Guest post by Billy Russell
To preface this list, let me clarify that not every film discussed below is necessarily “campy”. It’s more that they remind me of a time in my childhood that was somewhat trashy. These are all horror movies that are great in their own ways and specifically appeal to the camp lover inside me. They’re not masterpieces of subtlety, they’re not deep thinkers, they’re blunt and honest and hit you over the head with everything they’ve got. Any one of these movies would have been right at home in my awesome aluminum-sided trailer. And they’re all currently offered on Netflix streaming…
A Bay of Blood
Mario Bava’s groundbreaking, gory film (aped most notably by Friday the 13th, Part 2, with two killings taken right from it) has been known by a lot of titles: Carnage, Blood Bath, Bloodbath Bay of Death, with Twitch of the Death Nerve being my favorite. This gory, nasty Italian flick helped form the slasher genre popular throughout the late 70s and early 80s. It features some very inventive set pieces, a disinterested, insane plot that takes a backseat to all the mayhem and one of the most hilariously out-of-place endings–yet amusing and sort of brilliant–I’ve ever seen.
Now, I’m not sure if it was because I watched this movie home alone, at night, with the lights off, and my cat started hissing at absolute nothingness for no apparent reason just when the movie started getting scary, but I was absolutely petrified as I watched this. My…. god. It’s no surprise the Ghost Diaries placed this on their Best Found Footage Horror Movies list. The plot is basic and it’s a found footage flick with a TV show crew investigating a supposedly haunted insane asylum. The found-footage subgenre is, like all subgrenes, with its gems and its duds, and this is one of the good ones. Suspension of disbelief is a must, as it always is, wondering “why are they still rolling right now?!” but the payoff is quite worth it.
I’ve heard good and bad things about the sequel. I figure I’ll watch that one alone in the dark, too.
Friday the 13th, Parts 3 – 8
Friday the 13th movies are like cheap, frozen pizza. They’re not really very good, but you know exactly what you’re going to get out of it and it’s an excellent guilty pleasure. Part 6, Jason Lives would be a stuffed crust DiGorno or something, while part 4, The Final Chapter (spoiler warning, it really wasn’t) would probably be a tray of Totino’s party pizza bites.
My favorite part of the series is in part 8, Jason Takes Manhattan (well, a cruise ship and Toronto), when the cliched harbinger of danger, “You’re doomed! You’re all doomed!” somehow winds up on the cruise ship full of teenagers in order to espouse his doomsday wisdom in new scenery.
The second best is probably Jason slamming a camper in a sleeping bag against a tree in Part 7.
I have no idea why the first and second are unavailable for streaming. Also missing are Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X, but I think most studios try to pretend that Jason X just never happened.
The Evil Dead
The Evil Dead is a masterpiece of the “Let’s just throw everything we’ve got at the audience” philosophy of filmmaking and, somehow, it works… brilliantly. It’s as scary as it is disgusting, and the little bits of humor here and there don’t hurt. The low budget only adds to its authenticity and makes it all the scarier. We won’t discuss the Evil Dead remake here out of respect.
I feel like Tremors, popular as it is (deserving enough of three sequels and a short-lived television series) is still somehow underrated. It’s one of the most perfect movies I can think of and there’s nothing that I would change. It’s hilarious. It’s pretty damn scary—don’t you dare tell me that the scene with the doctor’s wife riding out a sinking car isn’t terrifying, I’ll call you a liar. It’s perfectly cast. Kevin Bacon and the dad from Family Ties somehow fit right in the town of Perfection, Nevada.
There. The secret’s out. I like the second movie in the Leprechaun series. I kind of enjoyed the first one because Frances Buxton of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure plays a mentally challenged manchild and eats a gold coin and it’s funny for all the wrong reasons; also, Jennifer Aniston is pleasing to the eyes, even more so in pre-nose job 1993. Anyway, the sequel, which is honestly best when viewed on VHS tape format, gets all those funny moments right where the original mostly fell on its face. There is a scene involving a pair of breasts and murderous blades and the result is shockingly stupid, but it works magnificently.
I haven’t seen Leprechaun in the Hood, but apparently it was successful enough for there to be a sequel to a sequel called Leprechaun Back 2 tha Hood, which I saw about five minutes of and someone gets stabbed in the stomach with a bong.
As much as I loved the first Creepshow (which is a lot, it’s hard not to love a movie with a young Ed Harris with HAIR dancing and Stephen King as a goober uttering the line “Meteor shit!”), I prefer this sequel. My favorite segment of this movie has to be The Raft. When Stephen King really sets out to do it, he can chill you to the bone and make you remember why every single one of his books is a massive best seller.
Speaking of Stephen King! Actually, this movie makes me actually kind of wish that Gary Busey was my alcoholic uncle with a penchant for tools and tinkering. And if I had to be paralyzed for this to be a reality, at least I know he could build me an awesome, motorized wheelchair.
Ta-daaaaaaaaa!!!! Oh Gary Busey, where do you end and I begin?
Okay, last Stephen King flick… I think. Okay, at the risk of sounding like a jerk, but a horror movie that has the guts to kill of a little kid wins points for audacity. Hey, it worked for Jaws! I think the whole movie can be summed up with the grieving father of the dead child being told by Fred Gwynne about how dangerous it is to bury things at the cemetery…the things, they don’t stay dead. Well, here, let me show you where it is. Actually, let me get the hole started for you while we’re up here. There!
A movie that made the Ghost Diaries Best Zombie Movies Ever list–at #7 in fact–Jeffrey Combs and Stuart Gordon working with material from H.P. Lovecraft are such a winning combination. You’ve got this, From Beyond and Castle Freak and they’re all good! The adaptation of Re-Animator with Lovecraft’s original short story is loose, to be sure, but the insanity that arises and the laughs and the splatters… this is a great, great movie to watch with friends over some beers.
The Serpent and the Rainbow
Another film mentioned on The Ghost Diary’s previous list of greatest zombie films (which you should consult, now, immediately), The Serpent and the Rainbow is probably Wes Craven’s most accomplished movie. Arguably, his greatest is probably A Nightmare on Elm Street or New Nightmare or Last House on the Left or The Hills Have Eyes, but Serpent is so coolly crafted. It’s such a confident exercise from a master and it just soaks up the atmosphere and Bill Pullman is excellent in it.
Tales From the Hood
As absolutely cheesy as this movie can be at times, it’s a sincere, scary and somewhat heartfelt horror anthology. It’s a movie with intelligence a lot to say about race and politics. Produced by Spike Lee, you know going into it that it’s definitely going to be outspoken and possible controversial, too. It’s a lot of fun, especially the campy ending and gloriously shitty CGI.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money
I wish the first movie in the series was still available on streaming because, honestly, with a script by Quentin Tarantino (of course he would write a scene where Salma Hayek would jam her foot in his mouth, wouldn’t he?) and all kinds of vampire mayhem, it’s a wonderful journey. From Dusk Till Dawn 2 is a direct-to-video sequel that is actually pretty damn good. It’s a wonderful surprise. It’s directed by Scott Spiegel, probably best known for co-writing Evil Dead 2 and he proves himself quite capable of taking a sequel and having fun with it in a way that differentiates itself from the original.
I Spit on Your Grave
When I was in high school, a friend of mine and myself decided to watch a corny horror movie for some laughs. I’d heard that I Spit on Your Grave was good, so I recommended it. He was against it, but somehow I won in the end. During the, what, 3-hour long rape scene I looked over at my friend and he was really, really mad at me. “Why the hell did we rent this movie again?!”
The agonizing and brutal rape in this movie gives our heroin free range to massacre her attackers without any judgment from the audience. It’s a disgusting, amoral exploitation flick with no false sense of purpose. It knows what it is and embraces it: It is pure schlock.
Influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, each scene in this movie is done in one, unbroken take. It is also gut-wrenching and might make you feel sick from the sheer tension of it at the end. It was very hard to watch for me given the intensity of the violence and how real it all felt. You should only watch this movie if you’re in a good state of mind and in a good mood. I feel like if you watch this after a terrible day, your mind may begin to unravel.
The Toxic Avenger
Ah, this is really the movie that started it all for Troma. A super violent superhero horror movie from the 1980s that has aged pretty brilliantly. Troma is a great studio to explore for trashy titles like this and Tromeo and Juliet and Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s debut, Cannibal! The Musical (though Troma only distributed, but not directly produce, similar to Blood Sucking Freaks).
I remember these two movies both coming out in 1997 and they kind of blur together for me, but the important distinction is that Mimic is the one directed by Guillermo del Toro pre-Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, about killer, giant insects in a subway and The Relic is the one with Tom Sizemore in the museum. Both of them are awesome, fun monster movies.
I wonder how many families accidentally rented this movie thinking it was the family friendly one with Michael Keaton? Well, I hope they didn’t stay tuned long enough to see the snowman rape scene. A young Shannon Elizabeth pops up this movie, too.