14. 10 Rillington Place (1971)
Richard Attenborough is absolutely chilling in this true crime portrayal of serial killer Reginald Christie. The time is 1949. Reg and his wife Ethel live on the first floor of a run-down flat in London, England where they are the landlords; Reg assumes having knowledge of medicine and that allows him to lure his unsuspecting victims to his house so that he can have sex with their corpses.
Reg, as portrayed by Attenborough, is a true psychopath and he doesn’t hesitate to use carbon dioxide gas to incapacitate several young women, including the wife of his latest tenant, the mentally slow Tim Evans (John Hurt); she seeks out Christie’s murderous aid because she is pregnant again and cannot afford a legal abortion.
This leads to Christie killing both Beryl and her infant child Geraldine and burying the bodies in the backyard; Evans is then convicted of the crimes, with Christie actually appearing as a key witness in the trial. Consequently Evans is convicted and eventually hung for the crimes, essentially an innocent man.
Christie goes on to kill repeatedly, dispatching of another woman and also his wife, until in a fugue like state, he flees, but not first before he rents the flat containing the corpses, to an unsuspecting tenant. Christie was eventually sentenced to death and executed; Tim Evans was posthumously pardoned and reburied on consecrated ground. Directed by Richard O. Fleischer.
15. Bloodlust AKA Mosquito the Rapist (1977)
Hold on to your hats for this one. Here is a bizarre story of necrophilia, bloodletting and grave robbery, but in this strange film the main character is actually sympathetic in an odd understated way. Straight from Switzerland comes the seldom seen Bloodlust; the main character, nameless of course, is referred to only as The Man in the credits.
Our protagonist is deaf and dumb from an incident of brutality from his childhood courtesy of his brutal father; living alone, he now surrounds himself with creepy dolls and holds a crush on his neighbor’s young daughter, but her mom is wise to him and she keeps a close eye on the mute accountant.
One day his love ups and dies while dancing on the rooftop of her house; the mourning fellow is so moved by this loss that he digs up her corpse and sits with it on a park bench but the police show up and he flees the scene. Pushed over the edge, he starts visiting mortuaries and begins sucking the blood out of the corpse through a two pronged glass tube and starts stealing body parts to take home with him.
This eventually leads him to committing murder and soon the authorities have him in custody. Director Marijan Vajda uses a muddy palette of browns and other muddy washed out colors that lend themselves to the grim procession of events and Werner Pochath is excellent as the mute doll lover. Not for everyone but all means.
16. Walker (1987)
Director Alex Cox read an article on William Walker in Mother Jones magazine and was so fascinated by his story that he decided to make a film about the American who overthrew the Nicaraguan government and proclaimed himself president in the 1850’s. Starring Ed Harris in the title role and featuring an impressive cast of musicians and actors in assorted supporting roles this is an interesting look at a little known slice of history.
Cox decided to declare war on historical accuracy and uses many anachronisms throughout the film to give it the air of a madcap Acid Western. Populating the film with musicians like Joe Strummer and having the screenplay written by Rudy Wurlitzer, Cox assembles a rag tag army of idiosyncratic presences and overall the film plays like a bizarro history lesson that features some amazing character actors. Ed Harris is incredible as the hard headed American that truly believes in the concept of Manifest Destiny.
17. The Mad Butcher (1971)
Victor Buono portrays Otto Lehman, a jovial lunatic that is released from the mental hospital in Vienna, only to return to his nagging wife’s butcher shop, where he accidentally realizes that human flesh is the missing ingredient in his sausage recipe. After disposing of his wife’s body and incorporating it into the mix, Buono realizes that this method is cheaper than buying authentic ingredients.
Soon the gleeful maniac is grinding up more than meat and the public is enthusiastic about the results. The authorities, who apparently are fans, finally get a clue when buttons and other articles of clothing start showing up in their food.
Also known as Meat is Meat, this is basically a showcase for Buono’ s hammy acting; this Euro Sleaze feature was distributed by grindhouse auteur Harry Novak for Box Office International in America and is strictly drive in fare. Director: Guido Zurli with a heavy accent on the hilarious. Salt lightly to taste and serve hot.
18. Back Against the Wall (2002)
In a world where two bit hacks abound and pretentious clap track about super heroes bombard our screens, there occasionally comes a talent that flies under the radar, delivering a personal and powerful film testimony. I am, of course, referring to film director James Fotopoulos and director of Back Against the Wall.
This film packs the wallop of a sledgehammer wielded by a maniac. Definitely an acquired taste, Fotopoulos out Lynch’s Lynch and if you wished that Blue Velvet would have been a bit darker, than this is your film. Incorporating black and white photography with a soundtrack that seethes and hisses, this experimental film explores the sleazy world of a lingerie model, an isolated loner, and his no neck friend.
This film has a malevolent intensity that weeps like an infected wound, and for those that are patient enough to make it through to the conclusion, they will be rewarded with witnessing a new vision in cinema. Gloomy, depressing and at times unfathomable, Up Against the Wall is cinema for those that are willing to follow a filmmaker to unspeakable extremes.
19. Carnival of Souls (1962)
This film was directed by educational film maker Herke Harvey on a shoestring budget, but he manages to make the most of his small budget and amateur cast to create a nightmarish film that dabbles in a Bergman like surrealism with surprisingly creepy results.
Mary Henry (Candace Hilligloss) is a passenger in a spontaneous drag race that ends with tragic results as the car careens off a narrow bridge and all are killed with the exception of Mary. She immediately sets off to Utah for an awaiting job as a church organist in Salt Lake City, but she is troubled by visions of a mysterious man that continues to appear as she drives there.
Along the way she passes a long abandoned dance hall pavilion out on the salt flats; Mary is drawn to this odd place and eventually she is compelled to visit where she is forced to confront the vision that haunts her. Due to its unique settings and excellent use of shadows and forced perspectives, Harvey and company deliver a first class product and showcases just exactly how creativity can enhance a low budget production.
20. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
Long considered one of the best shockers from the 70’s, this horror films features the debut of Brooke Shields, 12, as Karen Spages. Directed by Alfred Sole and set in Paterson, New Jersey, this splatter film will keep you guessing until the very end when the true killer is finally revealed.
Sibling rivalry takes on an entire new meaning as sisters Karen and Alice (Paula Sheppard) fight over who gets to own Father Tom’s (Rudolph Willrich) gift of a crucifix for Karen’s first holy communion; things turn grim when Karen is brutally murdered by someone wearing a frightful translucent mask and yellow raincoat on that most holy of days.
Sole has an uncanny eye for small details and loads the film with plenty of Catholic symbolism and religious iconography, but it is the obese cat loving landlord (Alphonso DeNoble) that supplies the real creeps with his roaming hands as he attempts to molest Alice. As Alice becomes the main suspect in her sister’s bloody demise, the tension is ratcheted up as the body count grows. Well worth seeking out for horror fans.
Author Bio: Robert Segedy is a writer that lives outside of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; a self-professed film maniac, he loves horror and cult films, old comics and true crime books. A former longtime bookseller he now lives a quiet life with his wife Jennifer and two cats and the loudest dog in the world.