Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
The Dreadful Ten: Top 10 Horror Films Worth Hunting DownFearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
With so many streaming services and digital video on-demand services out there nowadays, it’s no surprise that genre fans have more options to watch whatever they want than ever before. While this may be a normalcy for those growing up in the digital age, many of us who grew up with video stores or, hell, even the disc-delivery days of Netflix remember the difficulty- and in many cases, the thrill- of hunting down obscure genre films. Luckily, as much as there is that’s now widely available, there are still some horror gems that escape being found too easily, and so FANGORIA has dedicated this week’s Dreadful Ten to a collection of horror films worth the time and effort to track down.
Now, before we begin, there was some rules with this week’s Dreadful Ten. First off, the film cannot be legally available via a streaming service, such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. Next, each film must be available in some capacity, whether it be DVD, VHS, etc.; in any case, FANGORIA doesn’t want to send fright fans on a wild goose chase for these titles. Lastly, every entry had to be a feature film, which prevents many hard-to-find made-for-TV films and mini-series from inclusion. Now, without further ado…
- NECRONOMICON (dir. Brian Yuzna, Christophe Gans, Shusuke Kaneko)
An anthology film with incredible practical FX, source material from H.P. Lovecraft and the directors of BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, SILENT HILL and MY SOUL IS SLASHED has somehow fallen through the crack of time, considering most DVDs of the film are out of print. However, with the film recently coming to Blu-ray in France this summer, there may be a chance U.S. audiences may first get to legally experience NECRONOMICON in high definition in the near future. Until then, this is a trickier flick to track down, but ultimately worth the watch.
- BEGOTTEN (dir. E. Elias Merhige)
72 minutes inside the nightmares of E. Elias Merhige, BEGOTTEN is an art film exercise in the most haunting visuals and blasphemous storytelling imaginable. And while some audiences may not know what to make it of, no viewer can scrub this fright film from their psyche. Another increasingly difficult flick to find, your best bet may be tracking a VHS or DVD down at your local library.
- WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? (dir. Curtis Harrington)
One of the few “hagsploitation” titles from Shelley Winters’ later career catalogue, WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO is a particularly twisted tale that doesn’t take as long as WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? to get to the creepy stuff. Available on DVD (as a double feature with HELEN) and on Standard Definition on Amazon.com, this might be an easier title to get, although comprehending the insanity on screen is a different story altogether.
- THE CHANGELING (dir. Peter Medak)
A genuine classic of the genre that has been, at times, offensively hard to find legally, THE CHANGELING is a haunting story with terrifying scares, unbearable suspense and top tier performances. However, the film has yet to receive a proper HD treatment, and is widely unavailable on video on-demand outlets, making Medak’s masterpiece relegated to a 10-year-old, $5 standard-def DVD release from HBO Studios (which hasn’t even had the courtesy to put the film on their HBO-GO service) destined to go out-of-print sooner rather than later.
- THE REFLECTING SKIN (dir. Philip Ridley)
A disturbing, slow-burn horror film with Oscar-caliber production value, THE REFLECTING SKIN isn’t the kind of film you shake easily. However, it’s the kind of film that, once you experience it in its full, unsettling glory, you might necessarily want to shake, especially how few people have seen the film. However, in a similar case as NECRONOMICON, a foreign Blu-ray on the way might mean this bad boy will find a high-def home in the U.S., which will leave horror hounds with no excuse to miss this cult classic.
- DEAD OF NIGHT (dir. Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer)
A benchmark of horror filmmaking and a defining film in the genre’s canon, it’s a literal shame that DEAD OF NIGHT is so hard to find. While Ealing Studios just gave the film a UK Blu-ray with a gorgeous new transfer, most stateside purveyors are highly sought-after DVDs and even VHS tapes. And while it may only be a matter of time before Ealing offers that transfer up to a U.S. distributor who will give the film new life for domestic fright fans, that time has still yet to come.
- LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III (dir. Jeff Burr)
While Jeff Burr’s career has been marred with hard-to-find horror titles, including the cult classic FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III might be the most notable film on this list, available only on DVD and not even available as often as its maligned successor, THE NEXT GENERATION, on cable rotation. While the DVD features both the theatrical and unrated cut, the film has no current HD plans and rights issues may prevent it from making the streaming services anytime soon. Luckily, the DVD runs for less than ten bucks, so this guilty pleasure may not make one feel so guilty on the wallet.
- THE COMPANY OF WOLVES (dir. Neil Jordan)
One of the classiest genre offerings ever released by Cannon Films, this dark fantasy film sports incredible FX, surreal production value and some truly nightmarish imagery. Unavailable to stream and on most VOD platforms, THE COMPANY OF WOLVES is a pretty penny on its quickly depleting stock of DVDs, although an imported Blu-ray from the UK should work fine and dandy for horror fans who want to see the film as it was meant to be seen.
- TAXIDERMIA (dir. Gyorgy Palfi)
A mix between the aesthetics of Terry Gilliam and Tom Six, TAXIDERMIA is one of the most disturbing tales of body horror ever put to film with a mischievous streak of dark humor throughout. However, unlike most shocking, boundary-pushing fright flicks, TAXIDERMIA has yet to amass a large enough cult audience to get a wider release than the leftover DVDs from its initial release in 2009. And with distributor Regent Releasing’s legal troubles in 2010, chances are if you don’t pick up TAXIDERMIA while you can, curious collectors may be dropping a pretty penny on the flick.
- NO TELLING (dir. Larry Fessenden)
An emotional powerhouse that you can’t un-see, NO TELLING is the kind of horror film that invests so much into its characters, one forgets it is a genre offering at times. Yet as the film broods and boils, the horror slowly rises to the surface, eventually revealing something that will upset as many as it outright horrifies. It’s a disturbing and all-too-real portrait of desperation, heartbreak and unchecked ambition with very unsettling implications at its heart, and proof that Larry Fessenden has been the real deal longer than anyone might have guessed. This one is available on DVD, but for the deal that it carries, one might be better picking up the whole Fessenden Box Set Blu-ray from Scream Factory.
And now, here are some honorable mentions that did not make the cut…
Ode to Balaban: PARENTS (1989) & MY BOYFRIEND’S BACK (1993)
These two pitch-black comedies show the wicked side to actor/director Bob Balaban (featured in GOREZONE #35), and are unfortunately a bit difficult to find.
Get “Screamin’ Mad”: FREAKED (1993) & SOCIETY (1989)
One is an insane Alex Winter horror comedy, and one is a scathing, stomach-churning horror cult classic, but they have one thing in common: mind-blowing practical effects whipped up by underrated FX master “Screamin’ Mad” George.
In Your Brain: ANGUISH (1987) & GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)
Two disturbing tales of telekinetic terror, ANGUISH and GOD TOLD ME TO are the kinds of films that work because of the unbridled vision of their filmmakers that push an otherwise cerebral subject matter into dark, disturbing places.
Underrated Film Obscurities: ALTERED (2006) & COMMUNION (1989)
While ALTERED may be a bit easier to find, COMMUNION has been a notoriously difficult film to track down at times, even though both films equally deserve your attention.
Bad, Bad Men : KILLER JOE (2012) & KING OF THE ANTS (2003)
While both films are available on most VOD outlets, these unnerving depictions of human horror are often found at the bottom of the bargain bin for a reason: they aren’t necessarily meant for your everyday viewer, but will win over any hardened horror hound.