Chillers, Thrillers, and Killers: Films for A Creepy October

OK, we're halfway through October, so I'm running late on this, but there's still plenty of time to cram in some scary movies. 

I've put together a list of some films I think you might enjoy. I tried to come up with some more unusual choices, hopefully a few things you might not have seen yet. They are spread across several categories. My tastes lean towards monsters and sci fi, and I'm not a gore or slasher fan, so keep that in mind.

The Universal Horrors: 1) The Wolf Man (1941):  It seems like every Halloween people are fond of pointing to the Universal Dracula, Frankenstein, and certainly Bride of Frankenstein as classics of horror. But The Wolf Man is every bit as good as those films. With its tragic story, eerie forest scenes. and iconic Jack Pierce makeup, it's still a compelling movie.

2) The Black Cat (1934): This story of revenge, black magic, and twisted souls features Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and is a pre-Code horror film, with some truly disturbing scenes. No monsters - except the human kind.

John Carpenter films: People tend to  select Halloween, but I'm going to suggest The Fog (1980). This atmospheric (ha ha) film of broken vows and spirits seeking revenge is seriously creepy - and has a great ending.

Alien invaders: There are a lot of great films in this category: of course Alien (1979) and both the original Thing from Another World (1951) as well as Carpenter's The Thing (1982). But one that is probably overlooked is Horror Express (1972) , what seems like a Hammer film, but isn't. It stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Telly Savalas -yes, Kojak - as passengers on a train who are attacked by the corpse of a missing link reanimated by an alien entity. It's as weird as it sounds and well worth viewing.

Vampires:  There are a lot of terrible or just mediocre vampire films out there. Salems Lot (1979) was absolutely terrifying when it came out, and it still delivers. Barlow is one of my favorite vampires - totally monstrous. For a different take, The Hunger (1983) takes the romantic view of vampires and turns it on its ear, showing how dreadful immortality could be. 

Hammer films: There are many fantastic Hammer films, but have you seen The Devil Rides Out (1968)? Also called The Devil's Bride in the U.S., this tale of devil worship features Christopher Lee in a rare turn as the hero. 

Transformations: A few years ago Criterion put out a beautiful blu ray version of Island of Lost Souls (1932), which was based on H.G. Wells' Island of Dr. Moreau. This is another pre-Code film and is truly unsettling, with the mad Moreau (Charles Laughton) slowly losing control over his creations. It also features Lugosi as the Sayer of the law.

The Undead: Personally, I'm burned out on zombies. But I have a few movies in this category to recommend. The first is the Vincent Price classic, The Last Man on Earth (1964).  Now technically the creatures in this film might be considered vampires, but they have a lot of characteristics that would later show up in modern zombies. This film definitely inspired Romero and others. It has a stark look. Next up is Shock Waves (1977). All I'm going to say is amphibious nazi zombies. There ya go. Finally, a real off beat flick called Psychomania (1973), a British film about a motorcycle gang that comes back from the grave. It's got a flavor all its own.

That's all for me now. I hope I've pointed out some films you never heard of, or maybe forgot about and can revisit. Have fun on your Scare-athon!


  1. That is a great list, Karen, and it's always great to see "Horror Express" get some love.

    My own list of nominations from those categories would be:

    The Universal Horrors: "The Mummy" (1932).

    John Carpenter: "The Thing."

    Alien Invaders: "War of the Worlds" (1953).

    Vampires: "Let the Right One in."

    Hammer: "Quatermass and the Pit."

    Transformations: "Ginger Snaps."

    The Undead: "I Walked With a Zombie."

  2. Hey Steve, thanks for sharing your picks. I just rewatched War of the Worlds for our Planet 8 podcast and it's still fantastic. I would have included Quatermass but I gave it a whole post recently so I laid off it. But it's my favorite Hammer film. Let the Right One In is great, very disturbing. I just saw Ginger Snaps a few months ago. It had a really interesting take on the werewolf mythos.

  3. Horror has never been my favorite genre, esp. when I was younger, so that initially I really avoided a lot of horror movies, books, comics, etc. and have had to play catch-up ever since. One of your suggestions that I did see is The Fog - and for all of the criticism that often gets leveled at it, I agree that it's a very effectively scary and creepy film. Otherwise, Last Man on Earth is definitely one that's on my 'to-see' list, as I have a digital copy of it on one of my portable hard-drives.
    Despite what I said about me and horror, there is one recommendation I can make - for something quite recent, to boot: Lovecraft Country. Yeah, it's a series rather than a movie, but at only 10 episodes, it's manageable. And man, it is so, so, so damn good. It's damn good horror, but so much more as well.

    1. Hey Edo, good to see your comments. I am much more a science fiction fan than horror fan, but this time of year, I like to dip my toes into some scary stuff.

      I tried watching Lovecraft Country. I read the novel just weeks before the show came on, and I found it by turns disturbing and thought provoking. But I got about 5 episodes into the series and was turned off by all the gore -specifically the peeling off of skin. It was just too much for me. It also deviated heavily from the book, and not in a good way. I feel Watchmen was much better at handling issues of social justice and integrating them into fantasy material. But at least these topics are being broached.

    2. Karen, too bad you couldn't stick with Lovecraft Country; I hear you on the gore, it made me physically cringe too, but I think the body horror aspects of the series were conveying some specific points rather than just being gratuitous.
      Since you brought it up, I also liked Watchmen (something I never thought I would when I heard the series was being made) - in fact, I liked it so much I did a write-up at the Atomic Junk Shop a few months ago. I have to say, though, that I think Lovecraft Country actually tackled the issues of race and race relations in the US better.


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