They’re the movies that made you groan and roll your eyes at their campiness, cheesiness, and bad taste. The acting is more over-the-top then the standard horror-fare, and the films exhibit scenes of such ridiculousness you can’t believe how they ever got made in the first place…but then you can’t help yourself from watching them again and again. Here are 5 Classic Cult Horror Films that are so bad, they spin around the dial again right back to awesome!
1. I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957)
Directed by: Gene Fowler Jr.
Produced by: Herman Cohen
Written by: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
Starring: Michael Landon, Whit Bissell
Released: July 19, 1957
Young scrappy Tony Rivers (Michael Landon), a poster child for teen angst and rage, gets into a lot of fights – freaks out – and always overreacts. After getting into a fight with his friend Jimmy, an interfering cop suggests that Tony go and talk to a psychologist, which Tony eventually does reluctantly after a getting another stern talking to by his girlfriend and widowed father. The “psychologist” is Dr. Alfred Brandon (Whit Bissell) that works at the local nearby aircraft plant and specializes in hypnotherapy. Tony thinks its a crock and leaves. But he returns, and takes the treatment seriously, after punching out a buddy that scared him from behind at a Haunted House Party and realizing that he truly does have an anger management problem.
Unbeknownst to Tony, Dr. Brandon is using him as a guinea pig to test his scopolamine serum he’s developed that regresses personalities to their primitive instincts. The Doctor believes that humanity has become far too warlike and violent and that the only way that humanity can be saved from destroying itself, is to revert back to its primitive state — which he hopes that he can accomplish with the entranced Tony as his patient. Brandon’s colleagues protest, but the nutty professor conducts the experiment anyway. Ooops! The serum, in combination with Tony’s hypnotic state where it was suggested by Dr. Brandon that he was once a werewolf…BAM!! Tony becomes a werewolf. A long-haired freaky-toothed googly-eyed werewolf with fashionable grey streaks in his hair. Some local teens start turning up dead, mangled by a gnarly beast.
Ah, the 1950s…a simpler time when Monsters of the Atom, Science and Space roamed the Cinema Screens. The lycanthropic aspect of Werewolves is somewhat cast aside in this tale in favour of hypnotism and a crazy sci-fi cocktail in order to bring it a pace with the themes of science fiction horror that was prevalent in the 1950s. Horror was externalized and the threats were fantastical. Imagine James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause with more hair, ridiculous fangs, and then swap out James Dean for Michael Landon (Little Joe Cartwright on TV’s “Bonanza” and the all wise Pa Ingals on “Little House on the Prairie“) add in a cameo by Guy Williams — veteran of classic 1960s TV shows “Zorro“, “Lost In Space“, and “The Time Tunnel” — as a local policeman and you have this timeless Atomic Era classic.
2. PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1958)
Written and Directed by : Ed Wood
Starring: Gregory Walcott, Tor Johnson, Vampira, Bela Lugosi
Theatrical Release: July 1959
It’s hard to even classify Plan 9 From Outer Space as a Horror film. In fact, it’s hard to even consider it a real movie as it is so atrociously bad that a group of stoned high school kids could have probably come up with a better picture. I delayed watching this movie for years because I had already been made aware of how ridiculous it was — it is often referred to in Pop Culture communities as “the worst movie ever made“. That’s a fairly bold statement. I’ve seen many stinkers in my lifetime, so I finally caved and decided to see it for myself. The movie is so out there I don’t even think that I could properly explain what it’s even about. My eyes got all red and puffy from the tears brought on from all the laughing I did at this film. From having random Bela Lugosi footage spliced into the movie to have his name billed in the credits, the acting, the dialogue, the special effects, and the narration are all just incredibly nonsensical and ridiculous. Take this exchange from the movie between a human army man and the alien leader of the invading party:
Colonel Tom Edwards: Why is it so important that you want to contact the governments of our earth?
Eros: Because of death. Because all you of Earth are idiots.
Jeff Trent: Now you just hold on, Buster.
Eros: No, you hold on. First was your firecracker, a harmless explosive. Then your hand grenade: you began to kill your own people, a few at a time. Then the bomb. Then a larger bomb: many people are killed at one time. Then your scientists stumbled upon the atom bomb, split the atom. Then the hydrogen bomb, where you actually explode the air itself. Now you can arrange the total destruction of the entire universe served by our sun: The only explosion left is the Solaranite.
Colonel Tom Edwards: Why, there’s no such thing.
Uh…yeah. Absurd. However, if you plan on smoking a bowl and are looking for a good solid 80 minute laugh…this might just be the movie for you.
3. HORROR HIGH (1974)
Directed by: Larry N. Stouffer
Produced by: James P. Graham
Written by: J.D. Feigelson
Starring: Pat Cardi, Austin Stoker, Rosie Holotik, Robin Jones, John Niland, Joye Hash, Jeff Alexander
Released: March 1974
I was probably high myself while watching Horror High (1974), because despite all of its flaws for me not to, I really enjoyed this movie. Given it’s ’70s style take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it seems only fitting to examine this film from two sides: the good…and the bad. Let’s be positive and kick off with what worked for this movie.
*Vernon Potts, a timid nerdy high school brainiac gets his revenge on his tormentors, when his experiments with a chemical compound transform him into a vicious hulking brute with a ferocious rage. Although no real special make up effects are employed, a simple change of demeanour and tone of voice successfully conveys Vernon’s transformations. Well, that and stuffing his shirt with small pillows and spirit gluing extra hair on his face.
*The murders of the offending faculty, all of whom were so over-the-top annoying and mean to Vernon for no real reason, were somewhat predictable. But they were executed stylishly enough that it is forgivable.
*Robin Jones, Vernon’s classmate and paramour, is the girlfriend of his tormenting bully Roger. She has a soft spot for Vernon, and eventually starts to fall for him when she disapproves of Roger’s treatment of her friend. But more importantly, she’s a delicious red-head who is easy on the eyes and not the worst performer in this film.
Police Lieutenant Bosman, the detective investigating the murders on campus, seems to have all the answers despite having no real concrete evidence to point him to his conclusions. He also immediately suspects Vernon’s involvement, even though the young student has given him no real reason to suspect him that isn’t circumstantial at best.
I also couldn’t get past the inanity of the “good” detective being chauffeured around town in the back seat of a squad car like a V.I.P. aristocrat, accompanied by two (apparently speechless) buffoon Police Officer cronies. Is this a thing that happened before my time? His interactions with Vernon also felt as if he was taunting the young man — with his armed and badged thugs by his side to boot.
The opening and closing themes sound like a CBS after school special from the 1980s, probably featuring a young girl coming to terms with “becoming a woman”. In other words, it felt incredibly out of place. But of course, mismatched music was the trend du jour in the early 1970s. But in this movie, after the dramatic ending, the theme just feels really off.
However, as stated earlier, even with the flaws, Horror High is an enjoyable little low-budget feature that took several age old horror film conventions, and re-packaged them into an entertaining yarn about retribution.
4. THE CAR (1977)
Directed by: Elliot Silverstein
Produced by: Marvin Birdt, Elliot Silverstein
Written by: Michael Butler & Dennis Shryack (story); Michael Butler & Dennis Shryack and Lane Slate (screenplay)
Starring: James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Ronny Cox, R. G. Armstrong, John Rubenstein, Elizabeth Thompson
Released: May 13, 1977
Mustachioed man of machismo, James Brolin, plays the protagonist in this 1977 precursor to Christine – about a Devilish Sedan terrorizing a Southwestern United States Township. This car rides cyclists off of the road just for the murderous satisfaction of it. I’ve often wished I had this demonic mind-of-its-own vehicle to get me out of traffic jams and rushing irritating pedestrians over…but I digress.
This sinister vehicle does it without a driver, and laughs at its victims with murderous zeal. With ‘The Car’, after a while you are rooting for Brolin’s mustache to save the day and blow up this f%^king evil car…then go and get combed for hours to look its sexy best. I just hope Mr. Streisand didn’t take this car to pick up Babs on their first date!! This movie straddles the fence between lowbrow low budget feature, and pretty good Drive-In style B-Movie classic!
5. ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES (1978)
Directed by: John DeBello
Produced by: John DeBello, Stephen Peace
Written by: John DeBello, Costa Dillon, Stephen Peace
Based on Original Idea by: Costa Dillon
Starring: David Miller, George Wilson, Costa Dillon
Released: October 20, 1978
It’s being reported all over the news, people and their pets are being viciously attacked all over the country from blood-thirsty tomatoes! After the attacks begin to escalate and more and more reports are coming in from those being attacked by the previous docile fruit, the Government sets up an elite Task Force of imbeciles to investigate and stop the rampaging murderous fruit! The “special” team includes a Lieutenant who never travels without his own parachute, a Navy Seal seldom seen out of his scuba suit, and a black Adolph Hitler. Yes, you read that right…a man who tries to conceal his secret identity by walking around in public dressed as a black Adolph Hitler.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is not intended to be frightening. It’s a low budget spoof film that is both dumb and brilliant in its execution. It has a tremendous cult following and you don’t need to invest to much brain power in figuring out what the movie is all about…that’s pretty much spelt out for you in the film’s title! ‘Tomatoes is a fine example of a Black Comedy Satirical horror movie.
There are many really absurd plot points, some are funny and some about as humorous as a wet knot. I personally found the recurring newsman quite funny. The killing tomatoes joke does wear thin after awhile, but then the song and dance numbers remind you that you are watching something that’s intended to be ridiculous.
There were two theatrically released films, a couple of straight to video sequels, and an animated cartoon. To say that this film was a cult hit is a dramatic understatement. Released at a time when horror films were starting to take themselves a little too seriously at the tail end of the 1970’s; Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes allowed us to do something a little different…laugh at our fears instead of cowering from them. The film is completely ridiculous, as one would expect from a movie starring a multitude of nightshade solanum lycopersicum’s, but it’s the delicious tongue and cheek dialogue and musical numbers that make the movie such an endearing classic. Worth watching just to exercise your laugh and eye rolling abilities.
6. BASKET CASE (1982)
Directed by: Frank Henenlotter
Produced by: Edgar Levins
Written by: Frank Henenlotter
Starring: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Terri Susan Smith, Beverly Bonner
Released: April 1982
Arriving in New York City with only a large basket in his possession, Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) gets a room at a cheap hotel. He is questioned about the contents of his locked basket, but Duane manages to avoid answering. Once safely within the privacy of his room, the contents of the basket are finally revealed. It harbors and transports Duane’s twisted and deformed siamese twin brother, Belial.
The twins had surgery performed on them when they were younger, a surgery that was forced upon them against their will, of which Belial seeks revenge from being separated from his normal-looking twin and being stored or carted around in a box. Belial is using Duane in order to seek out the Doctors responsible for their unwanted separation and kill them. When Duane meets s lovely young lady named Susan and begins a relationship with her. Belial is incredibly envious. The mutated twin begins setting his sights on Susan, as she is further separating him from his brother.
The film is certainly bizarre. It has the right blend of comedy and horror given it’s subject matter; and it became a rampant cult classic in the 1980s on Home Video and thus spawned two sequels.
7. CHOPPING MALL (1986)
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Produced by: Julie Corman
Written by: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell
Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky
Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton
Suzee Slater, Nick Segal
Released: March 21, 1986
Ok. Here goes.
A mall in some cool town in America, purchases a new computer security system which comes equipped with three high powered lethal Robots. Yes, LETHAL Robots. If you’re caught shoplifting you get electrocuted by tasers until you pass out convulsing and crap your pants…is what I guess they were aiming for.
Well. It just so happens, that the same night that three horny furniture store employee-dudes decide to have a party…at the store…after hours…with some friends…and some chicks who work at a greasy spoon diner at the other end of the mall…is the same stormy night that sends lightning through the wires that fries the security computer and sets the Robots off on a murderous rampage!
Look! It’s a cantankerous old git mopping the floor minding his own business and – zzzzzzzzaaapp! Voila! A pile of smoking clothes remain. Soon, after witnessing another topless friend get her head clean blown off by a flippin’ LASER (seriously?!? who opted for the T-1000 model of these robots? F*cking lasers? Really??)…the group volley to stay alive, escape, and decommission the Robots permanently.
Chopping Mall is a guilty pleasure for me. I love how much I love this visibly bad movie. Acting…horrible. Premise…absurd. I made fun of it to no end when I first saw it in the late 80’s / early 90’s and I still do today. But I could watch it again and again (kinda like Night of the Creeps). Kinda like, it’s so bad that ends up being so good! Definitely see it if you like your cheese piled high on your 80’s horror sandwich.
8. DEADLY FRIEND (1986)
Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Robert L. Crawford, Patrick Kelley,
Robert M. Sherman
Screenplay by: Bruce Joel Rubin
Based on: Friend by Diana Henstell
Starring: Matthew Laborteaux, Kristy Swanson
Michael Sharrett, Anne Twomey, Richard Marcus
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Released: October 10th, 1986
A single mom, her genius teenaged son Paul, and his fully functioning -prone to fits of violence and rage – intelligent robot BB, move to a new house near the university where Paul has been hired to work on scholarship. Paul quickly makes friends with the newspaper boy Tom, and his next door neighbour Samantha (Sam). Paul and BB immediately get picked on by a local thug – who BB quickly incapacitates. The sight of Paul’s robot angers a crusty curmudgeon of a recluse in across the street neighbour Elvira Parker who threatens the quartet if she ever sees the robot near her property again. Paul also seems to piss off Sam’s abusive and alcoholic father who doesn’t want anyone to be near or touch his daughter…except him (ewwww). The plot really kicks into high gear when BB is destroyed, and Sam is injured so badly by her father that she becomes brain dead and scheduled to have the plug pulled. With the reluctant help from Tom, they steal Sam’s body from the hospital and like a modern day Dr. Frankenstein and Igor, the two boys try to put this perky boobed little Humpty Dumpty back together again. That’s when the real fun begins.
Often considered to be one of director Wes Craven’s worst films, and the D on his filmographic report card. By the time the movie was released in 1986, plenty of hokey and over-the-top crazed technology horror films had made their way to the silver screen (including fellow robot rager “Chopping Mall (1986)” released in the same year) so it wasn’t too much of a weirdo stretch.
I appreciate the themes of domestic fears, like physical abuse, that I feel Craven was trying to spotlight –particularly during character Samantha’s bloody and violent dreams about her violently abusive drunken father. But the movie lacks any real kick to the frights. Some of the kill shots, including the most famous from this film — the basketball to the head execution of Mamma (Anne Ramsay) from both “Goonies (1985)” and “Throw Mama From the Train (1988)” — were of the lowest-bidder-special 30% off quality. I also had a really difficult time getting past the robot looking like a special ed Bumble Bee from the Transformers.
Matthew Laborteaux, who plays the lead character Paul, fresh off his cancelled TV show “Whiz Kids (1984-85)” will forever be Albert Ingals to me. I half expected Michael Landon’s Charles Ingals to show up in his hat and save the day with inspirational words of wisdom. In fact, there was an episode of “Little House on the Prairie” (the name of which escapes me) starring Laborteaux as Albert, where his new girlfriend – who just moved to Walnut Grove, is being violently stalked by some masked madman. It was scary! Probably scarier than this movie.
Finally, Kristy Swanson running in slo-motion towards the camera with her fingers scissored on both hands and stiff limbs, really felt like she was just racing to give us all hugs. There are a few moments I really like, including the dream sequence where Sam impales her inebriated lout father on a steam pipe, and he menacingly laughs at her. There were shades of “A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)” in that scene — which makes it feel like Craven was going to the well too many times.
Deadly Friend is not awful. It’s certainly not great, and is ridiculous in many parts, but it’s far from the worst thing I’ve ever seen. The movie is considered to be Wes Craven’s blight on his film repertoire because it appears like he phoned it in.
9. KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1987)
If the word ridiculous could manifest itself in film form, it would be Killer Klowns From Outer Space. You get exactly what the title implies. But you also get a 30 foot rampaging Clown, a space ship shaped like a circus big top tent travelling through the stars, murderous bumper cars, creepy and ridiculous looking flesh eating Clowns, giant flesh searing pies filled with acid, and dialogue that’s so absurd and wretched it can peel paint of the walls. All of these things descend onto a small town where the Sheriff (played by Animal House’s Dean John Vernon) who approaches his role in the same manner the viewer approaches the movie — wondering just what the hell is going on. You will strain your eyes from the number of times you roll them groaning at the jokes and sight gags. It’s no coincidence that the majority of the films listed in this Waaaay Out There category are all from the 1980’s. That decade churned out some real stinky American Cheddar. Killer Klowns is so incredibly strange and absurd that it has to be seen to be believed.
10. LEPRECHAUN (1993)
Directed by: Mark Jones
Produced by: Mark Amin, Barry Barnholtz
Jim Begg, Jeffrey B. Mallian, Michael Prescott
David Price, William Sachs
Written by: Mark Jones
Starring: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston
Ken Olandt, Mark Holton, Robert Gorman
Released: January 8, 1993
This leprechaun is not chasing after you to put the blue diamonds and green clovers back into your bowl of cereal! This demonic little imp is on a vindictive murderous spree against anybody that steals his gold! He quips, he laughs, he stabs, and chops. It’s hard to take this movie serious in any fashion. The killer is a damned Leprechaun wearing little knee high socks and a shamrock adorned hat. This film has the dubious distinction of starring a pre-Friends, pre-nose job Jennifer Aniston as the female protagonist. This film developed a franchise (as all horror films tend to) and each subsequent sequel was more ridiculous than the last: Leprechaun 2 and 3, Leprechaun 4: In Space, Leprechaun: In the Hood, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. The original is silly fun. It’s a kin to listening to Freddy Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street films cracking wise as he slices and dices, but with a maniacal killer a third his height and half the fashion sense.
**That’s My List of 10 Classic Cult Horror Films That Are So Bad, They’re Awesome! There are scores of Classic Cult Horror Films out there. These are 10 of my favourites. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITES?**