It’s that time of year, Complete PR, the public relations firm that specializes in scary stories, gives you our take on what movies to watch this Halloween. This year, we present to you, dear reader, some of our favorite underrated and forgotten horror films.
Day of the Locust (From John Boyanoski)
If you are familiar with this 1970s film, you may be wondering why it tops the list? Wasn’t it billed as a drama allegory about the decline of America using the lens of 1930s Hollywood? Yes, but it is not that. It really is a movie about being slowly driven into madness. Trying to explain the plot is almost pointless because this really is a movie filled with tiny vignettes and narrative that sort of crisscross each other in a nightmare landscape. At the heart of the film is William Atherton, who in the 1980s would be almost always cast as the slimy, authority figure, but in Locust provides some real pathos playing a young artist getting his break drawing landscapes (double use of that word again) for movies. He meets a rogues’ gallery of showbiz hangers-on and their interactions are what drive the film. (Side note: of them is played by Greenville native Bo Hopkins, who plays a hustler/actor/cowboy). The off-putting scenes (a bloody cock fight) and emotional turmoil are filmed with a gauzy feel that gives it a dreamlike quality that comes crashing down during a violent riot started by a character named Homer Simpson, played by Donald Sutherland. You will feel drained after watching this film.
Hocus Pocus (From Kaitlyn Hudson)
You know what’s really scary? Seeing a character that you used to identify with from a movie, only to realize how old you’ve become since that movie was popular.
When I watched Hocus Pocus as a kid, I resonated with the youngest character, Dani. If you asked my eight-year-old self, we totally would’ve been friends in real life. Her older brother was a cool, way older teenager, who was much older than me. Fast forward to last weekend, when I watched the same movie for the first time in a few years, only to realize that “old” teenager, Max, was likely half of my current age at the time of filming. Is this what getting old feels like? Should I go ahead and apply for an AARP membership now, or will they send something in the mail? As an adult re-watching Hocus Pocus, I do, however, have a greater appreciation of that crazy adult Halloween party Dani and Max’s parents attended while the three Sanderson sisters were out wreaking havoc on the town of Salem. If anyone knows where I can find a Madonna costume like this, please let me know.
House of Wax (From Anna Rice)
How could anyone forget this 2005 classic?!? Although, when you take into consideration the bad early 2000’s CGI and Paris Hilton’s acting, it checks out that this movie might have ended up “forgotten.” Despite some campy moments, I think this film has great twists and scares that have held up over the years.
The Invitation (From Emily Miller)
This movie may not be best for a fan of slasher films, but The Invitation is perfect for a fan of suspenseful and psychological horror. Overall, the movie is unsettling. It leaves the audience on the edge of its seats wondering when the tension will break, but is more uncomfortable than anything else (until the very end). If I could compare it to anything, I would say it is like the “Dinner Party” episode of The Office, but if that episode were a horror film. It’s the perfect choice for anyone who likes the idea of horror films, but is a bit of a wimp.
The Ninth Configuration (From John Boyanoski)
Forget the Exorcist II: The Heretic, this is the actual sequel to The Exorcist, at least according to the author of the book and the director of the movie, William Peter Blatty. Remember that scene in the first Exorcist where the demon-possessed girl tells the astronaut he is going to die and the pees on the floor? This movie is about what happens after he flips out about the episode and refuses to go to the Moon. He ends up in a military hospital where he ruminates on the existence of God and human goodness with a doctor, who is battling some serious personal demons.
As Above, So Below (From Anna Rice)
Normally I’m not a huge fan of “found footage” movies, but this movie had me by the throat in 2014. Along with the scares, I find the quest for the philosopher’s stone plotline very interesting! Watch it alone in the dark; it still holds up!
Blair Witch Project (From Kaitlyn Hudson)
Surely I wasn’t the only one who thought the Blair Witch Project was actually real the first time they saw it, right?
It’s a 20-year-old movie that I have no interest in re-watching – more out of fear of motion sickness than anything else – but I can appreciate the characters’ 1990s grunge attire as well as the lengths its creators went to advertise for the film.
The premise of the film was from the point of view of three student filmmakers who went missing in their search to find a fabled, forest witch. The film was advertised as found footage of their adventure, all recorded using low quality camcorders. The filmmakers planted missing person leaflets of them cast to help portray their film as authentic found footage. They even went as far as to make a low-grade website (keep in mind, this was the 1990s) to post “information” about the myth of the Blair Witch.
The Blair Witch Project cost somewhere around $25,000 to make and grossed over $250 million. Long story short – if they aren’t using The Blair Witch Project as an example of an effective PR strategy in colleges right now, they should be.
Murder Party (From Emily Miller)
This low-budget film (directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who later went on to direct movies such as Blue Ruin and Green Room) has a cult-following and for good reason. The premise of the movie— a man is invited to a Halloween party called “Murder Party,” which is hosted by deranged students who want to kill someone on Halloween night—more than makes up for the lower budget effects. This movie is certainly on the gorier side, but is a fun watch for anyone who is not looking for a movie that takes itself too seriously.
Black Christmas (From John Boyanoski)
To me, 1974’s Black Christmas was the first real “slasher” film. It set up all of the major roles: unknown killer, POV shots, young women in trouble, police baffled, final girl running around and finding the bodies and then the “it’s not really over” ending just before the credits roll. I’ve read several stories where John Carpenter, who created Halloween, which spawned the actual slasher genre of the 1980s, went to the director of this Canadian film and asked if he could take the idea and movie it to another holiday.
About that director, you may not have seen this “Christmas” movie, but I can almost guarantee you’ve seen his other. It is/was Bob Clark, the man who brought “ A Christmas Story” to life about a decade after his first foray in holiday films. Yes, the Red Ryder BB gun, the bunny suit, the leg lamp…all from the guy who created the first slasher film. He also directed Porky’s.
But anyway, what really sets Black Christmas apart beside the story is the cast. Clark found pre-fame Margot Kidder (Superman) and Andrea Martin (SCTV) and paired them with veterans such as John Saxon (the dad in the original Nightmare on Elm Street) and Keir Dullea (Bowman in A Space Odyssey). Ok, Dullea was probably miscast since he was pushing 40, but trying to play a college student. Still, he gives it his all.