Before you pop in that warped, overwatched VHS of "Friday the 13th" or "Evil Dead," why not take this Halloween season as an opportunity to immerse yourself in some great horror flicks you not only have never seen, you won't believe someone actually made.
From the esoteric to the bizarre to the overlooked gems, we've got ten movies that are guaranteed to make a lasting impression on that fragile little mind of yours. Seek these movies out, they're in the ether and if you look hard enough you'll find them.
'The Keep' (1983)
Director Michael Mann may be famous for his Oscar-caliber epics ("Heat," "Last of the Mohicans," "Ali"), but did you know he made a bats**t insane supernatural Nazi horror movie? You didn't? Well, you're in for a treat! This is one of the most eerily atmospheric, visually lush gothic horror movies ever lensed, with boat loads of fog, spooky light effects, and a massive Romanian castle that houses a demon which rebuilds its physical form via sucking out Nazi souls through their eyeballs, occasionally exploding some heads. The synthy score by Tangerine Dream alternately builds and undercuts tension, and the end battle with a roided-out Scott Glenn is ridiculous, but stream this sucker on Netflix with the sound off and you've got yourself one hell of a mood setter.
'Bay of Blood' (a.k.a. 'Twitch of the Death Nerve') (1971)
Mario Bava is the undisputed king of Italian horror, but this entry in his extensive cult filmography stands out because it created the blueprint from which all future slasher movies were built. Without this movie, you have no Jason Voorhees, that's for sure. It begins with a woman in a wheelchair being murdered, then her killer also getting dispatched, and continues on in a domino-like fashion until pretty much everyone involved has been sent to the hereafter in some gruesome manner. What places this one above Bava's other Giallo bloodbaths ("Blood and Black Lace," "Hatchet for the Honeymoon") is the devilishly brilliant ending that will leave you with a smile on your face. Trust us, it's worth it.
'The White Buffalo' (1977)
This is the very definition of one of those movies you find randomly on cable at 3am, and you're like, "Damn, where have you been all my life, crazy horror western!" Just the cast is insane: Charles Bronson is famous gunman Wild Bill Hickok, while "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" Indian Will Sampson plays Crazy Horse, and they're joined by Jack Warden as… well, some crazy old codger. Western staples like Stuart Whitman, John Carradine, and Slim Pickens also pop up, but the star of the movie is the "Moby Dick"-like giant white buffalo they're all after. The practical creature effects are pretty impressive for back then, and the sound effects are wonderfully audacious: the beast's footsteps sound like an earthquake, and its roar sounds like a dinosaur! A bonkers fever dream of a flick, this is. (As of right now the whole thing is available FOR FREE on YouTube.)
'The Plague of the Zombies' (1966)
England's Hammer Studios was a legendary horror factory in the '60s and '70s, churning out tons of product that more often than not featured Christopher Lee and/or Peter Cushing. "Zombies" has neither, but what it does have are some rather potent scenes of zombie carnage. The make-up effects are pretty gnarly, along with the spooky, rustic Cornish period village setting. As with many of the zombie films that preceded it this one has Haitian voodoo as the source of the epidemic, but the violence and intensity (not to mention that oh-so-familiar walk) influenced everything from the Romero "Night of the Living Dead" cycle all the way to "The Walking Dead."
'Horror Express' (1972)
While the above film didn't have Lee or Cushing, this one has the both of them AND cueball supreme Telly Savalas ("Who loves ya, baby?"). These three amigos are on a train ride straight to hell as they travel from China to Moscow aboard the Trans-Siberian Express, unawares that a creature is aboard that can do some serious damage. Not only does this thing suck people's brains out (all memories and knowledge, leaving their eyes white) but can also resurrect its victims as zombies. With this cast, early 1900s setting, and a truly unique monster in the annals of cinema, how can you go wrong?
When it was released a few years back "Tideland" was heavily derided by the press, but has built up a small, devoted following that feel it's one of madman Terry Gilliam's true masterworks. Little Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland) is left to fend for herself on an abandoned farm after her rocker daddy Noah (Jeff Bridges) dies of a heroin overdose, and escapes into her own whimsical fantasy world where severed doll heads are her pals. Oh, and she just may be in love with the mentally handicapped manchild next door, the one who likes to play with dynamite. This is one of those ultra-challenging viewing experiences that almost dares you to hate it, unapologetically filtering disturbing images of death through fanciful, poetic musings of a child. If you ever wondered what it would look like if Terrence Malick made "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," this is it.
Nobody does terror like the Japanese. Before the J-horror era was ushered in by "Ringu," this anthology film (whose title translates as "Ghost Story") took the genre to new heights of artfulness… and dread. It consists of four tales: A man who leaves his wife, only to return to find her, well, a changed woman; A woodcutter meets a Snow Spirit who saves his life… on one condition; A blind musician performs for the ghosts of an army that are draining his life force; and a samurai is haunted by the spirit of a dead warrior in his cup of tea. The look of the film is deliberately studio-bound and artificial, yet somehow the lack of realism only makes these ancient folk tales all the more scarifying. The only film on this list to be nominated for an Oscar (for Best Foreign Language Film).
'The Car' (1977)
James Brolin has to stop a car possessed by the devil from going on a killing spree in a small town. Read that synopses again, you're not hallucinating. It's a frickin' KILLER CAR! Yes, there is a scene where the car stalks a woman and then drives through her house to run her over. Seriously, how are you not watching this right now, preferably with a few beers and at least three house guests to also confirm that this movie exists as you watch it? It honestly plays like the best cocaine-era Stephen King novel never written, complete with opening quote from Anton LaVey's "Satanic Bible." TRUE FACTS: Nerd hero Guillermo del Toro used his Hollywood fun money to have his brother build him a working version of the customized 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III used in this movie. "The Car" also directly inspired a fan-fav episode of "Futurama" where Bender turns into a were-car.
'Cemetery Man' (1994)
In the dreaded 1990's, when neither zombies or comic book adaptations were in vogue, this one combined both as underrated Italian filmmaker Michele Soavi sought to bring Tiziano Sclavi's "Dylan Dog" comic to the big screen. Luckily he was able to cast the actor the character was modeled after, Rupert Everett, which makes this kind of like "My Best Friend's Funeral." Everett plays a man who takes care of the local cemetery by day, and by night dispatches the zombies that rise from its graves. It's all very tongue-in-cheek, and super bloody, just the way the Italians like it. The same source material was later tapped for a dreadful bomb starring former Superman Brandon Routh.
'The Sentinel' (1977)
Made in the post-"Exorcist" supernatural feeding frenzy, "The Sentinel" follows the gorgeous Cristina Raines as jet setting New York fashion model Alison Parker, who moves into a Brooklyn brownstone apartment that happens to be the gateway to hell. Alison experiences strange encounters with a host of spooky character actors (Look out, it's Burgess Meredith! Beverly D'Angelo, stop masturbating in front of guests!), but the cheesiness comes to a halt at the climax when director Michael Winner made the controversial choice of using actual disfigured individuals and circus freaks to play denizens of the netherworld. It might not have been the most ethical choice, but man is it unsettling.