Every Halloween season brings with it the same staple of horror films that manage to set the mood just right. These movies are masterpieces; works of art that have frightened generation after generation. I’m talking, of course, about the films by Carpenter, Craven, Romero, and Hooper. If you’re unfamiliar with these names, your best bet is to check out Mike Mendez’s awesome documentary Boogeymen II: Masters of Horror.
But, as the rest of us horror nuts know, the thirst for new and exciting experiences is an everlasting one. So here’s a list of other, lesser sung masterpieces, that will serve as great alternatives to your traditional Halloween Favorites.
The Prowler is truly a hidden gem of the slasher genre. It’s comprised of just the right amount of scares, sex, and gore to feed the needs of any horror hound. It’s directed by master Joseph Zito (of Friday The 13: The Final Chapter Fame), with horrific effects by Tom Savini. This film doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as it deserves, but it’s hands down one of the best murdering psychopath movies there is!
Larry Fessenden’s The Last Winter is beautiful, scary, and just as chilling as John Carpenter’s classic. Although the two films don’t share much beyond the setup, this gem will leave a truly unsettling feeling in your gut. The paranoia, isolation, and masterful direction in this film will leave you kicking yourself for not seeing it sooner.
Calvaire is a sick, mean, brutal, and brilliant film. The loving references to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are pretty obvious in the first half until, out of nowhere, the film takes a left turn into the horrible, horrible unknown. You know that filthy feeling that Tobe Hooper left you with when Leatherface was wildly swinging his chainsaw into the sunset? Fabrice Du Welz makes that look like a relaxing day in the park. Get ready.
Punishment Park is hands down one of my favorite horror films of all time. Why this faux doc doesn’t get more credit is beyond me. Released in 1971, the story follows a group of hippies after they are arrested for protesting the Vietnam War. They’re all tried in front of a makeshift council, quickly convicted, and then forced to run through a brutal stretch of desert known as Punishment Park. Oh, they’re also being hunted. The raw, unflinching grittiness of this film will terrify you just as much as any witch in the woods.
These are two of my favorite horror movies, which makes this swap so easy. Both films toy with the paranoia and danger of encountering a sadistic satanic cult but, unlike it’s artistic and meditative counterpart, Race With The Devil starts blowing shit up in a series of high-octane highway pursuits. It’s a great time at the movies and a nice change up for when Minnie Castevet begins to get on your nerves.
There is no real way to describe Eyes Without a Face without giving too much away. This movie is particularly cruel and shocking even by today’s standards (which is quite an achievement, considering it was released in 1960). With an amazing soundtrack and a masked villain who inspired our very own Michael Meyers, this black-and-white chiller will definitely keep you awake at night.
Magic is a perfectly terrifying, character-driven horror film, with an amazingly creepy doll at the wheel. But what makes this movie so scary isn’t the doll itself, but rather the uncertainty of who (or what) is actually responsible for its maniacal ways. Anthony Hopkins is absolutely brilliant as the tortured Corky and the scene in the lake house will challenge any scare offered up by Chucky.
Everybody loves evil kid movies, right? Right. The best one ever has got to be Children of the Corn, right? Not necessarily. Who Can Kill A Child? is a terrifying film that forces the viewer to take a good look at themselves and ask an unthinkable question. It’s masterful in both tone and ever-building intensity. It’s unflinching and downright mean. Though recently remade as Come Out And Play, the original still holds up as one of the finest examples of horror filmmaking.