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.
DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS (1971)
“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.
NEEDFUL THINGS (1993)
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?!
NEW NIGHTMARE (1994)
“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.
SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE (1982)
“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.