For the past couple of years I've found myself watching more and more horror films in the run-up to Halloween. Usually I start to obsess over them toward the beginning of October, but this year I started way back around the 4th of July and I haven't slowed down since. I don't have much of a taste for the current breed of horror filmmakers so I tend to focus on older things. I've seen a lot of great and not-so-great movies over the past couple of months, so I thought I'd share three of the better ones in case anyone out there is looking for something spooky to watch this week. As far as I know, all of these are new to DVD as of this year.
Let's Scare Jessica To Death is definitely the brightest gem in any of the major studios' pre-Halloween DVD dumps this year. The titular character in this 1971 film is a burned-out and gaunt young woman, possibly some kind of drug casualty, who is released from a psychiatric ward and moves into an old house in the country with a couple of hippie friends. They find a squatter hiding out in one of the rooms and quickly befriend her and invite her to live with them. Jessica soon becomes overwhelmed with paranoia and anxiety. Is her new roommate sleeping with her boyfriend? And is she a vampire? Or is Jessica just losing her mind again? This movie is genuinely scary. Apparently it's slated for a big budget remake, but producer Robert Evans decided to use only the title and completely scrap the story.
Cemetery Man or Dellamorte Dellamore, an Italian film from 1994, stars Rupert Everett as the lovelorn caretaker of a zombie-plagued graveyard. He becomes infatuated with the beautiful widow of a freshly-buried tenant, and when they proceed to consummate their relationship at the foot of his tombstone the dead man rises from the grave and attacks. Everett's character is unable to save the girl in time, but he continues to have a passionate affair with her after she joins the cemetery's legions of undead. Later, his mute assistant Gnaghi embarks on fling of his own with a dead girl's severed head. There's an awful lot of necrophilia and dismemberment in this one, but like Evil Dead 2 it's a comedy at heart.
I wasn't sure if I was going to include this last film or not as it's more of an exploitation film than it is a horror film, but after giving it some thought I decided that any movie with this much sacrilege and a climactic self-immolation scene is appropriate Halloween fare. Don't Deliver Us From Evil is a French film about two teenage Catholic school girls who reject Christ and vow to sin and serve satan. There's not really any gore at all and
the movie never ventures into the softcore porn territory that you
might expect from the image on the cover. It's actually just an unusual and surprisingly poignant story of rebellion against
old-fashioned culture and morality. Unbelievably, the film was banned in France at the time of its original 1970 release due to its strongly anti-Christian themes.
If you've got any other offbeat horror recommendations, please share them in the comments section.