Just in time for fall, nine retro splatter flicks you can enjoy after a few tokes

click to enlarge "More brains!" From The Return of the Living Dead.
"More brains!" From The Return of the Living Dead.

As the air gets crisper and the days get shorter, I'm always in the mood for a horror movie. But not just any horror movie: I want a movie that's kinda dumb, a movie that had more thought into the obviously fake special effects than story, a movie that (perhaps it goes without saying) is easily enjoyed under the influence.

Sure, The Shining is great and all, but killer robots and shark-fighting zombies are way more fun.

Scouring the libraries of Amazon Prime and the horror service Shudder (Netflix's selections are just too classy for this exercise), we found some European curiosities, awesomely bad '80s cheese and cult favorites with over-the-top, gooshy gore that would be a lot more entertaining after a few hits, if that's your thing. (You should also be warned that none of them are for the squeamish.)

click to enlarge Blood and Black Lace
Blood and Black Lace


Demons (1985): Oblivious people trapped in a creepy old movie theater start turning into flesh-eating ghouls one by one. Cue neck ripping, eye gouging, head smashing and green goo vomiting. Oh, and a monster emerges from a person's back. It's bonkers. Shudder.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985): If you enjoy the slapstick genius of Evil Dead II, you'll probably dig this gratuitous tribute/parody of George Romero's zombie films. Severed limbs, shuffling cadavers, melting flesh, and it's all very, very '80s. Amazon Prime.

Society (1989): A truly weird, almost dreamlike satire of Reagan-era yuppiedom, wherein a preppy teen realizes his parents might be involved in a, uh, demonic orgy cult. Boasts one the strangest, grossest, gloopiest finales in horror history. Amazon Prime.

click to enlarge Chopping Mall
Chopping Mall


Blood and Black Lace (1964): The most surreal and disturbingly beautiful horror came out of Italy in the '60s and '70s (dubbed giallo), and Mario Bava's tale of a gloved killer stalking fashion models is arguably the first-ever slasher film. Stylish above all else, but what style. Shudder.

Deep Red (1975): Another bloody Italian classic, this one from giallo master Dario Argento (Suspiria), about a British pianist who seems to be a magnet for weird, elaborate killings. Contains a laughing porcelain doll that will haunt your dreams. Amazon Prime.

Zombie (1979): OK, this gorefest about idiotic Americans on a cursed Caribbean island is admittedly kinda boring. But it has two totally off-the-wall sequences: 1) A shard of wood goes right into a fake eyeball, and 2) an actor dressed as a zombie fights a real shark underwater. Seriously. Shudder.


click to enlarge Maximum Overdrive
Maximum Overdrive

Chopping Mall (1986): Super cool teens partying in a mall after hours face off against some laser-shooting security robots run amok. Keep your eyes peeled for a righteous head explosion. Though it's sort of in on its own joke, it's still charmingly stupid. Amazon Prime.

Maximum Overdrive (1985): Stephen King's sole directorial effort (based on his short story "Trucks"), a coked-out, AC/DC-scored nightmare about sentient automobiles attacking a roadside diner. Watch out for killer carving knives, lethal soda machines and a pissed-off Emilio Estevez. Amazon Prime.

Pieces (1982): A surreally inept Spanish slasher concerning a chainsaw murderer collecting body parts on a sexually liberated college campus. Amongst its weird lapses in logic: Nobody seems all that worried about the murder spree, and the killer keeps leaving his chainsaws at the crime scenes. Most horror films wish they could be this insane. Shudder.

Holiday Lights at Manito @ Manito Park

Dec. 13-31, 12-7:30 p.m.
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About The Author

Nathan Weinbender

Nathan Weinbender is the Inlander's Music & Film editor. He is also a film critic for Spokane Public Radio, where he has co-hosted the weekly film review show Movies 101 since 2011.