Videodrome: Ghouls, Grind, Gothic & Gore: A Halloween Helper

(Welcome to Videodrome. A monthly column plumbing the depths of vintage underground cinema – from cult, exploitation, trash and grindhouse to sci-fi, horror, noir and beyond.)

Aside from 14-year-olds and the few dozen AD readers recently thawed from 50-year cryo-sleep, no one wants to read another list of must-see horror films for Halloween. But seeing as splatter films and spectacular exploitation are the lifeblood of this column, it makes no sense to let the last few witching hours of October pass without showing a little love for scary movies.

When the need arises this all-hallow’s eve to screen a dark and brooding tale of terror, consult this list for a full rundown of hideous, hair-raising and at times downright deplorable cinematic gems to impress or scare the living shit out of your dearest fiends and neighbors. Ordered by sub-genre for your convenience, you loathsome devils.

Ghost Story —  The Legend of Hell House (1973)

A worthy entry in the surprisingly roomy pantheon of atmospheric ‘70s British chillers, this one runs on legit talent with iconic genre actor Roddy McDowall in the lead and a screenplay penned by the legendary Richard Mathieson. An original twist on a familiar theme–witnesses offered big bucks to disprove a haunting–comes strong with the creepy theatrics, campy but ominous dialogue and a full spectrum of psychological violation. Relies on suspense over gore, but deals in themes of madness, cannibalism, rape and evil while maintaining the creep factor shared by the best horrors of the early 1970s film era.

WitchesValerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders may be best described as Czechoslovakian experimental concept horror, if that means something to you. Regardless of what it is, this beautiful piece of visual imagination falls neatly into “what the hell did I just watch” territory. It’s kind of a moral fable about the loss of youth and innocence, ushered on by painted druid priests and fanged forest warlocks. Attractive adolescent Valerie is beset by vampires, perverted sprites and lesbians in a Wonderlandian waking dream, where she must navigate the fantasy landscape to “survive.” An excellent choice if you’re looking for an ambient film filled with colorful, terrifying and often perverted imagery.

Gothic —  Castle Freak (1995)

Though it is by far the newest film on this list, Castle Freak shares a natural kinship with the low budget grindhouse movement of the 70s and 80s in its exploitative concept and respectful attention to graphic gore. As every fan of horror knows, the genre has deep roots in the medieval castle story. Castle Freak succeeds by taking that time-tested premise and gruesomely marring it with the murderous antics of a hairy, deformed mutant cannibal roaming the stone hallways of an ancient Italian castle. All that being said, Castle Freak is a surprisingly effective B movie horror with a top-notch creature-villain.

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