A Southern Movie Bonus: The 2021 Spooky, Scary Southern Sampler
In October, everybody likes horror movies. Even people who don’t like horror movies. All of the movies listed below are set in the South, are available on streaming services, and can satisfy a Halloween-time craving for the spooky and the scary. Since people have different tastes and preferences, the sampler offers some old movies and some newer ones.
Son of Dracula (1943)
When a beautiful Southern belle with an interest in the occult invites an Eastern European count to visit her at the family estate Dark Oaks, nothing good can happen. That’s even truer when a film stars Lon Chaney.
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Some people might disagree about this being a horror movie, but to me, it is. Robert Mitchum is famous for his portrayal of a man who chases two children all night long, with the intention of killing them. Though he claims to be a preacher, the character is really a grifter and conman who sets his sights on the children’s mother after finding out that their imprisoned father has hidden a stolen fortune. Then when he realizes that the children know where the money is, the real trouble begins.
Set in Louisville, Kentucky, Abby combines horror with blaxploitation. This was the mid-’70s, and blaxploitation films were never known for stellar acting, though this film is interesting for other reasons. William Marshall (who played Blacula) appears not in the lead role this time, but as the main character’s father, an anthropologist who has unleashed the demon that possesses his daughter. Abby goes from being a nice young woman to acting like a total freak, and of course, they’ve got to deal with it. Abby came out the year after The Exorcist and packs less of a punch, but it’s still pretty creepy.
Poor Pretty Eddie (1975)
Like Night of the Hunter, some people might not say this is a horror movie . . . but it is. The story centers on an African-American jazz singer who is travelling alone in the South then gets stranded with car trouble, but it’s really more about the backwoods freak show that she encounters while trying to get her car fixed. The film’s title character is a deranged Elvis wannabe with an aging sugar momma, and they live in an array of isolated vacation cabins in the Deep South, while a handful of assorted weirdos play supporting roles. Not exactly the place for an attractive black lady in the mid-’70s, but that’s what we’ve got here. Some call this Southern gothic, others a horror movie, others still say it’s blaxploitation, which could be why it came out under the alternate titles Heartbreak Motel, Redneck County Rape, and Black Vengeance.
From a Whisper to a Scream (1987)
Back in the ’80s, these Creepshow-style films were popular, the ones that collect stories within an outer frame. (HBO’s Tales from the Crypt has a similar format.) This one stars Vincent Price, who couldn’t any be less Southern. He gets hounded by a female reporter who wants the real story of a serial killer who has just been executed. Price has to relay stories from the town’s ugly past to explain what she wants to know. If you liked Stephen King movies back in the day, you’ll like this.
Lost Child (2017)
This was a much better movie than I expected it to be when I turned it on. One reviewer on IMDb called it an “anti-horror movie,” and I think that’s a fair assessment. The story has female veteran coming home to the rural Southern locale where her parents had been drug addicts. She begins living in their now-abandoned house and looking for her brother, who is likely in the same situation. Then a little boy wanders out of the woods. Local legends say that he is a tatterdemalion (an evil spirit) but the child welfare advocate says that he’s just a boy who needs to be loved, so the woman has to ascertain which might be true.