One of my favorites things about Halloween is that the movie channels how scary movies all through the late October and into early November. Instead of watching Halloween again – I’ve seen it more times than I can count – I used the guide function to root out the really obscure movies that they dig out of the vaults. This year, my two guilty pleasures were: The Devil’s Bride from 1968 and Motel Hell from 1980.
I don’t know what it was about the 1960s and 1970s that they seemed to be obsessed with Satanism. Maybe it was some unfocused post-McCarthy paranoia that made them want to believe that the Devil was hiding among them in the form of people who seemed perfectly normal on the surface but who were actually some sort of coven. The Devil’s Bride, which features Christopher Lee, the archetypal faux-scary horror movie star, has us watching a bunch of stuffy British aristocrats during the 1920s. The most disturbing thing about this film was it bad acting. Still, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I watched it for the same reason that I watched Rudy Ray Moore’s Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law from 1977, the 1971 Italian horror film The Devil’s Nightmare, and the campy British Vampire Circus— because I love bad acting and weird premises and cheap special effects! Which makes me love old horror films.
Stepping into the era of my childhood, we have Motel Hell, starring Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons, the woman who played Beulah Ballbreaker in the Porky’s movies. In this one, we have a “farmer” with all sorts of bizarro habits: running a motel in the middle of nowhere, watching ranting televangelists non-stop . . . selling smoked meats that contain human flesh! This one, too, is absolutely absurd, the acting terrible, the premise weird and misguided. Which is, again, why I watched it.
There are so many old horror movies that really are scary. The original Amityville Horror movie gives me chills every time that pair of eyes comes out of the dark in the end. The Omen and Poltergeist and The Shining are all scary. I don’t care who you are, in the beginning of The Shining, when that TV news lady is stuck in the porno-booth with the psycho-killer, you’ve got to be scared! Or when that lady jumps to her death during the birthday party in The Omen . . . but neither The Devil’s Bride nor Motel Hell have that scare factor.
I don’t know why, but every year I hope that some channel will show Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but no one ever does. But, on the bright side, I got my hokey horror movie fix for the year.