31 Horror Trailers for Halloween 2021

It is time for Examining The Dead’s “31 Lesser-Known Horror Films”! This is our 3rd annual undertaking of this event. Simple rules. Every day in October we will post the trailer to a lesser-known or underappreciated horror film. This should give even the most devout horror mavens something to think about for their Halloween viewing this year.

Day 1 – Der Golem (1931)

Today we start it off by taking it way, way back. We are taking it back to the literal beginnings of the film industry with 1920’s “Der Golem” or “The Golem: How He Came Into The World”. This is a black and white silent film from Germany. It is 1 of the best examples of German Expressionism, that was the prevailing school of art coming of Germany in this era. This was a somber and somewhat bleak take on things that only made sense in the depressed state of the Weimar Republic post losing World War I. German Expressionism gave us some the greatest and earliest examples of cinema excellence in the genre of horror. This film, based on the 1915 Gustav Meyrink novel, “The Golem”, is actually the 2nd film in a trilogy of films based on the book. Sadly, this film is the only 1 of the 3 to survive to modern times. A prequel to the events of the 1st film, it deals with a 16th century Jewish folkloric figure, the titular Golem, which is an animated clay statue, that through mysticism is animated to reek havoc and revenge on the bidding of his animator. The parallels to “Frankenstein” are very evident in this picture, and it is easy to see James Whale would find inspiration for his iconic 1931 Universal film. The visual effects, story, acting, and set pieces were mind blowing at the time, and are even solid today when you realize this was made over 100 years ago. We are quite lucky to have this film and it has be digitally remastered in 4K with a score added and released in 3 formats for 3 different audiences: American, British, and German. This film is now easy to find and is an absolute must for anyone interested in film history in general and the horror film genre in particular.

Day 2 – Year of the Comet (1984)

Released in 1984, this sci-fi horror comedy has become a cult classic of the 80’s for horror fans. There is a whole bunch of 80’s cliches in this film. It is apocalyptic, has zombies, deals with the Earth traveling through the tail of a comet, teenagers being teenagers, and even a fun bit about video game arcades, especially the great game, Tempest. People are reduced to a red dust from this comet, or turned into zombies. The streets are deserted and the few teens who have survived turn to the mall to go on a shopping spree without the need for money and without any adult supervision. There is great comedy here, plus tons said about the mindset of the American teenager in the mid-80’s, all with a hint of social commentary and pretty decent practical effects for the look of the zombies. If you love your horror mixed with some silly comedy, this is a film you must see.

Day 3 – Them! (1954)

I love those 50’s sci-if horror B-flicks that were thinly veiled covers for the “Red Scare” in the middle of the Cold War. They also dealt a lot with the fear of mankind’s latest scientific achievement, nuclear power. 1954’s “Them!” is 1 of the best examples of the latter. Not as lesser known as other films on this list, it has been forgotten a little, as all movies of this ilk from the era have. They are seen as a relic of the past I guess. This film deals with irradiated giant ants, and marked the 1st time giant insects were used as the “villain” in this type of film. There would be many, many more to come. The cast was impressive, and the film actually has a huge trivia tie in to the early pioneering days of TV. Walt Disney himself watched the film to assess actor James Arness as old Walt had him in mind for the lead role in Disney’s upcoming foray into TV as Davy Crockett. Walt was unimpressed by Arness, but was impressed by the smaller role of a mental patient played by Fess Parker. Parker would be cast as Crockett and become an American icon in the process. Don’t feel bad for James Arness though. When American Western film icon John Wayne saw the film he was fully blown away by Arness. When Wayne turned down the lead role of Marshal Matt Dillion in the upcoming TV Western, “Gunsmoke”, he suggested Arness for the role instead, solely based on his performance in this film. I love these campy 50’s classics, and “Them!” stands atop the heap as 1 of the best.

Day 4 – Ginger Snaps (2000)

Today’s film deals with my personal favorite monster, werewolves. “Ginger Snaps” comes from Canada and was released in 2000. A story about 2 teenaged best friends who are obsessed with death when 1 of the young ladies is attacked by a werewolf and then begins the transformation process herself. There is actually a lot going on here. Horror films tend to be male centric and told from a male point of view. This film isn’t. The 2 leads are female, and topics it delves into is the plutonic relationship of 2 young females, and the hardships girls have going through puberty including topics like romantic attractions, peer pressure, troubles at home, and even mensuration. It is very deep below the surface. I think it is a wonderful and unique look at teen angst that uses lycanthropy as a plot device to push along the story all while also being metaphorical about said angst. The gore is there, so if that is your thing, you got that too. Overall, 1 of the best original horror films of the new millennium in my opinion.

Day 5 – Dr. Terror’s House of Horror (1965)

We dip into last year’s “Lesser Known Geek Hall of Fame” inductee from October, Amicus Productions. A contemporary of the better known Hammer Films, it was also a British studio and employed many of the same actors as the better known studio. Today’s film, “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors”, is from 1965, and marked the 1st of many horror anthology films Amicus would become known for. With horror icon Peter Cushing in the titular role, his segments are the backstories introducing all of the separate stories. There are 5 stories in all. They cover many horror standards like werewolves, vampires, voodoo, and a disembodied hand. Another horror icon, and Cushing’s real life best friend, Christopher Lee stars as the lead in the disembodied hand story. There is even a then unknown Donald Sutherland in only his 4th role in the vampire saga. This film isn’t as well known as its Hammer produced contemporaries, but it is as good as them. It is a great way to sink your teeth into what Amicus brought to the horror.

Day 6 – The House by the Cemetery (1981)

*TODAY’S TRAILER CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGERY. IT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDINECES. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!*It was only a matter of time before I took these posts into the world of “giallo”, or Italian horror cinema of the 70s and 80s. My personal favorite of the master directors of this style is Lucio Fulci. Not as well known as Mario Bava or Dario Argento, still, he combined with the former 2 are considered the “unholy trinity” of giallo directors. “The House by the Cemetery” was released in 1981. Fulci had made a couple of films based on H.P. Lovecraft works, and wanted to make a film that was a tribute to Lovecraft, but not based on any of his works, but rather a film set in a Lovecraftian universe. This film was the result. Written by Dardano Sachetti, he says the script was inspired by “The Turn of the Screw”. Fulci has been dismissive of Sachetti’s vision since the release of the film. It is supernatural and gory, like all of Fulci’s works, but is tame by his standards. It is the inclusion of several children in such a setting that probably disturbs folks more than anything. It wasn’t as well received by critics as Fulci’s other works, but I like it. I generally like Fulci’s work, and think he is vastly under appreciated. I will take his stuff over about 85% of the original horror films being made.

Day 7- Sssssss (1973)

The 1970’s was a time when nature was often used as a villain or plot device in horror film’s. 1973’s “Sssssss” fits that mold. Borrowing from ideas like the classic “Island of Dr. Moreau” and even the film “Freaks”, it deals with snakes, and specifically king cobras and pythons, as a major plot device. The lead character, Dr. Stoner (seriously his name), played by the always dependable Strother Martin, is a herpetologist who is obsessed with creating a human/reptile hybrid. His assistant, and unknowing subject, is played by Dirk Benedict, long before “Battlestar Galactica” or “The A-Team” made him a star. The movie had mixed reviews upon its release. The critics were all over the place with their assessments. Roger Ebert gave it 1.5 out of 4 stars, while Leonard Maltin gave it 3 out of 4 stars. Scream! Factory released a Blu-Ray treatment of the film in 2016, so if this seems to be a film you are interested in, it won’t be too hard to find.

Day 8 – Masque of the Red Death

Every year this list includes a film associated with Roger Corman in way way or another. With Corman’s extremely vast and prolific filmography, and his contributions to horror especially, that shouldn’t come as any surprise. 1964’s “The Masque of the Red Death” is considered by many film critics as 1 of Corman’s highest achievements as a director. Not normally a critical darling, Corman is best known for his ability to make films on a low budget that still found a good audience, and thus ensured a profit. Co-founder of American International Pictures, he even had a studio to churn out his films. Some critical praise would however come his way with his 1960’s cycle of 8 films based on the works of horror master Edgar Allan Poe, and always starring horror icon Vincent Price in the lead role. “The Masque of the Red Death” was the 7th film in this cycle of 8 films. Based on the Poe 1842 short story of the same name, it also had subplots based on another Poe story, “Hop-Frog”, and the story “Torture of Hope” by French writer Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam. The lush visuals, especially the costumes, makeup, and set pieces, were much more lavish looking than typical Corman affairs, even within his Poe cycle. Throw in the always outstanding Price, and the critical praise makes sense even before viewing. Not necessarily my favorite of the Poe/Corman/Price cycle (that is probably “The Fall of the House of Usher”) it is still a solid entry in the octology of films. Always worth a look for horror hardcores and horror neophytes alike.

Day 9 – Cube (1997)

Every year I try to put a few horror films on this list that make you think. You have to have on a thinking cap to fully “get” them. In other words, not your standard slasher or creature feature. The 1st type of that film for this year is focused on today. “Cube” was released in 1997, and was successful enough to spawn a franchise consisting of a prequel and a true sequel. In a few weeks, a Japanese remake will drop and an American remake is in pre-production. This Canadian gem is very surrealistic at times. It is about a cube shaped structure, filled with rooms, and some of these rooms have deadly traps in them. A group of strangers must navigate these rooms to find a way out, hoping that they can figure out the traps before it is too late. This idea of deadly traps pre-dates the “Saw” franchise by 7 years, and though I like the “Saw” films, I think this is much more clever. So if you want a horror film that makes you think a little this Halloween season, check this 1 out.

Day 10 – Visiting Hours (1982)

Why do people find hospitals creepy and unsettling? Maybe being raised by a nurse, having an uncle that was a medical doctor, and having worked in the medical field myself for years I have avoided that feeling where hospitals are concerned. Nevertheless, it is a real fear of many people. Today’s highlighted film plays on those tropes. Throw in a bit of the slasher craze of the 1980s and you have “Visiting Hours” from 1982. This film has an all-star cast that includes Lee Grant, William Shatner, Linda Purl, and Michael Ironside as the killer. How bad can any film be with Michael Ironside as the villain? Dismissed upon release by critics at the time as silly and simply violent towards women, I think they totally missed the point. Grant plays a feminist activist who is stalked by Ironside’s character because he is a sexist and misogynist. The fact the women in this film are strong willed and find their own solutions against such a weak minded villain is actually PRO women, not anti. So many critics just want to hate on horror films on general principle they can’t see the forest for the trees. Today’s video is short. It isn’t a full length trailer, but a 30 second TV ad for the film. It still gives you a good idea of what the film is.

Day 11 – Carnival Of Souls (1962)

We go to back to 1962 for today’s film, “Carnival of Souls”. This black and white gem was fairly ignored when originally released, but has been reassessed positively since then. Using mood and suspense to build a sense of dread and uneasiness, this is much less about the quick pace and random violence that is employed today to scare audiences. It is surreal and dreamlike, with a bit of the supernatural and a twist ending. Filmed on location in Lawerence, Kansas and Salt Lake City, Utah, the filmmakers used “guerrilla filmmaking” tactics to complete the film. This lends an air of “realness” to the finished product. Film critic Leonard Maltin likened it to a “lost episode of The Twilight Zone”, while directing giants David Lynch and George A. Romero both cite this film as an inspiration to their overall approaches to filmmaking. That is pretty high praise in my book.

Day 12 – The Climax (1944)

Universal Monster Movies are the godfathers of horror films. They set the standard in the industry for years to come. We all know the heavy hitters from this era, but there were more lesser known or remembered from this cycle that reach a number that it is kind of mind blowing. Today’s film, “The Climax” from 1944, is exactly 1 of those films. Meant to be a sequel to Universal’s remake of “The Phantom of the Opera” released a year prior, the only returning cast member is Susanna Foster. It did reuse the sets from the “Phantom” remake, which they themselves were recycled sets from the 1925 “Phantom of the Opera”, and received an Oscar nomination for “Best Art Direction” in 1944. Locales were switched from Paris to Vienna, but the plots are strikingly similar. Starring the icon Boris Karloff as the main villain, he isn’t a scarred and confused creature like the Phantom before him, but is a master hypnotist and opera composer like Erik was as the Phantom. Foster plays a similar role as the muse to the infatuated villain. Filmed in color, this makes it visually very different from other Universal horror classics. The fact it is also part musical, with full on choreography and score, totally separates it from other Universal horror films. This is unique blend of some of the biggest money making genres of its time, with some of the era’s biggest stars, like Karloff, to seal the deal.

Day 13 – Night of the Creeps (1986)

A cult film is a film that finds success away from the mainstream, and often after it has left theaters and entered either the DVD market or cable TV. Horror films are frequent entries into this pantheon. “Night of the Creeps” from 1986 is a textbook example of a cult film. Written and directed by Fred Dekker, this was his directorial debut. He would go on to make bigger films like “The Monster Squad” and “Robocop 3”, but this is where it started. A horror comedy, it is a sincerely earnest attempt to pay homage to the B films of the 1950s. So much so, Dekker even wanted to film it in black and white, but the studio refused. The film opens with a flashback to the late 50s and just keeps going from there. It has aliens, zombies, hostile slug like creatures, and the always awesome Tom Atkins in the lead. Atkins was already horror royalty when he made this film having starred in “The Fog” and “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” previously. This film would be his trifecta of 80s horror films. With the constant line of “Thrill Me” as his response to about any situation, that line has endured as much as anything else from the film. Well the film does “thrill me”, and I always have time to watch it, whether it is Halloween time or not.

Day 14 – The Beat From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

There is a debate amongst the horror community as to whether kaiju films are horror. Kaiju is of course a Japanese genre of films featuring giant monsters and beasts. We here at Examining The Dead feel they most assuredly ARE horror, if but a separate sub genre of horror. We have even done whole segments of the podcast on kaiju films. Well the idea of a giant creature film may have been perfected by the Japanese, but the idea was actually started here in America. The 1st of these films to specifically use mankind’s harnessing of atomic power as a catalyst for these beasts is today’s film, “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”, released in 1953. Preceding “Godzilla” by a year, it is quite obvious this film inspired the latter. Based on the Ray Bradbury story “The Fog Horn”, the prototype that this film laid out has worked for well over 60 years. The effects for this film were done by The Godfather of stop animation, Ray Harryhausen. Many consider this among his best work ever. In 1953, to see a giant monster rampaging against a backdrop of New York City, and all of that city’s iconic structures and landmarks, had to be amazing. Not since 1933’s “King Kong” had a creature of that size imposed its will and destructive powers on the Big Apple. Unlike Kong though, who was a creature of natural creation, this was a creature spurned on by the newly harnessed atomic energy that was mankind’s newest plaything. The fears of what atomic power would wrought made the terror of this film twofold. We would start to wonder if science had gone too far, much like Mary Shelley had done over 125 years prior with “Frankenstein”, and that always works in horror when done right. Like Dr. Ian Malcolm said in “Jurassic Park”, “your scientists were so worried about whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to ask whether they should”. Food for thought that is a core trope in horror.

Day 15 – Castle Freak (1995)

Every year there is at least 1 film on this list from Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment. This makes sense because the company’s model of low budget, direct-to-video films included a ton of lesser known horror classics. Stuart Gordon was often tapped to direct these films for Full Moon, and today we look at 1 of those films. “Castle Freak” was released in 1995. Fresh off his adaptation on Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” in 1994, Gordon reused the castle set from that film for “Castle Freak”. Starring the usual Gordon collaborators Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, these 2 deliver as always. The story was inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Outsider”, which Gordon was accustomed to since he had adapted Lovecraft’s work several times before. Gordon was elated in the amount of control he was given in this film, and purposely made a film that would not receive a rating. Yeah, the creature kills and eats a cat in this 1, something that just doesn’t happen in mainstream films, even horror. Not Gordon’s best work in my opinion, but still very strong, and it is nice to see him be a little less comedic and go a bit for mood and atmosphere over non-stop action.

Day 16 – Curse of the Demon (1957)

I’m glad today’s movie was released under 2 different titles. “Curse of the Demon” was released in 1957 as “Night of the Demon” in some markets. If the latter had been the only title, that would make it the 3rd film I have highlighted this year with the title “The Night of the ______”. That would be a bit repetitive. This is a classic and highly regarded by horror devotees. Due to its age and being in black and white, it is 1 of those films that seems to have been lost to time. How highly regarded is it? Well it is that most rare of films that has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The creature effects are legendary for the titular creature. They make an appearance twice in the film, once at the beginning and once at the end. The 2nd appearance is a close up and still a thing of nightmares, even as dated as the effects are. The twist ending is solid too, and enhances the film in my opinion. This is yet another film I strongly urge anyone interested in the history of horror films to check out if they haven’t already.

Day 17 – Dog Soldiers (2002)

*WARNING! TODAY’S TRAILER CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!*I have already highlighted 1 werewolf film this year, and today I am going to highlight another. Werewolves are my favorite monsters, but that isn’t the only reason I am returning to the lycanthropy well again. Today’s movie is just really good. “Dog Soldiers” is a 2002 British horror action film directed by Neil Marshall. Marshall had the idea for this film starting all the way back in 1996. It took him until 2002 to get the movie green lit by a studio. Once he did get it off the ground, it was a fun film. Low budget meant the effects weren’t high dollar, and we don’t see the werewolves as much as in higher budgeted films, but they are still effective. I think Marshall does a great job hiding this with his camera angles and lighting. Unusual as it is for a werewolf film, the creatures aren’t necessarily the stand outs. The action is about non-stop, the acting is excellent, and the story is original and fun. Shot on location in the Scottish highlands also adds greatly to this film. I can’t recommend this film strongly enough if you are a horror fan, and especially a werewolf fan like myself.

Day 18 – Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

Have you heard the term “folk horror”? Probably not, but I bet you have heard of many films that are a great example of it. So what is “folk horror”? Well, it is a horror film that often has a rural setting and supernatural elements, but the supernatural parts are more implied than actually explicitly made clear as in films like “The Exorcist” or “The Omen”. No, the supernatural here often comes from the superstitions and spiritual fears of the characters. This is why often they have a rural setting and are period pieces, when a lack of scientific understanding coupled with a religious fervor often turned to the supernatural to explain the otherwise unexplainable. “Blood on Satan’s Claw” is 1 of the earliest examples of this type of film. Dismissed by critics upon its release in 1971, it has grown to be seen as a vital example of “folk horror” alongside its contemporaries like “Witchfinder General” (1968) and “The Wicker Man” (1973). A period piece set in rural England, it tells the story of a strange skull being unearthed by a local farmer. This leads to all manner of strange events, with most believing Satan himself is at the core of the occurrences. I think the dark and lonely setting adds to the feelings of uneasiness and dread. The film is beautifully shot as well. Using actual locations and old ruins helped to up the credibility of the story being told. With recent films like “The Village”, “The Witch”, and “Midsommar” all finding levels of success, or at least notoriety, I think “Blood on Satan’s Claw” has an influence it can be proud of years after it was made.

Day 19 – Critters (1986)

Once a film of a particular type is a hit, you can expect Hollywood to try and cash in with a litany of knockoffs, ripoffs, and carbon copies. 1984’s “Gremlins” is a perfect example of a hit being copied over and over. Its unique blend of comedy, horror, and cuteness, all wrapped in a much more family friendly package than other horror fare at the time, made it a huge box office hit. Though I covered 1 such knockoff last year, “Ghoulies”, today I look at what is considered another, “Critters”. This connection is vehemently denied by the film’s director Stephen Herek. He rightfully points out the script for “Critters” was penned before “Gremlins”, and several script changes were made during filming to separate it from “Gremlins”. “Gremlins” just got green lit and shot before “Critters” is all. It was “Gremlins” success that did probably lead to “Critters” finding funding though. A big difference is the origins of the titular creatures. “Critters” is pure sci fi/horror blend, with the monsters being aliens from outer space. Produced by New Line Cinema, a studio who had basically began 2 years prior thanks to horror and “A Nightmare on Elm St.”, it also was an independent studio and not the major studio backing of Warner Brothers that “Gremlins” had. They had no less an impressive cast even as an independent production with the great character actor M. Emmett Walsh and horror icon Dee Wallace heading up the cast. I really like this film. It is a great look into what horror films were doing at the time, and is a much easier entry into horror than full on slashers or supernatural thrillers. I try to watch “Critters” once every year or two, and I am never disappointed.

Day 20 – Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

I have already spotlighted 1 film adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe work, but today I highlight another 1 which came much earlier. Universal was early in their groundbreaking moves into the horror genre. They had released “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” was in pre-production when they decided to adapt Poe’s “Murders In The Rue Morgue” to film. Released in 1932, even having horror icon Bela Lugosi in the lead role didn’t sway the critics of the time. Universal heads described the critical response as “harsh”. It was a very different type of film than the Gothic horror of “Dracula” and “Frankenstein”. In the years since, the film has been reevaluated by critics to much better reviews. Most now see the 1932 film as the best adaptation of this particular Poe short story, and the story has been adapted for the silver screen 3 times including the 1932 version. This film gets lost in Universal’s cycle of horror films from the 1930s. I think that is a shame. With Bela starring and based on a work by Poe, how can it be anything less than at least a “B”?

Day 21 – The Manitou (1978)

I have often wondered why Native American supernatural themes aren’t used more often in horror films. Like any other old spiritual belief system, they are full of good and evil spirits that could easily be used in a horror context. Outside of something being haunted because it was “built on an ancient Indian burial ground” there is a dearth of tie ins to Native American supernatural beliefs in horror films. That is not the case in today’s film, “The Manitou” from 1978. I remember seeing this as a kid in an edited form as a “Movie of the Week” on 1 of the broadcast networks. I saw it years later on either cable or VHS in its unedited theatrical version, and thought the same thing upon both viewings, that it was cool to actually use Native American superstitions as a plot device. Based on the 1976 Graham Masterson novel of the same name, it even uses a modern day Native American shaman as a good guy, fighting the evil, in much the same way Catholic priests or men of science had been used for years in horror films. This also has a cast of well known actors like Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, and Burgess Meredith which separates it from a lot of horror film casts. With a bit of a body horror twist that would even make David Cronenberg proud, the film has a lot to offer. This isn’t the easiest film to find, but I think it is worth the search for diehard fans of supernatural horror simply because it is quite different from anything else.

Day 22 – Phenomena (1985)

Let’s take another dip into the world of giallo today. This time we look at 1986’s “Phenomena”, which was released initially in Italy under that title, but then released in the US, with 20 minutes cut, as “Creepers”. Directed by giallo master Dario Argento, this falls right in the middle of his successful run of films stateside. It stars Jennifer Connelly in her 1st role, as a young psychic who can communicate with insects, and uses this power to hunt down a serial killer terrorizing the boarding school she attends. Co-starring the always great Donald Pleasence, the cast is solid. It does have similarities in setting at least to Argento’s earlier classic “Suspiria” with both taking place in private schools for girls. What 1st drew my attention to this film upon release wasn’t just my burgeoning love of Argento and giallo, but was the soundtrack. Eschewing his normal orchestral scores for the more popular use of modern music, Argento enlisted artists like Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones and the Italian progressive rock band Goblin to contribute to the soundtrack. It was the inclusion of “Flash of the Blade” by my favorite band Iron Maiden that drew me in to start with. From Maiden’s 1984 album “Powerslave”, it was penned by lead singer Bruce Dickinson. Any horror film that had Donald Pleasence in a main part, Jennifer Connelly at an age and time I was totally crushing on her, AND a song by Iron Maiden in the soundtrack is going to be a huge favorite of mine.

Day 23 – Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)

The 1970s was the era of the exploitation film. Grindhouses and drive-in theaters were everywhere, and were ready made landing spots for these type of films. Horror was a common type of exploitation film. The 70s kicked off with a ton of them, like today’s film, 1970s “Count Yorga, Vampire”. American International Pictures made tons of exploitation flicks, and here is 1 about that most tried and true of horror monsters, vampires. It is very similar to the story of Dracula, albeit set in modern times in Los Angeles. It is so similar, I am personally a bit shocked AIP wasn’t sued by Bram Stoker’s estate. Like most AIP films, this 1 was in a battle with the MPAA over the rating. Submitted 6 times for a rating, AIP ultimately cut around 3 minutes of violence and sex to secure an “R” rating. Heck, they even changed the score at points to diminish the effects of the violence on screen. Jeez! I think this is a fun film that took a fresh look at vampires. It was 1 of the 1st to take vampires out of period pieces set in Europe and put them in modern times and/or a different locale. The lasting effects of this film, with hits like “‘Salem’s Lot”, “The Lost Boys”, and “Interview With a Vampire” yet to come, all films that place vampires in America and/or a modern setting, owe a debt of gratitude to this film.

Day 24 – Dark City (1998)

Off the success of the film “The Crow”, director Alex Proyas co-wrote and directed yet another dark and edgy film that skirted the lines between horror and another genre. Whereas “The Crow” was an action revenge film with horror overtones, today’s film, “Dark City”, was a dystopian neo-noir science fiction film with horror overtones. Released in 1998 this film was somewhat dismissed upon release. Originally titled “Dark World” and then “Dark Empire”, the studio finally settled on “Dark City”. The film is gloomy and bleak, making the viewer sense dread and uneasiness throughout. There is definitely a Kafkaesque vibe. Some have made the analogy to feeling like a “Twilight Zone” episode. The cast which includes Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, Rufus Sewell, Richard O’Brien (writer of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”), and William Hurt, is outstanding. The visuals and cinematography are excellent. The story is thought provoking and deep, with major amounts of social commentary. This film found an audience through word of mouth and DVD rentals. It was an obvious influence on “The Matrix”, which came out a year later. This is 1 of those films that even non-horror fans will enjoy, and 1 that I hope more people will find and watch.

Day 25 – Blood Feast (1963)

Splatter films are a sub genre of horror with a emphasis on over-the-top gore and violence. The amounts of blood and carnage are meant to disturb, gross out, and sometimes amuse audiences. The 1st “splatter” film is generally regarded as today’s film, “Blood Feast”, from 1963. Written and directed by Herschel Gordon Lewis, he is considered the “Godfather of Splatter”, even though this moniker would be used for previously highlighted giallo director Lucio Fulci as well. Lewis was the 1st so I will cede the title to him. This film is brief at a running time of 67 minutes. Critics loathed this film as excessive and amateurish. It really kind of was, but it did begin a trend. The story is that of a deli owner who is also a serial killer who kills beautiful women and then uses their blood and body parts to make sacrifices to his Egyptian god, Ishtar. The ridiculous amounts of blood in this film border on being silly. The fake blood of this era is so bright red and looks nothing like real blood which probably adds to the inanity of what’s on screen. Not the best film on the list this year, it is nonetheless historic.

Day 26 – 976-EVIL (1988)

“A Nightmare On Elm St.” franchise has become a modern horror classic. This is in no small part to Robert England’s portrayal of the franchise’s star and villain, Freddy Kruger. This role has made Englund a horror icon. His horror cred doesn’t stop there though. Englund’s directorial debut was also in horror, the 1988 film, “976-EVIL”. The script was penned by an accomplished screenplay writer, Brian Helegland, who has won an Oscar for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for the film “L.A. Confidential”. Before that though he wrote “976-EVIL”, his 1st movie script produced. Englund liked working with Helgeland so much he suggested to New Line Cinema that they give him work, so he wrote “A Nightmare On Elm St. 4: The Dream Master”. Next he wrote the horror comedy, “Highway to Hell”. He has moved away from horror, but it all started there. Englund would stay in horror. Though he has only directed 1 other film, 2008’s “Killer Pad”, it is also a horror film. The concept behind “”976-EVIL” deals with the pay-to-call phone lines that were very popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This particular phone number gives the caller their “horrorscope”. What it actually does is connects you directly to hell and the Devil. This is a fun concept that doesn’t always hit the mark, but there are some good ideas in there. Englund obviously knew very well the core audience the film was targeted at. Maybe horror was in a downturn by 1988, which is why the film failed to gain much at the box office. I think it is worth a look if for no other reason than historical reasons. I mean it isn’t everyday you get Freddy Kruger himself directing his 1st film.

Day 27 – The Tingler (1959)

William Castle was an absolute genius when it came to promotion. This director always seemed to have some sort of gimmick tied to his B-movie horror films of the 1950s. Whether it was skeletons on wires flying over the audience at certain times during a film or theater chairs that gave a mild electrical shock to the person sitting in it, the stuff he did was wild and crazy and a part of Hollywood lore. His 1959 film, “The Tingler”, was filmed in “Percepto!”, yet another gimmick. Today’s trailer has Castle himself explaining what that exactly is. This was the 3rd of 5 films that were a collaboration between director Castle, writer Robb White, and star Vincent Price. The titular creature attaches itself to a human’s spine and feeds on their fears. Pure 50s horror schlock. It received mixed reviews when released, but is a cult classic now, especially for fans of Price. Honestly, is there ANY horror film with Vincent Price in it that isn’t worth watching? Castle would too rise above his B-movie association, while staying in the horror genre. He would go on to produce “Rosemary’s Baby”, and help to kick off the demonic possession/Satanic focused horror films of the 1970s.

Day 28 – Eaten Alive (1977)

So what do you do if you are the creative team behind an instant horror classic like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”? Well if you are director Tobe Hooper and writer Kim Henkel, you make an even sleazier and grimier horror film. “Eaten Alive” from 1977 wasn’t the idea of Hooper or Henkel, it was an existing script entitled “Death Trap”, that studio Mars Productions came to Hooper with to direct based on the success of “Chainsaw”. Hooper had his buddy Henkel come along for the ride, and after the 2 had made major revisions to the script, “Eaten Alive” is what Mars got. Filmed completely on a sound stage, the look of this film differs greatly from the duo’s early film that was shot entirely on location. Hooper cast “Chainsaw” start Marilyn Burns in a major role, an unknown Robert Englund long before Freddy was even a thought in the creative mind of Wes Craven, Lily Munster actress Carolyn Jones, and veteran character actor Neville Brand in the lead. What was meant to be a “Jaws” ripoff, became something else entirely. The villain, Judd, does have a crocodile in the swamps next to his sleazy East Texas hotel, The Starlight Hotel, and he does murder and feed people to said crocodile, so I guess having an aquatic creature eat people makes it sort of a ripoff. What it really is part “Jaws”, part “Psycho”, and part “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but it is all grindhouse exploitation. Brand is a discount looking Eric Roberts with ZERO of the sympathy or awkwardness of Norman Bates. Englund is a total sleaze bucket that makes it easy to see how he transformed into Freddy Kruger years later. Unlike “Chainsaw” this film revels in copious amounts of blood and gore. None of the characters have much, if any, redeeming traits, but they are all interesting in their weirdness. How can a film with a bit of a copycat take on 3 horror classics, directed and script doctored by the guys who brought you “Texas Chainsaw”, stars the star of that film and the future Freddy Kruger, with loads of nudity, violence, and blood, plus a man eating crocodile be not worth watching around Halloween? It has to be seen to be fully believed.

Day 29 – Chopping Mall (1986)

Jim Wynorski isn’t the 1st name to pop in anyone’s head as a classic horror director. Heck, he’s made as many soft core, erotic parodies of well known films as he has made horror films, but all of his stuff is B level stuff of the highest order. His 1st horror film, and 2nd directing job in general, is the oft overlooked 1986 sci-fi horror comedy “Chopping Mall”. Of course malls were a major part of the pop culture in the 80s. So was the burgeoning fields of computers and robotics. So why not combine the 2? Then throw in for good measure the decade’s love of horror films and you get this film. About 4 couples who stay at a mall after hours to party to only be stalked and killed by the mall’s malfunctioning robot security guards, that is about all you need to know. Marketed as a slasher, since those were so popular at the time, this undoubtedly hurt the film since when folks went expecting a slasher and didn’t get 1, they felt a little gypped. A name like “Chopping Mall” even SOUNDS like a slasher film. Boasting a lot of lovely young actresses in their youth, I have an admitted special place in my heart for cast member Barbara Crampton. Heck, this is the 2nd film this year I have highlighted with her in the cast, and about the 4th or 5th film in 3 years worth of these lists that has her as a cast member. Expect more Barbara Crampton in the future is all I am saying.

Day 30 – Nightbreed (1990)

Clive Barker is a modern master of horror. He crosses into multiple areas as a writer of novels and also as a film director and screenplay writer, which makes him a bit unique as well. The 2nd film he directed, “Nightbreed”, was released in 1990 and based on his novella, “Cabal”. This film is absolutely criminally overlooked in my book. By 1990, the horror craze in films had died down, which didn’t help the film, but it was also studio interference with the final cut and their marketing of the film as a slasher that was even more damaging. This film is a supernatural horror film, and though it does have a serial killer in it, that does not make it a slasher film. Fellow horror director David Cronenberg plays said serial killer, and is amazing in the role. His character’s storyline is essential to the overall story, and he steals many of the scenes he is in. Fortunately after years of asking for the original footage to be turned over to him, Barker got his wish, and this additional footage was used by Scream Factory in 2014 to edit and release a BluRay “director’s cut”. It is this version I strongly urge viewers to seek out as it gives us the director’s true vision and is just a bit easier to understand everything going on.

Day 31 – Hell Fest (2018)

*TODAY’S TRAILER IS A RED BAND. THAT MEANS FOR “RESTRICTED AUDIENCES”. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!*Today’s final spotlight also happens to be the most recent film on this year’s list. “Hell Fest” is a slasher flick from 2018. I caught this 1 on a streaming service a few years ago, and I am glad I did. There is nothing Earth shatteringly new about this film, it is just a solid slasher film with fun kills and a brutal killer stalking young people. It does take the extremely popular concept of amusement parks dedicating the month of October to horror stuff and plays with that, so maybe that is a bit new. The carnival barker in the film is played by Candyman himself, Tony Todd, so the film has a bit of a horror pedigree too. The twist at the very end is awesome and creepy as hell. If you are a child of 80s slashers like I am, then this film is a “must see” for you. My highest recommendation for any horror fan.