It’s that time of year again when ghosts and ghoulies make our spines shiver and shake, and creepy crawly things go bump in the night. Here’s a selection of horror films that’s certain to shake, rattle and roll the bones in the graveyard! Pleasant screams...
DEAD OF NIGHT (1945)
Starring: Michael Redgrave, Ronald Culver, Mervyn Johns, Sally Ann Howe, Anthony Baird, Googie Withers and Frederick Valk.
The grand daddy of all horror anthology films. Guests arrive at a cottage in the country and each one tells a tale of supernatural terror. Are they simply imaginative or is there more to it? Spooky and scary, each one gets better and better with the 'Ventriloquist’s Dummy' segment being the eeriest!
THE QUEEN OF SPADES (1949)
Starring: Anton Walbrook, Edith Evans and Yvonne Mitchell.
Based on a story by Alexander Pushkin, The Queen of Spades tells the story of an elderly countess who sells her soul to the devil for the secret of winning at the game of faro. A young army captain, in financial trouble, learns of her secret and forces it out of her, leading to her murder. The captain’s luck begins to change for the better, but there’s a supernatural price to pay for it. One of the greatest horror films ever made.
Starring: Robert Culp, Gig Young, Ann Bell, John Hurt, Gordon Jackson.
Co-written by Gene Roddenberry as a proposed series, this film is a great version of a supernatural 'Holmes and Watson' type duo dealing with matters of the occult. The effervescent Culp steals the show as the ultra cool sleuth and expert on the occult, as Young counter balances him with his grounded look on reality. A rich and beautiful woman hires them to find out what happened to her brother, who has undergone a strange change in personality after uncovering a Stonehenge type area known as the Fire Pit, reportedly a sacrificial site for the Demon Asmodious.
SATAN’S TRIANGLE (1975)
Starring: Doug McClure, Kim Novack, Jim Davis and Alejandro Ray.
An SOS from a schooner is answered by a Coast Guard helicopter in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. During the attempt to rescue the lone survivor, a woman, the rescue basket breaks and she falls into the ocean along with the pilot. They swim back to the boat as the co-pilot informs them he’s low on fuel and must head back to base. On board, he discovers four grisly murders that even includes a body floating in mid air! The woman explains that their deaths were caused by supernatural events, the pilot, however, has a rational explanation for each of them. But, in Satan’s Triangle, things are not what they seem to be. It’s a suspenseful, well thought out horror film not to be missed.
THE NORLISS TAPES (1973)
Starring: Roy Thinness, Angie Dickenson, Hurd Hatfield.
Another pilot that never made it to series created by Dan Curtis ofThe Night Stalker/Dark Shadows fame and written by William F. Nolan. A publisher discovers the personal tapes of a missing author (the Norliss of the title) that lead to involvement with voodoo worshippers and the living dead. Filmed in Big Sur, California the foggy mist and eerie score add to the atmosphere of this scary film.
HORROR AT 37,00 FEET (1973)
Starring: William Shatner, Buddy Ebsen, Roy Thinness, Lynn Loring, Chuck Connors, Paul Winfield, France Nuyen, Russell Johnson, Will Hutchins, H.M. Wynant and Tammy Grimes. With one look at the cast for this '70s horror you know you’re in for a treat! An altar from an ancient abbey (secured in the cargo hold of a 747 headed to the States from the UK) begins to unleash demonic forces aboard the plane. You don’t see the supernatural creatures at first only hearing their eerie noises that builds tension in this creepy film. One could argue that this is Airport with demons, but it’s a very effective thriller, especially when some of the passengers want to give up a little girl to appease the demons as a sacrifice and when Tammy Grimes’ dog turns into a pupscicle, courtesy of the unearthly monsters, well that’s worth the price of admission alone!
WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (aka ISLAND OF THE DAMNED) (1978)
Starring: Lewis Flander, Prunella Ransoms.
An English couple visit a local island off the coast of Spain, that the husband remembers from his childhood, only to discover that all the adults have disappeared and its only inhabitants are children that seem possessed. Soon, the couple are on the run for their lives as what adults are left are tortured and killed for sport - there's a human piñata scene that is pretty grim. The director’s cut is worth seeking out as it contains an additional twenty minutes plus a sub-plot about the children, who were actually victims of Franco’s regime of terror.
JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981)
Starring: George Kennedy, Chris Lemmon, Deborah Benson, Greg Henry and Mike Kellin. Deliverance meets The Hills Have Eyes. Five campers decide to spend the night in a rural mountain area, despite the warnings of a forest ranger and a crazy mountain man that there ‘s a machete wielding maniac lose. Why don’t people listen? Still, it’s an effective horror/thriller with lots of memorable moments. Creepy, atmospheric and certainly one of the best slasher films ever made.
MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973)
Starring: Micahel Greer, Marianna Hill, Anitra Ford, Royal Dano, Joy Bang, Charlie Dierkop, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Walter Hill (yes, DIRECTOR Walter Hill!).
A woman decides to seek out her estranged father at a quiet, seaside town (actually Point Dune, California). However once there she discovers a series of horrors before the local townspeople are slowly turned into flesh eating vampire/zombies when the blood moon rises signalling the return of the evil Messiah. A bizarre movie, shot on a shoestring budget, this is one strange and surreal overlooked gem!
EL VAMPIRO (1957)
Starring: Abel Salazar, German Robles, Arianda Welter.
In the '50s and '60s, Azteca Productions from Mexico produced some of the best, haunting, imaginative, atmospheric movies, sort of a cross between Universal’s monster films and Hammer with a dose of Roger Corman thrown in. A young girl travels with a doctor to a mansion where one of her aunt’s has mysteriously died while the other is beautiful and healthy. It turns out that there’s a vampire loose by the name of Count de Lavud that’s causing all the trouble and it's up to the hero, Dr. Enrique to stop him before the beautiful, Marta is his next meal ticket! The cinematography is worth watching this film alone and the creepy music enhances every scene.
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