We all know you get your nightmares on Elm Street, your shivers on Friday 13th and your screams from… well… Scream! But there are other manifestations of the scary stuff off the beaten track if you know which rock to turn over. Welcome to the Herald arts’ list of 13 unheralded horror movie classics, chosen by Steve Sutherland.
Unless otherwise stated films are available to watch online at Amazon – from £2.49
Director Robert Eggers takes us into the troubled heart of a family of religious fanatics exiled into the wilderness by of New England in the 1630’s by a Puritan colony. Infants go missing, things take a nasty turn, there’s something in the woods and say hi if you dare, to Black Phillip, the handsome Satanic billy goat and the horror pin-up of 2015.
2 IDLE HANDS
This 1999 black comedy, directed by Rodman Flender, is a true hidden gem about a lad whose hands appear to be murderously possessed. Don’t want to give too much away but the great Seth Green gets it in the neck.
3 THE THING
John Carpenter is, of course, a total horror maestro, most famous for 1978’s slasher classic Halloween. 1982’s The Thing’s way scarier though, Kurt Russell and a crew of scientific researchers marooned in Antarctica and hounded by some malignant Alien-esque force. The Fog (1980) is a spine-tingler too.
Also known as Hausu, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 Japanese comedy horror is a dark, magical tale about a class of schoolgirls visiting a strange aunt’s remote house where things take a vampiric turn, a cat gets the evils and a piano develops a mighty gruesome appetite.
5 THE LIGHTHOUSE
Another creeper from The Witch director Robert Eggers about two blokes – an old salty dog played by Willem Defoe and a rookie played by Robert Pattinson – working a remote lighthouse in the late 19th century off the coast of New England. This one came out late last year, it’s all in black and white, and it’s very, very slow and eerie. Avoid the one-eyed seagull at all costs.
6 JACOB’S LADDER
Director Adrian Lyne’s unsettling 1990 psychodrama stars Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet who may, or may not, have been affected by chemical warfare. The bits with his son, played by Macaulay Culkin, are heartbreaking.
7 TRICK ‘R TREAT
A gripping anthology full of twists and turns, director Michael Dougherty’s 2007 celebration of All Hallows Eve centres around Sam, a sort of animated pumpkin creature with a sack for a head, who revels in punishing those who don’t respect the annual dark traditions. Lots of kids get offed. Big fun.
8 THE HITCHER
They don’t come any creepier than Rutger Hauer’s psychopath, seemingly motiveless in his pursuit of victims along the lonesome West Texas highways in Robert Harmon’s 1986 thriller-chiller. Ignored at the time of its release, now revered as a classic.
Watch on DVD. The 2007 Sean Bean remake’s on Amazon but avoid. It’s crap.
9 SERIAL MOM
The sweetest psycho in horror movie history, the great Kathleen Turner plays the mother who tends to over-react to the slightest slight in this 1994 hoot of a horror from that most dapper and wondrous of writer/directors, the one and only John Waters.
Criminally unavailable online. Watch on DVD.
10 THEATRE OF BLOOD
Especially pertinent to Stratfordians, Douglas Hickox’s Theatre Of Blood (1973) stars Vincent Price at his most deranged and suave as a Shakespearean actor who takes revenge on his critics by knocking them off, one by one, painstakingly mimicking murder scenes from the Bard. Also stars the recently departed and truly fantastic Diana Rigg (with a moustache!)
11 THE DEAD DON’T DIE
Zombie chuckles aplenty courtesy of Jim Jarmusch’s 2019 all-star slaughterfest featuring Iggy Pop, Steve Buschemi, RZA, Adam Driver, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Tom Waits et al. It’s all the fault of tracking apparently. Droll and delightful.
12 SUMMER OF SAM
Spike Lee’s 1999 creepy crime thriller centres around New York’s terror as David Berkowitz, alias The Son Of Sam, goes on a spree throughout the city, murdering courting couples. There’s punk rock, talking hell hounds and a wonderful turn by Ben Gazzara as a Mafia boss and John Leguizamo as a Travolta-esue disco king.
13 ASH VS THE EVIL DEAD
Not strictly a movie but no halloween is complete without a binge-watch of the three seasons of Sam Raimi’s Ash Vs The Evil Dead starring, of course, the ultimate hour hero Bruce Campbell. The action kicks in post the famous Evil Dead movies and is bursting with sick gags, comic beheadings, weird incantations and zombiefied neighbours. Absolutely gore-ious!
And this year’s bonus shocker on the block…
Dumb and then somewhat dumber, Adam Sandler’s new scary spoof is this Halloween’s hoot and a half, replete with speech impediments, Steve Buschemi and Hubie‘s dear old mom who has a penchant for inappropriately sloganed T-shirts. Top jinks for all sans movie snobs. Available on Netflix.