I have a weakness for cheesy, "so bad they're good" low budget horror, sci-fi or action movies. I watch'em so you don't have to!
Those of you who regularly follow my articles (all two of you) know by now that I'm a B-Movie addict. I used to spend hours rooting through DVD bargain bins in supermarkets and drug stores hoping to uncover low-budget treasures on the cheap, but in recent years streaming video has changed my viewing habits—for the better. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon, and Roku TV, I already have enough movies in my various "queues" that I can watch a different flick every night for more than a year without any repeats—yet lately, I find myself going to YouTube most often to get my trashy movie fix.
...yes, you heard that right! Google's ubiquitous YouTube service, which was once mainly a repository for '80s music videos and clips of cats wearing clothes, is also a treasure trove of rare, forgotten films. I currently have a "playlist" on YT with more than a hundred movies on it, which run the B-movie gamut from '60s "Eurospy" flicks (cheap James Bond knockoffs) to the Italian gore fiestas of the '70s and '80s, gritty blaxploitation movies, and even some irresistibly cheesy '70s made-for-TV films. These flicks are not on any the "big name" streaming services, and some haven't been available on video since the age of VHS.
Here's a ten pack of terror tales that I've recently watched on YouTube which should satisfy your urge for low-budget mayhem. Enjoy!
These "Curses" Don't Bite—They Suck
I used to see 1987's The Curse—starring a teenaged Wil Wheaton, prior to his initial fame on Star Trek: The Next Generation—in video stores all the time back in the day but never pulled the trigger on it. After sitting through it recently I kinda wished I hadn't. This is a mostly-terrible movie (based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, with which I am unfamiliar) about a dirt-poor farm family headed by abusive Bible basher Claude "Sheriff Lobo" Akins. When a meteorite crash-lands on their property, a mysterious alien goo seeps out of it and into the ground, contaminating the family's well. Soon young Wil—who is smart enough not to drink the tainted water—watches helplessly as it makes the crops go rancid, the livestock turn homicidal and devolves his family into goo-spewing zombies with a taste for human flesh. Yep, I hate when that happens too.
Curse II: The Bite is an in-name only "sequel" that has no connection to the original film aside from its title...which is probably a good thing. While a pretty silly flick in its own right, Curse II was a vast improvement over the first film, thanks to its higher budget (which allows for some cool gross-out effects work), and the presence of cutie-pie late '80s scream queen Jill Schoelen (whatever happened to her anyway?) in the female lead. A young couple traveling across the Southwestern U.S. have a close encounter of the reptile kind when hordes of angry snakes - driven crazy by a leaky nuclear power plant close by - force them off the road and into a small town that barely registers on the map. This seems like a pretty standard creature feature thus far, but the flick takes an abrupt turn into Body Horror territory at the midway point, when Boyfriend gets bitten on the hand by a snake...and soon discovers that the bite has, shall we say, "transformative" properties. Soon he starts turning into a reptilian something-or-other and puts Girlfriend through the wringer for the rest of the movie as his changes make him stronger and hungrier. Apparently a Curse III and IV also exist, but I'm in no hurry to check out either one of those after sitting thru this pair.
I tend to run hot and cold when it comes to Italian horror movies. I love their balls-out, over-the-top attitude when it comes to depicting onscreen violence and grue, but the flicks are often hampered by budget restraints, incomprehensible plots, and unintentionally comedic English dubbing. Fortunately I chose wisely with my most recent triple pack of Spaghetti splatter epics. 1986's Demons 2 picks up pretty much where the 1985 original left off. The mysterious flesh munching Demons which escaped out of a movie theater and into the "real world" in the first film are still wreaking havoc, this time in a high rise apartment building. As usual, logic and characterization takes a back seat to ultra violence and fast paced action as the puny human residents try to survive the Demonic lockdown.
1984's Murder Rock is a bizarre blend of slasher flick and Flashdance style rock musical (!)—someone is picking off the best students at a prestigious dance academy while they prepare for an important Broadway audition. Murder Rock is nowhere near as gory as much of director Lucio Fulci's previous output but it's still delightfully sleazy, with plenty of loving close ups of teenage girls in butt-floss leotards shaking their money makers to a painfully dated synth-rock soundtrack (composed by slumming prog-rock legend Keith Emerson, of all creatures!)
1981's Screamers is an Americanized cut of the 1979 Italian flick Island of the Fishmen, which was subjected to major re-editing by Roger Corman's New World Pictures, including the additions of an entirely new prologue and extra gore footage. The core of the story remains the same, however—19th century shipwreck survivors wash ashore on a tropical island which is home to a mad scientist, a horde of half-man/half-fish mutant creatures, and former Bond girl Barbara Bach. Waterlogged mayhem ensues. Screamers is perhaps best known for its misleading advertisements which promised that viewers would see "men turned inside out!" even though no such scenes appeared in the film.
Staten Island Slashers
These two slasher flicks share a unique distinction—both were filmed in and around my old collegiate stomping grounds of Staten Island, New York. 1980's He Knows You're Alone is mainly remembered today for its appearance by a very young Tom Hanks in a bit role, but the film is a serviceable Halloween clone in its own right. This tale of a psycho picking off brides-to-be on the eve of their weddings actually sets up a decent amount of suspense at first but soon the blatant borrowing from John Carpenter's classic crosses the line from "homage" to flat-out "stealing." Silent Madness, meanwhile, is a famously "lost" slasher flick that was barely even released back in 1984. It's pretty basic stuff about a nut job who's accidentally released from a mental hospital due to a computer error. Naturally, he goes right back to the sorority house that was the site of his original crime to pick up where he left off. You can probably figure out the rest yourself. Silent Madness was originally shot in 3-D, but by the time it finally trickled out to a few theaters in New York and L.A. the brief early '80s 3-D boom was already over.
Rounding out this YouTube ten-pack marathon, The Horror at 37,000 Feet is a delightfully silly 1973 made-for-TV terror tale set aboard a red-eye flight from London to New York. One of the passengers is an archaeologist bringing some Druid artifacts back to America with him—and the ancient spirits within the items are NOT happy about it. This flick can best be described as Airport meets The Exorcist, and it features a great cast toplined by William Shatner at his hammy best as a drunken ex-priest forced to face the evil head-on.
1984's Rocktober Blood is a heavy metal themed horror/slasher film about a wanna-be rock star who is convicted and executed for a string of murders. A year later he seemingly returns from the dead to torment his ex-girlfriend, who's now fronting his old band. The fictional "Rocktober" band's music (performed by the obscure '80s metal act Sorcery) is pretty bad-ass but the movie is cheesy to the extreme, with sub-par acting and a lame, unnecessary last minute plot twist. Re-watch Trick or Treat from 1986 instead.
1988's Not of This Earth is a no-budget remake of a Fifties flick and it's notable for being former teenage adult-film queen Traci Lords' first non-XXX acting credit. She plays a nurse who's hired by a mysterious client to provide him with daily, private blood transfusions. Eventually she figures out that her "patient" is an alien who's come to Earth as an advance scout for an invasion. Traci looks fabulous, of course, but she couldn't act worth a damn at this stage and the attempts at "horror comedy" fall flat. Not of This Earth may not have been the most impressive start to her "legit" acting career, but to her credit Traci kept on truckin', kept her clothes on, and eventually became an iconic figure in the genre-film community.
Hopefully I'll have time to return with another batch of YouTube horror recommendations soon, but these picks should keep most fright flick fans occupied for a while. Thanks for reading and stay Tubed!
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on December 05, 2017:
LOL, more bad movies to watch. I think I'll like "Curse" and "Curse II". I can't wait to try these.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 02, 2016:
Very cool! Thanx for the update!
Malenkia on November 02, 2016:
Jill Schoelen (whatever happened to her anyway?) - She was just at Crypticon Minneapolis. Great to listen to at her panels, really sweet in person, too. She's teaching acting now and does a convention from time to time. :)
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on September 06, 2016:
Cool, CYong74 - enjoy the show!
Scribbling Geek from Singapore on September 06, 2016:
These look great! Thanks for highlighting them. I'm going to stock up the sodas and chips and start watching.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on September 06, 2016:
Hi cmoneyspinner and Paxash - thanks for the likes and the share action!! Happy Halloween!
Darcie Nadel from Louisiana on September 06, 2016:
Thanks for the recommendations. I love terrible horror movies, so these seem right up my alley.
Treathyl FOX from Austin, Texas on September 06, 2016:
Everybody has their favorite about the Halloween. Dressing up in costumes. Going into a haunted house. Mine is horror movies. I don't like the horror genre. But I always make exception for the holiday. Liked this HUB. Sharing it via my entertainment blog on Tumblr. :)