Halloween and Veteran's Day fall close together, and it's not as if we get the chance to celebrate them simultaneously, but here we are.
Sure, you can celebrate this Veterans Day by watching such classics as Pride of the Marines, The Best Years of Our Lives, Coming Home, or Born on the 4th of July, and it's highly recommended that you do; however, chances are that horror fans may still be reeling from Halloween, and we'll need to ease ourselves into the next big holiday.
We can certainly bridge that gap by checking out these terrifying and downright awesome flicks that will showcase another side of our precious veterans. These selections may not offer the most flattering depictions of what it means to be a soldier—each one can be used to gain insight into the struggles that many of our veterans face on a daily basis.
It's hard to go through Halloween without encountering a movie featuring Boris Karloff—he is arguably the greatest horror actor who ever lived. But you probably never expected to see him on a list celebrating our veterans. That's because Targets, marking the directorial debut of Peter Bogdanovich, is one of the most unusual horror pictures you will ever see. Mr. Karloff plays a loose version of himself—a legendary horror icon who's in the middle of a promotional "farewell" tour, so to speak. But his character is only half the story; the other half concerns a severely troubled Vietnam vet (Tim O'Kelley) who kills his wife and mother, before embarking on a killing spree (if the character sounds familiar, it was inspired by the real-life case of Charles Whitman). The two men eventually meet at a crowded drive-in theater, where the horror of films and real-life become blurred. The film is available to watch on most streaming services for only $2.99.
If the previous film doesn't whet your appetite for homicidal maniacs who served our great country, then feast your eyes upon Deathdream, from Bob Clark, a pedigreed horror director who also helmed the original Black Christmas and Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. Once again, those unforgiving jungles of Vietnam have produced a mad killer, this time named Andy (Richard Backus). The only difference is, Andy died during the war and his parents have the telegram to prove it. Yes, this isn't Memorial Day we are celebrating, but that's okay because Andy sure looks alive and returns home to live with his mom and dad. Everything is dandy until he starts killing people around the neighborhood—his thirst for blood even zeroing in on the family dog. And because it's the seventies, this film also contains a deadly scene at a drive-in. Released in the heyday of theater gimmicks, no one was allowed into the screening after five minutes. Good luck with such a thing nowadays. Based on "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs, and featuring makeup effects by the great Tom Savini, Deathdream is free to watch on Tubi.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
If you like your horror more on the psychological side, then look no further than Jacob's Ladder—the story of a Vietnam (of course) veteran's descent into madness. From the horrors of his never-ending flashbacks of war to the daily hell of PTSD-induced hallucinations, Jacob (Tim Robbins) is unable to separate the disturbing images in his mind from what appears to be the real world. And, yes, this movie earns points for waging Jacob's battle with his own demons and not a bunch of innocent folks around him.
Based on a dream (or a nightmare) from screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), the title is taken from the Old Testament "ladder" to Heaven, but this one we can safely say leads into the opposite direction. Directed by Adrian Lyne (Flashdance, Fatal Attraction), the first cut of this film was deemed too disturbing, even for restricted audiences. Watch for free with an Epix trial on Prime Video and be sure to avoid the terrible 2019 remake.
For the first time on this list, we actually have a movie that celebrates our military for the rightful badasses that they are with no plaguing after-effects for the soldiers in sight. Well, except for the fact that some of them are killed and brought back to life with a zombie serum developed by those wicked Nazis. But before we get ahead of ourselves, picture this: It's the eve of D-Day, and a group of U.S. paratroopers are sent to destroy a German radio tower. After his troop suffers heavy casualties, PFC Boyce (Jovan Adepo) manages to discover more than he bargained for inside this tower, namely some super-horrific, human experiments.
Yes, it is true that Nazi experiment movies are nothing new; in fact, they basically comprised a whole subgenre of films back in the 70s. However, none of those films can match the high-octane, zombie-killing mayhem of Overlord or even boast a black protagonist. The film also features Stranger Things sensation Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson) in a small role, as well as its main Nazi villain being played by none other than Pilou Asbæk (Euron Greyjoy of Game of Thrones). Now that's a win-win. Available to stream on Paramount Plus, or $2.99 to rent on Prime Video.