The season of the witch is here again, dear friends and fiends! That means that in addition to bags of candy, ghoulish appetizers and booze, there’s one more very important item you need to stock up on for a wonderful Halloween party: the innocent souls of newborn puppies!
What? No. I meant scary movies of course!
First you have to gauge what sort of horror your guests will most likely respond to. Are they into the psychological, the ultra gory, the comedic, the classic slasher with its usual mix of blood and nudity, the creepily supernatural? Below is a mix of 10 films with a deliberate effort made to avoid classics like”The Exorcist” or “Halloween” in favor of more modern fare. Not all the entries are obscure, but each has a quality that I think makes for engrossing viewing with large groups of people.
Take a look and enjoy. Three out of five wriggling puppies marked for possession by the Lord of Darkness found this list most useful!
10. Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by Fede Alvarez. Starring Jane Levey and Shiloh Fernandez.
Five friends head out to a remote cabin in the woods so that one of their own, Mia, can detox from drug addiction. They uncover the Necronomicon Ex Mortis (the Book of the Dead), and unwittingly summon evil spirits that take over their bodies. Major bloodshed ensues.
Though remaking Sam Raimi’s revered classic seemed like a fool’s errand, Alvarez turned in a film that retains the gory spirit of the original while taking the plot in new directions. It’s scary, gory, profane and just plain FUN! This beautifully shot film features incredible special effects and great performances, particularly from lead actress Jane Levy as the troubled Mia. I love the way the forbidding forest surrounding the cabin looks as it comes alive, in an almost fairy tale sorta way. A fairy tale with chainsaws, demon lords and severed limbs. It should be at every Halloween party!
9. Deathgasm (2015)
Directed by Jason Lei Howden. Starring Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberely Crossman.
Two teenagers form the metal band Deathgasm in their garage and eventually come across a forbidden piece of music owned by the reclusive lead singer of their favorite band. Playing it unlocks the gates of Hell and turns small town folks into enraged demonic zombies. The boys team up with a local girl from school, who turns out to a be a pretty awesome killer of monsters.
Silly, fun and endearing, this New Zealand horror comedy boasts some sweet effects, bloody kills and monster metal riffs. It’s the perfect party flick for folks looking for lighter, less intense fare.
8. They’re Watching (2016)
Directed by Jay Lender and Michah Wright. Starring Brigid Brannagh, David Alpay, Kris Lemche and Dimitri Diatchenko.
The American cast and crew of a home improvement reality series comes to a village in Eastern Europe where the fear of witchcraft and superstition hold sway. At first, the intruders have to adjust to the lack of an Internet connection and modern amenities…but then they disturb a sacred ritual being performed by the citizenry, unleashing all sorts of madness and bloodshed.
Gory, often hilarious found footage horror comedy that will liven up any Halloween celebration!
7. Superstition (1982)
Directed by James Robertson. Starring James Houghton, Albert Salmi, and Lynn Carlin.
A preacher and his family move into a small town house overseeing a pond where a woman was drowned for witchcraft in 1692. As she was carried into the lake tied to wood, she swore vengeance against her attackers and their descendants. Guess what happens next?
Surprisingly creepy film rich with spooky atmosphere. The resurrected witch wears a dark hood that obscures her face and basically has murderous superpowers in this often overlooked horror gem.
6. Would You Rather (2013)
Directed by David Guy Levy. Starring Brittany Snow and Jeffrey Combs
A wealthy man offers a young woman help for her sick brother if she will compete in a deadly game of dares against others at his mansion.
First of all, Jeffrey Combs plays the villain! That’s really all you need to know, but beyond that the flick is tense, fiendishly clever and enjoyable. Combs is in top form and Brittany Snow makes for an appealing lead, a virtuous woman who descends deeper and deeper into a nightmare for a good cause. Highly recommended.
5. Humongous (1982)
Directed by Paul Lynch. Starring Janet Julian and David Wallace.
After a socialite is raped at a party on her family’s private island; she kills her attacker. Nine months later, she gives birth to a mutant son who, as the title suggests, is very large. Years later, a group of shipwrecked teens land on the island and good ol’ fashioned terror begins.
Get the Uncut edition of the DVD from Scorpion Releasing. I’ve seen the film on both VHS and DVD, and the Scorpion version is really amazing in terms of remastered picture clarity and added material.
4. All Through The House (2016)
Directed by Todd Nunes. Starring Ashley Mary Nunes, Jessica Cameron, and Jennifer Wenger.
Zany low-budget slasher based around Christmas that follows a young woman avoiding a costumed killer while helping to decorate a crazy neighbor’s home. All the slasher tropes are present: nudity, shower scenes, bloody carnage, stupid decisions, twisted back stories involving relatives and more….but along with the clichés we know and love, there’s a spirit and enthusiasm for the genre and very satisfying deaths for all you blood hounds.
It ain’t Shakespeare, but it’s a good time.
3. The Hills Run Red (2009)
Directed by Dave Parker. Starring starring Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink and William Sadler.
A film geek obsessed with the lost horror film of a legendary 1980s slasher film director goes on a journey to visit the film’s locations deep in the mountains, where he encounters the hulking Babyface, a maniac with a doll head sewn over his own noggin. Gruesome murders, strippers, evil rednecks, sex, ridiculous death scenes, the great William Sadler, incest and more gore ensue.
Shoulda stayed home, kid.
Sleazy, trashy, bloody guilty pleasure with some dark humor and decent performances. Janet Montgomery, who plays the film geek’s unsatisfied girlfriend, also appeared in the Wrong Turn series and stars in the creepy television show Salem.
2. Fender Bender (2016)
Directed by Mark Pavia. Starring Makenzie Vega, Dre Davis, Cassidy Freeman, Kelsey Leos Montoya, Harrison Sim and Bill Sage.
17-year-old Hilary is having a bad week. After finding out that her jock boyfriend is cheating on her, she gets rear-ended by a mysterious stranger. They exchange contact information and he begins to stalk her and her friends while wearing a rubbery black costume and a gas mask like helmet. Turns out he’s a serial killer called The Driver who deliberately crashes into women around the city, and then stalks them over the phone and in person.
The opening scene, reminiscent of Scream, features actress Cassidy Freeman (Yellow Brick Road, Smallville) as the latest victim of The Driver. She’s stalked through her home by the killer, and it’s unsettling and well shot. Though he’s no Michael or Freddy, The Driver does have a signature weapon like those horror icons: a large saber-like switchblade with a brass knuckle handle.
I’m critical of new slasher films, being a devoted fan of 1980s titles, but Fender Bender is a fun, suspenseful and handsome looking entry in the genre. It gets the job done for Halloween party viewing.
1. Last Shift (2014)
Directed by Anthony DiBlasi. Starring Juliana Harkavy.
A lone rookie police woman named Jessica Loren spends her very first shift on the job guarding an empty, soon to be closed police station. All personnel and resources have been moved to a more modern precinct several blocks away. Over the course of the night, she encounters freaky ghosts and a dangerous homeless man. One year before, a murderous cult was arrested and brought to the station, where they committed suicide. These homicidal maniacs didn’t worship Satan, a fallen angel who does the Lord’s work in punishing damned souls. They prayed to the ancient creature who ran Hell BEFORE Lucifer arrived. Is it all just ghosts and slamming doors, or is something far more corporeal afoot?
The supernatural occurrences are handled well, and there’s a great sense of isolation in the blank white corridors of the derelict station house. It’s an unusual setting for a horror film. Also, the bad guys even have a creepy song they sing!