I’ve recently noticed that my horror collection, which was once proudly displayed in my front room for all to see, has been subtly transferred to a dark recess of the back bedroom where it’s sadly collecting dust. In it’s place are rom-coms, family dramas and Disney films. Movies that are far more representative of my girlfriends tastes than mine. Therefore I thought I would use the paltry excuse of it being October 31st to rummage through my old DVDs and pick out a few of my favourites that you probably won’t see on many other lists.
1. Blood on Satan’s Claw, 1970, Piers Haggard
For me a film that should sit proudly alongside films such as The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General (also by Tigon), Blood on Satan’s Claw is representative of many British horror films of that time. Set in a remote village which quickly becomes consumed by satan’s power and the inhabitants start growing claws in peculiar places. It has a real sense of isolation and powerlessness against forces that we cannot comprehend. Creepy stuff.
2. The Beast Must Die, 1974, Paul Annet
It’s like Cluedo with a werewolf. What more is the to say? Produced by Amicus, who are probably best known for their portmanteau horrors such as The House that Dripped Blood, TBMD has an absolutely superb cast including Charles Gray, Peter Cushing and Michael Gambon. The story is more similar to a Poirot mystery than anything else with house guests asked to investigate which one of them is the titular beast and features the infamous ‘Werewolf Break’ where viewers are invited to guess who the werewolf is. Bonkers.
3. The Devil Rides Out, 1968, Terrence Fisher
More devilish goings on this time with Hammer Horror and the best adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s novel this film stars Christopher Lee in one of his best and most sinister performances. Despite some fairly naff effects like the satanic spider attack you cannot escape the sense of foreboding and terror that surrounds this film. Lee always said he would love to see this film remade with modern special effects but for me that would be like remaking Jaws. Don’t mess with a classic.
4. Mark of the Devil, 1970, Michael Armstrong
The only non-British entry on the list, Mark of the Devil was produced in Germany as a direct competitor to Witchfinder General and in fact was more successful when first released. It’s success was attributed to an over the top marketing campaign that included handing out sick bags to cinema goers. There’s no denying that this film is violent with one scene in particular stick in my mind that sees a man’s tongue ripped from his mouth. I wouldn’t normally advocate such behaviour but the real reason it’s made this list is because it stars Herbert Lom as the witch catcher.
5. Witchfinder General, 1968, Michael Reeves
Now I’m sure that everyone has heard of and seen this. Well if you haven’t, why are you reading a blog about horror films? But I simply couldn’t leave it off the list. For me it is the pinnacle of British horror films. What’s incredible is that Michael Reeves was only 26 when he made this and he had already worked with Boris Karloff and Barbara Steel in his two previous efforts. Witchfinder General has it’s fair share of technical problems (look out for the rubber axe in the finale and the slightly off dubbing) but nothing can undermine such a superb telling of such a simple story. Vincent Price is for once slightly down playing his role but is incredibly nasty and leaves space for the heart broken Ian Ogilvy to put in a great turn as he seeks his brutal and bloody revenge. Great stuff.