Here is a handful of lesser-known horror movies that are perfect for Halloween night viewing. All are available on home video or to stream.
Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker (AKA Night Warning) (1982) – A 17-year-old high school star athlete (Jimmy McNichol) has dreams of going to college, but his controlling and overprotective aunt (Susan Tyrrell), who has raised him since the death of his parents when he was only a toddler, has other – sinister – ideas. The film is directed by William Asher, a veteran of many television productions, so the movie has a weird vibe – it looks like a made-for-TV movie but with some nudity and bursts of explicit violence. The opening car accident scene – with a log crashing through a car windshield and smashing a person's head – definitely gets your attention. Also, it's actually amazing that an exploitation slasher film made in 1982 has a positive gay character (played by Steve Eastin), and he isn't there to just be a victim or comedy relief. The centerpiece, however, of Butcher, Baker is the sensational, off-the-rails performance by Tyrrell.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – The girl in question is a lonely young woman (Sheila Vand) who happens to be a vampire. She walks the quiet streets of a small Iranian ghost-town after dusk to pick and choose her next victim...and she also just likes to scare children. Her life gets complicated when she meets a down-on-his-luck young man (Arash Marandi) and begins to have feelings for him. Iranian made but shot in Taft, California, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour creates a true sense of dread with black & white photography, but she also infuses the film with a sharp sense of humor. Favorite kill: A victim has his finger bitten off then shoved into his mouth.
Kuroneko (1968) – In war-ravaged feudal Japan, traveling samurai are getting their throats torn out by two vengeful female spirits (Kiwako Taichi and Nobuko Otowa) who have cat-like qualities. A peasant turned samurai (Nakamura) is ordered to seek out and destroy these demonic ghosts, but when he does encounter this deadly duo, he recognizes them as his wife and mother, who were violently murdered three years before. Kiyomi Kuroda's black & white widescreen photography gives Kaneto Shindo's ambiguous and poetic folklore tale a dream-like quality. And those distant cat meows are haunting. The original title is Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko (A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove).
The Monster that Challenged the World (1957) – Thanks to radiation giant mollusk type creatures emerge from the Salton Sea. It up to a Navy officer (Tim Holt) and a single mom secretary (Audrey Dalton) to stop the creatures, who crave human blood and suck their victims dry. Sure, the practical effects monster has mechanical movements but the design is pretty cool – the face kind of looks like a human skull with big bug-like eyes. This is fun 1950s science fiction.
Night of the Comet (1984) – Two Valley Girl sisters (Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney) wake up to find Los Angeles has become a ghost-town after a comet buzzed the Earth the night before turning most of the world's inhabitants into red dust. The girls have to contend with those partially exposed to the comet who slowly turn into crazed, flesh-eating zombies. Then there is team of sadistic scientists experimenting with the blood of the immune in hopes of finding a cure. Thom Eberhardt's horror-comedy is whip-smart and endlessly quotable with lines like: “Hey, I'm sorry if the end of the world makes me a little nervous” or “Come on Hector, the MAC-10 submachine gun was practically designed for housewives”.