All in all, I had pretty great luck with newer horror films during 2017, as I wrote about in a post last week. When it comes to older films, especially horror ones, I tend to have lower — or at least different — expectations. If a movie’s off-the-wall bonkers, but made with effort, I’ll probably love it. That accounts for about half of the movies on this list. However, I also discovered a few that I now very much consider new-to-me classics that I hope to watch again and again. To find out which ones, you’ve got to hit that jump!
Let’s start with one of, but by no means THE, craziest movie I watched this year. The Wraith is only just barely horror, but I figure it still counts. You’ve got a dead kid coming back as Charlie Sheen (somehow) who also happens to control a car that’s magic (somehow) so that he can get back with his girlfriend played by Sherliyn Fenn. I loved this wacky flick when I first watched it in January and got to re-live the craziness in June when they covered it on How Did This Get Made! The Wraith doesn’t make a lot of sense, but boy is it fun.
On the complete other end of the bonkers spectrum, I also enjoyed Mario Bava’s Lisa And The Devil. I’m still not sure about what the movie means or exactly what the plot was, but imagery and moments from that movie pop into my head all the time. I’m hoping to continue discovering more of Bava’s films this year and dive even deeper into the world of giallo.
While still in the realm of the weird and wild, have you seen Ninja III: The Domination from 1984? I’ve been curious about it ever since Scream Factory put out a Blu-ray version a few years ago. It looks like more of an action movie, but after watching it, I can say that it’s got enough horror elements to count in my book!
In this film, a bunch of cops take out a ninja who leaves his sword behind. When telephone company worker Christie finds it, she starts becoming a ninja. She then goes after the dead ninja’s enemies without knowing how or why, which wreaks havoc on both her side career as an aerobics instructor and her budding romance with a cop who’s also — of course — trying to find the murderer. I don’t think it’s on there right now, but I happened to catch this one on the wonderful ShoutFactoryTV, which I highly recommend keeping an eye on as it often streams some of the companies oddities.
Nope, we’re not done with the craziness yet. I’d be fully remiss if I didn’t talk about 1989’s Death Spa. This is another film they talked about on How Did This Get Made and boy is that a valid question. The very cheap looking film revolves around a high-tech health club that starts killing its members, one of whom is Ken Foree!
As described this film might already sound nuts — like Toxic Avenger without, well, Toxie — but it gets way more nuts. See, it’s not just that the computerized equipment has gone crazy (like something out of Nightmare Weekend), but that it’s been made to go crazy by the club’s owner’s dead wife’s brother…who gets possessed by his dead sister. I’m not sure if I could make that sentence make more sense. Maybe, but then I’m not sure if you’d be in the right mindset for the film. It’s confusing and crazy and wild and I think it would make an excellent party movie, especially if paired with the aforementioned Nightmare Weekend!
Alright, so just one more crazy one, but I think Blood Rage from 1987 might actually be a slasher classic that not enough people talk about. I first came to this movie earlier this year when I was researching an idea I had for movies that revolve around theaters or drive-ins. That’s where this movie begins as twins Terry and Todd are stuck in the back seat at the movies while their mom makes out with a dude! They get out of the car wander around and one of the twins straight up murders a teenager making time with his girl and then frame his own twin brother!
And that’s just the beginning. We jump into the future as one twin breaks out of the insane asylum on Thanksgiving and goes on an appropriately violent rampage. There are all kinds of wild acting and directing choices as identities switch and morph and the body count racks up. There’s a nice Blu-ray of this film out from Arrow right now that I’m thinking about adding to the old collection, but it’s also streaming on Amazon Prime and you should absolutely give it a watch.
Alright, now I’m moving into films that I think are just damn good. A buddy sent me the Scream Factory Blu-ray of Donald Cammell’s White Of The Eye which I got around to watching this year and became entranced by. On the surface this is a film about a guy who may or may not be the killer of many local women in Arizona, but there’s so much more to it, that it’s really hard to describe.
This is another film that I watched this year and found fantastic that still haunts my mind, while the story itself has kind of dissipated into the old mental ether. I do remember that it’s surprisingly violent, bloody and incredibly intense as you see some of the steps that a man took on his journey into destructive madness.
Along with reading Desperation and watching Death Valley — another favorite that I discovered thanks to the fantastic offerings from Scream Factory — White Of The Eye greatly contributed to an intense desire to stay away from wide open desert like spaces…and also murderers.
Finally, I want to say that Joseph Zito’s The Prowler is a slasher classic that more people should talk about. I feel like I’ve always known about this 1981 horror flick with effects by Tom Savini — mostly from the iconic VHS cover — but don’t remember hearing much talk about it.
Kind of like My Bloody Valentine, the story revolves around a group of teenagers looking to have a good time at an event that happened to play host to a massacre decades earlier. In this case, the killer has a truly iconic look thanks to an outfit consisting of WWII fatigues, a helmet and a fully covered face.
Even better than one of the best looking slashers around, the villain of this piece does a wonderful job of stalking and killing kids just looking to have a good time whether that be in the dorm or in the nearby mansion which offers some of the film’s best and most intense scenes. Savini’s always fantastic gore and blood special effects add to that tension by showing how dangerous and deadly the stakes are.
As it happened, it took me several viewings to get through The Prowler the first time around. That’s because I can barely finish a film in one sitting anymore, but I’m very excited to revisit this one in a few months and actually watch it all in one sitting to see if I still feel the same way. Hopefully it’ll still be on Amazon Video at that point, but if not, I might need to get the Blue Underground Blu.
And there you have it, my favorite older horror discoveries of the year! I’m hoping to write more about the movies I watch here on the blog as they happen instead of trying to remember an entire year’s with of films! Thanks for reading!