The weather is shifting into Autumn here and soon it will be time for Halloween and scary movies. I’d like to get a list going of lesser-known horror films that you’d recommend. One movie per post would be ideal, with some info about your selection. I’ll kick it off with The Stalking Moon.
In theory a Western, this is now considered by many to be the first slasher film. It features protagonists hunted by an unseen, almost supernatural, foe who leaves disturbing tableaus of carnage as he stalks them. Excellent acting and incredible scenery make this a cross-genre winner, as well as good scary flick.
Allow me to give a full-throated endorsement of Possum.
Written and directed by Matthew Holness (aka Gareth Marenghi) but it is no laughing matter. Difficult to describe without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say it is got a pervasive atmosphere of dread, and manages to use a 70’s / BBC Radiophonic Workshop aesthetic in a way that isn’t hokey. Does allot with very little as well, budget wise
That I’d never heard of it until last year probably ruins my film-buff cred. But just in case there are other failed film-buffs out there, who’d like to see a beautifully shot, art-house folklore tale from Finland about a vampire witch, here you go.
Synopsis: The Mafia financed a pre-Satanic panic movie that stars Shatner in a role meant for someone younger, a goatastic Ernest Borgnine, and John Travolta in his film debut (although you’ll miss it if you blink). Devil books and curses and rural dustland and stuff.
Fun fact: For one of the movie’s reoccurring effects, a life cast of Shatner’s head was made; that cast was used to mass-produce Halloween Kirk masks and one of those, painted white, became the mask for Michael Myers.
Looks like the streaming services are gearing up for Halloween as well. A number of spooky films have recently landed. I was happy to see some older films appear amongst them. Two of note are The Dunwich Horror and Count Yorga, Vampire. I need to rewatch the latter to see if it still holds up, but the former is delightful (and somewhat cheesy) fun.
I’m a fan of Pamela Franklin, whose a wonderful actress (see The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) and is sometimes the best thing in crap movies (Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies). She later became known as a scream queen.
Since we currently can’t post images, here’s a clip from one of her scary movies, where you get an image of her, appropriately, screaming.
And here’s a list of her Halloween treats, either psychological or supernatural horror
The Innocents (1961 - not a little known movie, but a must-see for sure)
The Third Secret (1964 - psychological mystery)
The Nanny (1965 - Hammer horror w Bette Davis, directed by Seth Holt)
Her Mothers House (1967 - creepy, strange psychological horror, w another favorite actor of mine, Dirk Bogarde)
And Soon The Darkness (1970 - slow brewing murder mystery from Robert Fuest and Brian Clemens)
Necromancy (1972 - Cult, witchcraft w Orson Welles)
Legend of Hell House (1973 - from the clip above - Roddy McDowall is in it, so Mary Jo might like it)
Satan’s School for Girls (1973 - m’eh made for TV movie, with a title that acts as spoiler. Also, Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd together, three years before Charlie’s Angels)
Food of the Gods (1976 - from Bert I. Gordon)
she also did two outstanding episodes of Thriller, Screamer (1974) and Won’t Write Home, Mom–I’m Dead (1975)
Unlike some online critics, I don’t think Let’s Scare Jessica To Death is necessarily a great film, but I think everyone interested in movies should see it at least once.
Until about 2/3rds in, I really enjoyed the build up, details, and atmosphere. The acting’s solid, especially by the standards of low-budget horror. There’s convincing tension (sexual, or not?) between the title character and the mysterious guitar-playing drifter type she and her friends meet when they “go up-country” in true 1970s style.
I don’t know what went askew at the end. Maybe they ran out of money, or maybe someone with money forced them to make some bad story decisions. Still, it’s compelling, in that way that a near-miss can stay with you longer than something all the critics are ga-ga for. (Oh, and fans of The Rockford Files , watch for an early Gretchen Corbett appearance, in a bit part.)
I don’t know if this is obscure any more, but I’m a fan of Messiah of Evil.
Written/produced/directed by long-time* wife/husband team Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck who are best known for writing American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (my favorite, sorry h8rs!) and, of course, writing/directing Howard the Duck.
The movie got half-made and the money people pulled out, then the film got into some nefarious hands, hashed up and released under often dubious circumstances. It is hash, make no mistake, but it contains some of the most memorable horror imagery in the canon.
*Katz passed away in 2018, on the couple’s 49th anniversary.
That is a good series, I’ve enjoyed a number of the movies in that one, such as The Final, The Deaths of Ian Stone, and Tooth and Nail.
One unusual and very enjoyable horror film I want to recommend is Pontypool. It’s sort of a zombie movie, sort of a siege movie, but it’s really something other and ultimately quite clever as well as effective. Be sure to watch after the credits, too.