Friday, October 26, 2012

Top 100 Regional Horror Films, Part III

Good grief, a month has flown by since we posted Part II of our list of the Top 100 Regional Horror Films. I promise to get through the rest by Halloween, but things have been busy, busy, busy here at The Dead Next Door. The good news: the regional horror films book should go to press this week, which means you should be able to order it by Halloween or shortly afterward (or at least go find it in a library by Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, here are films 21-35:

35. Horror High (Texas, 1974): A low-budget sleeper that holds a special place in the hearts of fans who first caught it on late-night TV under its Twisted Brain title, Larry Stouffer's Horror High was one of just a few pre-Carrie flicks to focus on terrifying American teenagers. In this case: precocious teen scientist Vernon, whose experiments turn him into a murderous Mr. Hyde. Adapted for the stage as a musical. Honestly.

34. Axe (North Carolina, 1974): This unsettling low-budget thriller plays like a mash-up of The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane and John Trent's Sunday in the Country: a group of murderous criminals hole up in a farmhouse where they encounter the mysterious Lisa, a disturbed young woman who lives with her mute grandfather and a number of very sharp tools and household items.

33. Squirm (Georgia, 1976): Of all the eco-themed horror films of the 1970s (which saw the populace attacked by spiders, crabs, snakes, ants, and frogs of various sizes), this killer worm story (from director Jeff Lieberman) is probably my favorite. A freak electrical storm drives thousands of bloodsucking worms out of the ground and into the skin of terrified Georgians while Yankee Don Scardino attempts to save the day.

32. The Crazies (Pennsylvania, 1973): George Romero's second horror outing was not nearly as successful or influential as Night of the Living Dead, but the set-up still resonates: A biological weapon is accidentally released in a small town, turning the residents into mad killers. The protagonists are then trapped between the "crazies" of the title and the haz-mat-suited soldiers ordered into the town to contain the problem.

31. Dead of Night/Deathdream (Florida, 1974): When it comes to Bob Clark/Alan Ormsby collaborations, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things may have been funnier, and Deranged may have been more polished, but this tale of a zombie soldier wished back to life by his grieving mother is tops as far as delivering the genre goods and social subtext.

30. The Horror of Party Beach (Connecticut, 1964): A distinctively New England-ish take on the beach party genre, boasting unforgettable hot-dog-mouthed monsters, peppy  musical interludes by the Del-Aires ("The Zombie Stomp"), and an unbelievably over-the-top slumber party massacre that almost undoes every campy minute leading up to it.

29. The Offspring (Georgia, 1987): Although time has made it a bit obscure, Jeff Burr's omnibus horror flick was a late-1980s genre highlight both in terms of gruesome content and its all-star genre cast (Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Cameron Mitchell, Rosalind Cash, Martine Beswick, Angelo Rossitto, Lawrence Tierney). 

28. Grizzly (Georgia, 1976): Kentucky director William Girdler released two independent horror features (Asylum of Satan, Three on a Meathook) and one for AIP (Abby) before entering the exploitation mainstream with this enjoyable "Jaws with claws" killer bear flick for then-Atlanta-based Film Ventures. He followed up with Day of the Animals (featuring Leslie Nielsen taking on a wider variety of hostile fauna), and then hit the almost-big-time with The Manitou before his untimely death in a helicopter crash.

27. The Toxic Avenger (New Jersey, 1985): Although Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz and the Troma organization released plenty of films before and after, The Toxic Avenger is probably their most successful project, and the one that brought them the most mainstream notoriety. Followed by sequels, a cartoon series, a Marvel comic, and a line of action figures.

26. Street Trash (New York, 1987): Busy steadicam operator J. Michael Muro delivers a giddy, gory classic about tainted booze turning winos into screeching piles of day-glow goo. It's funny, offensive, and gruesome, and makes me wish Muro had directed more features.

25. Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (New Jersey, 1983): There are a lot of deadly serious films in this portion of the list, but this one is a straight-up, old-fashioned monster movie about flesh-eating alien invaders. It's fun, funny, and boasts some unbelievably accomplished special effects given the budget.

24. Ganja & Hess (New York, 1973): Director/screenwriter/actor Bill Gunn's take on the vampire mythos is considered refreshingly off-kilter by some, boring by others. Night of the Living Dead star Duane Jones (in his only other major starring role) is an anthropologist infected with a vampiric disease after being stabbed with an ancient dagger by his loony new assistant (Gunn). From there, the film turns into a meditation on Jones' struggle with his blood "addiction" and his relationship with Gunn's confounding widow (Marlene Clark). It was released under a variety of titles in re-edited form; seek out the director's cut.

23. The Premonition (Mississippi, 1976): New Yorker Robert Allen Schnitzer headed south to make this odd little gem about a disturbed woman and her carnival clown boyfriend (the great Richard Lynch) abducting the woman's young daughter from her adoptive parents. 

22. Homebodies (Ohio, 1974): As relevant as it was then, Homebodies is a rare genre flick that addresses the silver-haired set. Faced with eviction when their Cincinnati apartment complex is targeted for demolition as part of an urban renewal initiative, a group of elderly tenants begin murdering the gentrifying interlopers trying to dispossess them.

21. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (Connecticut, 1971): Slightly over-the-hill flower children encounter the living dead (or are they?) in the picturesque New England town where they've relocated. Although it's not a "big" enough title to make the top 10, this slice of weirdness from Bang the Drum Slowly director John D. Hancock is one of my personal favorites.














  1. Deathdream is so great. Nice to see "Jessica" so high up on the list too...

  2. I remember #28 Grizzly from my youth when it showed as a TV movie. I do still like it, here 39 years later.

    Thanks for these lists, even this long after posting!
    -- John