5. 976-EVIL –
This flick’s main antagonist scared the living wahoo out of me as a kid. Stephen Geoffrey’s demonic character, Hoax Wilmot is even more evil and terrifying than his Evil Ed character in the popular 80s flick Fright Night.
Hoax is picked on unremittingly by a group of high school bullies that eventually cause Hoax to conjure up the dark one down below via a HORRORscope phone line. All hell breaks loose as Hoax makes a bloodcurdling transformation from school geek to demonic beast.
It is important to note that this was directed by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund in his first directorial effort. Although the film garnered only mediocre reviews, this Krueger-helmed entry used the dead teenager formula in a more productive way then others of that late 80s era. A noteworthy viewing that will either elicit a chuckle or a yawn.
4. The Burning –
During the very early 80s, the horror genre was inebriated with copious amounts of blood, boobs, and mass serial killers offing drunk, fornicating teenagers. We can thank Sean S. Cunningham and his profound Friday the 13th film for that. What follows in his films legendary footstep into the horror world are massive attempts at making a similar premise work. The Burning is one of those entries. I myself was not a huge fan of the slasher genre that was brought on by F13th. The slasher flicks are very shallow and are only an excuse to spray blood and gore on helpless young nubile females.
Most people watch these films for that specific interest. I am one who relies more on plot, character, development, and (of course) fantastic special effects. The Burning incorporates all of the cliché formula components while encompassing a decent story about a camp handyman/bully of campers named Cropsey who is completely burned by a group of campers and their prank that has gone awry. What follows is Cropsey’s return to the camp years later, and his vengeance that is bestowed upon the current campers and counselors (one of which is a kid from the aforementioned prank).
The effects are amazingly done by a young Tom Savini (who helmed special effects for the original F13th as well as another great slasher film from this era, The Prowler). This has to be some of Savini’s more extreme work along with William Lustig’s Maniac and George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (which we will get to later). The burning is a fun watch that delivers all of the popular Halloween-gag scares but gives you enough of a story to keep things interesting. Watch with a strong stomach.
3. Night of the Creeps –
Night of the Creeps is one of the more fun and interesting films to watch during the Halloween month because of its silliness to incorporate many of the clichés from films during the fantastic 50s and have fun with it. Even while watching the film, the cinematography gives off a film glow not present since the era of commies, aliens, and giant mutant bugs. Night of the Creeps starts off with a bang a never really slows down, due to director Fred Dekker’s ability to integrate a strong plot with believable characters not to mention an always strong effort from one of the genre’s most beloved and amazing heroes, Tom Atkins as one of the main protagonist, Sgt. Ray “Thrill Me” Cameron.
1950s – Above Earth, a rogue alien (looking similar to a mix between Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 80s cartoon show, and popular horror dwarf actor, Phil Fondacaro) unleashes an experimental parasite onto Earth. The parasite quickly claims a host and is then cryogenically frozen with said host following a rather grim plot device involving Ray Cameron, an ex-girlfriend, and a murderous escaped mental patient.
Present Day mid 80s – Two college dweebs release the frozen corpse in a fraternity pledge gone awry. The corpse then releases the slug-like parasites amongst an unsuspecting university community turning already mindless students into mindless zombies.
Not to be missed, Night of the Creeps forgoes the horror genre’s tired mid-80s formula and delivers a film that is fun and entertaining. A must for those interested in Halloween shenanigans!
2. Flesheater –
This lesser known and extreme low budget zombie gore fest is a product of writer/director/actor Bill Hinzman, known throughout the horror world as the cemetery zombie in George A. Romero’s seminal cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. In some instances, the well-trained horror film fan can determine that Hinzman was particularly interested in resurrecting his cemetery zombie character form NotLD. Hinzman’s “Flesheater” even has the same type of suit worn by the icon zombie from the aforementioned film.
Flesheater uses much of the same tired plot device of partying-drunk teens and the shenanigans that ensue. Teens charter a farmer and his tractor into some barren woods to drink beer and possibly fornicate on the eve of Halloween (although much of the latter we are not treated to). Within the same area, another farmer is exhuming an old tree stump, while simultaneously uncovering an ancient coffin protected by a magical pendant. Low and behold, the flesheater is back and claims the farmer as his first victim by viciously tearing his throat out with his teeth (hence the name of the film). As the victims pile up, they resurrect and all eventually become flesheaters, infecting much of the town.
Now, remember my assumption of Hinzman and his throwback to Romero’s NotLD? This becomes even more evident with the arrival of Vince Survinski at the end of Flesheater. Survinski is the gunman who kills NotLD’s protagonist Ben. If you have that tidbit of knowledge, watching the ending of Flesheater is a slap in the face to Romero purists everywhere. Flesheater is a great film to watch during the Halloween month and is not to be taken seriously by anyone, whether that’d be a purist or relaxed viewer. You honestly cannot take a film seriously with an alternate title of Zombie Nosh.
1. Day of the Dead –
This is it. The Mecca of all zombie films. This is the film that was supposed to be the most epic and groundbreaking zombie film ever made…until George A. Romero stuck to his guns against the production company that wanted a guaranteed R-rated picture. Although the film did not turn out as expected, I can’t help but thank Romero for giving us some of the most renowned gore effects in the history of horror. Gore aside, the depth given to Romero’s believable characters only initiates positive emotions and reviews. Many do not feel this way. To them, I say go have a Yoo-Hoo.
Day of the Dead opens with one of the most jarring title sequences ever filmed. The arrival of the genre defining “Dr. Tongue” followed by the pounding score of John Harrison gives you an idea of what is in store. The story follows a group of government scientists and military personnel who are housed beneath an old army missile silo. The scientists are working to find a cure to the zombie epidemic that has been running rampant above. The military is there to protect the scientists from the undead. Ego clashing and violence ensue between both human groups with the only progress of the scientific studies being lead scientist Dr. Logan nicknamed Dr. Frankenstein by his cohorts, teaching a zombie, who he named Bub, to speak, use a gun, and work a tape player, among other things. Soon, things go wrong and the undead are unleashed into the silo to mark one of the most violent and bloody zombie killing sprees ever known to celluloid. The gore effects have to be seen to believe. Savini hits every mark imaginable! To say anymore about this gem of a film would not do it justice. Shut up and watch this movie on Halloween Eve!!