For over a decade, my wife and I have had a tradition where I draft up a selection of horror films for Halloween viewing, and she picks one from each group: contemporary, classic, and cult, and I thought I’d share my suggestions this year.
Due to timing and circumstances, I provided our contemporary first yesterday, and now it’s time for classic and cult. This is cult! I’m also including some personal notes to provide context.
“While passing through a vacation resort, a newlywed couple encounters a mysterious, strikingly beautiful countess and her aide.”
A stylish, surreal cult queer vampire film, featuring the brilliant Delphine Seyrig.
A loosey-goosey adaptation of a mediocre Stephen King novel that’s stuck in my mind since I watched it many years ago, mostly because it’s extremely chaotic for King. It’s probably not quantifiably good, but it’s a lot of fun. Max von Sydow as the devil — what more could you want?!
“Proto-90s post-modern horror. I’d say SCREAM before Wes Craven’s SCREAM, but that infers that it’s a lesser film than SCREAM whereas I think it’s one of the smartest self-reflexive horror films ever made; it’s an author reckoning with the perils of creating a horror film franchise that spirals out of their control, while still being an absurdly entertaining, winking, surreal and horrifying film. Smartly shot and absolutely ruthlessly paced — every scene expertly blends into the next — it’s Wes Craven besting himself.
“A brilliant film, even if you haven’t seen prior NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, but so much better if you have.”
PROM NIGHT II: HELLO MARY LOU
The first PROM NIGHT is a pretty standard slasher, whereas PROM NIGHT II dodges into bonkers supernatural territory. It’s quite inventive — more like HELLRAISER — and lot of fun.
“MASSACRE was penned by Rita Mae Brown, a well-known feminist activist and writer, and Corman picked it up and gave it to Amy Holden Jones to direct, but only if she’d play it straight. It features wall-to-wall women, all more capable and unique than you’d normally see in a slasher film, and the film leans so heavily on the male gaze that it’s intentionally absurd, a sly way of gaining Corman’s approval while hoping others would recognize it as visually subversive.”
It’s a very smart, knowing, but also still fun, film which I find rare with slashers. You wouldn’t have SCREAM without it.
Trailer (warning: it’s very NSFW and gives everything away):
THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS (2013):
“Returning home from a business trip to discover his wife missing, a man delves deeper and deeper into a surreal kaleidoscope of half-baked leads, seduction, deceit, and murder. Does anyone in the building know something?”
Throwback giallo from the filmmakers of one of my recent favorite films: LET THE CORPSES TAN. One of those films I’ve listed in the past, but haven’t watched for myself because it’s too visually demanding.