22. Effects (1980, Dusty Nelson)
Fancy watching a low budget independent film about snuff movies, made by a bunch of George Romero acolytes? Then you could do a lot worse than Effects!
Shot in super grain-o-vision (looks like 16mm to me), Effects stars the one and only Joe Pilato (Captain ‘Choke on ’em’ Rhodes from Day of the Dead), alongside Tom Savini and John Harrison, who composed my all time favourite horror movie score. Yup, it’s Day of the Dead again.
Apparently this film is based on a novel, though I can find no trace of such a book ever existing. Regardless, it’s a bit of a mindfuck drama, flitting back and forth between the movie they’re shooting and real life, until it all comes together in the last thirty minutes for a really exciting game of cat and mouse.
Unseen for 25 years until Synapse put out a DVD, Effects is now, somehow, on Blu-Ray from the American Genre Film Archive, who are truly doing God’s work. It’s a slow start for this one, but stick with it, even if it’s only to see Tom Savini wearing an umbrella hat.
Some things are worth waiting for.
23. Scooby-Doo (2002, Raja Gosnell)
Alright, alright, I know this is a kids’ movie and in no way, shape or form a horror film, but the Scooby-Doo – Where Are You? cartoon was one of my many childhood horror gateways.
This live-action version was written by Troma alumni/Hollywood superstar director James Gunn and so manages to hold the interest with a few mildly amusing gags.
CGI Scooby is somehow less convincing than the cartoon version, a horrifying pixel nightmare that makes Jar Jar Binks seem like the height of photorealism, and the scariest thing about the film may be the music, which incorporates lame-ass hip-hop, pop-punk, big band swing music (about 5 years late to the party) and worst of all, a cameo from Sugar Ray.
But the best thing about the film is Linda Cardellini as Velma, because she looks really, really like Lina Romay, and it suggests an alternate reality where Jess Franco somehow ended up directing live-action cartoons for Warner Brothers.
Hey, we can dream, can’t we?
24. Winterbeast (1992, Christopher Thies)
If you had told me that Winterbeast was released in 1982, I would have said, ‘Really? As late as that?’ So when I found out it’s from 1992, my mind was both blown and boggled.
It’s an incredibly charming no-budget monster movie, clearly a labour of love for a bunch of good friends. Everyone onscreen seems to be having a grand old time, and that enthusiasm is infectious.
There’s a baddy who’s like a bargain basement Roddy McDowell, an assistant park ranger who thinks he’s hilarious and actually kinda is and a tone of crazy stop-motion special effects that need to be seen to be disbelieved.
Fans of regional independent horror filmmaking will enjoy every one of the 76 minutes, and if sometimes your attention wanders then that’s okay too, because sooner or later there’ll be a giant chicken monster to pull you right back in.