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Sometimes you need a bit of light relief after watching the dark horrors of Halloween for many years, so why not check out those few hidden gems that may have slipped under your radar, and may offer a funny (and perhaps slightly scary) way to spend the Halloween weekend!
In our list of the best worst horror movies we have Glenroe meets Evil Dead, killer lifts, Leatherface doing the Zoidberg, a haunted biscuit and some transgenders killing our teenagers – its…
The 10 Best Worst Horror Movies to Watch this Halloween!
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – Dir. Tobe Hooper
The late Tobe Hooper had an odd relationship with his most famous creation, be it his involvement in one capacity or another with practically all of the strange sequels and reboots that came after or his odd comments to do with the original itself and going as far as to say it was meant as a black comedy. What undoubtedly was a black comedy though, is the sequel.
A pseudo-remake of the first but with tongue firmly in cheek and a bigger budget, it’s the complete opposite of the original in many ways. While the original is famously quite gore free, with the director employing the power of suggestion to creep out and unsettle his audience, the sequel is very much about loud and bombastic violence and gore.
Framed as a sort of comedy of errors on the part of the murderous family, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable but frankly bizarre follow up to one of the greatest and most important horror films ever made.
It also features a relatively straight faced Dennis Hopper as a former Texas ranger and uncle to the protagonists of the first film as he attempts to hunt down Leatherface and Co., culminating in Hopper (armed with multiple chainsaws) engaging in a fight with the Sawyer family which is basically the garden tool equivalent to the fight from the end of Phantom Menace.
Sleepaway Camp (1983) – Dir. Robert Hiltzik
Transgender teens are killing our kids! Literally. The 1983 cult classic Sleepaway Camp shocked and horrified its pearl-clutching critics upon its release and it still shocks today. It may be one of the campiest (sorry) horror films ever made. The short-shorts most of the characters wear would later be reclassified as underwear, the moustaches veer from soup-strainers to pre-pubescent Michael Cera’s upper lip in length and the acting must be seen to be believed.
Following the death of her father and brother eight years earlier, sexually confused teen Angela goes with her cousin Ricky to Camp Arawak. Bullied by her roommates Angela quickly snaps and goes on a killing spree using bees’ nests, curling irons and hatchets to exact her revenge.
Sleepaway Camp lurches Frankenstein-like between tones and moods. Gruesome murders are followed by moments of acting so wooden you can almost smell the pine freshness off the screen.
Sleepaway Camp’s ending still surprises today. Its transgressive nature is constantly foreshadowed but those final few frames are enough to send people into screaming fits or gales of laughter.
Sleepaway Camp ducks and weaves between horror and comedy so easily it’s almost intentional. This film is a shaky tentpole (sorry couldn’t resist) of the slasher genre.
Down akaThe Shaft (2001) – Dir. Dick Maas
“The elevator did it. How dumb can you get?” – A rather telling piece of dialogue from the opening scenes from director Dick Maas’s Down AKA The Shaft, this is a horror movie concerning the bloodthirsty set of lifts in the Millennium Building, one of the tallest buildings in New York.
One may question the dramatic possibilities of a killer lift, especially as there are not many obvious strategies for elevators to attack other than hope people enter its ominous sliding doors. However, over the 107 minute running time, the malevolent transport claims among its victims; security men, a blind pervert, an entire lamaze class and one unfortunate rollerskater.
People are dying and the only people can solve the mystery are an elevator mechanic/ex marine and a plucky journalist played by James Marshall and Naomi Watts (who incidentally would be reunited later in the considerably less surreal Twin Peaks: The Return).
In the end, the explanation behind this heightened horror involves the military, ghosts and dolphin brains in a suitably ridiculous climax. Speaking of conspiracies, the film oddly features repeated references to the Twin Towers, terrorism and even a mention of Osama Bin Laden. When did the film premiere? May 20 2001…
Is Down scary? Well, I’ll leave the final word with a quote from Ron Perlman in the role of the suspicious head of Meteor Elevators, “If you can’t trust elevators, what the F*** can you trust?”
The Return of the Living Dead (1985) – Dir. Dan O’Bannon
Yes the plot of the film deals with the dead rising from the grave, but implying that, in addition to reanimation, they are returning from ‘somewhere’ is a bit of a stretch. The title is part of the film’s charm however – it implies a relationship with George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead when in fact there is none. Or at least not exactly.
The film is titled thus due to a curious arrangement of creative rights – producer Dan O’Bannon found himself possessing the rights to the phrase ‘Living Dead’ in film (note how Romero’s actual sequels drop the word ‘Living’, e.g. Dawn Of the Dead in contrast to the original film’s title).
Rather than attempting a legitimate sequel, he instead went the way of a camp farce. Setting itself in a world where the original Night of the Living Dead film exists and is based on a little known true story, Return sees a plucky young worker at a medical supply warehouse accidentally open a mysterious barrel of Trioxin gas due to his overzealous supervisor’s insistence that the glass can’t be cracked. The gas leak causes the dead to rise (and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a graveyard right next to them) and soon the whole area is invaded by an army of zombies.
Return differentiates itself from Romero’s films in a few interesting ways. In stark contrast to the bleak hopelessness of Romero’s films, O’Bannon’s film is stock full of intentionally exaggerated horror movie caricatures (the excited young viewers’-perspective character, his virginal girlfriend, a perpetually naked babe, a gang of punks, an ominous army general).
Instead of the eerie silence and shopping mall sounds of Dawn of the Dead, Return has a gnarly soundtrack (“Toniiiight…we make love till we diiiieeee…“). Instead of feasting on raw flesh, O’Bannon created the other classic zombie diet – the consumption of human brains (or “BRAAAINS!!” as the zombies chant hungrily).
Notably, while Romero’s zombies could be dispatched with a quick decapitation, Bannon’s zombies are so hopped up on Trioxin that while they can be decapitated, dismembered and disemboweled, they can’t actually be killed until there’s nothing left – this is played for laughs (there’s a scene where black bags filled with hacked up body parts are seen bouncing around like bunnies) but it also does add a bit of genuine horror to the proceedings.
In addition to being really quotable (“Watch your mouth son, if you like this job!” “Like this job?!“), the film has some amazing practical effects (the ‘Tar Man’ zombie is amazing).
Return probably should be a bad film. Films that intentionally exploit the appeal of “so bad it’s good” are rarely any good themselves (see: the entire Scary Movie series). It’s rare that a film can spend so much time making fun of a genre without collapsing in on its own flaws or lack of humour.
And to be fair, Return is occasionally a flawed film – some of the characters feel underused, for all the great practical effects there’s a couple of really crappy ones and the final shot of the film is unforgivably a rehash of a shot that we saw earlier on in the movie.
That being said, it’s such a delightful romp that you forgive these imperfections. There’s rarely a laugh that doesn’t land. For something that has so much fun aping clichéd horror movies, Return of the Living Dead happens to be a lot of fun to watch.
Dead & Deader (2006) – Dir.Patrick Dinhut
Long before the SyFy Channel started making self aware films like Sharknado, they were making films like Dead and Deader.
Released in 2006, Dead and Deader was originally touted as second sequel to Uwe Boll’s 2003 adaptation of Sega classic House of the Dead, and was written by Mark A. Altman who had written the first two films. However, by the time it made it’s way to the screen the House of the Dead name had been removed.
The story, as with many of these types of films, is convoluted, but in a nutshell it goes like this; a troop of special ops soldiers go to Cambodia to find out what happened to a medical team. They are attacked by zombies but Lt Quinn (Dean Cain) manages to call for help. He wakes up on the coroner’s slab and is told he was D.O.A. and soon finds that he has a scorpion running around inside his body which has reanimated him.
The movie is then a mission to find the remaining members of the special ops team who are now zombies and infecting the town. Cue blood, guts and guns.
What makes it an ideal candidate for this list is the fact that it wants to be taken serious as a scary movie but also tries to go for the laughs. Unfortunately it never manages to strike the right balance and you can see that it’s been through rewrites galore to distance it from its House of the Dead roots, with most of the laughs coming unintentionally.
But with Dean Cain hamming it up in the starring role and Peter Greene (best known as Zed from Pulp Fiction) as the villain, Dead and Deader is a great watch. It even has genre favourite Armin Shimerman cropping up as a coroner called Flutie – a reference, one imagines, to the school principal he replaces in the first series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
On the plus side, it’s still a way better film than House of The Dead.
Basket Case (1982) – Dir. Frank Henenlotter
95% of this movie is the hilarious, terrible, schlocky, shoe-string budget, 80s monster movie that ticks all the boxes. 5%, or rather one scene, caught me by surprise on my recent rewatch leaving a sour taste.
Basket Case has all the B-movie greatness you could possibly want:
A ridiculous plot line? It revolves around a pair of siamese twins, one “normal” (Duane), the other a grotesque “freak” (Belial) who after being separated against their wishes are on a blood-lust revenge trail, hunting down the doctors that performed the surgery. So, yes, that box is definitely ticked.
Shitty graphics? The scenes with the monster are treated in three different ways; farcical stop-motion, rubber dummies that actors will hold onto while thrashing around or prosthetic monster claws for the up close and personal shots. Each one of these techniques are so bad they’re brilliant. Tick. (The graphics do get “better” as the series continues however.)
Questionable directing? There are numerous shots throughout Basket Case when the victim, or those who walk in on the aftermath, are screaming, and screaming and screaming… and it doesn’t seem to end. It is piercing and comically long enough to have a laugh, grow tired of the scene, realise how long it’s being going on for and find that funny enough to start laughing again.
There is also the flashback scene half-way through – here we learn of the twins’ undesired detachment. As the scene ends it seems to move on with the origin story without taking into account that this is just a flashback and continues for nearly 20 minutes… eventually returning to where we were in the movie. Utter bonkers.
Then there is the aforementioned matter of a really troubling scene involving a rape, murder and then the continued rape of the victim’s dead body. The use of violence against women and sexual violence is nothing new in the world of horror (Last House on the Left, most Slasher films) but it is a jarring, sleazy and sickening scene in a movie that just doesn’t need it.
Perhaps an unfortunate product of the times, perhaps the director thought it fell within the bounds of the black humour of the movie. Either way, it is troubling.
That one scene is an unfortunate addition to an otherwise terrific, terrible film. It kicks off a trilogy of horrendous, vile, laugh-out-loud pieces of filmmaking that everyone can sit down and enjoy with a large popcorn and a few beers.
The Gingerdead Man (2005) – Dir. Charles Band
Let me tell you the plot (and please note, I shit you not – this is the actual plot); a convicted murderer gets executed by electric chair for killing two people in a diner. His crazy mother then mixes his ashes into a gingerbread dough and leaves it at the bakery of the woman who sent her son to the chair.
She then decides (because, fuck it, why not?) to bake the dough but inadvertently gets blood in the mix and surges electricity into the oven creating a haunted biscuit called The Gingerdead Man, a sentient knife and gun wielding maniac reincarnation of the murderer, intent on killing the woman who had him executed.
Oh, and did I mention that Gary Busey plays the fiendish gingerbread?
So, what’s not to love here? An astonishingly absurd film with a creamy filling of baking related puns, this horror-comedy does exactly what is says on the biscuit tin – blood, guts, cheesey one-liners, and a bad guy you will genuinely never forget (unmercifully hammed to the max by Busey).
There’s no doubt that much of this is played just for laughs but it has a rather bemusingly endearing quality to it. In the wide shots, watching someone flail around with what is obviously a small fabric gingerbread man doll is hilarious, before it cuts to a close-up of the utterly rubbish puppet prosthetics as Busey delivers another awful pun.
Speaking of puns, The Gingerdead Man spawned a number of sequels – Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, and The Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver. It even went so far as to emulate some of the horror genre’s gumption for series crossovers with Gingerdead Man Vs. Evil Bong.
For added comedic effect, watch with the subtitles to Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace as I did on my first viewing (unknowingly at first) due to poor decision making on the part of some Chinese bootlegger.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) – Dir. Tommy Lee Wallace
The third instalment in the Halloween franchise is widely dismissed not for what it is but for what it isn’t. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a strange standalone entry in the series that commits the cardinal sin of not featuring the Shatner masked boogeyman known as Michael Myers.
Instead of that villain’s icy passivity, it opts for scenery chewing silliness. Instead of continuing the story of evil coming to the suburbs the plot concerns a boozy, horny doctor finding out that a Halloween mask factory is run by druids intent on killing all the children in America.
Tonally this feels like an episode of Goosebumps but stylistically it’s all peak John Carpenter sleekness. Carpenter didn’t direct but did produce and also co-wrote the score. That sense of cool permeates even when you’re watching gloriously nonsensical kills. A toy company sends robot assassins to pull people’s heads off. Characters faces are turned into a mush of bugs by haunted masks.
This attempt to turn the Halloween series into an anthology confused audiences who turned up expecting another slasher. If you can watch it without wondering where our favourite baddie is then this is a fun experience.
It’s tempting to see this story of an evil company as a critique of holiday commercialism but, as the villain himself says when asked what the point of all this is, ‘Do I need a reason?‘. It’s a cheap, carnival ghost house and all the more loveable for it. Ideally you would watch this aged ten, giggling and revelling in the tame spookiness of it all.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) Dir. John Luessenhop
Taking the increasingly common route for late-game horror sequels, this film picks up right after the events of original film and ignores the disorientating, bewildering array of sequels that came after.
What makes this particular film so amusingly misguided is that it tries to repaint Leatherface as an antihero or more specifically, as Batman. Since the events of the first, The Face has been living in the cave-like basement of his wealthy aunts mansion.
After some initial mix ups where he kills her friends, Leatherface must venture forth – complete with Joel Schumacher tool up scene – to rescue his cousin and in the process take revenge on the evil cops whose corruption and general bad deeds also included murdering his parents.
Useless as horror film, the joy comes from this bizarre Batman-ification of this infamous monster of cinema as he ends up fighting injustice in his small town through the medium of dismemberment. It also has an hilarious scene set at a carnival which includes the film’s greatest moment; a cornered Leatherface, out of options, wildly hurls his chainsaw at a cop before flailing away comically into the night like a murderous Zoidberg. Top class shite.
Rawhead Rex (1986) – Dir. George Pavlou
Stephen King, at the height of his fame, was quoted as saying “I have seen the future of horror, his name is Clive Barker.” With all the weight of that endorsement, expectations must have been high to see Barker’s first adapted work on the big screen. It is hilarious that this was it.
Filmed in 1980’s Wicklow, Rawhead Rex follows the exploits of a local demon that emerges from under an old standing stone to rampage through a series of set pieces, many of which are lit like supermarket aisles.
The beast itself looks like a rubber headed, cross eyed bodybuilder with a mullet. As ol’ Rawhead attacks a halting site or menaces yet another character with the self preservation instincts of a spud, it’s hard not to laugh at the unintentional Father Ted-ness of it all. (Sample dialogue- ‘Can I get you a cup of tea?’ ‘Why don’t you go fuck yourself?‘)
Barker originally described his short story as a tale of a phallus getting loose in a small, backwards, Irish village and while some sexual elements remain they are handled so poorly that they’re more likely to raise a titter than a scream.
Witness an ancient Celtic demon pissing all over an ecstatic priest. Gasp at the ending’s non-sequiter mother Goddess imagery or the rural church with a stained glass, laser eyed demon window. Ask ‘Is that Hugh O’Connor?‘.
Barker was reportedly locked out of production; an experience which inspired him to take the reigns on Hellraiser. In that sense Rawhead Rex may have gifted something to the Horror genre.
Irish audiences can enjoy the gift of the nostalgic charm that’s found between the clumsy genre clichés. If you’re looking for some ‘so bad it’s good’ Samhain viewing you really can’t go wrong with an incompetent ‘Glenroe Vs Evil Dead‘ B-movie.