Horror movies have become so formulaic that it's always refreshing when a movie bucks the narrative trend and tries for something bizarre, either in pacing, storyline, visuals or all of the above. Recently, I reviewed the hallucinatory, nightmarish 'A Field In England', and it inspired me to comprise a list of the oddest horror films ever made.
I'm covering films both foreign and domestic, some of which are brilliantly strange, and others which are so amateurish and crudely made that they exhibit a train-wreck quality from which you can't look away from. So without further ado, here's the ten strangest horror films you're ever likely to see. It's going to get weird...very very weird.
10. 'Pieces' (1982)
We reviewed this 80s oddity a few months back, but to put it succinctly; what does an erotic puzzle, murdered co-eds, a kung-fu professor, an unlikely lothario, a creepy groundskeeper, and an inept police force have in common?
That's a hard question to ask, because the pieces in 'Pieces' never quite add up as a cohesive whole, but it's this feverish mix-and-match approach that makes it such a fun film to watch.
9. 'A Field In England' (2013)
I recently reviewed the Blu-ray release of 'A Field In England', and was struck by it's trippy imagery and abandonment of traditional narrative. Suffice to say, that when weary stragglers from the English Civil War ingests hallucinogenic mushrooms and then cross paths with an evil sorcerer, things get very strange and visually unsettling.
8. 'Meshes Of The Afternoon' (1943)
This surreal short film has definite horror elements with an ominous mirror-faced Grim Reaper-esque figure that pursues a woman through a dream world where continuity is loose, languid and haunting.
7. 'Videodrome' (1983)
Director David Cronenberg has a made a storied career out of deliberately strange films, but 'Videodrome' remains the oddest of the bunch.
James Woods stars as a TV station CEO who becomes psychologically warped after viewing disturbing transmissions of a show that depicts torture and murder all while stimulating sexual arousal.
This leads into several queasy hallucinatory sequences that remain etched in your memory long after the film has concluded.
6. 'Blue Sunshine' (1978)
'Blue Sunshine documents the dark side of flower-power, when a group of former hippies become murderous, bald psychopaths after experiencing violent flashbacks from LSD they took in college.
There are so many strange elements in the film that it's hard to fully describe; it has a unlikeable, awkward protagonist, a jittery narrative, and TV movie production, but something about this awkward stew makes something truly original and quite eerie, even if there are moments of unintentional hilarity.
5. 'Tetsuo: The Iron Man' (1989)
This cyberpunk cult-classic straddles the line between sci-fi and horror, with a nightmarish tale of a couple who are infected with a bizarre virus that turns them into murderous, sadistic cyborgs. It is a unique and nerve-rattling experience.
4. 'X-tro' (1983)
A fever dream of sci-fi gore-fest horror, 'X-tro' is a disjointed mess, but a mesmerizing one.
Any movie that involved the birth of a fully grown man, a killer toy, and a stuffed clown that turns into a menacing human greasepaint nightmare is enough to get your attention.
The explanation of an alien menace that ties the threads altogether, still falls short, leaving it a fragmented freak-show for the eyes. But as reviewer Jack Sommersby attests' 'X-tro' remains"A creative and grotesque sci-fi must-see!"
3. 'Phantasm' (1979)
We recently reported that a fifth film in the 'Phantasm' series is forthcoming, but no sequel has ever matched the bonkers go-for-broke goofy insanity of the 1979 original.
A group of friends believe a local mortician (known as 'The Tall Man') is responsible for several mysterious deaths in their small tranquil Californian town.
But their suspicion can't match the full explanation, which includes flying metal killer spheres, an alien planet, miniature minions and a killer bug. It's lunacy of the most enjoyable kind.
2. 'Eraserhead' (1977)
Surrealist filmmaker David Lynch made a big impact with his first feature length film. The tale of a man frightened of marriage and fatherhood is compounded by the fact that their offspring is inhuman, that the world is controlled by mysterious forces and that there is no ultimate resolution.
'Eraserhead' is less concerned with conventional narrative that it is in a series of disturbing, dream-like imagery that is as horrifying as it is compelling.
1. 'Hausu' (1977)
This Japanese horror film is one of the most beautiful yet confounding pieces of cinema ever made.
A girl named Gorgeous and her schoolgirl friends go to visit her aunt for summer vacation. But they are in over their heads in her haunted home, as the house tries to kill them all.
Malicious mattresses, carnivorous pianos, and other household items hold ominous intent, but the film still manages and light, and oddly humorous touch.
'Hausu' is truly a film that defies description, and if you're a lover of the odd and unusual and haven't checked it out, it's essential.
So that's our list of the ten weirdest horror movies of all time. Do you agree? What else would you add to the mix? Tell us in the comments.
Glaring omission: 'The Wicker Man' (1973)
We just realized shortly after posting this list that we left off one of the craziest horror movies ever. The original 'Wicker Man' is part musical, part Christian allegory, part English folk tale, and part erotica.
There's never been another movie like it for straddling so many genres, and twisting them altogether into new and bewildering shapes.
While the remake is remarkable in just how awful it is, the original is a unforgettable cult classic oddity.