I've been a film buff since childhood, and I love writing about and reviewing my favorites.
The YouTube terrors keep on comin'!
Netflix and Amazon streaming services may be well stocked with the latest in direct-to-video schlock but if your horror tastes run a bit on the obscure side, YouTube can be an absolute treasure trove of free, full length movies featuring all manner of creepy-crawlies, masked maniacs, and things that go bump in the night. In case you missed my previous article on the subject, here's another stack of vintage horror goodies. This time the list goes to eleven!
Ghouls and Creeps
Everybody loves a good slasher flick, but if you're burned out on the usual suspects (i.e. Jason, Michael, Freddy, etc.) Popcorn should fill the bill nicely. In this underrated, entertaining-as-hell video store favorite from 1991, a group of college film students re-open an old movie theater to host an all-night fundraising marathon of '50s style "gimmick" horror movies. Unfortunately for them, there's a mysterious maniac stalking the old theater picking them off during the festivities. Though it was mostly ignored during its initial release, Popcorn has become a minor cult classic in the years since.
1981's Dark Night of the Scarecrow revolves around a posse of local yokels who kill a mentally handicapped man, under the mistaken belief that he murdered a little girl. The men get off scot-free in court, but then each of them meets a grisly fate at the hands of a mysterious figure in a scarecrow costume. This made-for-TV chiller sets a nice creepy mood and features great performances by the late, great Charles Durning (as the leader of the posse) and Larry Drake.
In 1972's Tales From the Crypt, five strangers are drawn to the mysterious catacombs beneath a cemetery, where a hooded Crypt Keeper spins each of their tales of woe, based on stories from the classic E.C. horror comics of the 1950s. This was one of many anthology style horror films made by England's Amicus Productions, and the cast is a virtual "who's who" of British cinema including Joan Collins, Sir Ralph Richardson, and Peter Cushing. The Christmas-themed segment "...And All Through the House" was later remade as an episode of HBO's Tales From the Crypt TV series.
Most of the Prom Night films are forgettable (at best) but 1987's Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II was a pleasantly spooky surprise. It's 1957 and high school "mean girl" Mary Lou Maloney's dreams of being prom queen literally go up in smoke when she burns to death during her coronation. Thirty years later, her spirit roams the halls of Hamilton High, and she still wants that crown -- so she possesses one of the prom queen candidates and starts killing off the competition. This stylish blend of Carrie and Nightmare on Elm Street (Mary Lou would be the perfect girl for Freddy Krueger!) makes the most of its low budget and has held up well to repeated viewings.
1988's Fright Night II barely got a theatrical release back in the day and DVD copies have become rare, pricey collectibles, which is a shame because it's almost as entertaining as the original 1985 box-office hit. After three years of therapy, Charley Brewster has convinced himself that he imagined the events of the first Fright Night. Unfortunately for Charley, the vampire from that film had a sister, and now she's come to town looking for revenge. Roddy McDowall also returns as "fearless vampire killer" Peter Vincent to help Charley battle the denizens of the dark.
1980's Death Ship doesn't live up to its iconic poster art (a skull-faced craft emerging from the fog to devour a smaller boat) but It's still an entertainingly silly piece of terror trash. When the survivors of a cruise ship disaster (including George Kennedy and Richard Crenna) climb aboard a passing boat that looks abandoned, they soon learn that the derelict has a dark secret -- it's a former Nazi prison ship haunted by its long-dead crewmen and inmates. Yikes! This is almost like a rough draft of 2002's Ghost Ship, which treaded similar ground (with 100x the special FX budget, of course), but fans of nautical horrors probably won't mind.
Italians loved zombies and cannibals back in the day. At one point in the late '70s/early '80s it seemed like every film being cranked out by Italy's B-Movie studios had to do with one or the other.
Sergio Martino's Slave of the Cannibal God (aka Mountain of the Cannibal God, 1978) stars a slumming Ursula Andress (a loooong way from Dr. No) as a wealthy heiress who mounts an expedition into the jungles of New Guinea to find her missing scientist husband. Needless to say, the lush tropical foliage hides a great number of threats, like vicious animals, two-faced safari guides, and eventually, a tribe of flesh-munching primitives. Slave looks like it had a higher budget than many of its cannibal-film contemporaries but it's still sleazy 'n' grimy enough that you'll want to take a shower when you're done watching it.
Meanwhile, 1980's Zombie Holocaust (aka Dr. Butcher, M.D.) features both kinds of flesh munchers - living AND dead! This absolutely insane splatter-fest (starring Ian McCullough of Zombie fame) starts off in NYC, where a team of medical researchers are investigating a series of cannibal crimes in hospital morgues. Eventually the team winds up on a tropical island that's home to a tribe of flesh eaters, as well as a mad doctor whose unauthorized surgical experiments on the locals have created a race of zombies. I'll be honest, Zombie Holocaust doesn't make a damn bit of sense but it's still totally entertaining in an ultra-gory, "what-the-f*ck-did-I-just-watch?" sort of way.
YouTube also offers a wide selection of good ol' fashioned man-eating creature features if that's your thing.
In L'Ultimo Squalo (The Last Shark), a man-eating great white is terrorizing the residents of a seaside community, until a couple of tough guys head out to sea in a beat up boat to hunt it down. Sound familiar? It should. This Italian Jaws wanna-be rips off Spielberg's classic to an astounding degree, right down to American tough-guy actor Vic Morrow's Robert Shaw impression as the crusty shark hunting sea captain. When the flick came to the U.S. under the title Great White in 1982, Universal Studios cried "plagiarism" and sued it out of theaters within weeks, so it's never had a legitimate home video release in America.
Speaking of carbon copies, 1985's Creature (aka Titan Find) is an enjoyably sleazy little Alien clone set on one of Saturn's moons. When space archaeologists accidentally unleash a carnivorous something-or-other from its sleep after thousands of years, it naturally turns out badly for a group of stock science-fiction movie characters (i.e. the tough-guy captain, the cute First Officer, the dorky medical tech, etc.) Noted cinematic weirdo Klaus Kinski even turns up in a quick-paycheck role as a crazed German astronaut who helps unravel the mystery of the hungry space critter.
New York has a new problem in Larry Cohen's Q: The Winged Serpent (aka simply Q, 1982) when an ancient Aztec serpent god takes up residence atop the Chrysler Building and starts snatching up unlucky pedestrians. This tongue-in-cheek ode to '50s monster flicks makes no attempt to hide its cheese-and-crackers budget (the monster FX are hilarious!) but it gets great mileage from its gritty early '80s Manhattan locations. The Big Apple was a lot sleazier and scarier in '82 than it is now, so Q is a real time capsule!
That'll Do For Now...
Hopefully I've provided you with enough horrific programming to get your Halloween viewing slate started off on the right note. Don't forget to keep an eye on the "recommended videos" window while you're watching any of these classics, because they can and will lead you to even more cool terror trash! Happy viewing!
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on December 05, 2017:
Why wait for Halloween to come again? I love terrible horror movies. The ones where you can see the strings and the FX is awful. I'll be watching a few of these. Thanks for the head's up!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 09, 2017:
Hi Louise - I agree! I've got a playlist on YouTube with more than 100 movies on it. I'll likely never have time to watch them all but the possibilities keep me entertained!
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on March 09, 2017:
There are no end of good movies on You Tube. I've watched loads of good films on there.
rrfrank on October 26, 2016:
What about Rock N' Roll Frankenstein?
Gina Welds Hulse from Rockledge, Florida on October 02, 2016:
I remember watching Dark Night of the Scarecrow many, many years ago. It saddened me, as well as scared the Dickens out of me!
Robert Sacchi on October 02, 2016:
Yes, Tales from the Crypt had a great twist at the end.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 02, 2016:
Enjoy the show!
Robert Sacchi on October 02, 2016:
Thank you. These seem very good for a night when I want to watch a bad movie.