It's that time of year again when ghastly ghouls come out and play on All Hallows' Eve!
Therefore, in keeping with our annual tradition, here’s a selection of cinematic delights that will send shivers down your spine during the Witching Hour! Pleasant screams!
I SAW THE DEVIL. 2010.
Directed by Kim Jee-woon. Stars: Byung-hun Lee, Min-sik Choi.
Dirty Harry goes psycho! A detective’s fiancée is brutally murdered by a vicious psychopath, but after catching and torturing the villain, the hero lets him go to continue his reign of terror so he can continue his bizarre catch-and-release game inflicting his own brand of justice. All hell breaks loose in this morally ambiguous, grotesque serial killer/horror thriller. Great cinematography, heavy blood splattering and the memorable phrase the detective delivers, “I’m far from done.” make this not for the squeamish film a must-see.
THE OTHER. 1972.
Directed by Robert Mulligan. Stars: Uta Hagen, Diana Muldaur, John Ritter.
Truly one of the most disturbing psychological horror films ever made. Twins Hols and Nils - one good, the other evil - have a supernatural bond between them that turns sinister and dark. Lots of twists you won’t see coming, chilling moments, along with Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score really add to the film’s horror, along with an ambiguous ending leaving the viewer to decide.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND CATS. 1972.
Directed by René Cardona, Jr. Stars: Hugo Stiglitz, Anjanette Comer.
Pure over-the-top trash, but it's like watching a train wreck you’re so mesmerised by it. Noel Edmunds-lookalike millionaire Hugo flies around Acapulco picking up women in his helicopter (as you do). He later kills them in his Gothic castle, putting their heads on display, and feeding their remains to his cats with the help of creepy monk, Dorgo. Tension mounts when the beastly animals get loose and stalk their human prey. Too bad Torgo from Manos: Hands of Death and Dorgo couldn’t have made a film together. Our suggestion: get drunk before you watch it, it’ll be more fun.
SESSION 9. 2001.
Directed by Brad Anderson. Stars: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon and Paul Gulifoyle.
An asbestos cleaning crew take a job in an abandoned mental hospital with disastrous results in this psychological horror. Completely unpredictable, moody, and disturbing; some critics have labelled this film supernatural baloney. Supernatural perhaps - baloney, perhaps not.
X: THE UNKNOWN. 1956.
Directed by Leslie Norman. Stars: Dean Jagger, Leo McKern.
Science fiction horror at its best. Written for Hammer by their go-to scribe, Jimmy Sangster, this was to be the next instalment in the Quatermass series, but rights issues with Nigel Kneale prevented it. In the Scottish Highlands, a radioactive mass seeps up from the earth ready to destroy everything in its path. Enter American radiation scientist, Dr. Adam Royston (Jagger) to solve the problem. Taut pacing, melting bodies, moody, atmospheric cinematography, and a brilliant score by James Bernard add to this intense film. Watch for the terrifying scene in which a little girl is about to be devoured by the creeping blob. A true classic.
THE RETURN OF DRACULA. 1958.
Directed by Paul Landres. Stars: Francis Lederer, Norma Eberhardt, Ray Stricklyn.
Imagine Dracula in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. Hot on the vampire’s trail in Europe, Dracula makes his escape to California by killing a Hungarian passenger on a train and assuming his identity. Once there, he falls in love with a 17-year-old girl he wants as his bride! When local townspeople begin showing up with the blood drained from their bodies the game is on! The finale takes place at the famous Bronson Caves that includes a red colour-tinted sequence. Great camera work and a spooky atmosphere make this a forgotten gem. Lederer is terrific as the Count. Years later, he’d leave acting and become Mayor of Glendale where part of the film was shot. Lederer ended up living through three centuries living to 101 years old (1899-2000) almost like ol’ Drac himself.
THIS NIGHT I’LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE. 1967.
Directed by and starring Coffin Joe (José Mojica Marins).
Superior sequel to the earlier film, “At Midnight, I’ll Take Your Soul,” Coffin Joe is exonerated from his past crimes (shown during the credits) and seeks refuge in another town. He's still searching for the perfect woman to bear his offspring, with the help of his hunchback servant who resembles a creepy version of Jerry Lewis in The Bellboy. Several women are abducted and fail Joe’s 'tests', so the local colonel hires a thug and his gang to kill Joe. That proves to be most difficult as he’s damned to live eternally. When the ghosts of the women he’s killed appear to place a curse on him, they give him a glimpse of the afterlife via a descent into hell for his sins. A disturbing, surreal film shot in black and white and colour.
THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. 1971.
Directed by Piers Haggard. Stars: Patrick Wymark, Barry Andrews, Linda Hayden.
While ploughing a field, in rural 17th Century England, the skeletal remains of a creature covered in fur are discovered, believed to be Satan himself. Demonic possession begins to infiltrate and absorb the town's people with horrifying results. Enter the Judge to do battle with this ancient evil before it's too late. Filled with shocking scenes even for 1971, and a great music score this is one must see classic film!
Directed by Don Sharp. Stars: Lon Chaney, Jr, Jack Hedley. Yvette Rees and Jill Dixon.
Once again in the 17th Century, the Lanier family denounces Vanessa Whitlock (Rees) as a witch and buries her alive. Now, three hundred years later, the Laniers' are in the development business and bulldoze the Whitlock family cemetery, disturbing the grave of Vanessa who comes back for vengeance. Chaney, as the patriarch of the Whitlock coven, turns in one of his last great performances. Fog-shrouded graveyards and a spooky atmosphere enhance this supernatural version of Romeo and Juliet. A bit of trivia: there are 13 people in the cast; the same as a witch's coven and on its original release, a 'Witch Deflector' badge was given away to all ticket holders as part of the promotional ballyhoo.
THE BROOD. 1979.
Directed by David Cronenberg. Stars: Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar.
A truly terrifying film, and one of Cronenberg’s finest. Dr. Ragland (Reed) experiments with metaphysical treatment for disturbed people. Patient Nola (Eggar) reproduces in a most unsettling way too; violent mutant dwarves, that reek havoc on those she believes did her wrong, including her husband and young daughter. Creepy beyond belief.