Of all the different types of fans that the medium of film breeds, horror aficionados are among the most dedicated and fanatical. With an endless and growing list of sub-genres, there’s something to please everyone’s specific tastes. Cult films are born out of shared experiences.
In the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, this took the form of swapping VHS tapes and attending midnight movie screenings. More recently cult movies have changed, with fans now finding films on streaming services such as the dedicated horror channel Shudder, and discussing them on online message boards.
It is no longer difficult to find just about any movie one desires, but in today’s oversaturated horror market, it can be forgiven to have missed some lesser-known cult classics of the genre. To make it a little easier, here are some entries to add to your list.
10. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
The ‘80s had their fair share of bizarre horror movie titles, but few can hold a torch to Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Such a name promises so much – horror, sci-fi, comedy. It was perhaps a genre too many for the average cinema-goer, but it did hit a sweet spot for a certain demographic of cult film fans.
Klowns is about a clan of evil aliens from an unknown planet who resemble clowns. They decide to invade Earth, focusing on a small American town, Crescent Cove, where they kill and harvest humans for sustenance. It’s an absurd concept, but first time writer/directors, the Chiodo Brothers own the weirdness and totally commit to the bizarre universe they’ve created.
Killer Klowns enjoyed a limited theatrical release and has continued to breed new fans through subsequent DVD and Blu Ray editions of the film. Most recently SyFy have acquired the rights to the cult classic and hope to produce a sequel. Whether that comes to fruition or not, it’s unlikely the world will see another crazy clown movie quite like this.
9. Hobo With a Shotgun
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s double feature B-movie throwback Grindhouse didn’t exactly make waves at the box office in 2007. It is, however deservedly due a lot of credit for the recent revival the industry has seen in this sub-genre.
One of the more authentic features of Grindhouse are the ‘fake trailers’ before the feature, including entries from Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright. Featured in this roll of film is an entry from small time filmmaker Jason Eisner – a $150 trailer that went on to become 2011’s feature film, Hobo With A Shotgun.
When a train rolls into town, notions of a fresh start fly out the window for Rutger Hauer’s titular Hobo as he finds himself in a crime-ridden hellhole. Pulling the strings is ‘The Drake’ and his two sadistic sons who run havoc around town. No one dared to mess with them until one such Hobo decides to go vigilante. The dream-casting of Hauer in the lead role enjoys himself with the immensely graphic and unexpectedly clever script. A superbly enjoyable throwback indeed.
Hobo is the sort of movie fans and filmmakers alike look at and think, ‘How did this get made?’. Destined for cult status even years before its release, Eisner’s schlocky horror belongs in a strange bubble of timelessness where it will appeal to horror fans as easily in 2030 as it would have back in 1970.
8. The Slumber Party Massacre
The 1980s saw the slasher film at the height of its popularity. It was impossible to escape the titles that were so obviously part of the genre. ‘Killings’ this and ‘Slaughter’ that – these types of films often lived up to their uninspired names. Somehow among the sea of subpar slashers, The Slumber Party Masssacre has stood out over time as a cult hit.
The film focuses on a group of teenage girls who have their slumber party ruined by a drill-wielding madman with notions of murder. It’s a relatively forumaliac slasher. The victims are cliched; marijuana-smoking, boy-kissing teens who get killed off one by one in violent fashion until one Final Girl is left.
The most innocent girl, Valerie takes that responsibility in Slumber Party Massacre, and although she’s not particular memorable in the role she’s still an easy hero to root for and she faces off against the film’s antagonist.
Originally conceived as as a more satirical look at the slasher genre, Slumber Party’s final script maintains quite a lot of the humour from that original draft. The sheer entertainment value of it is a fresh change from the typically dark and serious tones found in slashers at the time.
7. Trick ‘R Treat
Those lucky enough to have seen Trick ‘r Treat in theatres raved about Michael Dougherty’s directorial feature debut. Unfortunately the Halloween-themed anthology didn’t receive a wide release, but the few critics who had the pleasure of reviewing it had very good things to say. Once the flick hit DVD, it garnered itself a very strong cult following.
Trick ‘r Treat relates four horror tales all centred on Halloween, tied together by a mysterious and creepy child trick-or-treater Sam. The different stories are deftly interwoven and told with a real love for old-school horror.
One segment features a high-school principal who masquerades as a serial killer at night, another, a sensible young woman who encounters a hooded predator dressed as a vampire. On the same night, a group of mischievous teens carry out a cruel prank while a husband finds his wife brutally murdered.
Trick ‘R Treat revels in its obvious love for the holiday and a cleverly woven script of tense tales. It delivers all the tropes expected of the genre, but not without some surprises. Obsessive fans have helped spawn spinoff media such as comic books and collectible figures, while a sequel is seemingly still in the works.
6. Creepshow 2
In 1982, the macabre dream team of Stephen King and George A Romero released the highly entertaining anthology, Creepshow. It was a commercial and critical success whose influence can be seen in the years that followed in the likes of Treat ‘R Treat and ABCs of Death.
A film not so talked about anymore is the sequel, which arrived theatrically five years later. King’s involvement, lessened this time around, receiving just a story credit. Romero pens the screenplay, while the previous film’s cinematographer, Michael Gornick sits in the director’s chair.
Having used up some of the stronger ideas in the original, Creepshow 2 is made up of just 3 short films. In “Old Chief Wood’n Head”, an Indian store worker takes revenge on the rednecks who killed an old couple that meant the world to him. “The Raft” finds college students trapped on a raft fighting for their life against a killer black blob in the lake. In “The Hitch-Hiker” a woman is involved in a hit and run with a hitchhiker, only to realize that he’s impossible to kill.
Even with generally poor reviews and an underwhelming box office, Creepshow 2 has enough going for it to warrant a cult following. At just 90 minutes, the film whizzes by without overstaying its welcome, and the tales are told with a real tongue-in-cheek approach. As a fun, comedy horror, this anthology sequel warrants a look.