In 2007, Oren Peli’s found-footage horror film Paranormal Activity created a sensation. An indie feature shot for only $15,000, filmed at his house, and edited with no prior experience, Peli’s movie has since become a Halloween theatrical staple.
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension opened this weekend. But if you’re looking for something a little more under the radar that doesn’t feature shaky cam and the now familiar Paranormal Activity jump scares, take heed. Here are 10 paranormal horror stories you might have missed.
Young man meets older, married woman. Young man hates woman’s husband so much that he devises a plan for them to kill him. Young man and woman become lovers on the sly to avert suspicion, but woman’s husband returns as a ghost to haunt her. Nagisa Ōshima’s 1978 erotic, supernatural story speaks to the way that guilt can haunt us instead of dwelling on outright horror. But the film about an affair that spirals out of control is still potent and reminiscent of Ōshima’s other burning tale, In the Realm of the Senses.
Jess Franco dabbled in a number of exploitation subgenres, including women in prison movies and cannibal horror, but he is best remembered for his lyrical sexploitation films. Al otro lado del espejo, or The Obscene Mirror, centers on a nightclub singer who is haunted by the ghost of her late father following his suicide (and depending on which version you see — there are three — also her dead, sex-hungry sister). She is driven to the brink and attempts to kill any man who shows interest in her. Only Franco could get away with an examination of trauma and selfhood with hardcore sex scenes — at least in the Italian version. The French version alters the plot, while the Spanish version is considered the definitive director’s cut.
Donald Jackson and Jerry Younkins’ 1977 occult trash flick sounds like your average threadbare horror narrative. A group of teens get swept up in the Satanic, which summons a demon from hell. But The Demon Lover features a colorful character by the name of Laval Blessing, played by Younkins (under the hilarious pseudonym Christmas Robbins). Laval (and his outrageous hair) not only understands the intricacies of black magic, but he’s also a karate expert. That’s so ‘70s! Read Video Junkie’s amusing review for more.
Cult movie goddess Karen Black, perpetually sweaty Oliver Reed, the rat-obsessed kid from Ben, and queen Bette Davis move into a gothic country estate that possesses people — and that’s all you really need to know.
This 1972 British telecast was written by Nigel Kneale — best known as the creator of the popular Quatermass television and film productions. He brings a similar sense of scientific dread to The Stone Tape, about an investigative team that moves into a Victorian mansion to record paranormal goings-on. DVD Talk writes:
It’s fun to see what is basically a haunted house film done from the viewpoint of real scientists who have no intention of being spooked by superstition. Some of them do anyway, of course, but as in all Kneale stories, the rational outlook prevails. The screams and phantoms are pegged as, ‘just a mass of data waiting for correct interpretation’, and words like ‘heuristic’ are bandied about. This is not the kind of show where people shout things like, ‘The ions are positively charged, professor!’ Kim Newman’s liner notes cite The Haunting of Hill House as a forerunner with the scientific investigation idea, but what The Stone Tape will remind us of is Poltergeist, made ten years later. The Spielberg movie’s investigation turns a haunted house into a 3 Ring Circus; The Stone Tape stays very basic, with surprisingly effective low-tech special effects.
Prolific Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye and Castle of Blood) shows us what Klaus Kinski looks like as Edgar Allan Poe. The macabre poet challenges a journalist to spend the night in a haunted castle, where the reporter falls for a beautiful ghost (Michèle Mercier). Margheriti’s gothic chiller weaves a spell of its own, with music by Italian cult favorite Riz Ortolani.
This Carrie-esque story of an overweight girl who unleashes her supernatural powers against her taunting classmates is a teen TV horror classic. It won’t knock your socks off, but we get Lee Grant, young Helen Hunt, and spontaneous combustion.
The Village Voice on this 1975 low-budget vampy gem:
Richard Blackburn’s long-fabled Lemora: A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural exists in a suffocating, ur-Southern Gothic nightscape all its own. Unashamedly shoestring, Blackburn’s dream odyssey through pubertal agony drips with Freudian syrup, but it’s also a fervidly physical film — the midnight back alleys of Old South ghost towns are not places you’ll be longing to revisit.
An influential 1945 British horror anthology that is loved by Marty Scorsese. From the Guardian: “The creaky, old-fashioned feel gives it its period flavour; it’s a part of its icy seriousness and compelling sense of ingenuous English decency being molested by unspeakable evil.”
A deranged kung fu horror-comedy, featuring the fabled hopping vampires of Chinese lore and Hong Kong badass Sammo Hung. Your Halloween definitely needs more black magic monkeys, poultry, and sword fighting.