8. Motel Hell (1980)
“Visit this tasty “meating” place if you dare…” . This is a satirical or dark comic take on Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre that is also very heavy on the gore. Vincent’s meat is the best in the area. His big secret is that the meat is actually human flesh from victims he catches, who are then buried up to their necks in his secret garden and are fed until they are ready to be harvested.
It’s simply great campy entertainment, with funny dialogue, an excellent performance from Rory Calhoun as farmer Vincent, multiple horror clichés, and plenty of violent action including a wild chainsaw battle finale. Tobe Hooper was originally slated to do this but ended up directing Funhouse instead.
The studio brought on veteran British director Kevin Connor who had made several pictures for Amicus Productions that included From Beyond the Grave, The Land That Time Forgot, At Earth’s Core, and The People that Time Forgot. If you’re a fan of TCM, horror, or the horror-comedy subgenre then you need to check this out.
9. Fade to Black (1980)
“People used to laugh at Eric Binford. Now with every performance, he knocks them dead” . A shy and deranged cinephile ends up stalking a girl that resembles Marilyn Monroe and killing people that have wronged him, all while impersonating some if his favorite characters from various movies.
This includes the killer in Kiss of Death, Dracula, the Mummy, Hoppalong Cassidy, Laurence Olivier in The Prince and the Showgirl, and James Cagney in White Heat. Clips of the movies are interwoven into the murder sequences as he recreates the kills and moments from the various classics that he is addicted to.
This has to be one of the first Meta films, easily predating Scream. There are so many references besides the ones previously listed including a recreation of the shower scene from Psycho, Halloween, and various clips from other old pictures. The main character also works in the film industry so we see tons of film canisters. There are also posters, memorabilia, movie theaters, and locations around Hollywood including Mann’s Chinese Theater.
It features appearances from Mickey Rourke and Tim Thomerson (Trancers). This one isn’t going to be for everyone as the humor is dark, similar to a Psycho and other Hitchcock movies.
Dennis Christopher is great as the main character whose cinema addiction is so intense that he is partly living in that world and switches from being nice and innocent to terrifying, similar to other flawed characters like Norman Bates or Martin. This is an underrated movie that may be somewhat hard to find as there was only a VHS release and DVD release back in 1999.
10. Big Meat Eater (1982)
“Pleased to meet you, meat to please you!” . This is a Canadian low budget effort that combines murder, musicals, comedy, and aliens to create something totally goofy that must truly be seen to be believed. Bob is the owner of the local butcher store, whose character resembles a mix of Harold Lloyd and Jimmy Stewart.
Bob hires Abdullah, who likes to kill people and sing blues songs. He sings a song called “Big Meat Eater” and one called “Baghdad Boogie” that takes place in a boiler room and features a pair of girls dressed in genie outfits. Aliens show up because the concoction Abdullah has created with human meat soaking in acid at the butcher shop is a fuel that they call Bolonium.
The aliens create a zombie to help them with their mission. Plus there is a subplot where a boy builds a rocket ship out of a Cadillac to fly into outer space. It’s total lunacy at its best.
11. Basket Case (1982)
“Its mother conceived it… You won’t believe it…” . Writer-director Frank Henenlotter created this low budget sick comedy that features some bizarre humor and a decent amount of violence. Siamese twins were surgically separated against their will when they were young.
One looks normal and the other one is a small deformed mutant that resembles a squashed octopus, who is carried around in a basket. The mutated brother Belial convinces his normal brother to travel to New York and kill off the doctor’s that he blames for separating them. During their trip, the normal brother meets a nurse and wants to start an ordinary life. This angers Belial and sets up a dark finale between the trio.
The quality isn’t the greatest because it was shot on 16mm, but it is a finely written picture that nicely blends twisted humor, the gore of a horror film, and the sleazy side of New York.
The story is somewhat sad and tragic as you end up feeling sorry for Belial and his unfortunate fate as he deals with multiple issues; the love of his brother, his physical abnormality, and jealousy. The popularity of this led to two sequels directed by Henenlotter. He also made the popular dark comedy Brain Damage and Frankenhooker.
12. TerrorVision (1985)
“The Do-It-Yourself 100 picks up things from EVERYWHERE!” . This is a wild parody on E.T., Elvira and late night horror show hosts, and 1950’s low budget sci-fi drive-in films. An alien planet has found a way to dispose of its garbage problem by beaming it out into space as energy. A family on Earth called the Putterman’s are getting satellite television via a DIY antenna, which ends up picking up the alien transmission.
The problem with this is that the transmission contains a hungry trash monster that ends up getting out of the television and eating the people in the house. The only person that believes that there is a monster in the house is the youngest boy Sherman; can he save anyone before it’s too late?
Depending on your taste of humor, this one is just downright hilarious and contains some wild and gross special effects. It features Gerrit Graham(Phantom of the Paradise) and Mary Woronov(Eating Raoul) as the swinger parents, former teen queen Diane Franklin as the sister, John Gries (the Pretenders) as her rocker boyfriend, Bert Remsen as the military grandfather, and Jennifer Richards as Medusa (a knock off version of Elvira).
The family also amusingly returns after being eaten by the garbage monster, as it can replicate any of the family members it has absorbed. It was made by Empire International Pictures and produced and co-written by Charles Band, who owned the production company and would later go on to found Full Moon Features.
13. The Stuff (1985)
“WARNING! If you see The Stuff in stores… call the police. If you have it in your home… don’t touch it…get out. The Stuff is a product of nature… a deadly living organism. It is addictive and destructive. It can overcome your mind and take over your body… and nothing can stop it” . A weird marshmallow like substance is discovered and marketed as a dessert called The Stuff.
It sweeps the country but ends up turning the people who eat it into zombie like creatures who will do anything in order to get more. A spy (Michael Moriarty) teams up with a right-wing militia leader (Paul Sorvino) and a young boy to figure out what The Stuff is and destroy it.
This is a fun and interesting social satire that mixes elements of The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It has some very well done special effects and a decent cast that includes an amusing performance from SNL alum Garrett Morris and a cameo from Danny Aiello. It was written and directed by Larry Cohen, who is known for several other cult films including God told Me To, Bone, Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem, and It’s Alive.
14. Night of the Creeps (1986)
“They don’t bother to knock” . A pair of geeky fraternity pledges is told to steal a cadaver from the medical center and end up unfreezing a man that had been infected by an alien parasite in 1959. The corpse wakes up and releases alien slugs that climb into the victim’s mouth and turns them into zombies. The only people that can stop the alien slugs from spreading are a grizzled cop (Tom Atkins) and one of the pledges (Jason Lively) that is still alive.
This was written and directed by Fred Dekker, who also directed The Monster Squad and Robocop 3. It is a mix of everything, as they reference and pay homage to the slasher films, zombies, sci-fi, and alien invasion movies.
The writing in this is great and there are many wonderful lines and bits that pay homage to the various genres. It still isn’t going to be for everyone, as some people might not find the humor in it very funny. It did poorly at the box office but has garnered a large cult following. This definitely was an influence on the 2006 released motion picture Slither.
15. Frankenhooker (1990)
“It’s A Stitch!” . After his fiancé is killed by being shredded into pieces with a large lawnmower, medical student Jeffrey Franken goes about trying to restore her body.
With not many parts left over he lures hookers with his super crack that makes them explode and uses their parts to put her back together. Problems arise when he resurrects her and she is possessed by the souls of the dead prostitutes and heads to the streets to work, making perspective Johns explode when they kiss her because of the super crack still in her system.
This is by far not subtle in the least bit. It is exploitative, hilarious, and grotesque. It’s everything that you would want from a horror-comedy. It is apparently one of Bill Murray’s favorite films, who was quoted on the 2006 DVD cover saying: “If you see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker” . So there you go, Bill Murray said that you need to see this.
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.