10 Great B-Movies That Inspired Mainstream Directors

6. Society (1989)

Society (1989)

Bill is a young boy in the high society of Beverly Hills. When he starts to feel that something is wrong in his life, he learns about a certain society, members of the high society gathered in a group that organizes cannibal orgies, and Bill is one of the chosen victims.

This is the first movie that starts like a teen movie and ends up with one of the most radically disturbing sequence ever screened: a cannibalistic orgy accompanied by the music from Strauss. The 80’s movie look gets violently disrupted and the director goes further than anyone before, picturing good-looking bodies get “devoured” and distorted.

Even if this movie still stands on a pretty unique position in cinema, it is obvious the influence it had on movies afterwards from directors like Robert Rodriguez, and in a full genre that in a few years would become extremely popular – teen horror movies.


7. Carnival of Souls (1962)

carnival of souls

Mary Henry survives a car accident, but in the town where she went to play the organ for a church, she more and more gets the impression that nobody actually sees her. She is also obsessed with creepy ghosts.

“Carnival of Souls” is a typical drive-in movie. It’s low budget with not many special effects, very rough editing, and a focus on a spooky atmosphere; the use of the locations is the strongest aspect of this movie. Empty countryside fields and an abandoned luna park filled with dancing ghosts will definitely stick to the memory of the viewer as a suggestive and at the same time disturbing imagery.

It seems obvious why this movie has been considered an inspiration for directors like George Romero and David Lynch. The ghosts in the abandoned luna park with heavy makeup resemble the zombies of “Night of the Living Dead”(which was released only six years later). The movie’s dreamlike sequences starring the troubled protagonist in a small village is definitely reminiscent of “Twin Peaks.”


8. Messiah of Evil (1973)


Arletty is looking for her father, who is a painter in a remote village called Point Dune. When she is there she finds out that at night, the citizens mutate to flesh-eating zombies that have the cult of a strange messiah coming from the sea.

The screenwriter of “American Graffiti” Willard Huyck wrote and directed this low-budget horror movie with his wife Gloria Katz. There is not as much action to make it irresistible, but it’s full of visually intriguing shots and at least two cult scenes: the supermarket and the cinema scenes.

The zombie movie trend was just on the rise and many movies with the same concept were being made; however, this one stands out for its striking political message that shows America as a society where fanaticism and conformism spread like a virus, which is the same thesis that is the base of “Dawn of the Dead” by George Romero, released seven years after.


9. Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

A serial killer named Henry initiates his housemate Otis to killing. Otis’s sister comes to live with them and falls in love with Henry.

It’s probably still the sharpest and most disturbing film about a serial killer, where the absence of emphasis or any psychological explanation go together with cold-hearted narration that perfectly matches the subject.

This is the first movie by John McNaughton and it is a shocking portrait of a sick-minded person without any morals; it’s vaguely inspired by the Henry Lee Lucas case, written for the screen by the director and Richard Fire. The movie is shot almost like a documentary, without any spectacular detail, and the violence is never too explicit. The camera is an eye for a viewer that goes deep into real horror of killing.

Even 30 years later, “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” has a tremendous effect on the thriller genre. Its influence spread across works of such directors like David Fincher, Oliver Stone and Jonathan Demme.


10. Maniac (1980)

Maniac (1980)

Frank Zito is a serial killer of young women in New York. He takes their scalps and keeps them to decorate the mannequins he has in his house. He meets Anna, a young photographer, and it looks like he is willing to quit his killing instinct…

After a couple of pornographic films, William Lustig with “Maniac” makes one of the most disturbing examples of cinematographic violence, with help from the extraordinary special effects by Tom Savini. “Maniac” is the terrifying descent into hell of a man who had his childhood ruined by abuse. It is one of the most famous gore movies from the 80s, a genre that in those years was becoming popular since it showed a different, unstable reality than the reality that was pictured as the American way of life.

Even though a sequel was announced, it has not been made yet. A well-done remake has been made in 2012 starring Elijah Wood, produced by famous horror director/producer Alexandre Aja. “Maniac” is definitely a movie that left a deep mark in thriller/horror movies about serial killers.

Author Bio: Matteo Fava is a movie maker from Rome and currently lives in Amsterdam. Matteo cultivated his passion for cinema by growing up watching Italian movies and American classics. He studied cinema theory and history at the university of Rome, now he is starting his director career in The Netherlands.