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.
My Rating: 1 out of 5 (is it possible to score it lower?)
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. 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.
That's our list of '5 Classic Cult Horror Films That Are So Bad, They're Awesome!' There are scores of Classic Cult Horror Films out there. These are 5 of my favorites.