If you have a computer you can watch horror movies any damn time you please and for free! Well, actually you will pay in patience as you endure some dumb commercials periodically but you should know by now how to tune such things out and hide inside your happy place until they are over. Some of these are obvious and some of these have nothing to do with the holiday and some of these might not look their best but they’re all mostly good and they all have the power to get you in the Halloween spirit if you let them.
THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969)
This one would be easy to pass by on Hulu as it is presented by the eternally lovely ELVIRA, who might admit to you herself, doesn’t always present the finest of films. Anyway, ELVIRA’s not here, I am (I can hear those disappointed groans telepathically) and I’m here to say this movie is tippity tops. In this rare Spanish film shot in English, LILLI PALMER stars as a head mistress at a boarding school that is not a fan of her cherished son messing with the female students. Naturally folks start getting killed but you’ll never guess the twists including one that still shocks me to this very day. Director Narciso Ibanez Serrador truly delivers on the atmosphere and even though it’s going to take me a while to memorize his name, I simply have to because he also directed the kindertrauma classic WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (Not to mention the opening segment of 6 FILMS TO KEEP YOU AWAKE– which I’m itching to watch again soon). Many a year ago, I had the hardest time finding this movie and had to send out for a very crappy bootleg so please honor my previous struggle by watching it for free!
THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981)
I’m not sure if this is LUCIO FULCI’s greatest movie but I’m leaning toward it being my favorite of his. It’s got all the surreal bizarreness and grubby goriness of his best flicks but in addition to that, it’s soooo much fun and leaves you feeling fresh as a daisy rather than vaguely off kilter and therefore offers itself to more casual viewing. Let’s just say that if THE SHINING made the horrible mistake of having a baby with CATHY’S CURSE, the resulting offspring wailing for instant institutionalization would be something like this. That’s not a dig. THBTC is wildly silly, awkwardly dubbed and mad as a million hatters for sure and yet, it’s so damn beautiful in its cool gothic greyness. There’s nothing quite like it, except maybe GHOSTHOUSE (1988) which was filmed in the same creepy abode. Too bad that’s not on Hulu, what a great double feature that would make.
HOUSE ON SORRORITY ROW (1983)
Do me a favor and jump back in time to this review HERE. It will tell you all you need to know about my undying appreciation of this superior slasher.
Did you just get back from reading my ancient HOUSE ON SORRORITY ROW review? Don’t take off your hat just yet. I don’t mean to be a taskmaster but do you think you could click HERE and save me the trouble of reiterating why SPELLBINDER had to take out a restraining order against me? You’re a peach.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988)
I know this Halloween set classic is a no-brainer and I don’t mean to insult you by including it here but just in case there may be anyone out there who has yet to accept Angela’s invite, I just have to say do so now and plan to do so forever. It seems impossible that a movie can be as hilarious as this is and still provide plenty of creeps but no matter how many times I return, I can count on being a little freaked out. I’m not even talking about the famous lipstick in boob bit- I’m referring to the overall claustrophobic, rats-in-a maze mood it conjures up so well. People tend to dismiss movies that are this much fun as frivolous guilty pleasures but I don’t think a few chuckles erase the fact that there’s something legitimately scary going on here too. The build up to the supernatural shenanigans is so expertly done that the pay off is pure gold and I say if your Halloween doesn’t include a little BAUHAUS, well you’re doing it wrong.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)
This seems like another too obvious choice except please note I’m specifically talking about the remake (GEORGE ROMERO’s classic is available on Hulu too though, if you are so inclined). I caught this one in the cinema back in the day and I was thoroughly impressed and was then taken aback to learn it had received mostly negative reviews. Looking back I should not have been surprised as it was bound to catch flack for being a remake alone. That’s so sad because a color redo was inevitable and TOM SAVINI‘s modernized telling does a great job of respecting its predecessor while still bringing something fresh to the table. Our old pal Barbara, who was rightfully suffering severe shock in the original and largely dazed, is suddenly wide-awake and ready to throw down. Actress PATRICIA TALLMAN portrays Barbara in a way that she’s not magically infallible to serve the story but authentically grounded and convincingly capable. Personally, I’ll never forget the opening confrontation that includes the premiere dead dude getting stabbed by one of those wire flower corsages meant for a grave and then continuing to stalk with it dangling off of him. I thought that was one clever way to announce that the film would be adding some new flourishes all its own. If you are a purist who has been avoiding watching this baby due to your loyalty to the original…stop.
COLD PREY (2006)
Dear COLD PREY, if anyone ever tries to tell you that you are not perfect please cram a pick axe in their face for me. Every year my love for you grows stronger and stronger and I just want thank you for being you (while still hitting every beloved slasher trope I crave). You are everything I ever wanted. You have a fiercely charismatic lead with believable bonds to those around her, a horrifically menacing maniac who somehow inspires slivers of sympathy, true nail-gnawing suspense and perhaps most importantly, folks getting drunk in an abandoned ski lodge (which is my idea of heaven on Earth). You seem to really care about me too because you spawned an equal sequel and a third prequel that I did not think was anywhere near as bad as some pretended it was. There is no reason why I should have to wait until winter to visit you, no reason at all. Never change. Eskimo kisses.
THE CHILDREN (1980)
Once upon a time I thought THE CHILDREN was a terrible movie simply because it was not as good as the one I imagined in my head after being bombarded by its TV spots as a wee lad. Now I realize that it’s still pretty terrible but wonderfully so. One would think that having a bus load of kids drive through a nuclear cloud to become zombie-like killers would be enough but somebody involved also had the brilliant idea of having the kids’ nails turn black and the tykes kill by way of radioactive hugs (while being immune to shotgun blasts and stoppable only after their hands are lopped off). That’s just so crazy that it just might work! Or maybe not- but the fun is in the fact that they carried on anyway. Another bonus is learning that Harry Manfredini is nearly as lazy as myself and recycled much of his score from the same year’s FRIDAY THE 13TH. Bonkers though it may be, there are some surprisingly striking images that appear now and then and sense be damned, an eerie vibe impervious to reason.
ARGENTO does a lot of crappy stuff (mostly lately) and he does a lot of interesting stuff (mostly everything) and he even does some stone cold, indisputable genius stuff (mostly between 1975 and 1985). INFERNO falls into that last category. In fact INFERNO was the first movie of his I ever saw followed by CREEPERS (aka Phenomena) and then SUSPIRIA if you can imagine such a thing. Anyway INFERNO haunted me for so long after I saw it. I could not stop thinking of the underwater scene in which Rose (Irene Miracle) plunges into a hole in the floor to collect some fallen keys. It’s so mesmerizing and I seriously think ARGENTO might be a witch himself and this is a perfect spell. The whole movie is exquisite with perhaps the momentary exception of a late in the flick skeleton of death costume that doesn’t quit work. Just talking about INFERNO makes me feel like I’m walking backward into a semi-dream state. My suggestion is to never question what this movie is telling you, just nod and follow it wherever it leads you.
THE HOLE (2009)
Aw, good ol’ JOE DANTE sure knows how to make a movie. This PG-13 flick is about three young folks who face their fears and it’s got just the right balance of fun and frights to make it perfect for Halloween viewing. Read my full review over HERE so that I can be finished this list and get to carving a pumpkin or something.
Extra 10 Bonus: On Hulu you’ll also find such fine nuggets as: THE EVIL DEAD (1981), THE PROWLER (1981), INTRUDER (1989), C.H.U.D. (1984) FROM BEYOND (1986), FRANKENHOOKER (1990), BASKETCASE 2 (1990), LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE (1974), HORROR EXPRESS (1972) GINGER SNAPS (2001) and so much more- go explore!