I submitted a top ten list for my good friend's blog RUPERT PUPKIN SPEAKS on obscure horror. You can read it below or here.
In light of two screenings Severin Films is sponsoring this month - Bleeding Skull’s double-feature night at LA ‘s Cinefamily (10/23) and the Brooklyn debut of a curiosity piece in tribute to the annals of z-grade horror (by in-part yours truly), “BRAIN BLUDGEON” (10/29) - Mr. Freelander has allowed me to share some favorites in buried horror.
I have a die-hard appreciation for zero-budget, bizarro, “home-made” horror films that achieve a nightmarish visceral magic beyond their cheesy façade. The more confusing, messy, violent, sordid, delirious, or dumb they are, I’m there. And my favorites below, which are mostly discovered thanks to Bleeding Skull, are measured purely by their insanity. Most of these gems mentioned are an all-or-nothing experience. If you’re easily aroused by the Coffin Joe hell sequences, or Fulci’s CONQUEST, then chances are our tastes are simpatico.
Here’s some obscurities to brighten your Halloween.
10. IN THE WOODS - Directed by Lynn Drzick
This film is probably the least watchable in this list, but its definitely worth mentioning based purely on its stupidity. IN THE WOODS ranks high in the chronicles of best-worst dubbing genius (see MAD FOXES and THINGS), which is appealing enough to maintain interest throughout the film. Frequent unrelated mentions of gerbils and hamsters are also welcome in this EVIL DEAD inspired dud. Two fire-fighters find a horned skull in the woods, and it reanimates the spirit of a “fucking devil dog” which menaces their small town. Earning its own segment in our mash-up project, IN THE WOODS is one of ‘90s best in bone-head cinema. And here’s a little taste of WOODS from BRAIN BLUDGEON (following some bloody cat footage):
Available on DVD on Amazon here.
9. THE ABOMINATION (1986) - Directed by Bret McCormick
Cody’s mother has a tumor. She pukes up the tumor. Then Cody gets a tumor. He pukes it up too and it grows throughout the entire house becoming the... THE ABOMINATION! THE ABOMINATION possesses Cody to go on a murderous rampage to feed it fresh human meat. In a crude mixture of DEADLY SPAWN and THEY CAME FROM WITHIN, this one packs tons of gore and amazing extended nightmare sequences. In Bleeding Skull’s feature article about their hunt for a VHS copy, they describe THE ABOMBINATION’s unique delirium as such: “events are thrown together as if by chance. The final 20 minutes explode in a claustrophobic stench of wet cow intestines and humorous bloodshed. It’s psychedelic anxiety, 1980s style.” Apparently Muther Video, the film’s original distributor, has made a come-back and will be doing a one-off release with this film on DVD along with the director's previous work OZONE! ATTACK OF THE REDNECK MUTANTS.
8. DON’T PANIC (1989) - Directed by Rubin Galindo Jr.
Now this is top tier goof-ball cinema! This will be shown on 35mm (WTF?) as part of the Bleeding Skull night we are presenting this Saturday (10/23) in LA at Cinefamily. Here’s the description from Cinefamily’s event calendar, followed by a RIDICULOUS date sequence from DON’T PANIC.
Ouija boards! Boozed-up moms! A grown man in cartoon pajamas! In Don't Panic, goofball cinema at its most exquisite, strange things happen to a young man. Most of it involves an Ouija board, some gore, and a Satanic (sort of) force. The young man fights evil, falls in love and wears some ultra-cool bedclothes. He also sings the theme song. This film needs to be seen with a crowd, so you have someone you trust at your side to turn to and mutter "WTF?!" to when necessary -- probably every three minutes. If you don’t have fun during Don’t Panic, maybe you need to talk to a Religious Leader of your choice about why there’s no more fun in your life. Just, whatever you do, don’t -- don’t -- oh, forget about it.
DON’T PANIC was available on DVD on this super essential “Horror From South Of The Border” box set, which you still can find used on some e-tailers. Each film is TOTALLY worth your time.
7. THE LAST SLUMBER PARTY (1986) - Directed by Stephen Tyler
I’ll let Bleeding Skull describe this one. From their review:
“The Last Slumber Party is a landmark in American trash filmmaking, a completely disconnected 72 minutes that I could have easily watched for six hours. Magically terrible cut-n-paste sound and photography; outrageous dialogue; gaudy, ultra scummy 80s house interiors; a soundtrack comprised of FIRSTRYKE and white noise synth blurps, usually overlapping one another; multiple endings that make zero sense....I have pages of this stuff....one of the most surreal, hilarious, and unbelievably perfect 80s trash films of all time.”
Also, this amazing kill scene:
This one is available on DVD on a two-fer with TERROR AT TENKILLER. Its totally worth $6.56 from Deep Discount DVD!
6. SLEDGEHAMMER (1982) - Directed by David A. Prior
WTF was that? Is this art? Or just a trashy shot-on-video horror film from the man that brought us KILLER WORKOUT? And what the hell did that kid say? I love this fucking movie.
It’s definitely more Kenneth Anger than BOARDINGHOUSE or 555. Most of the film (67%) is in slow-motion with an accompanying Casio drone. The spirit of a murdered kid haunts the now teen party house as a transformed maniacal giant wielding a sledgehammer. The film does have a clunky mid-section which prevents it from taking a higher place on this list, however the last third is pure avant-horror bliss.
Unavailable on DVD.
5. A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER (1983) - Directed by Doris Wishman
Seriously, get obsessed with Doris Wishman... NOW!
Showing alongside DON’T PANIC as part of Bleeding Skull’s double-feature night at Cinefamily, Doris Wishman’s A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER is surreal fever-dream bliss. From the Cinefamily event calendar:
This Doris Wishman gorefest isn’t so much an exercise in necessity as it is a boon to all mankind! After a peeved lab worker destroyed forty percent of her original negative, Doris was forced to compensate, and A Night To Dismember was born. ‘80s porn star Samantha Fox returns home after a stint in a mental institution, and from there, erratic violence and dreamy visuals bounce around 4-track-cassette-tape aesthetics, while the docu-styled lens of a spastic Super-8 camera whirs on. Hairstyles change constantly. Soundtrack cues comprised of Jazzercise schlock, public domain spooks, and wailing rock overlap in triplicate. Dialogue and sound effects are supplied by Doris's mouth, crackling vinyl, and gloriously hideous post-dubbing -- and there's even some psychedelic sex and random nudity! A Night To Dismember is the bizarro, out-to-lunch experience that trumps ‘most any other in its genre -- and it just might change your life.
DVD out of print from Elite Entertainment.
4. THINGS (1989) - Directed by Andrew Jordan
Now its really, really hard to tell if this film is just a big joke or what hell is going on. Either way, its definitely brilliant. In Canuxploitation’s review (the definitive online guide for Canadian genre films) said THINGS is “one of Canadian film's most extreme exercises in tastelessness...pointless, bleak, and claustrophobic—yet somehow watchable.” I’d have to agree, but its also undoubtedly hilarious. The dubbing is so bad, its as if the crew gave up trying to deliver an honest film, and decided to drunkenly riff their failed production in the ADR room. Some real B-movie magic here.
You can order THINGS from the film’s website here: http://www.things1989.com/.
3. OGROFF aka THE MAD MUTILATOR
This is the most disturbing backyard horror film ever made and certainly the greatest horror film I’ve seen from France - not quite sure what it would take to top this. ITS PURE MADNESS. Shot on Super 8 and including a total of 5 lines of dialog, OGROFF is kill after kill, low-fi nightmarish repetition, and is a severely calculated, cruel, hallucinatory hate-piece. This film will stay with you. In you. This is definitely something Max Renn would program for Civic TV.
2. TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE (1988) - Directed by Chester Novell Turner
Chester Turner is easily the most mysterious auteur to emerge from the ‘80s camcorder horror underground, shocking unsuspecting video renters with his notorious and demented debut feature BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL. Buried deeper in obscurity, Turner's second foray into home-made horror TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE stars Shirley Jones as a bereaved mom who entertains her invisible ghost son with three spooky stories - rednecks fighting over sandwiches, a dead body dressed up as a clown, and lastly, her own. Perhaps the single weirdest thing (coming from a long, long list) about QUADEAD is its poignant, surprisingly personal ending.
We will be screening this film along with BRAIN BLUDGEON in Brooklyn on Oct 26th at reRun Theater at midnight, and its FREE!
Also, TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE is FINALLY getting a DVD release as part of the BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL DVD Rotten Cotton is release. Release date is TBA.
1. THE BURNING MOON (1992) - Directed by Olaf Ittenbach
This is the Holy Grail my friend. THE BURNING MOON may be the ANGRIEST horror film ever made. The film centers on two horrific bedtimes stories that a delinquent, junkie brother (played by director Olaf Ittenbach) reads to his 6 year old sister. These morbid stories focus on a serial killing blind date and a murderous, psychotic, rapist priest.
Upon my first viewing, I was delighted to know that the film actually includes an image of a burning moon. After Ittenbach's character returns home from a brutal gang fight he is beaten by his father. Pissed and broken, he heads upstairs to his room where he shoots heroin. He approaches his window and steps out to a landing and stares at the moon. And of course, it BURNS. Queue intense music and "ARRRHHH!!!" This is what inspires him to make a visit to his little sister's room for some hardcore reading.
Beyond its innovative visceral violence and lo-tech aesthetic it's actually a good film - there is some insane craftsmanship behind its DYI façade - including a TEN MINUTE decent to hell sequence realized as a basement in Germany. If you have a palate for fucked, low-budget nihilism a la THE LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET, COMBAT SHOCK, NEKROMANTIK, etc Ittenbach's persistent warped vision will be your new best friend.
Unavailable on DVD in the US.
If you’re in LA come down on Saturday (10/23) and check out DON’T PANIC and A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER at Cinefamily. If you’re in NYC next Friday (10/29) come check out BRAIN BLUDGEON and TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE at the brand-new reRun Theater in Brooklyn (it’s free!).
Jackson Stewart is a writer/director living in Los Angeles. He created the web series 'The Cartridge Family' and wrote for the CW show Supernatural. He re...