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Dread Central’s Best Horror Films of the Decade

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What a decade. Talk about an insane ten years. In it we’ve seen sequels top originals, remakes up the ante, and a precious few bits of original content do what all quality cinema does — become instant classics. Join us now for a look back at the decade that was 2000-2009!

Being that Foy covered the worst of the decade already (and who better to do so?), we collectively voted on the best so this truly is Dread Central’s definitive list. Now let’s get to it, starting with the title that garnered the fewest votes all the way up to the one that got the most.

Dread Central's Best Horror Films of the Decade

10: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Well before the much abused re-imaginings known as Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween II were conceived by the unpredictable writer/director, he was honing his craft on a taut and dark little film called The Devil’s Rejects. While Rejects is more of a revenge/road trip type feature than it is a straight horror movie, make no mistake; it wears its genre heritage proudly on its sleeve and at times can be brutally nightmarish. It’s in your face and gritty with no pretty colors or artsy scenes to make you ooh and ah. There’s just the realism of violence and depravity.

And the performances are nothing short of amazing. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, Priscilla Barnes, and yes, even Sheri Moon Zombie really turn the heat up to new levels, but the show stealer is without question Leslie Easterbrook. When she’s on screen, it’s nearly impossible to take your eyes off her. The rest of the cast is seemingly comprised of a who’s who in the horror genre: P.J. Soles, Ken Foree, Michael Berryman, etc.

The Rejects themselves may have come to a bloody Bonnie & Clyde type cinematic ending, but these characters are guaranteed to live on through fans all over the world for decades to come well beyond the 00’s.

9: Saw (2004)

Forget the endless stream of sequels. The first time you watched James Wan’s directorial debut, you were impressed. Admit it. We’ll agree that some of the acting is shoddy and the editing borders on obnoxious (remember that car chase between Ben Linus and Murtaugh?), but it doesn’t matter.

The sheer genius of Wan and [Leigh] Whannel’s script is enough to knock you flat. From the concept of a serial killer that’s never actually killed anyone to the endlessly twisting narrative, Saw took the horror community by surprise. And then it took the rest of the moviegoing public by storm. Beyond that, it (along with the next year’s Hostel) is recognized as being almost solely responsible for the oft-maligned “torture-porn” subgenre that continues to pollute video shelves (and Netflix queues) everywhere.

In the wake of all that, it’s easy to forget the rock solid little film that the original Saw is. There probably isn’t a more influential film on this list and, having recently revisited the film for the first time in years, we’re happy to say it’s still worthy of the praise. Forget the convoluted nature of the sequels and savor this influential original. The genre wouldn’t be where it is today without it – whether or not that’s a good thing.

8: The Descent (2005)

Having already made the kickass Dog Soldiers, director Neil Marshall hardly needed to prove himself as a major genre talent. That’s exactly what he did with this claustrophobic masterpiece, however, instantly cementing his status as one of the greatest modern horror filmmakers.

The Descent spends lots of time with its core characters, developing their friendships (even going so far as to suggest deep-seated transgressions in one case) in an effort to make them as believable as possible. It’s not just the humanoid inhabitants of the mountain cave that pose a threat, but the clashing personalities of narcissism and atrophy that threaten to doom them all. As a monster movie, it’s an effective reason to be afraid of the dark, but it’s the psychological aspects that reward multiple viewings and create something far more impressive.

The fact that you’ll likely never set foot inside a cave again after seeing this is a small price to pay. Here’s one of the few modern horror films that has the power to truly terrify its audience. It’s one of those films that made us realize that we weren’t too old to be scared, and we’ll always love it for that.

7: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

It’s easy to be sick of this British zombie classic already; every movie website in the word hasn’t quite finished singing its praises and the sheer amount of merchandise for this, the little zombie film that could, borders on the absurd. And while saturation isn’t good for anything, it’s perfectly understandable as to why Shaun of the Dead has garnered such goodwill. It’s bloody fantastic.

Unlike the recent Zombieland, Shaun succeeds as both a hilarious comedy and a legitimately great zombie apocalypse flick. Writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright aren’t afraid to flesh out their lead characters, taking them beyond the comedic archetypes (i.e., the slacker guy, the aloof best friend) to where they become actual people. It’s true that we’re a little tired of this one now, but when we think back to our first viewings, we laughed until it hurt. And when we weren’t laughing, we were tickled pink by the endless stream of George Romero references strewn about the film. Sure, anyone can enjoy Shaun of the Dead, but it’s the horror fans who get the most out of it. Every time.

6: Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

E. Elias Merhige burst onto the scene at the start of the decade with his cleverly constructed film-within-a-film Shadow of the Vampire. The notion that Max Schreck’s performance in Nosferatu was so successful because he really was a vampire is played totally straight by John Malkovich as obsessed director F.W. Murnau. Popular cross-dressing comedian Eddie Izzard is a revelation as Gustav, and he and Malkovich are matched note for note by a deliciously over-the-top Willem Dafoe as Schreck.

Shadow of the Vampire is a rare treat. Not only is it a great vampire flick, but it also perfectly evokes the eras it details: both the Twenties, when Nosferatu was filmed, and the Victorian times in which it was set. With its star power, a sort of surreal realism, and cinematography to die for, Shadow of the Vampire more than deserves its spot on this list.

5: Frailty (2001)

The Sixth Sense may have put the twist ending back on the map, but two years later Bill Paxton’s directorial debut, Frailty, perfected it. The story, told in flashbacks, revolves around a single father (portrayed by Paxton) who believes he and his two sons were commanded by God to kill demons that happen to be living in human bodies. In the present day one of the brothers (Matthew McConaughey) is telling his family’s story to FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (the uber creepy Powers Boothe).

Frailty takes its audience on one of the most interesting and intricate journeys through the darker side of human nature that they’re likely to see now or in any other decade. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, Brent Hanley’s script throws everything out the window and you’re left wondering about the true nature of religious fanaticism and whether or not to trust your own perceptions. It’s sheer beauty on celluloid!

4: Paranormal Activity (2007)

When we first put up our review of Paranormal Activity back in October of 2007, readers rightly questioned our claim that it was “the most frightening ghost story of the year“. We encouraged their skepticism because we knew once they saw it for themselves, they’d agree with us. Unfortunately, it took two freaking years before we had the opportunity to redeem ourselves, but considering this little film that could went on to become the highest grossing “R” rated thriller of the last decade, we’d say redemption is pretty damn sweet.

If you are a fan of ghost stories who has felt disappointed and short-changed by the lack of quality material in that subgenre over the past several years, then you should be as pleased with Paranormal Activity as we (and apparently most of the rest of the world) were. It’s a bite-your-nails, squirm-in-your-seat bonanza of spookiness with a healthy dose of holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened thrown in for good measure. In short, it’s effective as hell and is a prime example of how to win an audience over and keep their attention in a highly constrained, claustrophobic atmosphere in the most unpretentious way possible.

Unfortunately there’s sure to be an endless supply of PA rip-offs and knock-offs littering the airwaves over the next decade and beyond, but at least we at Dread Central can take comfort in the fact that we were 100% right in our prediction that “something this good won’t stay undiscovered for long.

3: Dawn of the Dead (2004)

When the news first broke that upstart director Zack Snyder dared to sign on for a remake of George A. Romero’s iconic Dawn of the Dead, well, saying the fans were upset would be a bit of an understatement. In fact, they were mad as hell and talking boycotts and protests. But in the end they gave it a chance, and this version of Dawn, one that had every right to suck, ended up working. It worked so well, in fact, that it landed in the Top Three of the Decade. Yes, a remake can be good … something we’d pretty much forgotten during the long dry spell between the last good ones (John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly) and Snyder’s Dawn redux.

The main reason for this minor miracle is that Snyder and company played it smart. Instead of trying to out-Romero Romero (and who could possibly do that?), they opted to bring their own take of what happened on the day of the outbreak. Essentially Snyder gave us more Dawn of the Dead with some skillfully placed homages along the way that offer a wonderful nod to the source material. And the actors (especially Sarah Polley, Jake Weber, and Mekhi Phifer) seem like real people, just like us. Cameos are given to original alumni Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, and Tom Savini; the WGON traffic copter makes an appearance; some of the trucks outside the mall are from the same company, B.P. Trucking, that loaned them to the production of Romero’s original film; and one of the stores in the mall is even named Gaylen Ross! The best part? None of these ins is ever slammed over your head or is even remotely distracting. They’re just there as part of the movie. That’s how you honor the past and make your mark in the present. Bravo.

2: The Mist (2007)

In watching The Mist repeatedly since its release, we’ve come to think of it as the greatest film that George Romero never directed. The bleak microcosmic look at modern day America feels like something George would’ve churned out at some point in his career had he been able to secure the funding.

This one works so well because it clicks on numerous levels: as the aforementioned examination of society, as an over-the-top and gory monster flick, and as a genuinely unsettling psychological horror film about the evils of man (and woman). Tom Jane nails the everyman trying to navigate a seemingly impossible situation while Marcia Gay Harden was robbed of an Oscar nomination for her role as Mrs. Carmody – arguably the most detestable screen villain of all time. The fantastic supporting cast all contribute a great deal to the proceedings as well: Andre Braugher, Laurie Holden, William Sadler, and Jeffrey DeMunn.

And you can’t talk about The Mist without discussing the controversial ending. Most of us love it. It’s the cinematic equivalent to a punch in the gut and conveys the ultimate hopelessness and desperation of our characters. Sure, Darabont could’ve adhered to the King novella and gone the more ambiguous route, but the film would have lost much of its impact … and probably wouldn’t be on this list.

1: Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

Without question, Michael Dougherty’s ode to Halloween is the film that brought fun back to the genre – something that’s been absent for far too long. There were other, more unsuccessful attempts at this over the last few years (Slither comes to mind), but Trick ‘r Treat succeeds effortlessly.

The interlocking vignettes seethe with atmosphere and a strong sense of fun, ensuring that each piece of the film is somehow more delightful than the last. Couple that with some of the best performances the genre’s seen recently (Dylan Baker’s especially), and you have the greatest movie about October 31 since John Carpenter chronicled the night HE came home. (On a side note, try to count the references to Carpenter’s early works – it’s a fun thing to look for while you’re watching the film a second or third time.)

The big question continues to be why Warner Bros. decided to dump this sucker onto Blu-ray and DVD after sitting on it for almost two years, but we take solace in knowing that it’s already found an audience – one that’ll continue to grow for decades to come.

Honorable Mentions: Let the Right One In, The Host, Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon, 28 Weeks Later, The Signal

The Dread Central Staff

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Fearsome Facts: 8 Things You Didn’t Know About Fright Night (1985)

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Fright Night (1985) is to All Hallows’ Eve what A Christmas Story (1983) is to X-Mas: an opus which is worthy of its own 24-hour marathon and an ensuing all-night bacchanalia where blood is the life rather than alcohol. Filmmaker Tom Holland’s love letter to vampire films revitalized a subgenre of horror that was sadly rotting away not unlike an undead creature of the night.

Holland found inspirations in the scary movies that he idolized as a youth which included Hammer Film’s visionary retellings of the Universal Monsters. In fact, Holland based Fright Night’s sage Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) on his heroes: Vincent Price (House on Haunted Hill, The Tingler, House of Wax) and Peter Cushing (The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy).

Fright Night made the vampire fashionable again in the 1980s, as it paved the way for other blood-sucking projects of that nostalgic-ridden era like The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). Most horror cognoscentes and critics alike know every frightening behind-the-scenes macabre morsel of Fright Night’s history. But there always those tiny tidbits that slip through the cracks.

With that in mind, here are 8 Things You May Not Know About Fright Night.

8. The Great Vampire Killer

Tom Holland and Roddy McDowall became friends after working together on Fright Night, but the esteemed actor was not Holland’s first choice to play the Cowardly Lion-like character of Peter Vincent. Rather, Holland tried to hire macabre movie maestro Vincent Price to take on the role. Sadly, Price’s declining health prevented him from participating in the project.

As wonderful a casting move as that might have been, Fright Night purist are likely to argue that everything worked out for the best. McDowall delivered one of his most enduring performances in what was an A-List career, as he also endeared himself to a whole new generation of fans.

7. Charley and Amy

Actors William Ragsdale and Amanda Bearse might have been playing teenagers in Fright Night, but they were much older than their characters of Charley Brewster and Amy Peterson. Ragsdale was 24-years-old at the time and Bearse was 27-years-old!

6. 1966 Ford Mustang

Charley Brewster’s 1966 Ford Mustang had one of the worst paint jobs possible, as it appeared to have been haphazardly executed with an offbeat mixture of red and grey coloring. The muscle car actually belonged to writer/director Tom Holland. Sadly, the classic Mustang was totaled 10 years later during an accident. The paint job couldn’t have been any worse, right?

5. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Holland’s cinematic masterpiece was obviously inspired by many vampire films of the past, particularly Hammer horror, but there is a thoughtful nod and a wink to the Golden Days of the Universal Monsters. During their final battle with Jerry Dandrige, Charley and Peter think they have the upper hand. Jerry flees after Peter shoots Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark), but soon the zombie-like Renfield creeps up the staircase after our heroes. Holland admitted that Billy sneaking up on Charley and Peter, as he climbed the stairs, was an homage to Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) sneaking up on Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

4. Evil Ed

Amy (Amanda Bearse) and Evil Ed go to Charley’s house to see how the tormented teen is holding up. Once they enter Charley’s room, Amy and Ed find Brewster sharpening a stake and preparing for all-out war with Jerry Dandrige. Candles flutter in the darkness, despite the sun being out, as Charley has also utilized crosses to defend against Dandridge.

During the filming of that scene, actor Stephen Geoffreys was incredibly sick due to food poisoning. You’d never know it by his performance though, because the young thespian pulled it together to complete the day’s shoot. It’s a memorable moment, as that scene sparked Amy and Ed into action. Immediately after, they recruit Peter Vincent to aid their troubled friend.

3. Box Office Boffo

According to Holland, Fright Night wasn’t expected to do much at the box office in the minds of studio executives. But to the pleasant surprise of all involved, Fright Night scared up over $6.1 million on its opening weekend alone. In fact, the movie went and won the Silver Medal at the box office for all horror films in 1985. Fright Night took home over $24 million domestically, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge took the top spot with almost $30 million.

2. Peter Vincent

Peter Vincent’s Hollywood apartment was cluttered with all manner of motion picture memorabilia, including a noticeable nod to former Dracula (1931) icon Bela Lugosi. But look closely and you’ll see another hidden gem hiding among the furniture and antiquities. Indeed, one of Roddy McDowall’s own life-masks from the Planet of the Apes film series can be seen adorning Vincent’s home.

1. Fright Night Sequel

During an interview in 2015, Holland discussed his vision for a follow-up he’d liked to have pursued for Fright Night. His concept revolved around Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) being a single father with a couple of teenage children.

Charlie inherits his mother’s home and soon discovers something “evil” is squatting in the abandoned house where Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) used to cloak his coffin. Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) has taken up residence and he is trying to resurrect Jerry. According to Holland, this Fright Night sequel would have included most of the original cast members unlike the much maligned 1988 Fright Night Part 2.

For those fanatics of Fright Night who also enjoy documentaries about horror movies, check out Dead Mouse Productions three-disc tribute titled You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night (2016). Disc one is a Blu-ray of the exhaustive 3 ½ hour documentary that examines the making of both Fright Night and Fright Night Part 2. There is a second DVD disc included alongside the third disc which is hours of bonus features. This is a must-own for any Fright Night aficionado. You’re So Cool, Brewster is an Eerie Essential all on its own.

In conclusion, Fright Night is one of those rare films that stands the test of time from generation to generation. It is a must-see for all horror enthusiasts and an Eerie Essential to be enjoyed by all who dare take up the cross with Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent against the duplicitous Jerry Dandrige.

SEE or sNuB recommendation: Must-See!

***

Which Fright Night facts were your favorites? Are there any other obscure tidbits you’d like to have seen make the list? Sound off on social media.

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Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

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After you’ve gorged on your Thanksgiving feast and the L-tryptophan is kicking in, you’re probably thinking about parking your carcass on the couch and watching movie after movie. But not just any movie – this is a holiday, so naturally you want to celebrate on-topic and gobble some gore.

We’ve got you covered with this curated list of choices from a 25-item menu of Native American-themed thrillers and chillers.

Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

A group of students on an archaeology assignment in the Everglades decide to throw a dance party one night. The spot they choose happens to be the burial site of an ancient Seminole shaman named Tartu. He returns from the dead to take his revenge on those who desecrated his grave site.


Stanley (1972)

A Seminole Vietnam vet (Chris Robinson) goes on the warpath when a leather goods merchant (Alex Rocco) tries to grab his pet snake Stanley to turn him into a belt. A William Grefe cult classic!


Hex (1973)

Set on the Nebraska prairie in the immediate aftermath of World War I, the story follows the spiritual clash between the daughters of a recently deceased shaman and a gang of ex-aviators. Christina Raines, Scott Glenn and Keith Carradine star in this largely unknown, bizarre body-count thriller.


Shadow of the Hawk (1976)

A Canadian Indian (Jan-Michael Vincent) and a newswoman (Marilyn Hassett) join his grandfather (Chief Dan George) on a tribal walk among evil spirits.


The Manitou (1978)

A psychic (Tony Curtis) recruits a witch doctor (Michael Ansara) to get a 400-year-old Indian medicine man off his girlfriend’s (Susan Strasberg) back…. literally. The demonic Native American spirit is a tumor trying to reincarnate.


Prophecy (1979)

When a dispute occurs between a logging operation and a nearby Native American tribe, Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and his wife, Maggie (Talia Shire), are sent in to mediate. Chief John Hawks (Armand Assante) becomes enraged when Robert captures a bear cub for testing, but he’s not as angry as the mutant grizzly mom! George Clutesi plays an Original Person who believes the monster is the personification of the god Katahdin and is there to protect the land.


Nightwing (1979)

A policeman (Nick Mancuso), his girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) and a scientist (David Warner) track vampire bats on a Maski tribe reservation. Abner Tasupi (George Clutesi) is the shaman who helps them.


Wolfen (1981)

A New York cop (Albert Finney) investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks. His hunt leads him to Native American high worker Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos) to see if there’s any connection between the killings and old myths and legends from the area. Finney’s character refers to as “the Crazy Horse of the Seventies… the only one of our local militants left alive who’s not making money off of Levi’s commercials.”


Scalps (1983)

Hapless college science students go on a dig around a sacred burial ground for artifacts. Unfortunately, one of them becomes possessed by the evil spirit of Black Claw… and that means only one thing: Now he must slaughter all of his friends.


Eyes of Fire (1983)

Almost lynched in 1750, a preacher (Dennis Lipscomb) leads his followers (Guy Boyd, Rebecca Stanley) west to a valley whose dirt holds a devil of Indian origin.


Firestarter (1984)

Pyrokinetic protagonist Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) is in trouble when an evil Native American named Rainbird (George C. Scott) wants to kill her because he is convinced her death would give him special power to take to the mystical other world of his ancestors.


Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)

The Freeling family have a new house, but their troubles with supernatural forces are not over. Whoops, looks like it’s another haunted Native American resting place!


Creepshow 2 (1987)

In the anthology film’s first vignette, “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” thugs who terrorize small-store grocers played by Dorothy Lamour and George Kennedy are attacked in kind by the general store’s wooden Indian.


Pet Sematary (1989)

After moving to an idyllic home in the countryside, life seems perfect for the Creed family…but not for long. Louis and Rachel Creed and their two young children settle into a house that sits next door to a pet cemetery – built on an ancient Indian burial ground.


Ravenous (1999)

Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is sent to investigate reports of missing persons at Fort Spencer, a remote Army outpost on the Western frontier. After arriving at his new post, Boyd and his regiment aid a wounded frontiersman, F.W. Colghoun (Robert Carlyle), who recounts a horrifying tale of a wagon train murdered by its supposed guide — a vicious U.S. Army colonel gone rogue… and who’s developed a taste for human flesh.


Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

In 18th century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani (Mark Dascosos) of the Micmac tribe are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.


The Wendigo (2001)

Director Larry Fessenden movie uses the Native American Wendigo legend to tell an eerie and hallucinogenic tale about a family trapped in the woods with a dark force.


“Masters of Horror: Deer Woman” (2005)

A burned-out cop believes that a recent string of murders prove that the killer might be a deer-like creature in the form of a beautiful woman (Cinthia Moura) come to life from a local Native American folklore legend.


Skinwalkers (2006)

A 12-year-old boy and his mother become the targets of two warring werewolf packs, each with different intentions and motives. Based on the folk legend from Utah about the spirits of murdered Indians returning to seek revenge upon those who disrespect the land.


The Burrowers (2008)

A search party – played by Clancy Brown, William Mapother and Doug Hutchison – sets out to find and recover a family of settlers that has mysteriously vanished from their home. Expecting the offenders to be a band of fierce natives, the group prepares for a routine battle. But they soon discover that the real enemy stalks them from below.


The Dead Can’t Dance (2010)

Three Native Americans discover they are immune to a zombie virus in this whacky indie comedy.


Savaged (2013)

After thugs brutalize a deaf-mute woman (Amanda Adrienne), the spirit of an Apache warrior takes over her lifeless body and sets out on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge.


Volcano Zombies (2014)

Danny Trejo as a Native American who warns campers about the legendary and very angry lava-laden “volcano zombies.”


The Darkness (2016)

Peter Taylor (Kevin Bacon), his wife and their two children return to Los Angeles after a fun-filled vacation to the Grand Canyon. Strange events soon start to plague the family, and the Taylors learn that Michael brought back some mysterious rocks that he discovered inside an ancient Native American cave.


Mohawk

Mohawk (2017)

After one of her tribe sets an American soldiers’ camp ablaze, a young female Mohawk finds herself pursued by a ruthless band of renegades bent on revenge. Fleeing deep into the woods, Mohawk youths Oak and Calvin confront the bloodthirsty Colonel Holt and his soldiers. As the Americans seem to close in from all sides, the trio must summon every resource both real and supernatural as the brutal attack escalates. Mohawk is a dark, political drama with horror undertones. “While set 203 years ago, Mohawk is unfortunately a timeless story,” says director Ted Geoghegan. “It’s about marginalized people being decimated simply because they exist and scared white men who fail to realize that their racism and bigotry will place them on the wrong side of history.

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Three 1970’s Horrors That Remind Us Why We Enjoy Getting Mental at the Movies

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Crazy is always creepy in horror movies, and it usually comes in two forms: insane escapees or the sane among the crazies.

It’s one storytelling technique when a mental patient escapes and enters our own ordered, peaceful world. It’s quite another when a film drops us in the middle of an asylum to cope with crazy people who, in those movies, always seem to want to stab us.

First off, let me say the mentally ill are one of the most misunderstood and scapegoated minorities in movie history. Other stereotypes have disappeared from the silver screen over the years, but it’s still convenient to blame a killing rampage on an escaped mental patient. We’ll just chalk this up to lazy writing and move on.

Yes, “mentally ill” has become shorthand for “bloodthirsty and lacking in social etiquette.” Kudos to “American Horror Story’s” second season, subtitled “Asylum,” for adding some subtlety to that convention. Seventies horror movies, though, were riddled with stereotypes, enough so that when we travel back to that groovy and dangerous time, we can merrily ignore them and enjoy the scare.

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972) is a fairly standard who-is-the-killer flick that turns terrifying in the last 20 minutes, when all hell breaks loose and the inmates, quite literally, take over the asylum. There is a nice, icy buildup throughout.

The populace of a small town are suspiciously nervous when a local mansion that had once been a mental institution goes up for sale. Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul) plays it numbingly cool throughout, until the climax, adding punch to the big reveals.

Also known by Night of the Dark Full Moon and Death House, this film is directed by Theodore Gershuny and written by Gershuny, Jeffrey Konvitz and Ira Teller. It’s always a good sign for consistency of vision when the director is also a writer.

I don’t know a lot of people raving about this film. It’s certainly not perfect, but a solid effort in that ’70s B-movie category, seriously creepy, and worth watching. Recommended.

Asylum (1972) has everything I enjoy about well-done, early ’70s horror: a fairly simple premise, creepy sets, and solid acting. The anthology setup works well here, stringing four Robert Bloch stories together. Peter Cushing and Herbert Lom show up along with Britt Ekland and Barbara Parkins.

The effects are not at all bad. Hope you view a cut of this movie that shows a stagehand rather obviously moving a prop in the “Frozen Fear” segment because those kinds of mistakes are fun to see.

Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Asylum delivers like any of the Amicus horror movies: similar to Hammer in that you know you will be entertained. Recommended for classic pre-slasher horror movie fans.

Then there’s Don’t Look in the Basement (1973). I was smart enough to see this in a theater when it came out… but dumb enough to bring a date. What a terrible first date movie!

On the other hand, Don’t Look in the Basement is a very creepy horror film due to several elements that come together beautifully:

– First, it has that grainy, cheap look to it like many early ’70s B-movies that, for me, adds to the mood. That look tells me positively this is not a big studio production. “Oh, this is one of THOSE movies,” says my head. “Anything can happen!” Tension builds.

– Second, it has an obviousness to it that can be unnerving when filmed correctly. Hitchcock used to do this well: We in the audience know the danger, but the hero on screen is completely clueless. We know from the minute the blonde nurse accepts her new job she shouldn’t be there — heck, we knew she shouldn’t even have come into the house!

– Third, most all of the characters may be insane, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their own distinct stories, personalities and phobias. Crazy is not random. As Grant Morrison wrote in Batman: Arkham Asylum, the thoughts of the insane are not unpatterned. Each person has his or her own complex view of reality, no matter how wrong that perception might be.

There’s also a good deal of blood. And a surprise reveal. Don’t Look in the Basement has been recognized as a B-movie classic, and I enthusiastically recommend it here.

Three 1972 to 1973 horror movies and all three recommended! You may or may not disagree, and if so, I want to hear why! What are your favorite asylum flicks? Comment below or on social media.

Gary Scott Beatty’s graphic novel Wounds is available on Amazon and Comixology. Is madness a way to survive the zombie apocalypse? The strangest zombie story ever written, Wounds throws us into a world where nothing is beyond doubt, except a father’s concern for his wife and daughter. If you enjoy that “What th-?” factor in graphic novels, you’ll enjoy Wounds. For more from Gary Scott Beatty, visit him on Twitter and Facebook.

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