It’s October again with only a few more weeks of marketing mandated terror to go. With cable channels and the Internet working overtime telling you what’s fright and what’s wrong, it seems like every angle of All Hallow’s Eve is covered, except, like any regulated holiday, the same of scares seem to be offered up. After all, how many times can you watch The Exorcist or The Evil Dead? Is there an expiration date on Halloween and its far too many sequels, or the various fleeting subgenres such as torture porn and J-horror? Indeed, if this particular celebration is all about delivering the shivers, how can something so well known provide said dread?
Luckily, we are here to help. Going back over the last few decades, SE&L has come up with ten alternative movie macabres that you just might enjoy a bit more than an umpteenth viewing of Friday the 13th. We’ve attempted to address both the outsider and the independent, the ‘may be familiar’ and the foreign. Some of these titles may already be in your collection. What’s equally obvious is that all of them should. So instead of busting out your Nightmare on Elm Street box set or the various American updates of Asia betters, why not give one of these offerings a try. Perhaps they’ll become the makings of a new terror tradition in your fear factors.
This ferocious freak show, this mercilessly madcap revolting romp through various unusual issues - Vietnam, hilarious necrophilia, homelessness, alcoholism - is a genuine post modern masterpiece. For gorehounds, it’s a grand slam, a movie with effects so amazing they haven’t been topped in almost three years. From its outrageous opening setpiece (a man literally melts into a toilet) to the final act fireworks which features the most unbelievable decapitation ever, this is a triumph of independent low budget moviemaking, the kind of inventive insanity you rarely see in today’s super serious DIY camcorder scene.
Like watching the ultimate collaboration between Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento (with some nauseating originality thrown in for good measure) this sluice-filled sensation is one of the sickest, most gratifying gross out efforts in quite a while. It’s literally overflowing with unsettling, bloody violence. But this isn’t just gore for the sake of shock. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury have combined the visceral nature of childbirth with the mandates of the slasher film to forge a brilliant, ballsy comment on biology. It’s as nasty now as it was upon its initial, under the radar release.
Originally released under the French title Ils, Them does practically everything right - it gives us easily recognizable and slightly complex characters, it offers relentless and malevolent villains, atmosphere to spare, and an attention to filmic language that’s hard to escape. Like a boa constrictor slowly strangling you to death, directors David Moreau and Xavier Palud keep the fear flowing and the direct effect claustrophobic. Constantly keeping us off guard while allowing the action to grow organically, we become part of the macabre cat and mouse, unable to find shelter or respite from the tireless terrors encircling us.
Before he disappeared into the hit or miss medium of television, director Tibor Takac made two of the late ‘80s most memorable fright flicks. Naturally, fans adored his goofy The Gate while ignoring its far more complex follow-up. Centering on a dead Lovecraftian pulp author whose books seem to be coming to life, the sense of dread and doom here is so overwhelming that it’s hard to appreciate the plot’s various intricacies. Long forgotten except by only the most devoted lovers of offbeat fear, it deserves better. Watch it once and see if you don’t agree.
In the decades since Bob Clark’s creative take on the systematic slaying of innocent victims at the hands of a crazed killer, lovers of splatter cinema expect certain stereotypical standards from their slaughter party. Thankfully, Black Christmas avoids each and every one of these crucial clichés. This allows the film to function on its own, unhinged level of jaundiced genius. Though its premise predates Jason, Michael and all things Freddy, it’s hard to imagine that this film inspired anything but jealousy from those who would follow in its fascinating, fantastic footsteps.