There had been lots of attempts to introduce old-school horror masters to the younger generations, from the show “Masters of Horror” to documentaries like “In Search of Darkness”. While some filmmakers like John Carpenter are still well-known and beloved, some others are rarely being discussed anymore which is a shame. As great as Jordan Peele, Ari Aster, Ti West, and Robert Eggers are, they would be nothing without their masters.
For true horror fans, however, these maestros always meant something and still do. However, even the most accomplished and most “cult” of horror filmmakers sometimes make films that are largely ignored even if they’re in their prime. Here are ten films from great filmmakers of the horror genre that are worth to be seen by every horror fan. Only one of them is a non-horror but still is a film that is made for people who love and appreciate horror.
10. A Cat in the Brain (1990, Fulci)
Italian giallo cinema was not all about Argento and Bava. It was also Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, Paolo Cavara, and many more. If you’re a fan of the genre, you probably know all these names well. One of them happens to be Lucio Fulci who also has made lots of comedies and westerns but is mostly remembered for his giallo films.
“A Cat in the Brain” is one of his most underrated ones, unfortunately. Probably because it’s not accessible enough? It seems like he went out to make the deranged version of Fellini’s 8½ and luckily, he succeeded. Fulci is playing himself in a movie, a version of him whose plagued by nightmarish dreams that almost drive him insane and hinder the work of his current film. In his dreams, he encounters splatter scenes, especially from his later creative phase. He visits the psychiatrist Prof. Egon Schwarz to get help but things get even more out of control. It’s one of his last movies and a fittingly meta one. He doesn’t only takes a look at his own career but also expresses his love for the genre.
9. Special Effects (1984, Cohen)
His stuff might not be for everyone but there’s no one like Larry Cohen and given his cult status, he deserved to get a mention on our list. He’s an endlessly fascinating figure. His 70s works, particularly It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To (1976), and It Lives Again (1978) made him a favorite among some horror fans. The critics were somewhat confused by his work. It’s hard to break down his work for that reason ‘cause they can be so complex but also “weird” enough to not appeal to everyone. He’s a bit of like Sam Fuller in that regard. You can’t just dismiss even their failures.
Aforementioned films aside, he’s also known for “Q” and “The Stuff” which is why our list prefers to name “Special Effects” instead. One of his lesser-known works that deserve a second look. He’ll later make a glorious comeback with “The Ambulance” which still deserves a bigger audience but ”Special Effects’ Is more in the vein of his horrors.
The plot is about a sleazy filmmaker who strangles a would-be actress and films it. Her husband is charged with the murder. It feels like a De Palma movie made by Cohen and the result is… well, if you think Cohen is an auteur, it’s great. If you don’t, then it’s still an intriguing one. 80s synth soundtrack might be overbearing sometimes but it’s a fascinating film to check out, at least for the seductive camera work, good acting, nasty killing scene, gritty New York scenery, and effective finale.
8. The Pit and the Pendulum (1991, Gordon)
“Re-Animator” has a strong fan base and some of his other films have also received acclaim and attention like “From Beyond” but it’s unfortunate that Stuart Gordon never got the fame he deserves. He never stopped being interesting, even his later films like “King of the Ants” and “Edmund” are worth checking out. He also directed arguably the best episode of the short-living anthology “Fear Itself” called “Eater”.
“The Pit and the Pendulum” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe and was previously adapted into cinema by Roger Corman. The third act in that film was astonishing and made it a cult hit back in time. If you’re a fan of the story, gotta say, it’s a very loose adaptation of it. So don’t be fooled by the title. If you know Gordon’s style, his usual tone, and how he approaches adaptations, you must already know what to expect before seeing it.
However, those who are not familiar with him enough might find it all a little too weird. Here the tone is constantly changing between something dark and serious with self-aware B-movie black comedy. Story-wise, it cleverly integrates the motives of insanity, sexual violence, and religious madness. Last but not least, Lance Henriksen always delivers as the baddy. Even the detractors of the film might enjoy his performance.
7. Tales of Terror (1962, Corman)
Roger Corman is many things. He’s the producer (and sometimes director) of many so-bad-its-good B-movies, director of great dramas like “The Intruder” as well as great Edgar Allan Poe adaptations among others, he’s the distributor of European and Asian auteurs in America, he’s the man who gave careers to many directors and actors. The documentary called “Corman’s World” is great enough to explore his career, though his life and career are so rich that one would need a series about it. We usually just call it “Poe films”, but most of them have one another common element which is incomparable Vincent Price.
Corman/Price collaborations have to be one of the most underrated filmmaker/actor collaborations of cinema. They just keep delivering and “Tales of Terror” is one of their lesser-known ones, unfortunately. It is an anthology film consisting of three very entertaining stories. Since they’re short, it’d be spoilerish to talk about their plots but it’s not just the stories that make them great. It’s all very stylish, the production design is truly wonderful in all of them. Price plays three roles and he’s masterful in them all. The wine-tasting scene between Peter Lorre and Price will be enough for you to not regret watching this.
6. Two Evil Eyes (1990, Romero & Argento)
Since we’re talking about Poe anthologies here, it makes sense to follow one Poe anthology with another one. George Romero and Dario Argento – two of the greatest horror filmmakers of all time have previously collaborated on the masterpiece called “Dawn of the Dead” (1978). It was originally intended to be an anthology film consisting of four segments based on Poe stories, but John Carpenter and Stephen King refused to be involved. Instead, we got two short segments, one by Romero and the other one by Argento.
Again, since it’s an anthology, revealing much about the plot would spoil the stories. However, both segments work not only because of the stories but also for the great technical details. Romero sounds like an unusual choice for the material he got but he’s delivering the goods. It keeps your interest all the way through and surprises you with its ending. Argento’s segment is even better with a great Harvey Keitel performance, a more twisted plot, and more stylish direction choices. The fans of both directors might enjoy this, though Argento’s segment is more likely to please the fans of his other works.