Entries Tagged 'SHOCKtober 2020' ↓

SHOCKtober: The Wrap-up-ening

I am positively riddled with election anxiety! So what better way to cope than to distract myself by reliving the glory of SHOCKtober 2020 for a brief moment. It seems to me, it lived its life like a series of blog posts in the wind. 

Anyway. It was great, though, wasn't it? That's because of all-a-y'all voters, who inundated my eyeballs with movie after movie. Almost 1000 movies! It wore my fingers down so much that I am now typing with bony nubs, which, believe me, is not as hot as it sounds. 

But you know what is as hot as it sounds? Comparing and contrasting! I've done this reader poll thang three times, so let's see hw it all stacks up.

Total movies on the list: 951 (2020) / 632 (2017) / 732 (2010)

In 2017, 78 post-2010 movies made the list. In 2020, 193 post-2010 movies made the list. As suspected, tastes are skewing towards the new more than they used to...I think this is partially due to the way we consume movies now, some films of yore have been reassessed (and ultimately have risen or fallen in the hearts and minds of viewers), and also hey, horror movies have been in a pretty damn good place for the last 5 years or so. And audience and filmmaker demographics have shifted, too--or at least previously underrepresented demographics are being heard and seen now. There's great variety in the genre these days, and the canon ain't totally hogging the spotlight anymore. This is all very evident in the way the Top 20s have shifted over the years:

20. 2020: The Haunting 
      2017: Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
      2010: Carrie

19. 2020: Candyman 
      2017: Scream
      2010: Black Christmas

18. 2020: Carrie
      2017: The Fog
      2010: The Return of the Living Dead

17. 2020: The Exorcist
      2017: The Blair Witch Project
      2010: An American Werewolf in London

16. 2020: Midsommar
      2017: Psycho
      2010: Scream

15. 2020: A Nightmare on Elm Street
      2017: It Follows 
      2010: Evil Dead II

14. 2020: Suspiria (1977)
      2017: Rosemary's Baby
      2010: Jaws

13. 2020: Hereditary
      2017: Jaws
      2010: The Evil Dead

12. 2020: Rosemary's Baby
      2017: Suspiria (1977)
      2010: Alien

11. 2020: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2017: The Descent
      2010: Psycho

10. 2020: The Blair Witch Project
      2017: Carrie
      2010: The Descent

  9. 2020: Scream
      2017: Black Christmas
      2010: A Nightmare on Elm Street

  8. 2020: Black Christmas
      2017: Night of the Living Dead
      2010: Suspiria (1977)

  7. 2020: The Descent
      2017: Dawn of the Dead
      2010: Dawn of the Dead

  6. 2020: Alien
      2017: Alien
      2010: Night of the Living Dead

  5. 2020: The Shining
      2017: The Shining
      2010: The Shining

  4. 2020: Halloween
      2017: The Exorcist
      2010: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

  3. 2020: The Witch
      2017: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
      2010: The Exorcist

  2. 2020: The Thing
      2017: The Thing
      2010: The Thing

  1. 2020: Suspiria (2018)
      2017: Halloween
      2010: Halloween

I know Suspiria taking the top spot this year is the big shocker, but it's wild to see how different 2020 and 2010 are. Although I know my 2020 faves aren't all the same as my 2010 faves, so I shouldn't be that surprised, I guess. Also the fact that The Shining always takes the #5 spot and The Thing always takes #2 is freaking me out!

I'm definitely curious to see how the newer movies fare the next time I put out the call for lists. Will Suspiria still rank high, or is it merely a passing fad, like a pet rock or American democracy? Will Halloween reclaim its top spot, or drop even farther down the rankings? Will a movie starring Tracey Gold ever make it to the list? Will The Thing and The Shining be forever #2 and #5 in our hearts?

Ah, but those are questions to be answered another time. A question to be answered now, however, is: Would you like a free downloadable PDF of this year's mighty list that includes YOUR faves and all the special guest faves? If YES, head right over to the Gaylords of Darkness website and getcherself one! If NO, then FINE. Also! A kind and diligent reader compiled the madness into a list on Letterboxd! Go check it out if you're a Letterboxd aficionado. Or even if you're not! The point of all this is we should always remember to make every tober a SHOCKtober!

SHOCKtober: 10-1

Here it is, the post the entire world* has been waiting for, your top 10 favorite horror films for 2020! Brace yourselves and remember always: the number in bold is the number of votes received.

*six people

10. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez) -- 52

9. SCREAM (1996, Wes Craven) -- 57

8. BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974, Bob Clark) -- 62

7. THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall) -- 62

6. ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott) -- 63

5. THE SHINING (1980, Stanley Kubrick) -- 64

4. HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter) -- 72

3. THE WITCH (2015, Robert Eggers) -- 76

2. THE THING (1982, John Carpenter) -- 78

1. SUSPIRIA (208, Luca Guadagnino) -- 85

  • I AM AS SHOCKED AS YOU ARE. When I announced SHOCKtober 2020, I wondered if The Thing, the perennial #2 film, would finally supplant Halloween in the hallowed top spot. The votes for Suspiria '18 started coming in and I thought hooray, it's getting a lot of votes! I had a nice chuckle--sometimes, even, a chortle--whenever some variation of "the 1977 one, sorry, don't hate me" was added to a vote for Dario Argento's Suspiria. And finally, when all was tallied up, my eyes fell out of my head. I am equally surprised that The Witch copped the #3 spot and Halloween dropped all the way to #4. As for The Thing...hey, maybe 2025 will be its year!
  • "Someday," says a reader about The Shining, "I will knit myself an Apollo 11 sweater and it will be perfect. Or one for my cat, because cat sweaters are smaller, and I have a short attention span."
  • On The Descent, a reader shared: "It generated so much debate with my friends « was she right to strike her friend with the climbing axe ?? Â». (I think she was and my friends think I’m a bit spiteful and shady since.)"
  • Well, that's that. SHOCKtober is officially SHOCKtover! On Monday I'll be back with a wee wrap-up / reckoning, including, I hope, a downloadable mega-list for your reference, scrapbook, archive, family history, time capsule, etc. etc. This list wouldn't be nuthin' without your votes, so thanks to all who voted! And it wouldn't be as much fun without all the comments and discussion, so thanks for all that too.

SHOCKtober: 20-11

Here we are at le Top 20. This is a thrill! It's like a Royal Rumble of genre classics both ye olde and ye newe. Let's see how the spandex shakes out! (?)

Number of votes each film received is written in ye bolde. Some of these are a tie! Please, should you have it, resist the pedantic urge to say "How can two movies with the same number of votes be ranked differently?" because this was explained at SHOCKtober's outset and also because I do not care!

20. THE HAUNTING (1963, Robert Wise) -- 39

19. CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose) -- 42

18. CARRIE (1976, Brian De Palma) -- 42

17. THE EXORCIST (1973, William Friedkin) -- 42

16. MIDSOMMAR (2019, Ari Aster) -- 45

15. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984, Wes Craven) -- 45

14. SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento) -- 46

13. HEREDITARY (2018, Ari Aster) -- 50

12. ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968, Roman Polanski) -- 50

11. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper) -- 51

  • Wowzee wow, Ari Aster's two films--two films that didn't exist the last time I ran this grand experiment--in the Top 20! Love 'em or do not love 'em, there's no denying they've made a huge impact on the genre.
  • Of A Nightmare on Elm Street, a reader says: "I propose that Ronee Blakely gives the best drunken Kabuki performance since Dunaway in Mommie Dearest." Seconded, motion passes.
  • See you tomorrow for the Top 10! I know it's very exciting, but try to get some sleep.

SHOCKtober: 55-21

We've got 900 movies in the rearview which doesn't seem possible. I am not sure where this month has gone, but who cares! It's time to crack that Top 50, baby!

The number in bold is the number of votes received.

55. Carnival of Souls -- 1962, Herk Harvey -- 16
54. The Innocents -- 1961, Jack Clayton -- 16
53. Train to Busan -- 2016, Sang-ho Yeon -- 16
52. Friday the 13th -- 1980, Sean S. Cunningham -- 17
51. The Fly -- 1986, David Cronenberg -- 17
50. Creepshow -- 1982, George A. Romero -- 18
49. Session 9 -- 2001, Brad Anderson -- 18
48. The Birds -- 1963, Alfred Hitchcock -- 18
47. Don't Look Now -- 1973, Nicolas Roeg -- 19
46. Hausu (aka House) -- 1977, Nobuhiko Ôbayashi -- 19
45. Ginger Snaps -- 2000, John Fawcett -- 20
44. The Lost Boys -- 1987, Joel Schumacher -- 20
43. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors -- 1987, Chuck Russell -- 21
42. 28 Days Later... -- 2002, Danny Boyle -- 22
41. Fright Night -- 1985, Tom Holland -- 23
40. Sleepaway Camp -- 1983, Robert Hiltzik -- 24
39. The Cabin in the Woods -- 2011, Drew Goddard -- 24
38. Evil Dead II -- 1987, Sam Raimi -- 25
37. Dawn of the Dead -- 1978, George A. Romero -- 26
36. An American Werewolf in London -- 1981, John Landis -- 27
35. Hellraiser -- 1987, Clive Barker -- 27
34. Jaws -- 1975, Steven Spielberg -- 27
33. Poltergeist -- 1982, Tobe Hooper -- 27
32. Trick 'r Treat -- 2007, Michael Dougherty -- 27
31. Let the Right One In -- 2008, Tomas Alfredson -- 29
30. Psycho -- 1960, Alfred Hitchcock -- 29
29. The Return of the Living Dead -- 1985, Dan O'Bannon -- 29
28. The Evil Dead -- 1981, Sam Raimi -- 30
27. Get Out -- 2017, Jordan Peele -- 31
26. The Fog -- 1980, John Carpenter -- 31
25. The House of the Devil -- 2009, Ti West -- 31
24. It Follows -- 2014, David Robert Mitchell -- 32
23. The Silence of the Lambs -- 1991, Jonathan Demme -- 32
22. The Wicker Man -- 1973, Robin Hardy -- 32
21. Night of the Living Dead -- 1968, George A. Romero -- 39

  • To one degree or another, I like every movie on this chunk o' list! I know, who cares. I am just saying!
  • Of Hellraiser, a reader says: "It’s fucked and Ashley Laurence and Clare Higgins are giving their all. Plus Pinhead is strangely hot? Idk!!!"
  • See you tomorrow when we begin counting down your Top 20!

FAVE 20: Final Mom

If you've been around this old haunt then you know that I hail from a horror-loving family. Creature Double Feature, MonsterVision, Movie Macabre, Hammer horror, Fangoria, Famous Monsters, and of course countless trips to the drive-in and video store horror section were a way of life around Chez Ponder. I know mom's still watching horror movies like crazy, because whenever we talk she fills me in on whatever gonzo gorefest she's recently seen.

As for her list, she said "I totally agonized over this because I love so many movies, but I settled on these." Everyone who participated in this grand experiment knows that pain! It's true, what US Magazine says: Stars...they're just like us!

DRACULA (1958, Terence Fisher)

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966, Terence Fisher)

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968, George A. Romero)

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978, George A. Romero)

THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall)

DOG SOLDIERS (2002, Neil Marshall)

CANDYMAN (1992, Bernard Rose)

HALLOWEEN (1978, John Carpenter)

JU-ON: THE GRUDGE (2002, Takashi Shimizu)

RINGU (1998, Hideo Nakata)

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

PITCH BLACK (2000, David Twohy)

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)

JAWS (1975, Steven Spielberg)

SUSPIRIA (1977, Dario Argento)

DEMONS (1985, Lamberto Bava)

COLD PREY (2006, Roar Uthaug)


MAYHEM (2017, Joe Lynch)

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (2017, Shin'ichirô Ueda)


So! You might remember me giving Mats Strandberg's Blood Cruise the ol' (HIGHLY COVETED, TRUST ME) Final Girl stomp (typo that stays) of approval the other day when I posted the list of his 20 favorite horror movies.

Well guess what? To celebrate the book's US release and SHOCKtober, I've got three copies to give away! If you're a US resident who wants to get your mitts and eyeballs on this very bloody vampires infest a booze cruise saga, all you have to do is drop a comment on my Instagram post about this before Monday. I'll pick three winners! I mean, you're all winners...it's just that three of you will win a copy of this terrific book. Good luck!

SHOCKtober: 93-56

No one can stop the mighty SHOCKtobra as she makes her way to that top spot. It is her will, and her will is our will. All hail SHOCKtobra.

The following films received...

Ten votes each!

93. April Fool's Day -- 1986, Fred Walton
92. Bride of Frankenstein -- 1935, James Whale
91. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II -- 1987, Bruce Pittman
90. Nosferatu -- 1922, F.W. Murnau
89. The Autopsy of Jane Doe -- 2016, André Øvredal
88. The Conjuring -- 2013, James Wan
87. The Final Girls -- 2015, Todd Strauss-Schulson
86. The Innkeepers -- 2011, Ti West
85. You're Next -- 2011, Adam Wingard

Eleven votes each!

84. Cat People -- 1942, Jacques Tourneur
83. Prince of Darkness -- 1987, John Carpenter
82. [REC] -- 2007, Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
81. The Slumber Party Massacre -- 1982, Amy Holden Jones
80. The Others -- 2001, Alejandro Amenábar

Twelve votes each!

79. Audition -- 1999, Takashi Miike
78. Drag Me to Hell -- 2009, Sam Raimi
77. Let's Scare Jessica to Death -- 1971, John D. Hancock
76. Near Dark -- 1987, Kathryn Bigelow
75. Possession -- 1981, Andrzej Zulawski
74. The Babadook -- 2014, Jennifer Kent
73. The Brood -- 1979, David Cronenberg
72. The Ring -- 2002, Gore Verbinski
71. Us -- 2019, Jordan Peele

Thirteen votes each!

70. Dracula -- 1992, Francis Ford Coppola
69. Martyrs -- 2008, Pascal Laugier
68. Night of the Demons -- 1988, Kevin Tenney
67. Ringu -- 1998, Hideo Nakata
66. The Exorcist III -- 1990, William Peter Blatty

Fourteen votes each!

65. Event Horizon -- 1997, Paul W.S. Anderson
64. Halloween III: Season of the Witch -- 1982, Tommy Lee Wallace
63. Jennifer's Body -- 2009, Karyn Kusama

Fifteen votes each!

62. Deep Red (aka Profondo rosso) -- 1975, Dario Argento
61. Demons -- 1985, Lamberto Bava
60. Eyes Without a Face -- 1960, Georges Franju
59. Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- 1978, Philip Kaufman
58. Phantasm -- 1979, Don Coscarelli
57. The Beyond -- 1981, Lucio Fulci
56. The Changeling -- 1980, Peter Medak

  • Hooray, horror movies!

FAVE 20: Danielle Riendeau

In the five minutes per day when she isn't teaching or grappling or helping folks as an EMT or running the show and writing and podcasting over at FanByte, Danielle Riendeau is probably writing about and/or watching a horror movie. (I don't want to brag, but in the five minutes per day when I'm not staring at a wall, I'm probably making a sandwich or thinking about making a sandwich, so.) She's all, like, smart about this kind of stuff, as anyone who's read her work at various outlets over the years, such as Vice and Polygon. She was kind enough to join me at the NYC premiere of Midsommar, where we endured the icy glares of PR folks (both for arriving at the venue too early but entering the theatre almost too late), and for sharing her 20 faves with all of us! A real stand-up gal. (I mean that literally--I don't think she ever sits down.)


This makes my list on the strength of the visual design -- I’m a huge sucker for depictions of hell, particularly if they go to these lengths, plus the deepening lore about the cenobites. It’s not the best movie, or the best movie on this list, but it really goes there, in so many ways, and I have to show love for that.

US (2019, Jordan Peele)

Us haunts me. I think that Get Out is the more important horror movie in Jordan Peele’s so-far-flawless oeuvre, but Us gets my nerves going, a tale of doppelgängers and oppression and oddity that is by turns extremely funny and extremely disturbing.

THE FOG (1980, John Carpenter)

Of all the underrated Carpenter films, this may be the most underrated. It’s just so moody and creepy and rich, a sort of Jaws on quaaludes experience. It also features pirate ghosts and Adrienne Barbeau in a lighthouse, things I never knew I needed until I saw them.

TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016, Sang-ho Yeon)

This is just a ridiculously well-done zombie movie, using the literal and figurative tightness of a single location, well-drawn characters, and a genuinely sad and affecting ending so, so well.

UNDER THE SKIN (2013, Jonathan Glazer)

There’s something just delicious and cold and terrifying about Under The Skin, a treatise on what it is to be alien vs. human, that I find irresistible. The sound design is haunting and unforgettable, as is the inherent inhumanity (groping, maybe, towards humanity) of its central character.

THE BABADOOK (2014, Jennifer Kent)

I’ve only seen The Babadook once. I don’t know if I strictly need to see it again, because it scared the utter bejesus out of me, but it also stuck. I mean, really stuck. Some of its lessons about abuse and trauma and grief -- especially the practice of living with grief and never getting over it (the ending is, IMO, one of the most brilliant and poignant in the genre).

ALIENS (1986, James Cameron)

Aliens once, memorably, freaked me out so much when I was watching it as a teenager that I hid behind the couch. It’s nowhere near the masterpiece that the original is, IMO, but it’s great, scary sci-fi that punches up pretty reliably at good old toxic masculinity and corporate malfeasance, so it has a nice, special place in my heart. Plus, it’s one of my mom’s favorite movies and was instrumental in my own falling in love with the genre.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1995, John Carpenter)

Another wildly underrated Carpenter film (of course, in his end of the world trilogy) and just a wonderful tour de force of reality-bending horror complete with Sam Neill, weird creepy New England at its weird creepy best, and a favorite trope, fiction-turns-reality. Plus, a depiction of hell/chaos!

ALIEN 3 (1992, David Fincher)

This is the darker, bleaker, weirder Alien movie before the franchise went all the way to camp, and then back to doofy blockbuster (and then to Hammer Horror, but, somehow, with less subtlety). I think it may be the scariest Alien film, not just for the threat of the creatures but for the threat of desolation and misery that the prison camp promises.

HEREDITARY (2018, Ari Aster)

I think this might be the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. Something about the nauseating intensity of loss and family trauma goes right to my lizard brain and makes me want to run screaming from the screen. I watched Hereditary in theaters, with my hands over my eyes for some of its tensest moments, but I still feel like every frame has been burned into my memory. The other element that makes Ari Aster’s feature debut so chilling is the sheer inevitability of every event. It doesn’t matter what Toni Collette’s grieving Annie does, really, or what she’s willing to do, everything is going to go very, very wrong for her and her whole family. That’s TERRIFYING to me.

PULSE (aka KAIRO, 2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

Pulse is a little long, but its quietly pervasive terror is hard to beat. There are some shots in this film that will haunt me forever, and the themes on loneliness and disconnection and dissonance hit me where it hurts. Like great horror should.

THE HUNGER (1983, Tony Scott)

For a long time, when I was a much younger woman, renting this movie AT A VIDEO STORE and bringing it on a date was my party trick. It’s a gorgeous, luscious, totally queer vampire movie starring Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and David *fucking* Bowie, and it features one of the most inexplicably arty (and hot) love scenes of the early 80s.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987, John Carpenter)

Another underrated Carpenter classic, this is just a buckwild creature feature that mashed up religious iconography with movie science, and tons of truly wild effects and a genuinely unsettling and creepy plot.

THE FLY (1986, David Cronenberg)

Of all the classic Cronenberg body horror, The Fly is the most intense and the saddest. It may also be the most timeless. I loooove Videodrome, for example, but it’s milder-than-first-draft filmed ending and the sheer douche factor of both James Woods and his character push it further down the list. But The Fly is unimpeachable. It’s the story of a (really hot) scientist who flies too close to the sun, sure, but it’s tragic. He never tried to hurt anyone, only experimenting on himself. He does, genuinely, want to benefit humanity with his invention. But he falls to a horrific (and truly disgusting) mutation, in the process showing just how messed up we all are, what with our fragile bodies and nasty diseases and all the horrible things that can go wrong. Body horror is one of the main reasons I love horror, since it’s — at its very core — honest about these awful truths. And The Fly is one of the very best.

DARK CITY (1998, Alex Proyas)

This may not grace all that many horror lists, but it plays enough in the territory to count, and it’s good enough to hold this high a place on my list. It’s dark, beautiful, deeply sympathetic sci-fi/noir with enough pure horror shots (think of the creepy aliens and their reality-bending machine!) to give me a few delicious nightmares. It’s a film that’s concerned with reality and the matter-bending, memory-twisting slipperiness of it all, and it really kind of deserves to be mentioned every time someone calls out “Remember The Matrix?” for doing this particular blend of mind-fuckery a good deal better.

EVENT HORIZON (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)

This is an all-time favorite film of mine, a scary, spooky, sci-fi horror cult classic with a near-perfect cast and a wonderfully unhinged plot. I’m such a sucker for “space crew deals with the unknown, gets asses kicked in weirdo ways,” as you can see from the rest of this list, and few other movies do it with such a delicious dash of 90s camp. It also has an incredible cast and buckwild production design.

THE THING (1982, John Carpenter)

The Thing is very close to being a perfect horror movie, and I just love it. I love hot Kurt Russell. I love the scope of cosmic horror that this group of guys-being-dudes has to contend with, whether they are up for it or not. I love the horrifying creature effects, as much as the first day I was exposed to them, at the now-defunct but truly formative Gory Gruesome and Grotesque Horror Makeup Show at Universal Orlando, which opened this little lass’s eyes to so many wonderful, terrible delights.

HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)

I watch Hellraiser every October, as part of my own personal Halloween festivities. I love that it’s basically a high-gloss tragedy about kink and wanting too much, a queer horror movie from long, LONG before queer horror movies could be explicitly queer or focus on queer characters as being anything other than pure evil. Not that we’re in an entirely enlightened age now, but Hellraiser still feels daring and fresh and dangerous. I’ll always feel bad for poor Frank (even though Frank is a huge asshole), the guy who just couldn’t get his rocks off enough. Or poor Julia (also, to be clear, an asshole), who just couldn’t get enough of Frank. Or for the poor cenobites (again, assholes), who can never seem to get enough of… anything, really. Desire is terrifying. Hellraiser is just honest about it.

ANNIHILATION (2018, Alex Garland)

I actually called Annihilation the best movie of the decade (best non-franchise, that is) a year ago, and I stand by that completely. It’s intoxicating, smart, weird, and also makes a genuine attempt to understand an alien force, something that may well prove entirely impossible for our human pea brains. Even the best and brightest pea brains around! This is a modern sci-fi classic, and it spends enough time in genuinely terrifying body horror territory (the pool scene and THE BEAR) to qualify as horror, for my tastes.

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

When people ask me what my favorite movie is, this is my go-to answer. It combines so many things that I love: sci-fi, spaceships, real-ass people who don’t act like perfect Hollywood stereotypes, women who are tough and smart and don’t let their underwear trip them up, intense body horror and nauseating fear of the things that go on inside you when things go wrong, and imaginative production design. It’s a brooding, spooky, sometimes terrifying vision of corporate malfeasance and sweaty engineers in coveralls trying to survive. It’s feminist and freaky and I see something new in it every time I watch it.

SHOCKtober: 121-94

Holy moly, today we're cracking the top 100 faves! Holier molier, there are only a handful of days left. It's true what they say, SHOCKtober flies when you're something something whatever.

The following films received eight votes each!

121. Child's Play -- 1988, Tom Holland
120. Dead Alive (aka Braindead) -- 1992, Peter Jackson
119. Freaks -- 1932, Tod Browning
118. House on Haunted Hill -- 1959, William Castle
117. Interview with the Vampire -- 1994, Neil Jordan
116. Lake Mungo -- 2008, Joel Anderson
115. Mulholland Dr. -- 2001, David Lynch
114. My Bloody Valentine -- 1981, George Mihalka
113. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge -- 1985, Jack Sholder
112. Peeping Tom -- 1960, Michael Powell
111. Phenomena -- 1985, Dario Argento
110. Silver Bullet -- 1985, Daniel Attias
109. The Blackcoat's Daughter (aka February) -- 2015, Oz Perkins
108. The Craft -- 1996, Andrew Fleming
107. The Lords of Salem -- 2012, Rob Zombie
106. The Strangers -- 2008, Bryan Bertino

Each of the following films received nine votes!

105. A Tale of Two Sisters -- 2003, Jee-woon Kim
104. Black Swan -- 2010, Darren Aronofsky
103. Day of the Dead -- 1985, George A. Romero
102. Friday the 13th Part III -- 1982, Steve Miner
101. Paranormal Activity -- 2007, Oren Peli
100. Pontypool -- 2008, Bruce McDonald
  99. Ravenous -- 1999, Antonia Bird
  98. Re-Animator -- 1985, Stuart Gordon
  97. The Devil's Backbone -- 2001, Guillermo del Toro
  96. The Invitation -- 2015, Karyn Kusama
  95. The Wailing -- 2016, Hong-jin Na
  94. Videodrome -- 1983, David Cronenberg

  • FUCK YEAH THE WAILING. Epic movie, I love love love it. 
  • Of Re-Animator, a reader says: "Did green ooze before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and has the same energy, you can’t change my mind." 
  • Shout out to my eight Lake Mungo peeps, who clearly have exquisite taste in horror films.
  • "Even without a vibrator under your chair or a rubber skeleton floating across the room on a string, it still manages to be fun and creepy," says a wise reader about House on Haunted Hill. That movie is such a good-timey blast no matter how or where you see it, but man, I'd sure love to see it in a theatre and get the full William Castle experience!

FAVE 20: Mats Strandberg

Author Mats Strandberg has been called "the Swedish Stephen King" and while that is certainly a compliment, maybe Stephen King is the American Mats Strandberg, huh? Did you ever think about that? You should! But I get it: Mats's stuff is character driven and scary. But unlike Stephen King, Mats populates his work with characters that aren't so...I don't know, homogenous. Look! Comparisons aren't entirely useful. But if you give Mats's Blood Cruise a whirl--it's out in the US today!!--then you'll see what I mean. It's 'vampires on a booze cruise,' it's scary, it's gory, and it's a lot of fun (I really, really need Blood Cruise to be a mini-series, thanks), and I love that his characters that might be considered disposable in other works are really given a time to shine. I can't recommend the book enough, so I won't try! You lucky Europeans have access to more of his work (including The Home, which is out now in the UK)...have fun reading it while waiting for your free healthcare, you savages!

PET SEMATARY (1989, Mary Lambert)

When I grew up, my mother was very ill. I loved her, but her pain sometimes made her into something scary, something I didn't recognize. It was a fear that dared not speak its name. I couldn't have put it into words even if I had wanted to. Seeing Zelda in Pet Sematary traumatized me, but I kept going back to those short scenes with her, again and again. I was 13 and didn't understand it then, but it was the first time that I used fictional horror as a release for very real anxieties. That's why this movie, flaws and all, will always be closest to my heart.


My favourite part of the whole Twin Peaks saga finally puts Laura Palmer front and center. She's the relatable queer martyr we all deserve, trying to save her own soul from the evil clutches of patriarchy.

SUSPIRIA (2018, Luca Guadagnino)

How do I love these mothervolking witches? Let me count the ways. Or actually, I don't have to. The Gaylords of Darkness and this very blog have already done it way better than I ever could. I did try though, in the Suspiria fanzine that Stacie masterminded. (FG note: zine coming next month, woo! I will update with info when available!)

EVENT HORIZON (1997, Paul W.S. Anderson)

This is one of those movies that I keep coming back to, over and over. It is by no means perfect, but the imperfections are part of its magic. It always feels like I just have to watch it one more time, and then I'll somehow be able to unearth the perfect horror movie hidden just beneath the surface. (By the way: I feel the exact same way about another Sam Neill vehicle; Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness from 1994.)

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955, Charles Laughton)

This dark fairytale is of the most visually stunning movies ever made.

Gets me every time.

Every. God. Damn. Time.

STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997, Paul Verhoeven)

So in about a week, the future of the entire planet is decided in a rigged US election. No biggie, right? There couldn't be a better October to watch this movie.

GET OUT (2017, Jordan Peele)

Speaking of November 2020; I am so, so happy that this movie exists.

HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968, Ingmar Bergman)

It's a bit of a dilemma: Swedes are very proud of Ingmar Bergman. But we look down upon the horror genre. So how to deal with the fact that Bergman made some excellent horror movies? Well, the answer is that we don't talk (or think) about the fact that they're horror movies at all. Instead we throw around terms like "psychosexual" and"dreamlike." or simply call them BERGMAN MOVIES. But Bergman himself loved horror, unapologetically. I think he got a kick out of it when Wes Craven "borrowed" the whole plot of Last House on the Left from Bergman's The Virgin Spring. And Hour of the Wolf is so damn weird and jarring it's no surprise that David Lynch has named it as a big inspiration.

BLITHE SPIRIT (1945, David Lean)

This scratches the same itch as Death Becomes Her (1992) and Addams Family Values (1993) for me; horror-adjacent, family-friendly comedies with very queer undertones. Blithe Spirit is based on a play by Noël Coward, so you know there's going to be campy fun, amazing ladies (both dead and alive) and one-liners galore.

HALLOWEEN: H20 (1997, Steve Miner)

My favourite incarnation of Laurie Strode. I think I might love this movie even more than the original Halloween. Yeah, I said it. *ducks for cover*

THE EXORCIST III (1990, William Peter Blatty)

I will never forgive Stacie and Anthony for the fact that this wasn't part of The Three-ening.


A newlywed woman discovers that her husband sneaks out at night to meet up with other dudes in the park. Turns out he belongs to an alien species who secretly breed with Earth women. One of my favourite gay-panic movies from the lavender scare era. It's really hilarious or really depressing, depending on how you look at it.

FRIDAY THE 13th PARTS 1-7 (1980-1988)

These movies will always be part of my horror DNA. I will always enjoy them. I tell you what is scary though: going down the rabbit hole of erotic fanfiction about Jason Voorhees.


By far the best set of queens in any of the major franchise movies. I love all the characters so much.

ALIEN (1979, Ridley Scott)

Yes, Ripley is a queen. That goes without saying. But all the characters are amazing. This movie was a huge inspiration for my book Blood Cruise. On the Baltic Sea, no one can hear you scream either. A cruise ship and a space ship are both isolated settings that you can’t escape from, surrounded by a cold darkness that would kill you if you fell overboard. But my biggest inspiration was the way this movie depicted the crew: tired, unglamorous, human. They never asked to be heroes, but they stepped up when the blood hit the fan.

FINAL DESTINATION 5 (2011, Steven Quale)

I have such a sweet spot for this campy franchise. It seems severely underrated in the horror community, but it's ridiculously entertaining with all the deliciously gory slapstick killings. Also: Ali Larter. Also also: The idea of having Death itself as the boogeyman is beyond brilliant. The franchise (created by our fellow gay, Jeffrey Reddick) has its ups and downs, for sure, but number 5 ties it all together beautifully.

THE WITCH (2015, Robert Eggers)

I wouldst like to live deliciously too, please. (By the way, have you seen Daniel Malik who does the voice of Black Phillip? Delicious indeed.)

STAGEFRIGHT (1987, Michele Soavi)

My favourite giallo movie and definitely the gayest.

THE INNOCENTS (1961, Jack Clayton)

Honestly, it was a toss-up between this one, The Haunting (1963) and The Others (2001). I chose this one simply because it came first, and because it was written by Truman Capote.

CURSE OF THE BLAIR WITCH (1999, Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez)

Wait, I'm at the end of the list already and I haven't even mentioned a found footage movie? Even though it's one of my favourite subgenres? Ok. (deep breath in) I promised myself not to overthink this list. I would simply choose the movies that first came to mind. (deep breath out) I could have gone with As Above, So Below (2014) or The Banshee Chapter (2013), or Paranormal Activity 3 (2011), the standout gem of the franchise. But I'll go with this mockumentary, which to me is much scarier than the movie it was made to promote.

SHOCKtober: 150-122

Boy oh boy, things are getting ever more exciting by the day as we continue counting down 951 of your favorite movies, all the way to your #1 (by an overwhelming margin), Amityville: It's About Time

OH DANG, spoiler, sorry. Although...you had to expect it, right? The wordplay of the title alone is enough to earn it top spot. They could have called it Amityville: It's About a Clock, because it is, but It's About Time is so much classier and it also really makes u think. 

Well, I guess we should all try to maintain some excitement as we barrel through these last 150 movies. After all, it's the journey, not the destination, you guys. Final Girl: really makin' u think, as always.

Each of the following films received six votes!

150. Raw (aka Grave) -- 2016, Julia Ducournau
149. Shaun of the Dead -- 2004, Edgar Wright
148. Slither -- 2006, James Gunn
147. Society -- 1989, Brian Yuzna
146. The Funhouse -- 1981, Tobe Hooper
145. The Host -- 2006, Bong Joon Ho
144. The Hunger -- 1983, Tony Scott
143. The Night of the Hunter -- 1955, Charles Laughton

The following films received seven votes each!

142. Dawn of the Dead -- 2004, Zack Snyder
141. Friday the 13th Part 2 -- 1981, Steve Miner
140. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter -- 1984, Joseph Zito
139. Ghostwatch -- 1992, Lesley Manning
138. Gremlins -- 1984, Joe Dante
137. The House on Sorority Row -- 1982, Mark Rosman
136. Ju-on: The Grudge -- 2002, Takashi Shimizu
135. Messiah of Evil -- 1973, Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz
134. Mother! -- 2017, Darren Aronofsky
133. Repulsion -- 1965, Roman Polanski
132. Sleepy Hollow -- 1999, Tim Burton
131. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 -- 1986, Tobe Hooper
130. The Blob -- 1988, Chuck Russell
129. The Faculty -- 1998, Robert Rodriguez
128. The Howling -- 1981, Joe Dante
127. The Lighthouse -- 2019, Robert Eggers
126. The Love Witch -- 2016, Anna Biller
125. The Orphanage (aka El orfanato) -- 2007, J.A. Bayona
124. The Perfection -- 2018, Richard Shepard
123. Tucker and Dale vs Evil -- 2010, Eli Craig
122. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? -- 1962, Robert Aldrich

  • I admit, I am starting to feel a bit like I'm starring in a one-woman production of The Lighthouse
  • Also, Willem Dafoe should have been nominated for his performance in that film! His awards circuit snub should be talked about by bitter horror fans the same way we talk about Toni Collette's snub for Hereditary.
  • Love to see Messiah of Evil get so many votes (obviously). It got three votes in 2010's SHOCKtober and six in 2017's...after seeing it on so many special guest 20 Faves lists (which are not counted in the master list!), I can only hope that it'll keep getting in front of more eyeballs. What a gem of a movie.
  • You could hand today's chunk o' list to a horror newbie and feel confident you'd be giving them a great education in so many subgenres! There are superior titles from arthouse, slashers, ghosts, 90s teen horror, horror-comedies, creature features, zombies, classics, found footage...wowzee wow. I might be losing my mind in my lighthouse, but SHOCKtober is worth it!

SHOCKtober: 182-151


Each of the following films received five votes!

182. Killer Klowns from Outer Space -- 1988, Stephen Chiodo
181. Knife + Heart -- 2018, Yann Gonzalez
180. Pumpkinhead -- 1988, Stan Winston
179. Salem's Lot -- 1979, Tobe Hooper
178. Silent Hill -- 2006, Christophe Gans
177. StageFright -- 1987, Michele Soavi
176. The Mist -- 2007, Frank Darabont
175. The Omen -- 1976, Richard Donner
174. The People Under the Stairs -- 1991, Wes Craven
173. The Stuff -- 1985, Larry Cohen
172. Theater of Blood -- 1973, Douglas Hickox
171. Tremors -- 1990, Ron Underwood
170. Under the Skin -- 2013, Jonathan Glazer

The following films received six votes each!

169. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night -- 2014, Ana Lily Amirpour
168. Bride of Chucky -- 1998, Ronny Yu
167. Burnt Offerings -- 1976, Dan Curtis
166. Children of the Corn -- 1984, Fritz Kiersch
165. Chopping Mall -- 1986, Jim Wynorski
164. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives -- 1986, Tom McLoughlin
163. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me -- 1992, David Lynch
162. From Beyond -- 1986, Stuart Gordon
161. Halloween II -- 1981, Rick Rosenthal
160. Happy Birthday to Me -- 1981, J. Lee Thompson
159. House of Wax -- 2005, Jaume Collet-Serra
158. May -- 2002, Lucky McKee
157. Night of the Comet -- 1984, Thom Eberhardt
156. Night of the Creeps -- 1986, Fred Dekker
155. Night of the Demon (aka Curse of the Demon) -- 1957, Jacques Tourneur
154. Noroi: The Curse -- 2005, Kôji Shiraishi
153. Nosferatu the Vampyre -- 1979, Werner Herzog
152. One Cut of the Dead -- 2017, Shin'ichirô Ueda
151. Pet Sematary -- 1989, Mary Lambert

  • Love to see that House of Wax is finally getting the respect it deserves! It's one of the few American films from the mid-aughties era that still holds up. It's stupid, it's creative, it's gross, it's fun. Justice 4 Paris!
  • Also love that Noroi is getting in front of more eyeballs thanks to Shudder. It's messin' folks up but good.
  • A reader calls Part VI's Jason the best Jason. Do you agree? Disagree? Abstain?
  • The People Under the Stairs? Or Sleepwalkers, maybe?? A mystery that will never be solved...which is just how I like it.
  • I love this anecdote from a reader about Under the Skin: "Fun fact, when I watched this movie I didn’t understand a single word of what they said but still loved it. I had just arrived to the UK (I’m Portuguese), and it was my first movie in the cinema, without subtitles and they had a Scottish accent. Impossible to decipher." AlienManMurdererScarJo transcends spoken language!

SHOCKtober: 212-183

Embrace SHOCKtober while you can, for we are now under #200 and hurtling toward the abyss (November)!

Each of the following films received four votes:

212. Slumber Party Massacre II -- 1987, Deborah Brock
211. Spider Baby -- 1967, Jack Hill
210. Starry Eyes -- 2014, Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
209. Tales from the Hood -- 1995, Rusty Cundieff
208. Tenebrae -- 1982, Dario Argento
207. The Abominable Dr Phibes -- 1971, Robert Fruest
206. The Bad Seed -- 1956, Mervyn LeRoy
205. The Burning -- 1981, Tony Maylam
204. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari -- 1920, Robert Wiene
203. The Gate -- 1987, Tibor Takács
202. The Hills Have Eyes -- 1977, Wes Craven
201. The Invisible Man -- 2020, Leigh Whannell
200. The Ritual -- 2017, David Bruckner
199. The Sentinel -- 1977, Michael Winner
198. The Taking of Deborah Logan -- 2014, Adam Robitel
197. The Uninvited -- 1944, Lewis Allen
196. The Vanishing (aka Spoorloos) -- 1988, George Sluizer
195. Tourist Trap -- 1979, David Schmoeller
194. What We Do in the Shadows -- 2014, Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi

The following films received five votes each:

193. Alice, Sweet Alice -- 1976, Alfred Sole
192. Annihilation -- 2018, Alex Garland
191. Dark Water -- 2002, Hideo Nakata
190. Daughters of Darkness -- 1971, Harry Kümel
189. Final Destination -- 2000, James Wong
188. Happy Death Day -- 2017, Christopher Landon
187. Hell House LLC -- 2015, Stephen Cognetti
186. In the Mouth of Madness -- 1995, John Carpenter
185. Inside (aka À l'intérieur) -- 2007, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
184. It -- 1990, Tommy Lee Wallace
183. It -- 2017,  Andy Muschetti

  • Even if that mask was the only thing it had going for it, Alice, Sweet Alice would still be a classic!
  • One time a friend of mine mistakenly called In the Mouth of Madness "A Mouthful of Madness" and I think about that every time the movie comes up. And it comes up a lot, it's a pretty great film.
  • In his Fave 20 list, Ben Raphael Sher mentioned the attention Daughters of Darkness gets these days, and he's so right. It wasn't that long ago that it wasn't discussed in the mainstream at all, and now it seems like it's everywhere. It's a worthy film, of course, I just find these kinds of cycles interesting. The shifting zeitgeist will only become more apparent as we continue the countdown!
  • The Vanishing is devastating. That ending is an unparalleled gut punch, ay yi yi.

SHOCKtober: 244-213

Aw yeah, now it's gettin' real. Why, I can smell the top 200 from here! At least I hope that's the Top 200...

Anyway, each of the following films received four votes

244. All Cheerleaders Die -- 2013, Lucky McKee & Chris Sivertson
243. American Mary -- 2012, Jen Soska & Sylvia Soska
242. American Psycho -- 2000, Mary Harron
241. Army of Darkness -- 1992, Sam Raimi
240. Battle Royale -- 2000, Kinji Fukasaku
239. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon -- 2006, Scott Glosserman
238. Black Sunday -- 1960, Mario Bava
237. Brain Damage -- 1988, Frank Henenlotter
236. Climax -- 2018, Gaspar Noé
235. Creature from the Black Lagoon -- 1954, Jack Arnold
234. Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight -- 1995, Ernest R. Dickerson
233. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark -- 1988, James Signorelli
232. Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood -- 1988, John Carl Buechler
231. Frankenstein -- 1931, James Whale
230. Funny Games -- 1997, Michael Haneke
229. Grabbers -- 2012, Jon Wright
228. Grave Encounters -- 2011, Colin Minihan & Stuart Ortiz
227. Hellbound: Hellraiser II -- 1988, Tony Randel
226. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer -- 1986, John McNaughton
225. I Know What You Did Last Summer -- 1997, Jim Gillespie
224. I Walked with a Zombie -- 1943, Jacques Tourneur
223. Jacob's Ladder -- 1990, Adrian Lyne
222. Just Before Dawn -- 1981, Jeff Lieberman
221. Krampus -- 2015, Michael Dougherty
220. The Lair of the White Worm -- 1988, Ken Russell
219. Martin -- 1977, George A. Romero
218. Misery -- 1990, Rob Reiner
217. Nightbreed -- 1990, Clive Barker
216. Onibaba -- 1964, Kaneto Shindô
215. Orphan -- 2009, Jaume Collet-Serra
214. Scanners -- 1981, David Cronenberg
213. Scream 2 -- 1997, Wes Craven

  • (crowd chants) Or-phan! Or-phan! Or-phan! She sure is different! I still love that bonkers movie so much. I'm also still waiting for Esther's head to fall off when she removes her velvet choker...
  • Of Nightbreed, a reader says: "The monsters-as-good-guys angle was still pretty fresh at the time, and as the years have passed I've grown to love it as an LGBTQIA parable."
  • Can me pathetic if you will ("Oh don't worry, I will!" -- you), but I'm still hanging onto a sliver of hope for that All Cheerleaders Die sequel. What a fun movie, I'm glad more folks are getting hip to it.
  • "Yes, it's a comedy, but there is 100% a dark supernatural event at the heart of it. The best cast you could ever want, and dialogue that is forever memorable," says a reader about Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, and so say we all.
  • Upon seeing Jacob's Ladder in today's list chunk, I thought "Hmm. What has that purveyor of lite-n-sexy sleaze Adrian Lyne been up to? Sure has been a while." It turns out he has a new movie coming next year (or whenever), his first since 2002: Dark Water, an adaptation of a very "Patricia Highsmith" Patricia Highsmith novel, if you know what I mean. Love the book and I'm looking forward to it...Ben Affleck is perfect casting, same as he was for Gone Girl.

FAVE 20: G.G. Graham

G.G. Graham is horror's sultana of sleaze, grande dame of grindhouse, and empress of exploitation! Whether she's writing for Drive-In Asylum (I love Drive-In Asylum by the way), The Horror Hothouse, Wicked Horror, her own site Midnight Movie Monster, or any of the countless other places you can find her byline, she most often delves deep into the genre's depraved depths, the places I, your humble blogmistress, dare not tread. I love that even after my 77 years as a horror fan, there are corners of the genre I've yet to explore and so many films I've never heard of out there waiting to eat my face. This list features plenty of lesser-known gems and you'll get gobs more ghoulish goodies at G.G.'s gtwitter.

I don't know what's with all the alliteration today, sorry. Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to manifest a gig writing headlines for The New York Post?

THE BEYOND (1981, Lucio Fulci)

While often unfairly made the Jan to Argento's ever-so-stylish Marcia, The Beyond's slightly daft, dime store surrealism proves Fulci could navigate a visual set piece with a puckish, gleefully gory abandon. The actual narrative borders on nonsensical, but The Beyond zips along through eyeball trauma and acid attacks on undead zombies in a frenetic manner that is rarely linear, but never boring.

It's a gothic nightmare that has no problem leaving us blindly standing alone in the road, lost in the depths of despair while one of horror cinema's best scores pounds in the background. Hell may be an endless void, but they really do have the much better band.

NAIL GUN MASSACRE (1985, Bill Leslie & Terry Lofton)

If this movie were an intentional slasher parody, it would have been brilliant. As it stands, it's just brilliantly inept. Line readings are sub-dinner theater level, dead extras forget to hold their breath and the killer cracks punny one liners that would make a third rate Borscht Belt comedian cry. Massacres are perpetuated with the titular nail gun at a brisk pace, damn the plot threads left to dangle in the Texas breeze. 

This direct to video dreck is the best possible example of passion project regional filmmaking, where the sheer love of the movies overrides tiny budgets, better sense and a lack of any discernible talent. Do you remember when you could go outside without worrying about the mosquitos...or the killers? I do. It was in the sad days before I had discovered the goofy joy that is Nail Gun Massacre, surviving proof that every movie that gets made is a tiny miracle. Even the awful ones.

SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000, E. Elias Merhige)

The mid to late 90s boom of meta horror started out as a breath of fresh air, but soon devolved into a dull, interminable game of "Are You Smarter Than A Slasher?" Released at the tail end of that trend cycle, Shadow Of The Vampire instead wraps its meta-narrative around the filming of 1922's silent classic Nosferatu. Rather than a joking poke at genre tropes, the film revises history to offer a terrifying explanation of what may have made the silent classic so damn scary. 

Simultaneously, we also get a gorgeously shot contemplation on creativity, and how far someone can be willing to go to realize an artistic vision. With a stacked cast of some of the finest actors of their generation and a visual aesthetic that incorporates some of the best techniques of the silent era into a modern movie, Shadow Of The Vampire is an arthouse meditation on all of the ways making great art can (quite literally) suck the life out of you.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD (1970, David E. Durston)

One of the first films rated X primarily for violence, David Durston's exploitation classic is a first-rate example of the wild world of grindhouse era, fly by night filmmaking. A faux-Manson Family of Satan-worshipping grifters terrorizes a tiny town in a spectacularly bloody fashion. Watching the last few townsfolk battle the frothing undead, we learn some valuable lessons about both rabies and LSD along the way. 

Rabid hippie zombies! Scooby-Doo-style chase music! Meat pies as carriers of vengeance and disease! Geysers of red paint gore! Satan as an acidhead! If this fast paced, hippie hangover freak out doesn't have it, you don't want it.

HELLRAISER (1987, Clive Barker)

In all of the franchises that dominated the 80s horror box office, Clive Barker's Hellraiser was a welcome dose of Euro weirdness that gave gooey practical effects a highly stylized S&M groove that has been rarely matched before or since. 

Frank Cotton was perhaps cinema's slickest sleaze, willing to take his search for sensation straight to the gates of Hell. The character type wouldn't be out of place in the cheaper environs of 70s exploitation, but the journey his hedonism instigates owes as much to giallo oddities and your local leather bar as it does any of the horror trends of the time. A pile of in name only rights-fueled sequels and the passage of time have done little to diminish how singularly strange Hellraiser still is. "We have such sights to show you..." indeed.

DEAD & BURIED (1981, Gary Sherman)

Potter's Bluff is one of the greatest of horror's many small towns with a secret. Shrouded in seaside fog and as subtly unsettling as holes to a trypophobic, when the idyll becomes something far more grisly, it's almost a relief. As the body count rises, it’s very clear Sheriff Gillis isn't crazy and neither are we.

While the entire film is a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere, Jack Albertson gives us one final, magnificent turn as eccentric mortician William Dobbs. For the generation who likely best remembers him as the kindly (if incredibly lazy) Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, it’s an utter disservice to Albertson's incredibly prolific career not to see him swing from dodderingly sweet to utterly sinister here. Genre has always been the place where character actors can swing for the fences in meatier roles, and that is exactly what happens in Dead & Buried.

MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973, Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz)

Speaking of seaside shockers, Messiah Of Evil is a moody chiller that transcends its myriad of production problems to become something far more unsettling than it otherwise might have been. A young woman goes searching for her father in a coastal California town, and runs afoul of a cult of ghouls that sit at an odd juncture between vampires and zombies, obsessed with moonlit bonfires and the consumption of raw flesh.

Rather than jump shocks and manic chases, Messiah Of Evil settles into a nightmarish, disjointed surreality. Alternating between dourly drab and luridly vivid colors, a bevy of disaffected beauties find themselves wandering some of the best slow burn horror set pieces I've seen at this price point. Messiah Of Evil might just be a lost masterwork of arty low budget horror. It might just be proof of the infinite monkey theorem. Either way, it’s still pretty great.

FREAKS (1932, Tod Browning)

Outcasts and the creation of chosen families is a thematic throughline that genre cinema loves to come back to, but few films are more effective than Freaks at illustrating how tightly wound the ties that bind can be. Tod Browning's otherwise promising directorial career was ground to a standstill with this verbose melodrama and its cast of sideshow and circus performers. The open display of so called "oddities" and a sympathetic portrayal of their lives was considered obscene at the time.

What makes Freaks a masterpiece isn't necessarily its corker of a twist ending, or its bucking of public opinion of the era. When the titular cast of "freaks" takes their revenge on a gold-digging trapeze artist who has harmed one of their own, the climatic rain soaked chase is one of the tightest, tensest sequences in cinema history. What becomes of the victims afterwards is almost beside the point. The terror lies in knowing just how far the avenging angels are willing to go.

SHATTER DEAD (1994, Scooter McCrae)

In the massive glut of SOV content, Scooter McCrae's Shatter Dead deserves a reappraisal and rediscovery for its impressively empty post-apocalyptic world (made more so by the fact that the cleared streets were accomplished without the luxury of permits), and a conceptual ambition more in line with foreign art films than video store trash.

God abandons humanity, and death ceases to exist. The dead just keep on living, minus the ability to heal and the luxury of blood circulation. A woman named Susan is just trying to make it home to her boyfriend, and encounters all of the factions of this strange new world. Manic revivalist preachers thinking undeath is a gift of immortality, terrorists mutilating the comparatively unblemished dead, and hopelessly mangled zombies begging for change on the street all take a turn in delaying her long trip home.

Once your eyes adjust to the microbudget visual limitations, Shatter Dead is an oddly transfixing mix of philosophical musings and exploitation style shocks that will definitely stick with those willing to ride along with its contemplative take on the nature of living, and the natural place of death to add poignancy to life.

AN EYE FOR AN EYE (aka THE PSYCHOPATH, 1973, Larry G. Brown)

The Psychopath is a prime slice of grindhouse golden age weirdness that hasn’t seen home video release since the heyday of VHS. Tom Basham puts in a disquieting performance as Mr. Rabbey, a stunted manchild who also hosts an inexplicably popular local children’s television program. When some of his favorite fans and park playtime pals are abused by their parents, Mr. Rabbey takes the law into his own hands, assuming they aren’t otherwise occupied by his selection of creepy ass puppets.

This isn’t the most ambitious or bloody of exploitation era fare, but what it lacks in gore, it makes up for in a particular strain of only possible in the 70s, psychosexual weirdness. Mr Rabbey is a grown man that goes from eating chocolate cake with his substitute mom/producer to killing people with household objects as if both were part of the same game of make believe.

Long before the first murder even happens, it’s disturbing that people would let this fractured, fey wreck of a man anywhere near a playground. What makes it worse is that Mr. Rabbey is then encouraged to inflict his excessively punitive puppet shows on both the local children’s hospital and a cheering television audience. Never has a pouty squeak and the shadow of a bowl cut lurking at a window been so squirm inducing. I pity the fool that declines to become one of Mr. Rabbey’s rangers. Best watch out for that lawnmower.

CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962, Herk Harvey)

Carnival Of Souls separates itself from the herd of low budget indie films in that it takes the opposite approach than most of the B cinema of its era. Rather than tossing its characters into a flashy parade of blood, beasts and bad taste, it surrounds its supernatural trappings with the distinctly ordinary patterns of small town life. Mary Henry is just trying to get settled in a new job, and a new city, not succeeding particularly well at either one.

The ghostly elements sneak in with a whisper, rather than a bang, and we have every reason to question Mary's sanity as her obsession with an old carnival pavilion becomes more consuming, her visions of a stalking man more frequent. We'd all be more likely to blame stress or loneliness before we started looking toward the otherworldly.

In that specific sense, Carnival Of Souls tracks the same haunting territory as some of the best episodes of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. It's terrible to feel as if you don't belong, but utterly horrifying to discover the hidden reasons your hunch is exactly right.

THE STUFF (1985, Larry Cohen)

Of all of the riffs on 50s creature features like The Blob and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Larry Cohen's The Stuff livens up his monster kid nostalgia with razor sharp satire of 80s consumerism and a host of lived-in, delightfully quirky performances.

It's an utterly ridiculous idea that a groundswell of something that looks uncannily like soft serve ice cream could so easily take over the world. The brilliance of The Stuff is that it makes this off the wall tale far more plausible than it has any right to be, tongue firmly planted in cheek. The atomic age B movies didn't get the details wrong, necessarily. The Stuff posits that the US military and hosts of small town sheriffs were lucky in that their impending invasions weren't accompanied by a catchy jingle and a slick PR firm to market the invaders as a low calorie dessert.

Much like Michael Moriarty's star turn as corporate spy/savior David "Mo" Rutherford, The Stuff is a fast paced, funny spoof that isn't nearly as dumb as it first appears. Too much really is never enough, when it comes to Larry Cohen, New York City's finest indie film eccentric, at his most accessible.

GANJA & HESS (1973, Bill Gunn)

Originally funded as an attempt to cash in on the success of Blacula, writer/director Bill Gunn instead used the loose framework of a vampire narrative to deliver a richly layered thematic kaleidoscope of the effects of addiction, assimilation, and religion on Black experience in America. The visuals are framed oddly, sometimes obscured, and Sam Waymon’s gorgeous musical history lesson of a score is often just as key to conveying plot elements as the spoken dialog. Ganja & Hess has far more in common with the arthouse explorations of the 70s “New Hollywood” period than exploitation flicks.

Duane Jones (Night Of The Living Dead) and Marlene Clark star as the titular couple infected with an ancient African blood disease. While both actors were woefully underutilized in the bulk of their filmography, their performances here shine even amongst the dense layers of visual and sonic quilting that flesh out the film’s aesthetic. The director’s cut was unavailable for decades due to the producers’ unhappiness with the final result, but has since been restored to Gunn’s original vision by MOMA and Kino Lorber. A fiercely intelligent fever dream and a masterpiece of Black horror cinema, it rightfully belongs on any genre lover’s watchlist.


A hyper-realistic low budget film loosely based on the life of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is a horror film in the most literal possible sense. There is no catharsis here, no comforting explanation of the how and the why of its protagonists’ ruthlessly efficient violence. Director John McNaughton and co-writer Richard Fire have very little interest in diagnosis or explanation, just a grey, grimy tour through a few days in the lives of men incapable of human empathy.

Henry and Otis don’t kill out of any misguided sense of justice or cause, and if there is some tragic backstory, the film doesn’t make us privy to it. In a genre littered with tragic monsters, anti-heroes and sympathy for the devil, it is a deeply harrowing experience to see characters kill primarily just because they can. They drift from city to city, picking off the weak and the forgotten with impunity, without any real remorse or calculation. Boredom and a vague dissatisfaction is more than enough to add another victim to the body count, nonchalant as a trip to the corner store.

Often shown alongside the more violent strains of exploitation film, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer’s power comes from its utter disinterest in making any moral judgments with which to exploit its subject matter. Cold and clinical as an industrial film, its only aim is to quietly document the daily routine of a pair of men for whom the depths of human depravity have become horrifyingly mundane.


All roads in the journey to the center of the bad taste world of extreme exploitation and horror cinema eventually make at least one stop amongst the 80’s Italian cannibal trendlet. The cannibal films take the exoticizing, cynical snicker of the Mondo subgenre to its logical, fully fictional extreme. Hiding behind a thin veneer of ethnography and supposed larger points about the nature of civilization, the cannibal flicks had a perfect cover of plausible deniability for a plethora of blood, boobs, and completely unnecessary animal cruelty.

Cannibal Ferox doesn’t particularly deviate from the basic template, but it is the only entry that combines its crueler excesses with extremely overblown line readings and scenery chewing performances that almost feel imported from another, less self-serious film. Giovanni Radice’s tooth-gnashing cokehead abandon as Mike and Zora Kerova’s utterly dippy Pat are far campier than they have a right to be thanks to their paired commitment to exaggerated overacting. There’s also the steady thump of an amusingly mismatched funk disco score. By the time you add in the dub’s melodramatic pauses in a line about a recently consumed set of genitals, Cannibal Ferox proves it is indeed brutally violent, but also occasionally brutally funny.


This manic 70s gem is one of the treasures lying buried in the trash heap of those 50 movie public domain DVD box sets. Matthew is a strange young man with a hook for a hand and the mother of all Oedipus complexes. He was sent away after murdering his dad with a tractor and mangling his own hand in the process. Years in a mental institution have done nothing to cure any of his issues, other than allowing his long-suffering mother to forget who he is.

Jealous at anyone who dares to be happy, soon Matthew is on a hitchhiking spree of murder, mayhem, and visions of men defiling dear old Mommy whenever he sees a happy couple. Home invasions, kidnapped prostitutes, and a hysterical speech about his captive’s lack of gratitude zip by in a tight 88 minute runtime that leads to one of the most delightfully left field endings this everything but the kitchen sink approach to filmmaking could possibly conjure up. Scream Bloody Murder isn’t the most polished of turds, but it amazingly never really manages to stink. Goofy, gory, and unapologetically cheap, its madcap energy is infectious fun.

M (1931, Fritz Lang)

Fritz Lang is better known to modern audiences for his sci fi masterpiece Metropolis, but while 1931’s M is less flashily stylized, it is both importantly directional (as one of the earliest extant examples of a police procedural) and quietly terrifying. A serial killer of children is on the prowl in Berlin, and when the police have no success locating the murderer, even the criminal underground joins the manhunt.

For an early sound film, there is masterful use of long stretches of silence to enhance the import of key dialog, a whistled tune and shadowy silhouettes marking the primarily off-screen murders. A young Peter Lorre was typecast for the majority of his career after his masterful turn as the murderous Hans Beckert, a monster with the most inhuman of impulses hiding behind a nondescript baby face.

The tension and fear of the city are palpable, from mobs questioning strangers on the street to the full blown kangaroo court that dominates the film’s final act. Made in the shadow of the rise of real-life Nazism, M’s deeper thematic questions of the appropriate punishments for inhuman crime and the fear fueled mob mentality lying just beneath the surface of our civilized trappings were certainly prescient of the real world events to come.

M was one of the first films to make plain the most terrifying of truths: The world is full of monsters. They don’t announce themselves in coffins or spaceships or laboratory experiments gone wrong. The darkest desires hide in ordinary seeming people, that on the surface, look just like us.

BABA YAGA (1973, Corrado Farina)

Baba Yaga is a loose adaptation of a story arc from Guido Crepax’s Valentina, a long-running Italian series of erotic comics. What plot there is involves a battle of wills between Valentina, a mod and modern fashion photographer, and the titular ancient witch, who is enthralled with Valentina after a chance late night run-in. 

However, Baba Yaga soon abandons the linear narrative for a pop art surrealism that owes more to the graphic novel source material and stylized European Gothics than it does any straightforward horror cinema traditions. Fascist visions and high fashion parties mix with an action/reaction Sapphic S&M struggle between the ancient and the modern models of fierce female autonomy. This sleek, sensual nightmare is made for late nights and altered states, a literal comic book come to life. Consider it the cool blue, cool jazz older cousin to the (equally queer coded) blood red of fellow high style arthouse Eurosleaze classic Daughters Of Darkness.

NOSFERATU (1922, F. W. Murnau)

One of the first stone cold, blood curdling classics of early silent horror cinema, Nosferatu’s genius lies not in its highly questionable, slightly clunky adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel, but in the visual vocabulary of creeping dread that it essentially invented. Lacking the technology or the inclination for the visceral and gratuitous, Nosferatu’s terror lies in the light exposing the outlines of the shadows and the things that lurk there. Max Schreck’s masterful performance as Count Orlok has none of the suavity of the later cinematic adaptations, but is something closer to death, at home in desiccation and decay. What thrall he wields is not a seduction, but the predatory instincts of a carrion creature, the not quite dead sapping the lifeblood from the living.

Nosferatu was also perhaps the original “cult” film, with the majority of the prints destroyed due to a legal injunction against the unauthorized adaptation of the source novel. The few remaining prints were copied and distributed in secret, and allowed the film to survive into the modern era. Almost a hundred years on, its silent, lurking menace is still all the reason in the world to be afraid of the dark.

BASKET CASE (1982, Frank Henenlotter)

As a born and bred New Yorker, I have an eternal soft spot for films in which New York itself may as well be a billed character. Frank Henenlotter is another of my hometown’s indie eccentrics, and Basket Case is a seven layer dip love letter to grit, grime, and the Deuce, with all of the trash cinema delights it once had to offer.

Duane and his basket-bound, misshapen brother are the rubber appliance, stop motion stuff B movie dreams are made of. Had Henenlotter stopped right there, he would have made a sleazy delight of a creature feature. However, he tossed all notions of taste to the wind and served up healthy doses of violence, nudity, and oddly sympathetic stunted sibling drama to take what would have been an amusing grindhouse novelty into exploitation classic territory.

None of this should work, but Basket Case is unafraid to lean into its essential silliness with a wink, a nudge, and a seemingly infinite number of rubber Belials wearing a variety of expressions for all close up occasions. It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a movie about a murderous claw-wielding wad of what looks like flesh-colored ABC gum, and it is fantastic.