Horror movies are a special kind of movies. They're more or less obscure by definition, as they deal with the uncomfortable side of our psyche. But this inherent obscurity opens the doors to the bizarre, the extreme, and the experimental, creating movies that do not attract the masses, but in some cases are brilliant, sometimes unique, little or not-so-little pieces of work with qualities unseen in any other genres. Some of these films never reach a wider audience due to their unusual content or style - others just get forgotten, overshadowed by bigger productions, or washed away by the flood of output from the film industry.
Whatever the reason, some unknown horror movies have spectacular camera work, plot twists you cannot forget, outstanding acting, or just insane amounts of gore, pure outrageousness, breaking your last taboos, and need to be seen for exactly these qualities.
In no particular order, here are five (=part one) out of ten lesser known horror movies you should not miss:
I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale / Torso (1973)Director: Sergio Martino
Aah, good old 1970s gialli. You've probably seen the brilliant Dario Argento ones, but you might not have heard of this one. As with every giallo, it's a twisted story involving murder, and beautiful girls. This time, a scarf and a mirror are the keys to stop the killer. But beware, there's a lot more going on in between, and some of the visuals will probably stay with you for a long time. Awesome camera work and settings, a script that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud, Suze Kendall, and when a saw is involved things get really ugly... - "I corpi presentano..." has everything, from sleazy nude scenes, to hair-raising suspense and violence. This is serious sex & crime cinema from Italy at it's very best.
Tesis (1996)Director: Alejandro Amenábar
"Tesis" is a clever film, but it doesn't come across as overly intellectual. It's subjects - questions about media and responsibility, cinema's relation to it's audience, and the voyeuristic motivation inside of us - are nicely interwoven with a sensitive, totally non-soap love story, and an intense, suspenseful, scarily realistic thriller. On top of that it has a couple of nicely surprising ideas in direction, making it one of those rare little low-budget gems that are highly capitvating in both form and function. "Tesis" is not a pure horror film, but it easily fits the horror department. There is not much gore here, but with it's serious approach, and ugly subject (you can make a guess from the poster), it's certainly still not for the squeamish. High tension!
Alucarda (1977)Director: Juan López Moctezuma
So you thought the Italians had nailed the catholicism thing the darkest possible ways in cinema. Well, you're wrong, the Mexicans did. One of them is director J. L. Moctezuma, his "Alucarda" just oozes guilt, sexual repression, and blasphemy. The imagery ranges from dreamy to nightmarish, it'll almost make you forget the story is more or less set in the present day.
Actress Tina Romero plays the title character with passion and conviction, the setting couldn't be more medieval, the age of enlightenment seems to have never happened in "Alucarda". Just like the movie poster, the entire film is a bold, relentless vision of the dark ages, with an ultimately simplistic story, but one that many will be able to relate to. It doesn't go into the psychological details of each of it's characters, but the result speaks for itself: pain, blood, fire, sex, and the Devil. "Alucarda" is a dangerous, evil, and sad, fairy-tale for grown ups, that might shake your beliefs. Or just give you excellent nightmares with it's surreal images.
Messiah of Evil (1973)Directors: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz
The entire "Messiah of Evil" is almost literally a nightmare, in the best possible sense. This movie is a weird beast, somewhere between modern art, and a zombie movie, but without zombies. There's an artistic beauty between the lines, it's clearly a labour of love, but it's also feels disjointed and plain hellish, and is probably intended to be like that. At no point in the movie you'll feel safe, it eliminates the classic roles a viewer will identify with, and the classic way of telling a story that evolves towards some conclusion. Rather is sucks you in, deeper and deeper, not knowing where this will lead to, a nightmare that's not supposed to end quickly... "Messiah of Evil" is a true one-of-a-kind low budget masterpiece that defies classification, has tons of atmosphere, and some really disturbing scenes. The Messiah comes to town. Be strong, bear up. You have been warned.
You can watch "Messiah of Evil" for free:
Le notti del terrore / Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror (1981)Director: Andrea Bianchi
"Le notti del terrore" is a bit like "Hell of the Living Dead" on LSD - a must-see for low budget zombie movie geeks, it's certainly the most outrageous of the Romero-style ripoffs. It also draws some elements from Lucio Fulci's work, and even the gothic horror line of ideas, but ultimately it sits somewhere in-between, with added hints of the base motives sometimes seen in cannibal or nazisploitation movies. Cheap thrills, cheap sets, (very) uncomfortable love scenes, lots of gore and guts, slow zombies, even slower victims, all put into slightly surreal images and delivered in diffuse rhythm - "Le notti..." is a weird experience. It's a bad movie, but it has some stylistic qualities, intended or not, and gets some of the creepy atmosphere just right. But most of all it's just bizarre, sometimes disturbing. It's one of those movies that just aren't for everyone. But for those who are into the lows of humanity, it's a feast.
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Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, five more films to go!
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