By John Everson On Oct 22 2012, 9:00 am
Nothing says Halloween quite like a sexy pair of fishnet stockings. Well, that and a scythe. I bet you’re probably looking at the screen and saying “huh?” right about now, but stick with me here. Fishnets and a blade are two images that truly represent the holiday.
One = seduction. And isn’t the season about being lured by the forbidden?
One = death. And well… I don’t need to keep going here, do I?
Sex and death go hand-in-hand in most horror movies. (Have Sex… Will Die! They should make a bumper sticker.)
Like many fans of the horror story, I’m a big fan of horror movies. And October is a great excuse to camp out in the family room and discover and/or relive all sorts of shocks and scary scenes. It’s Halloween. ‘Tis the season, right?
I’ve enjoyed a horror movie gluttony every October for more than a decade now. Once I bought my big screen TV in the mid-2000s, I started watching a lot more films at home instead of at the theater. And since I was a music critic for a newspaper at the time, I decided to branch out – I began doing an occasional “cult films on DVD” column for my paper called Sinister Cinema. I ended up on a lot of mailing lists and consequently got to see a lot of films I would never have stumbled on otherwise. If you’re curious, you can read a lot of those old columns on my website in the Articles section.
I’ve spent the past decade turning friends onto some of my favorite weird finds with “horror movie nights” in my basement. I’ve got an even better big screen TV these days, and a couple bookcases full of horror films. But some of my favorite films for the season remain the ones I discovered a decade ago with those first Sinister Cinema columns. Since I can’t invite you all to my basement to screen them, I’ll give you a list of six (the number of the beast!) of my favorite directors of sexy horror flicks to seek out this season. I have no doubt that these films helped inspire the erotic horror mayhem of my novels NightWhere and The 13th. Track ‘em down and have yourself an “erotic horror weekend.” And then let me know what you think (it’s no fun to host a horror movie night if we can’t talk about it!)
1) Jean Rollin – Fascination, Lips of Blood and Living Dead Girl – It’s obvious in his ’70s and ’80s French film output that Rollin was obsessed with the sensual nature of women. Vampiric women, in particular. His films always include plenty of skin mixed with the trappings of gothic castles and fangs. There’s a poeticism about his direction that regardless of the plot (or lack thereof) always inspires me. In The Living Dead Girl, he truly captured the epitome of good “monster” fiction (as in, the “monster” is not the real monster). A dead girl is awoken by some noxious chemicals that seep into her crypt. She goes about mindlessly killing people but slowly, as she moves about her old house, some consciousness begins to return and she tries to resist her monstrous urges… meanwhile, her old friend returns and with misguided intentions (thanks to blind love?) begins to procure victims to keep her friend satisfied. Who is the real monster?
2) Dario Argento – Deep Red, Inferno and Tenebre. Murder, mystery, witches and blood! Argento’s ’70s and early ’80s output is unrivaled in their sets and attention to suspense and mood. And there are always attractive women in mortal peril. In Inferno, one of my favorites, he creates a strange, surreal narrative that revolves around one of the “Three Mothers” — witches in different cosmopolitan cities (the first of his trilogy of the witches was Suspiria). It’s a beautiful film for its use of color alone – a cinematic study in blue and red. In some ways, it’s like an extended trip through a haunted house.
3) Jess Franco – Exorcism, Vampyros Lesbos and A Virgin Among The Living Dead — Franco crossed the line back and forth between exploitation and horror films, usually staying more on the side of the former. He’s both admired and reviled for his excessive output, but some his ’70s films are interesting period movies.
Exorcism was one of the first of his films that I saw, and I have to admit, the shock of the nude upside down crucifixion scene has never left me. Made to capitalize on the spurt of “Exorcist” style films of the early ’70s, it takes a seedier look at the priesthood, and focuses on a cult of hedonists conducting orgasmic Black Masses.
4) Kevin Tenney – Witchboard and Night of the Demons. The only films shot in America on my list, because these films epitomized all that was cornball but endearing with ’80s US horror. Haunted houses, ouija boards, and the eager-to-be-unclad Linnea Quigley and Tawny Kitaen. Sexy, spooky fun! Witchboard was the first of these that I saw, more than 10 years ago, and I’m sure its creepy use of the Ouija Board gave me some of the inspiration for my novel The Pumpkin Man many years later. Heck, I loved the idea of the Ouija so much, I got someone to create an online Ask The Ouija board system for The Pumpkin Man website last year for Halloween.
5) José Ramón Larraz – Vampyres and Black Candles. I don’t know what deal with the devil Larraz made, but he made one genius movie, and then a whole lotta… Vampyres is a gorgeous, dark, erotic lesbian vampire film — featuring a former Playboy centerfold (Anulka) in one of the vampire roles, this is not a movie afraid to show skin. There’s a melancholic aura to the movie, as the two vampires lure men to their moldering mansion to drink their blood (and have a bit of bedtime fun to boot). This is one of my favorite films from the European horror movement of the ’70s, and shares some elements with the best of Rollin’s work. Larraz doesn’t seem to have been able to make a worthwhile followup to the film, though Black Candles, a movie about a playboy whose home serves as the center of ritual orgies with demonic intent, at least makes a stab in the right direction.
6) Paul Morrissey – Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula. Shot back to back with Udo Kier in Italy, Morrissey created these films as part of Andy Warhol’s camp (they were originally released here as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Dracula) and they are rife with sexuality and gore, as well as Morrissey’s trademark social critique. Demented and strange, they are absolutely worth seeking out, and Criterion has released high quality DVD transfers.
Honorable Mentions: Frankenhooker and May.
Because let’s face it, fishnets and scars go together well too.