Scott Drebit is a writer for Daily Dead website, and Deadly magazine. His weekly column Drive-In Dust Offs looks at horror films from the glory days of the drive-in (mid ‘50s to the mid-‘80s), and his bi-weekly column It Came from the Tube examines horror on the small screen. You can contact him on Twitter: @phantasm2 .
Night Warning (1982; William Asher) AKA Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker
If you love slashers, but feel they don’t have nearly enough psycho-sexual overtones, Night Warning is for you. Jimmy McNichol has a hard time leaving home, especially from the grasp of his clingy aunt, played wild-eyed wonderfully by Susan Tyrell. Throw in Bo Svenson as a homophobic sheriff and you have the makings of a Southern Gothic classic; it’s Tennessee Williams with a body count. This one serves up the weird.
The Vampire (1957; Paul Landres)
Forget vampires, this is closer to Jekyll and Hyde; a parable on the dangers of pharmaceutical drug abuse, filtered through a late fifties monster movie lens on an intimate scale. John Beal plays a doctor who accidentally ingests experimental pills that turn him into a drooling lunatic, and the only way he feels “normal”, is to keep taking them. Charming metamorphoses ala The Wolf Man and expertly handled scenes of suspense whisk you through a brief 75 minute run time. Simple, earnest fun.
Night Train to Terror (1985; John Carr, Phillip Marshak, Tom McGowan, Jay Schlossberg-Cohen, Gregg Tallas)
Well, here’s an interesting one. Take three unreleased movies; edit them down to incomprehensibility, throw in a wraparound story of God and the Devil picking souls on a train, add in some groovy musicians and dancers on said train singing the same song four times between “stories”, and unleash on an unsuspecting public. This is the poorest excuse for an anthology you’ll ever see – except each movie cut down is filled with WTF moments that certainly wouldn’t hold up to feature length, but positively soar in their cut and paste status. And the wraparound? Pure, unfiltered ‘80s zeitgeist, nailed to the floor screaming.
The Flesh Eaters (1964; Jack Curtis)
Ostensibly just another bottom ender on a drive-in double bill, The Flesh Eaters decides to throw a wrench in the gears and display some talent instead. Your basic people stranded on an island with a mad scientist potboiler, the film uses ingenious effects to show a growing energy monster, and the people it flays. And while Blood Feast claimed to plant the gore flag in ’63, this was filmed in ’62 and pulls off some impressive grue for its time. Heightened, tongue in cheek performances, as well as genuine suspense lends some cache to this forgotten oddity.
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962; Sidney Hayers) AKA Night of the Eagle
Based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber Jr., Burn is a dark satire on office, or rather, campus politics. A professor with an abiding distrust of the supernatural finds out that his wife has been using witchcraft to promote his career. He makes her stop, unknowing that she is also using her peculiar talents to protect him from unseen forces. Don’t start shouting “girl power” just yet – these witches are looking out for their men, not themselves. But the film is tightly directed, and holds sway through several impressive set pieces, ensuring it a place as one of the witchy ‘60s best.