marathon, whether on the 31st or lasting all month, deserves deeper cuts. Fortunately, the genre has plenty of 'em. (And before some of you are all "Prom Night 2 isn't a forgotten gem" — well, outside of you, me, and a handful of horror nerds, it totally is). In fact, the world of horror flicks is a seemingly endless abyss of the strange and obscure. Here are just a few outsider gems, though don't worry — you should be able to actually find these with a little bit of hunting.
Tourist Trap (1979):
This one never fails to give the heebie jeebies. Maybe it's the haunted puppets and human-sized marionettes. Yeah, it probably is. The movie's tag is "Every year, young people disappear," which is the sort of truism nobody wants to think about, particularly when it's unconsciously followed by the thought, "and they usually die." Don't let the fact that it comes from producer Charles Band's ultra low-rent Empire Pictures scare you off (though he did produce the classic Re-Animator) – there's some goofy shit in it, of course, but this is one of those rare cult flicks that retains its rare unnerving quality. Bonus scary puppet movie: 1988's underrated Pin, "A Plastic Nightmare" according to the film's poster, about an incest-y brother and sister pair and their eloquent best pal, an anatomy doll that drives them to madness and murder.
Don't Go In The House (1979):
One of Quentin Tarantino's favourite slashers, and worth hunting down. The plot is largely nonsensical: nutcase with mommy issues lures women back to his house where he toasts them with a flamethrower. Like that nasty Canuxploitation classic Deranged, it has that particular culty, dirty look so inimical to the late '70s and early '80s, like the film's set decorators unearthed rotten corpses and stuck them in the abandoned house down the road.
Witchfinder General (1968):
After making a couple of distinctive genre flicks (be sure to also check out the paranoid Boris Karloff-starring thriller The Sorcerers) director Michael Reeves died too young from a drug overdose. Witchfinder General, his last film, acts as both an antecedent to violent and hallucinogenic genre flicks, and the best Vincent Price flick not hampered by old-timey PG thrills. Price stars as a sadist wandering the English countryside hunting and killing witches. Unlike the typical Price shlock, this one has a druggier aesthetic closer to American flicks of its time, without skimping on the old ultraviolence.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987):
The first flick, featuring a young Jamie Lee Curtis in full disco mode, is a solid, quintessential '80s slasher. But the sorta-connected sequel is way nastier, with a vengeful, supernatural sprit (in the form of a horribly burned prom queen) taking sweet revenge on a graduating class full of obnoxious Canadians. Adding to the horror, it was shot on location in Edmonton.
The Prowler (1981):
Director Joseph Zito is the patron saint of '80s awesomeness: Missing in Action, Invasion U.S.A., Red Scorpion and most everyone's favourite Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter. He's a god. Anyway, every Halloween needs a great slasher, and The Prowler is one of the most vicious ever made. A basic tale of revenge-via-pitchfork (and shotgun, and knife) with some of gore-wizard Tom Savini's disgustingly best special effects.
Maniac Cop 2 (1990):
I'm amazed this came out in 1990 – it has that forgotten look of New York sleaze and unabashed violence that belongs to the '80s. (And to director William Lustig, whose Maniac remains one of the most disturbing slashers of all time.) Really, all three Maniac Cop movies are worth checking out (makes for a nifty triple feature), but 2 opens with a quick prologue that quickly summarizes the first film, so feel free to skip right to it. Maniac Cop 2 is one of the best horror action flicks ever made, with loads of truly dangerous stunts, gore, and character actors (Bruce Campbell, Robert Davi). Bonus favourite sequel runner-up: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch. Jettisoning Michael Myers altogether, someone thought a screwy plot involving Stonehenge and a plan to murder countless children was a good idea. It was, and also has one of the best synth soundtracks of all time.
The Funhouse (1981):
Scream Factory released a nifty Blu-ray of this monster flick a couple of years ago, one of Tobe Hooper's little-watched efforts that's not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Borrowing liberally from Brian de Palma-style suspense, classic monster tropes and cheap '80s thrills, Hooper gets a lot of mileage out of a creepy carnival. And where outside of your dirty, dirty fantasies can you watch someone in a Frankenstein mask get a handjob?