Unusual horror flicks to watch this spooky season
BY Music and Society Editor
AND , Senior Reporter
It’s that time of year again when the uncontrollable urge to watch horror films is met by the smell of pumpkin spice in the air and the scavenging of Goodwills across the land for costume pieces. Rather than watching “Halloween” for the 18,000th time (approximately how many times we have seen it ourselves), try out these lesser known horror films, ranging from bone-chilling to campy to over-the-top gory.
Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” is a beloved cult classic for many reasons: a mind-bending and often hazy plot, extreme gore, gorgeously colored cinematography and an electrifyingly chilling score being chief among them. However, the lasting appeal of this film as a go-to spooky season watch is just how strange it is.
The story follows Suzy Bannion, an American ballet student, as she joins a prestigious dance academy in Germany. After witnessing another student flee in terror from the school just as she approaches, Suzy is drawn into a sinister plot conjured up by a coven of witches.
Argento’s direction is focused far more on style than any substantive plot; there’s more than enough there to make the movie interesting, but where the film really excels is in its ability to create a deeply unsettling atmosphere accented by vibrant colors and a score created by the Italian band, Goblin. Seriously, even if you don’t intend on watching this movie, at least listen to the song “Suspiria.”
Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 original traded some of its abstract elements for a more concrete plotline, now set firmly in the context of divided Germany still reckoning with its past. Where Argento utilized bright blues and reds in his color palette, Guadagnino chose a bleaker palette, giving the film a certain ambiance that reflects the growing dread of both ancient evils and a country in ideological turmoil.
Still, despite the stylistic and content changes, the remake succeeds in matching the unnerving tone of its predecessor. It takes advantage of modern special effects capabilities only sparingly, including one particularly horrifying sequence that might be better left watched without any knowledge of it beforehand. Goblin’s score for the 1977 film is unparalleled, but Thom Yorke of Radiohead’s take is more than a worthy successor.
The remake attracted it’s share of critics, but it’s still a well-crafted film that delivers some of the most chilling scenes I’ve ever experienced in a horror movie. It might also make you fall in love with Dakota Johnson and/or Thom Yorke.
“House on Haunted Hill” (1959)
I’ve watched this movie six times, and it truly gets better with each viewing. To be clear, “House on Haunted Hill” is outrageously campy, featuring laughably dumb character decisions, goofy special effects and a leading role for horror legend Vincent Price. Beneath the B-movie schlock, however, is a real charm and good grasp on pacing an entertaining story.
Price plays Frederick Loren, a wealthy businessman who’s promised $10,000 to five strangers if they can spend the entire night in a house with a history of murder. Loren gives each of the strangers a gun for protection, and the winding tale of suspicion and hauntings, filled with more twists than groan-inducing lines (of which there are many), takes off from there.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed horror experience, or just something to laugh at with friends, you can’t go wrong with a high degree of camp.
“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)
The first time I saw “Killer Klowns from Outer Space,” it was so late at night that when I woke up the next day, I thought it was a dream. This perplexing film exists in a realm between legitimately terrifying and ridiculously absurd, struggling to decide whether it is taking itself seriously or acknowledging its scary amount of flaws.
A circus tent spaceship lands in a small town, bringing with it carnivorous clowns to prey on the innocent community. Creature popcorn, cotton candy cocoon spinning guns and deadly shadow puppets are all contained in their arsenal. The only way for humans to fight back is to shoot them in their red noses, causing them to explode (seriously.)
“Killer Klowns from Outer Space” shines in its practical effects and vibrant and creative props and set pieces. Its blend of lightheartedness and gory shock value make it a zany Halloween essential.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre II” (1986)
Tobe Hooper’s original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” caused a sensation in 1974 for its gruesome violence and brutal imagery, dubbed as one of the first “snuff” films and added to the canon of the greatest horror films of all time.
Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre II” took everything that made the first film successful and terrifying and did the direct opposite.
“Chainsaw II” is a literal mess. It is quite legitimately one of the worst films I have ever seen, making it one of the best.
Leatherface and the rest of his dysfunctional family reprise their roles to terrorize in glorious violence but are given way too much to say. The dialogue is atrocious and borderline incoherent and an unnecessary (yet wildly entertaining) love subplot is added for Leatherface’s character. In one of the best scenes, Leatherface expresses arousal making viewers reconsider everything they know about chainsaws.
This film breaks the scale of “so-bad-it’s good” territory: the poster is a parody of Leatherface and the gang as the Breakfast Club for god’s sake. Do yourself a favor and watch this dumpster fire for a hearty laugh.