Awakening of the Beast
10 Best Alternative Horror Films
Oh sure, we can flip on our cable boxes, and look for the Halloween marathons of the first eight Jason movies. We can pop in that old copy of The Shining. We can practically recite the Evil Dead triune entire. But what when we’re bored of such matters? You’re still sick to death of the hype surrounding The Blair Witch Project, and you’re even beginning to tire of The Ring. What when we want something a little more off-the-wall or exciting to pep up our Halloween parties? Here then are ten suggestions in no particular order:
1) Onibaba. (1964) Kaneto Shindo’s film about a pair of women, mother and daughter, who lure rogue samurai to their deaths, strip them, and sell of their armor. All is well and good until a pair of interlopers arrive. An animal and sexual one for the daughter, and an eerie… ghost… for the mom. Atmospheric and creepy.
2) Santa Sangre. (1990) Ebullient Chilean surrealist Alexandro Jodorowsy tells this Psycho-like tale of a boy’s love of his mother. Only we get to see the boys childhood trauma (mom’s arms were ripped off and father murdered), and a whole rogues gallery of grotesquerie. Creepy clowns, butch wrestling women abound. Oddly, despite its gore and oddities, this film is very adult.
3) Shivers. (1975) Before David Cronenberg established himself as a truly important director, he made a number of creepy and gory little flicks. But with even Shivers’ more disturbing undertones of incest, and themes of homosexuality. It’s worth seeing just for an early scene in which a man ties a woman down and pretty much guts her on the spot.
4) Salò, or: The 120 Days of Sodom. (1976) For those of you who thought you had strong stomachs, who thought you had seen the extreme of film, have yet to see Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò. Based on a book by the Marquis de Sade, it depicts a group of teenagers being sexually tortured for over two hours. It’s supposedly a comment on fascism, but it’ll be difficult to get past the images. Hate it or loathe it, it’s certainly striking.
5) The Tomie movies. (1999-2005) Horror franchises can be trite and tired, but even schlock sounds better in another language. Thus, while the psychic lurking Japanese female ghost may seem like a tired premise for seven films, they’re certainly worth a look-over. The films include Tomie, Tomie Anaza Feisu, Tomie Replay, Tomie Rebirth, Tomie: Forbidden Fruit, Tomie Beginning, and Tomie Revenge.
6) The Coffin Joe movies. (1963-1978) A Brazilian actor named Jose Marica Marins made a series of films that were the first legitimate horror to come out of the country. His character, Coffin Joe, can be likened to Zacherle or Elvira here in the states, as he dressed as an 18th-century undertaker and behaved in a playfully ghoulish way. He made over a dozen of these films including At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, Hallucinations of a Deranged Mind, and Awakening of the Beast.
7) In My Skin (2002) French actress/writer Marina de Van directed this quietly creepy story of a woman who, after injuring her leg at a party, begins methodically gouging into the wound. Pretty soon, she’s renting hotel rooms for orgies of self-inflicted violence. Intense, disturbing, and mature, this is a terrifying film.
Parents. (1989) Possibly the greatest film there is on cannibalism. A sickly suburban boy begins suspecting that the “leftovers” being constantly fed to him are actually human flesh. Randy Quaid plays the father, Mary Beth Hurt plays the mother, and Bob Balaban directs. A sick subject dealt with humorous tact.
9) The Lair of the White Worm. (1988) Nuns, snake people spitting vemon, really large codpieces, a local legend of an ancient monster, and a lotta nudity. What could be better? Ken Russell based this film on a Bram Stoker story, and is a spirited and strange little fable about a local lady who needs a virgin to resurrect a really big snake.
10) Vampyr. (1932) Another take on the Dracula story, but creepy and atmospheric, with large looming living shadows, spectres, and long creepy rooms. Made by Carl Theodor Dreyer, who made one of the best silents of all time in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Put it on in the background, and be quietly sucked in from across the room.
Also see my list of thr 10-best horror films of all time here: