Man does not live on bread alone and horror fans needn’t live on horror films alone. In fact, the Surgeon General has stated that watching non-horror movies may actually enhance a horror fan’s appreciation for horror. That is why Kindertrauma’s Unk has teamed up with Cinema Du Meep’s Meep to bring you this here post of 40 Non-Horror Movies For Horror Fans. Let’s start with Meep’s picks as he is our very special guest!
Television Movies aren’t often thought of as powerful and haunting, but I’d attribute ADAM as one of the Movies that fucked my head up so much as a kid. They also released another kid goes missing flick WITHOUT A TRACE the very same year! I’m a parent now, and absolutely terrified I’d lose my kid in a similar fashion as ADAM. I also don’t want to turn into the guy who became the host of America’s Most Wanted. I want to pretend life is A-OK and stuff like this doesn’t happen on a regular basis. Real life is the scariest of all. Also, Jobeth Williams is the 80’s mom to us all.
THE BEGUILED (1971)
Star Clint Eastwood and Director Don Siegel are mostly known for their Action outings together (COOGAN’S BLUFF, DIRTY HARRY, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ etc), but they also managed to squeeze in the tale of a Union soldier caught in the world of possibly cuckoo young Confederate women. Horror fans may be creeped out by the Film’s atmosphere and claustrophobic nature. Or the fact that a bunch of women together in a room almost always leads to some form of sheer terror!
BLUE STEEL (1990)
Former Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis has made all kinds of Films since her initial Slasher run of the late 70’s and early 80’s, but she managed to shift her persona and still turn in another female in jeopardy performance. This time with a great twist. Blue Steel is one of the best Action/Thrillers of the 90’s but it’s also a great feminist Film. STEEL was Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who has finally found footing in Hollywood and respect from her peers over the last few years with prestige Films like THE HURT LOCKER and ZERO DARK THIRTY. Horror fans aren’t likely looking for a feminist take on a “Fill in the blank from hell” kind of Movie, but they will get the thrills they are looking for, familiar Horror tropes and the ever amazing Jamie Lee.
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (1985)
Two small town guys decide to pick up and go to Los Angeles after their peers graduate and then pile up a series of crimes and murder behind them. BOYS is mostly labeled and thought of as a Crime Thriller, but for me it’s always been one of the scariest portraits of youth gone wrong. It opens with factoids about more well known serial killers, preparing its audience for what may follow, and that opener always scared the hell out of me as a kid. It’s still effective. Director Penelope Spheeris is now best known for WAYNE’S WORLD, but she always had her finger on the pulse of what was going on in the culture, and in this case, what was creeping around, waiting to strike. Maxwell Caulfield (GREASE 2) will forever be dreamy, but he’s totally frightening here.
DANCE WITH A STRANGER (1985)
The true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain during the 1950’s, DANCE WITH A STRANGER is the story of obsession taken pretty far. Though it’s ostensibly a British drama, this Film always had a positively haunting effect on me. A lot of that can be contributed to the performances of Miranda Richardson and a young Rupert Everett. Miranda especially gives a go-for-broke performance that alternates between being scary and sympathetic. She’s a pre-Alex Forrest from FATAL ATTRACTION, but grounded in bit more realism. And definitely british!
DREAM LOVER (1994)
James Spader has always been a favorite actor of mine, and here he plays a guy who falls for the wrong woman (played by Mädchen Amick). Though it’s a Thriller, Horror fans may enjoy some of the nightmarish images Director Nicolas Kazan comes up with. Kazan, offspring of Elia, is mostly known as a Screenwriter and Playwright, and this Film has proved to be his last to-date Directorial effort, but he shows a real flair for creating a mood and vibe. You, along with Spader are seduced by Amick… not to mention her obsessive love of pearls… and then you are taken for a ride into the carnival the Filmmaker cooks up.
FOUL PLAY (1978)
And… I’m… ready to take a chance again… Ready to put my love on the line with you… So, yeah, in a way, Horror fans may already be terrified by the thought of a Barry Manilow song over the credits, but there it is. I’m personally a big fan of Barry as well as this Film. Sometimes the best kinds of Movies come from unexpected places and I would certainly count FOUL PLAY as one of the most random Movies ever. This one throws everything at you, and done in a very skilled and playful style. Horror fans will definitely enjoy the nods to Hitchcock and more surprises I won’t spoil here.
LOVE AND HUMAN REMAINS (1993)
Ah, The Independent Cinema movement of the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s is something I really miss these days. This Canadian effort really came out during the height of it all. What Horror fans don’t know is that in addition to being a quirky Comedy & Drama, it’s also a Movie about a string of murders with a serial killer lurking around Montreal. I guess the title should have given it away to me when I first saw this at the Angelika Cinema in New York City when it came out, but I was sure surprised. It’s fun to watch Movies juggle a tone so much. Very few can pull it off so well like this.
MIRACLE MILE (1989)
The poster for MIRACLE MILE has a critical quote on it that tells you to be prepared to be blasted into the back of the Theater. And yes, MIRACLE does that in it’s own way. This is a story of an ordinary guy (Anthony Edwards) who looks for the girl (Mare Winningham, sporting the worst haircut I’ve seen on an 80’s chick) he had a really good first date with, on what he believes will be the last night of existence since a nuclear missile is headed their way. This Movie really will do a number of you and will likely crack the most cynical of people and break your shit down. I’m still not sure if I ever recovered. Those of us who lived under the threat of an impending nuclear strike throughout our childhoods are probably forever messed up anyway.
MORGAN STEWART’S COMING HOME (1987)
I love Teen Comedies a great deal and I even love the ones that seem to be either hated by critics or the ones that have been run over by time. MORGAN STEWART is a standout for me not only because it’s good hearted and fun in a light 80’s sort of way, but it’s central character is Horror Movie obsessed. Of course you have to see it. You, like Morgan, have posters of your favorite Horror Movies, likely collect Movie artifacts and would totally jump at the chance to see George Romero at the local mall if he was signing a book. Morgan also meets cute with a girl on the line to see Mr. Romero, and then takes her out on a date to see a midnight show of ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. Isn’t that the most adorable thing ever?
The bonds between mother and son are sometimes very powerful, and this Movie from the early 70’s fully realizes that and goes to some pretty dark places. Ethereal Joan Hackett and Scott Jacoby (BAD RONALD) play mother and son, and Robert Klein is the boyfriend who gets in between their eternal bond. The jazzy score also ratchets up the tension as things spiral out of control later in the Film.
Julianne Moore is an 80’s housewife (she aerobicizes to Madonna!) who comes down with an unexplained illness and increasingly gets more and more sick. Todd Haynes’ Film skillfully doesn’t offer any clear cut answers but instead pits you into this woman’s world and you feel as hopeless as she does as things grow worse for her. Sometimes terror comes not from a masked maniac or a creature from beyond but from the world we industrialized around us, the things we can’t see and god knows what else. You are anything but safe even if you think you are. The thought of what might be out there is sending chills down my spine right now.
SOUTHERN COMFORT (1981)
This is the Movie that made me Cajun-phobic. Is that a real thing? Seriously I am. Thanks Walter Hill. Thanks a lot. I know you produced ALIEN and did some great Films, but this one scares me more than most Horror Films. I mean it. And Scream Factory put it out on blu-ray recently. See it!
STAR 80 (1983)
Dorothy Stratten was a playmate, an actress and a gentle soul who unfortunately had the worst of luck. She fell in love with absolutely the wrong man. Paul Snider> was a jealous person who controlled Ms. Stratten, and couldn’t deal with her success and the love and lust everyone seemed to have for her. Her story ends tragically as most of us know, and Bob Fosse’s Film really digs deep into their story, especially it’s tragedy (he even shot in the same house where the murder-suicide took place), and you are front and center for it. I honestly can’t think of many people as scary as Eric Roberts portrayal of Mr. Snider.
SUMMER SCHOOL (1987)
Freewheelin’ and fun Teen Comedies are a staple of my youth and those of us who enjoy them know that SUMMER SCHOOL is one of the very best of it’s kind. What it also has is the characters of Chainsaw & Dave, who, like some of us, are also Horror Movie fanatics and like to live out some of their Favorite Movies with gory special effects and goo. Now this is the best possible way to study and learn, right? I so wanted to go to a High School where THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is played in class. Why couldn’t I have been as lucky? Even if it meant I had to go to Summer School it would have been worth it. The special efforts gore in this Movie are top notch and are on par with the best Slashers of it’s time.
3 WOMEN (1977) & IMAGES (1972)
Robert Altman isn’t really known as a director of Horror, but he came as close to them as possible with 3 WOMAN and IMAGES from 1972. Both Films have a mood and vibe that are very much in the Horror vein, and you’re not quite sure what is going to happen in either. I find myself spellbound when I watch both and Horror fans may be satisfied with that and also get exposed to the unique and very distinct Altman touch. IMAGES also has a great eerie score by John Williams.
Scott Baio is pretty much the boy version of CARRIE in this lighthearted and THC-enhanced homage to the De Palma Film, but here with a complete PORKY’S aesthetic. I always go back to ZAPPED! because I get all that Telekinesis fun and I don’t have to be worry about being bummed out that it’s central character dies tragically after all the Prom mania. Plus the scene where Scott Baio frightens his religious mom with moving his creepy ventriloquist dummy (perhaps a nod to MAGIC?) with his mind is worth the price of admission alone.
Unk Sez: Thank’s Meep! Those are all great choices and now I’ve got plenty of homework to do. Folks make sure you visit Meep HERE and “Like” the Cinema Du Meep Facebook HERE for plenty more cool stuff!
All right, now here come my picks:
In Cold Blood (1967)
Richard Brooks takes on Truman Capote’s groundbreaking true crime bestseller and the result is a challenging and unforgettable viewing experience. Somehow both hyper-realistic (many of the actual real life locations were used) and sublimely poetic (the cinematography astounds), In Cold Blood may be shot in black and white but its presentation of real life horror is anything but. As uneasy as it may make the viewer, In Cold Blood dares us to accept the humanity of two killers (Lost Highway’s Robert Blake & The Walking Dead’s Scott Wilson– both remarkable) before exposing us to their inhuman acts against an unsuspecting family.
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
What’s more horrifying than a couple dozen camp counselors being hacked to pieces? I’d say a full school bus of children sliding onto a frozen lake, smashing through the ice and slowly submerging towards certain death. Atom Egoyan’s adaptation of Russel Bank’s novel of the same name explores a town’s grieving process after loosing nearly every child in their population to such an unthinkable tragedy. Alien’s Ian Holm is impeccable and Dawn of the Dead (2004) star Sarah Polley’s reading of the tale of the pied piper ensures that you will never think of it in the same way again.
Shadows and Fog (1991)
Woody Allen’s love letter to German Expressionist filmmakers like F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) is as nightmarishly paranoid as it is visually stunning. Any horror fan worth their salt should feel right at home amidst the moody black and white cinematography but if by any chance they should happen to miss their comfort zone Donald Pleasance (Halloween), Kathy Bates (Misery) and Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs) appear as familiar markers in the mist.
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Diane Keaton plays a teacher of deaf children who explores singles bars and brings home a final scene so disturbing it puts many a horror movie’s finale to shame.
The Rapture (1991)
Sharon (Mimi Rogers) wonders if anything can be worse than working in a cubicle by day and engaging in empty sex at night. She then discovers religion and realizes the answer is YES! Prepare to go where no movie has gone before and to endure an unfathomable act as she travels from following blindly to demanding answers from the big guy upstairs.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
It would be easy for horror fans to dismiss this flick thanks to its baggage laden stars or be put off by the campy comedy that abounds but this morality tale concerning the lengths some might go to retain their youth is rather like a cautionary DC comic book come to vibrant life. Director Robert Zemeckis had a big hand in the success of HBO’s Tales From the Crypt and in spirit, Death Becomes Her feels much more like a Tales From the Crypt movie than any actual existing Tales From the Crypt movie. Cinematography provided by some guy named Dean Cundey.
The Piano Teacher (2001)
In many cases life’s most insidious horrors don’t come from an external nemesis but from within. Isabelle Hubbert stars as a repressed teacher who becomes entangled with a student, yet can only seem to express herself through masochism and covertly destroying those she feels threatened by. Masterful Austrian director Michael Haneke guides Hubbert through a dark spellbinding performance.
Don’t worry about Sybil, as far as mentally ill protagonists go, she’s a sympathetic sweetheart whose biggest fault is a tendency to break windows and inappropriately wade in park fountains. Her mother, on the other hand, makes Norma Bates look like June Cleaver after a relaxing Calgon bath. Viewers may be tempted to ease their mortified psyches with the knowledge that the authenticity of the events depicted in Sybil are up for debate. Don’t rest your head too soundly though as there is absolutely no debate on whether sadistically deranged and abusive parents exist. Accurate or not, this is a deep dark dive and a reminder not to judge a person’s strength by their outward behavior, as you never know what they’ve endured.
After Hours (1985)
Martin Scorsese’s inescapable Kafka-esque nightmare is funny as hell but constantly hits creepily uncanny nerves that can’t be denied. It’s inclusion of the song “Is That All There Is?” perfectly encapsulates the surreal nature of the film and the harsh truth that into each life a little rain (and horror) must fall.
Straw Dogs (1971)
Director Sam Peckinpah uses a shotgun to blast a portrait of violence in its most raw and befouling form and the result is fifty shades of ugly and fittingly as difficult to look at, as it is to look away from. Expect no mollifying answers or cathartic victory laps here, there’s no path out of this briar patch that won’t leave you shredded.
Jane Eyre (1943)
There are exactly a zillion cinematic adaptations of Charlotte Bronte’s 1847 novel and exactly zero of them will ever reach the creepy gothic heights of the lusciously black and white 1943 version directed by Robert Stevenson. Is there some kind of romance going on here? I don’t care; I just want to know what’s behind that door!
Far From Home (1998)
Let us never forget that Drew Barrymore’s short-lived “bad girl” film cycle was perhaps only a prison flick away from rivaling Linda Blair’s. Myopic horror fans can grouse as much as they want about that, it’s true just the same. Far From Home is one of my favorite Bad Drew flicks as it finds our young, lisping lush stalked in a desert trailer park that is also home to the likes of Susan (Night Warning) Tyrell and Jennifer (Bride of Chucky) Tilly. If that’s not enough, Dick Miller plays the local sheriff and horror favorite Tommy Lee Wallace’s name is on the screenplay.
The Impossible (2012)
Has it been a long time since you’ve seen a horror movie that made you gasp, wince, grit your teeth, shudder and hide your eyes? Well, maybe you’re looking in the wrong place. In this film, based on a true story, Mother Nature makes every horror villain you’ve ever known look like fluffy pink bunny handing out Valentines. Think your favorite final girl has got spunk and an admirable will to survive? Check out Noami Watts Oscar-nominated performance here and honestly ask yourself if you’d rather try to outrun a maniac or a tsunami.
Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)
Horror and science fiction have always made compatible bedfellows but allow me to especially sing the praises of this once 3-D actioner as a good bet for those who enjoy squishy, eighties-style make up effects. You’ll find blobby monsters, mutant children, slimy serpents and even mermaids in the offbeat world visited within this fun flick and all created by the underrated genius Tom Burman (My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday to Me, The Beast Within, Cat People, etc.). Director Lamont Johnson (You’ll like my Mother, Lipstick) finds two appealing leads in Peter Straus and a pre-Sixteen Candles Molly Ringwald and who can ask for a better cyborg heavy than Scanners’ Michael Ironside?
I hope this movie is as good as I remember it. The fact is I can never watch it again as it nearly destroyed my ability to travel by plane. I do recall though, that besides featuring the most unbearable plane crash imaginable, “Fearless” does this wonderful thing where it leaves you appreciating life itself. I recommend this picture to horror fans because as corny as it may sound, without a viewer’s simple understanding of the value of human life, I don’t believe any horror film can run at full capacity.
The Wall (1982)
Pink Floyd wasn’t crazy about director Alan Parker’s treatment of their album The Wall and Parker apparently was right on the same page in being disappointed. Who knows how far it missed the mark in the eyes of the artists who brought it to life and, more importantly, who cares? The fact remains that this movie is one of a kind and produces a mix of feelings unlike any film ever made. It’s a cinematic sausage stuffed with traumas that can’t be quieted and negative emotions that can never be righted and a big swirling spell of self-destructive corrosive mojo. It’s sad, it’s beautiful, it’s somehow both depressing and riling and it’s profound monumental horror art.
Smooth Talk (1985)
Based on the haunting Joyce Carol Oates short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Smooth Talk begins like your typical After School Special concerning teens testing boundaries and getting giddy over small-scale rebellions. A pre-David Lynch muse Laura Dern plays 15-year-old Connie who feels trapped by the limitations set by her family and fearful of ending up like her demure older sister June (The Funhouse’s Elizabeth Berridge). Connie begins a flirtation with an older man named Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) and one day, while her family is out, he comes to her house to pay a visit. Things get very surreal, very disturbing and very ambiguous very fast. Sometimes you only need a few well-placed words to chill.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
You won’t find any scares in this mildly spooky romantic fantasy but if you are a fan of ghost and haunted house tales, you’re bound to enjoy its atmosphere and point of view anyway. Personally I am tempted to keep my DVD copy in the medicine cabinet as it has proven over the years to cure any and all ailments.
The Changeling’s George C. Scott stars as a father whose brain rightfully explodes when the search for his missing daughter leads him to find her enmeshed in the seedy underworld of pornography. Written and directed by the always-interesting Paul Schrader, HARDCORE reminds that some of the worst horrors that the world has to offer involve the damage inflicted upon those we love rather than ourselves.
The Tin Drum (1979)
Based on the book by Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum tells the story of a creepy kid named Oskar who, in protest to the insanity of the world, throws himself down a staircase and miraculously stops himself from aging. He’s also very fond of his disruptive toy drum and has the useful ability to shatter glass with his high-pitched scream. He’s basically the Kindertrauma poster child. I originally caught this flick on PBS as a teen and it shook me like a baby rattle and permanently turned me off eating eels collected from decapitated horse heads washed up on the beach.
Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
In this Spanish language film a young girl watches James Whale’s Frankenstein and her life is forever changed. What horror fan can’t relate?
It is doubtful anyone will ever trump the incredible and certainly horrific depiction of the fantastic denizens of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland provided here by frequent kindertrauma culprit Jim Henson.
Happy Campers (2001)
A Friday the 13th movie sans multiple murders? It shouldn’t exist but it does. As I quoted in this semi recent REVIEW “Who needs a serial psycho when we have ourselves?” Exactly.
And that’s where we better stop. I keep thinking of other flicks and with each one I have to make another Sophie’s Choice. Dagnabbit, Sophie’s Choice (1982) is another one! Thanks again to the great and powerful Meep! Critters and kids, do you have a favorite non-horror flick that you think horror fans could dig? Leave your picks in the comments section! We want to hear them all!