1. The Boogens (1981)
2. Prophecy (1979)Prophecy
isn’t usually cited as one of the highlights of John Frankenheimer’s career. There’s good reason for that, too: A mostly poky horror film filled with anxiety about pollution and its effects on children and other living things, Prophecy
keeps teasing the awesome awfulness of its big monster, an angry creature from Native American lore named Katahdin. But when the film finally shows Katahdin, it looks like a bear suit smeared in spaghetti sauce and Vaseline. Oddly, the poster featuring a horrifying fetus does
capture the most unsettling element of the film: heroine Talia Shire’s realization that she’s consumed the same environmental pollutant that created Katahdin and is likely carrying a mutant baby inside of her.
3. The Terror (1963)
The poster to this Roger Corman quickie starring Boris Karloff and a pre-fame Jack Nicholson is deceptive on two fronts: Karloff’s in the movie, but he plays a character more tormented than terrifying, a fact not suggested by the glowering visage of the poster. What’s more, the plot involves witches and multiple identities, and in no way features women trapped in giant spider webs where they writhe and scream in terror until they die leaving behind only skeletons. Not even metaphorically.
4. Frogs (1972)Frogs
straddles the line between scary and silly: A human hand, sometimes bloodied, sometimes not, hanging out of the mouth of what must be one huge frog. (Or maybe the critter’s just munching on a G.I. Joe.) However, the truth behind the “eco-horror” of the film is full-on goofy: Presaging M. Night Shyamalan’s “the trees did it!” epic The Happening
concerns the unfortunate fate of the wealthy Crockett family, a brood of piggish polluters who receive humanity’s comeuppance when the flora and fauna surrounding their estate stage a slowly moving, swiftly escalating coup. Yet it’s difficult to tell whether the frogs (and snakes, lizards, alligators, birds, kudzu, and even butterflies) are truly on the frontline of the revolution, as most of the film’s death scenes involve background characters flailing about while stock footage close-ups imply that nature’s simply a spectator in the killing. By the time animal-hating Ray Milland finds himself in a mansion overtaken by lily-pad dwellers, the frogs finish him off not by swallowing him whole, but essentially staring him to death.
5. Squirm (1976)Squirm
packs a handful of gruesome chills, largely thanks to the makeup effects of future Oscar-winner Rick Baker. But even when it’s churning the face of antagonistic redneck R.A. Dow into ground chuck (rendering him “the worm face,” much to the delight of the cast and crew of Mystery Science Theater 3000
), the film’s electrified army of night crawlers fails to bring about anything close to the writhing Hieronymus Bosch-like hellscape promised by Squirm
’s one-sheet. It’s a “night of crawling terror” all right—though the wriggling sensation Squirm
induces is merely an involuntary attempt to deflect the drops of perspiration that seep through the screen during every sweaty frame.
6. Thinner (1996)Thinner
hints at a wealth of grotesquerie: A monstrous-looking fellow, his face melting from deathly flesh into naked skull, leers menacingly from behind an upturned collar. The tagline is even spookier: “Let the curse fit the crime.” If only the studio had let the film fit the poster. Instead, Thinner
—an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel of the same name—is the laughable, shockingly non-scary fable of a man given a gypsy curse that makes him lose weight. Eerier fates befall those around him—that is, if you consider growing lizard scales on your body the height of human horror. Eventually, the fate of cursed Billy Halleck hinges on that most nightmarish of horror tropes: not a devilish freak in a trench coat, but a fruit pie.
7. The Demon Lover (1976)Hell Comes To Frogtown
) and the never-to-be-heard-from-again Jerry Younkins is best remembered for having its production documented in Demon Lover Diary
, a making-of film that has earned a lively cult rep in spite of never having been given an official release. (The director, Joel DeMott, and her partner, Jeff Kreines, later made the controversial public-television documentary Seventeen
. Their association with The Demon Lover
came to a non-amicable end while filming a scene at Ted Nugent’s house, which, shockingly, has guns in it.) Younkins plays the central role, a devil-worshipper who summons up dark spirits to help him avenge having been shut out of his own coven by a rival, played by comic-book artist Val Mayerik. Mayerik also executed the poster, a ripe, Frazetta-paperback-cover story that promises a lush orgy of cheap thrills. But all viewers get is a scraggly-haired extra making Halloween faces and conjuring up someone wearing a rejected early prototype of the mask of MF Doom
8. Dracula Vs. Frankenstein (1971)Satan’s Sadists
, starring Russ Tamblyn, before mutating into a horror movie called Blood Seekers
(with Lon Chaney Jr. and J. Carrol Naish, both in their final roles), which turned into Dracula Vs. Frankenstein
when Adamson decided to go for broke by incorporating characters with more name recognition than his actors. But while the poster promises a showdown between two monsters with the authority and menace horror fans remember from their classic vehicles, what’s on screen is a pissing match between a greenish geek with an echo filter and a bad perm
, and what looks like a rapidly disintegrating Play-Doh sculpture of a bulldog standing on its hind legs
9. Grizzly (1976)Jaws
!” period of exploitation moviemaking. But the film itself is unable to convey the illusion that the title character, who seems to vary greatly in size from shot to shot, is a mutant hell-beast big and powerful enough to swat a helicopter or tear down a fire tower to get at the chewy goodness that is the park ranger stationed on top. It’s also unable to conceal the fact that the bear we see
is so much cuter than the rest of the cast.
10. It Conquered The World (1956)
11. The Legend Of Boggy Creek (1972)Boggy Creek
, which earned more than $20 million back on an investment of $100,000, consists of a narrator musing about how there sure are some weird things in this funny old world, over slow-moving shots of swampy water, bare fields, small-town life, etc. But every so often, as a conciliatory gesture to an audience that might be growing inclined to trash the theater, someone will tell a story about a monster sighting, which provides an excuse to show some hick encountering something blurry
12. Night Of The Lepus (1972)Lepus
might not be the officially recognized nadir of the giant-animal genre if the filmmakers had at least cared enough to make them freaky-looking, messed-up bunnies, with red facial welts and jagged buck teeth, but the limits of their inventiveness went no further than trying to make the creatures look enormous by photographing them inside Ken and Barbie’s dream house
. By the time the climax arrives and the same close-up of the bunnies hopping thunderously past the camera is repeated for the 50th time, it all feels like a charitable project designed to make the creators of The Killer Shrews
feel better about themselves.
13. Shriek Of The Mutilated (1974)Snuff
with his wife Roberta, made this tastefully titled shocker about a professor who takes a pack of graduate students on a field trip to try to capture a Yeti that’s said to reside on a remote island. Spoiler alert: The prof and his associates are actually members of a cannibal cult, and they’ve fabricated the Yeti story, using hidden microphones and a guy in a monster suit, in order to lure students onto their turf so they can be killed and eaten. Things get so scary that one young woman, whose dead body must be unmarred for use in a dark ritual, finally has a heart attack and dies of fright. But given that the faux Yeti looks like Rob Zombie fell in a snowdrift
, it would be easier to believe if she died laughing.