There are those for whom natural horror begins and ends with Jaws; just as, for some people, comic book history includes Watchmen and little else. But you know what? Watchmen’s boring, and Jaws doesn’t have a bear in it. Take that.
You know exactly how movies like this go: a larger-than-average animal has started killing people and it’s up to the local law enforcement — or some equivalent force — to take it down. This is the basic structure of Alligator, Piranha and virtually every Bert I. Gordon movie, but, most of all, it’s the structure of Jaws. Where Grizzly improves upon its antecedents, as well as its descendants, is in its choice of antagonist: the dreaded Kodiak bear, which here rips through the local townspeople like a fuzzy slasher villain on bath salts.
If you’re a fan of this and Boar, I’d also recommend the following: Ticks, The Food Of The Gods and Frogs.
But most of all, I’d recommend Grizzly.
7. Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl
Of all the movies in this list, this one most of all strains its categorization as a “cult movie”. Some of the elements are there, sure: it was made on a low budget, has a monster and features two beautiful lesbian characters kissing each other. But this more than the others pulls in the European arthouse influences, particularly, as has been mentioned in other reviews, Bergman. The result is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is the story of a young girl sent to take care of her sick and isolated aunt in a small town — presumably somewhere in New England (go Patriots). While there, she falls in love with a local girl who pulls our hero into ever darker territory, culminating in a surreal and horrific climax that ultimately becomes a kind of evil fairy tale. It’s weird.
And it’s not immediately obvious that this is a horror movie at all. But stick around, because once its purpose becomes known, it’s damn haunting.
8. Galaxy Of Terror
Was Alien too lacking in sex and violence for your taste? Did you find yourself thinking, “Jesus, they spent an awful lot of money on this movie…” Do you also wish it starred Sid Haig and Robert Englund?
I may have news for you. In 1981 and 1982, Roger Corman produced two Alien knock-offs titled, respectively, Galaxy Of Terror and Forbidden World, both of which are absolute knockouts. But while Forbidden World has a better creature, Galaxy has the grimy, ‘80s aesthetic and, for what it’s worth, happens to feature a woman getting raped to death by a giant, alien maggot.
Forget about the plot: this movie’s appeal lies in its set design (by James Cameron), its bizarre kills and, of course, the giant, alien maggot. Who the hell watches these movies for the plot anyway? Just watch Sid Haig get killed by his own severed arm and remember why you came here in the first place.
9. Blood and The Black Lace
Mario Bava is the great unsung genius of the field. More so than Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter and even Dario Argento, he’s able to take his budgetary limitations and get surreal, dreamy photography out of it that’s every bit as flamboyant as a later Fellini film. Planet Of The Vampires might be my favourite, but Black And Black Lace is the best.
While Bava’s earlier movie The Girl Who Knew Too Much — starring John Saxon — is considered the first giallo film, Black Lace is where the genre becomes most fully realized: everything from the half-naked girls to those same girls getting stabbed to death by a masked killer in a style that can be described as “operatic”. The plot? Who cares? This is about the photography, the kills and the sheer coolness of the whole thing — like Blow Up but with more blood.
And if you’ve never seen a giallo before, then I also recommend Deep Red, Don’t Torture A Duckling and Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key.
10. Humanoids From The Deep
“They kill the men and rape the women,” was Roger Corman’s instructions for dealing with the fish-men in Humanoids From The Deep, which essentially sums up this masterpiece in ecological horror.
It has all of the master’s trademarks, from the sex, mayhem and screaming all the way through to his uncanny ability to make tiny budgets look much bigger than they actually are, but they’re all at play here better than at any other point in his career — save The Masque Of The Red Death. The creatures look fantastic, the actors are great and the script is unbelievably tight. Everybody working on this picture got everything right. It’s essentially flawless.
Look, I’ve seen well over a hundred of Corman’s movies, and this is my favourite. I don’t know how to recommend it any better than that.