Horror movies, by their very nature, are odd. They are an entertainment that people participate in, the purpose of which is to feel fear. The experience is fictional, it’s often non-reality based, but you’ll feel very real fear. It’s often stated that this otherwise unusual desire to be scared is directly related to the need for catharsis. When done right, when measured out in suspense or splatter, the feeling of intense dread is built up, layer upon layer, until all of a sudden — BAM! — death knocks down the door and turns on the terror with a knife blade or a chainsaw. The set-up and pay-off predicate our response, leading to a likeable (albeit, hardly “enjoyable” experience). It’s the thrill of the ride that we seek in such films, not unlike a rock concert or an actual roller coaster.
But fear is personal. It’s like one’s sense of humor or taste in music. What one person finds frightening, another will find possibly silly, even stupid. Or how about surreal? It’s this latter category we’re looking at here, in “The 10 Weirdest Horror Movies of All Time”. Below we identify the most oddball fright flicks in the history of the genre. Over the decades, masters of the macabre have tried to take their motion picture mandate seriously. But with the influx of the drive-in, the need for cheap entertainment options, and the post-modern equivalent known as direct-to-video, some of the more insane ideas out there have gained creative traction.
Enjoy these ten films, which we think define the crackpot creep show conceit. Sure, there are others more famous or less loony, but when it comes to crazy, these titles from the last 30 years trump them all.
10. Society, Dir. Brian Yuzna (1989)
Poor Bill. Even though he has everything he could ever want, he just doesn’t feel like he fits in with his hoity-toity parents. Turns out, he’s right. Partly, because he’s adopted, but also because his wealthy guardians (and their friends) are a weird race of shapeshifting creatures who literally eat the poor and disenfranchised.
While most of Yuzna’s Society is a minor murder mystery with slasher elements, the last act “orgy”, containing a collection of human/hybrid oddities, makes this otherwise ordinary exercise in allegory a jaw dropper, complete with one person winding up with his head literally up his ass.
9. The Refrigerator, Dir. Nicholas Jacobs (1991)
A struggling young couple in late ’80s New York rent an apartment that just so happens to contain a refrigerator that’s… a doorway to HELL! Indeed, before our unknowing lessees take over this high rent pit, we watch as the icebox eats a drunken doofus. As the appliance starts to possess our couple, they both experience unsettlingly stupid dreams.
The ending consists of a relatively sedate party, which breaks out into murderous mayhem when the rest of the kitchen gadgetry goes on a killing spree. Jacob’s low budget entry into the lunatic fringe, The Refrigerator, has big box store-style special effects and amateurish acting, to boot.
8. The Lift, Dir. Dick Maas (1983)
One day, a seemingly ordinary elevator turns evil, systematically killing the people who ride in it. A journalist starts to investigate these unusual deaths, discovering that the company responsible has been experimenting with devices built out of “organic matter”, for some unknown reason.
Director Dick Maas would later remake this movie as The Shaft, with Naomi Watts, Michael Ironside, and Twin Peaks‘ James Marshall in the cast. The update wasn’t as wonderfully wonky as the original Danish effort, but then again, how could a movie about a killer elevator be shocking the second time around?
7. The Gingerdead Man, Dir. Charles Band (2005)
While he’s a walking anomaly in and of himself, you’ve never see Gary Busey — Oscar nominee Gary Busey — in as full a glorious goofball mode as you will in The Gingerdead Man. Playing a crazed killer named Millard Findlemeyer, he commits a heinous crime before being sent to the electric chair and cremated. His mother, a witch, puts his cremated remains in a box of gingerbread spice and sends it to the family of her son’s victims.
One cut finger, a little blood, and 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven and we have the killer cookie of the title, with Busey’s nutburger personality full baked-in.
6. Killer Condom, Dir. Martin Walz (1996)
With a homosexual viewpoint that’s quasi-enlightened for the late ’90s, Walz’s jokey German gem, Killer Condom, is undeniably wacky. A gay detective named Luigi Mackeroni is assigned the case of the crimes over at the Hotel Quickie. Apparently, all the male guests there have had their penises “bitten” off by… something. Employing a rent boy named Billy, he hopes to crack the case and have a little same sex fun, as well. Sadly, his prophylactic attacks, leaving our hero sans junk… and a clue.
Making the situation a personal mission, he comes face-to-face with the title terror. Believe it or not, said items were designed by H.R. Giger himself. No, seriously.
5. Rubber, Dir. Quentin Dupieux (2010)
One day, for no specific reason, an abandoned tire comes to life. After learning how to remain upright and how to roll, it discovers a psychotropic ability to destroy things. So, naturally, it goes on a killing spree.
After a few failed attempts, Dupieux’s Rubber quickly becomes a Goodyear full of gore. Of course, the police put out a dragnet for the radical radial, with the tire responding with even more murderous intent.
While it doesn’t always work, and wears out its welcome, this insane idea is executed in such a way that even the most mind numbing elements become fascinating… if not very frightening.
4. Matango, Dir. Ishirô Honda (1963)
From the man who made Godzilla an international superstar, Ishrio Honda, comes this tale of a group of travelers who survive a shipwreck only to find an island populated by mushroom people. Or better yet, normal everyday folk who made the mistake of consuming the atoll’s addictive native fungi.
As they try to avoid the two legged toadstools and their insatiable desire to harm, the various members of the party began panicking and turning on each other. While impressive with its mid-’60s special effects and its dour, depressing bleakness that would make David Fincher jealous, Matango is both bizarre and strangely haunting.
3. Mystics in Bali (Leák), Dir. H. Tjut Djalil (1981)
A young woman named Cathy wants to investigate Bali’s black magic cult known as Leák. In the process, she meets an evil witch who promises to train her in the ways of the wicked arts.
Naturally, it’s a ruse, with our heroine instead changed into a creature known as a Penanggalan — a flying vampire with internal organs draped around its neck. No body. Just a head with entrails hanging from it.
While there’s a traditional basis for Djalil’s otherwise unconventional tale, Mystics in Bali, no amount of forced folklore can prepare you or the absolute craziness of a barely passable puppet head terrorizing the populace.
2. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats, Dir. George Barry (1977)
You’re not going to believe this one. Apparently, a demon tried to seduce a woman by conjuring up a four poster peccadillo. She goes into a coma, it cries tears of blood, and a possessed divan is born.
Many non-mythic years later, the bed ends up in an abandoned home, and wouldn’t you know it, a lot of people like to break into the estate and do “stuff” on the malevolent mattress set. When they’re not paying attention, the sheets reveal an under-layer of gastric juices, and before you can say “Serta Perfect Sleeper”, the various victims are… digested. Barry’s Death Bed: The Bead That Eats is too insane for words.
1. House (Hausu) Dir. Nobuhiko Ôbayashi (1977)
Don’t confuse this bugnuts Japanese oddity for the 1986 fright flick from Steve Miner, or the faith-based film from 2008 (and it has nothing to do with a cranky old medic, either). No, in experimental director Nobuhiko Obayashi’s unhinged horror film, House, a schoolgirl travels with six of her classmates to her ailing aunt’s estate. There, they meet a hungry homestead that finds convoluted ways to “eat” the visitors.
There’s an evil bed here as well, in addition to a deadly piano, a ravenous light fixture, and a disembodied head that bites people in the butt. For 1977, House is audacious and deranged.
Editor’s note: The beloved, late Bill Gibron’s article originally published on 21 October 2014. We updated and resurrected it here for 2019 Halloween fun. Bill always made us laugh. He always will.