With the night of ghosts and goblins coming up, here are a handful of horror films that are not very well known ... but are worth getting to know, because they are quite effective. I think they would make perfect Halloween night viewing.
Burn, Witch, Burn (1962, AKA Night of the Eagle)
An uptight college professor (Peter Wyngarde) who doesn't believe in the occult discovers that his wife (Janet Blair) has been practicing witchcraft. She explains that she has been conjuring protection spells over him, but he doesn't want to hear it and forces her to discard all of her magic charms. Everything goes to hell after that, putting both their lives in danger in this tension-filled horror opus. The stark black and white photography accentuates the film's eerie feel. The whip smart screenplay, based on Fritz Leiber Jr.'s novel, is by prolific writers Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson.
The Final Girls (2015)
Not a horror movie but a sly comedy spoof on 1980s slasher films, most notably Friday the 13th (1980). Still shattered by the loss of her 80s scream queen actress mother (Malin Akerman), a young woman (Taissa Farmiga) finds herself, along with a handful of friends, actually entering her mom's most famous horror movie. She comes face to face with her mother again but also has to elude a masked, machete-wielding maniac. It’s surprisingly touching with fantastic performances by Farmiga and Akerman. It's also laugh-out-loud funny when goofing on slasher film clichés like horny teen camp counselors and their low intelligence levels.
The Flesh Eaters (1964)
A down-on-his-luck charter pilot (Byron Sanders), a lush of an actress (Rita Morley) and her foxy assistant (Barbara Wilkin) land on a small desolate island for repairs. There, they meet a creepy German scientist (Martin Kosleck) whose secret experiment—for the purpose of biological warfare—is the creation of tiny, flesh eating organisms ... and these creatures are in the water surrounding the island. Penned by comic book writer Arnold Drake, this is considered one of the first “gore” movies because of the graphic nature of its violence—a beatnik gets eaten from the inside out. The Flesh Eaters has blood, cleavage and some corny dialog, but the performances are good and the film is tightly paced. This is drive-in schlock all the way, but it's well-made drive-in schlock.
Midnight Son (2011)
A lonely night watchman with a rare skin disorder (Zak Kilberg) slowly starts developing the traits of a vampire. He eventually needs human blood to survive, but things get even more complicated when he becomes smitten with a bartender (Maya Parish). Raw, emotional performances and bursts of violence give this vampire tale a real edge. Having been shot on HD video in Los Angeles at night adds a 1980s Michael Mann feel.
The planned kidnapping of the young boy of wealthy parents goes awry when the boy (Lance Holcomb), his grandfather (Sterling Hayden) and the kidnappers (Klaus Kinski, Oliver Reed and Susan George) are all trapped in a townhouse with a Black Mamba, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world, which was delivered to the child by mistake. Venom is first and foremost a thriller, but it has some definite horror elements. The scene where Hayden's character, armed with only a table lamp and a throw pillow, is forced by lead kidnapper Kinski to search a room for the reptile is filled with white-knuckled tension. And watch out for that basement scene! Rounding out the impressive cast is Nicol Williamson as the police commander, Sarah Miles as a veterinarian, and Michael Gough as a snake expert. There is also a great, early music score from composer Michael Kamen (Die Hard). The film is well directed by Piers Haggard (The Blood on Satan's Claw), who replaced Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) when he purportedly had a nervous breakdown while trying to deal with difficult actors Kinski and Reed.