Where did my love of horror come from? As near as I can tell, it is probably hard-coded into my DNA. I am certain that there is a specific gene sequence that is related to a passion for the macabre and ghastly.

As a small child, maybe even as young as five or six, my dreams became populated with images that I would later recognize as monsters from movies. In the first dream I can remember, I was trapped in the dark, spooky side of our basement when a frightening creature lunged at me from behind the furnace. Later on, I would find a picture of that monster in a book on movies at the local public library. It was none other than the great Lon Chaney Sr. from London After Midnight that pursued me into the dark and damned spaces of imagination that I call home.

To celebrate that first panic run into nightmare territory, here are the first week’s movies from my yearly Shocktoberfest! 

Lon Chaney, my first nightmare.

1) Climate of the Hunter (2019) First Time Watch! My first Fantasia International Film Festival movie! Thank you, DIS/MEMBER! Read my review here.

2) Kriya (2019) – First Time Watch! My second Fantasia fest film was Kriya (2020), a bizarre body-switching, reincarnation story set in modern India. Full review here.

3) Daughters of Darkness (1971) – Delphine Seyrig’s Countess Elizabeth Bathory is spellbinding as she works her way into (and completely takes over) the lives of a young couple on their honeymoon. Harry Kümel’s cheeky vampire film is vintage sleek and stylish Euro-horror at its most alluring.

4) Vampyros Lesbos (1971) – Jesús Franco’s wildly erotic and psychedelic film keeps getting better. Plot and pacing go out the window from time to time, but Soledad Miranda and Ewa Strömberg are sublime. Siegfried Schwab and  Manfred Hüble’s trippy, jazzy soundtrack is a valued part of my music collection.

5)The House of the Devil (2009) – Ti West’s recreation of 1980s Satanic Panic of the takes me back to my youth. While no-one conjured up any Blue Demons, there was plenty of bat-shit craziness as seemingly rational people began vociferously proclaiming their belief in Satan because they heard demonic laughter while playing rock and roll records backwards. True Story.

6) Gundala (2019) –  First Time Watch! Ever wonder what a Marvel movie would be like with killer martial arts fights? Indonesian director Joko Anwar (Impetigor, Satan’s Slaves) expands from horror into superhero territory with a long, somewhat rambling origin story peppered with breathtaking action choreography.

7) The Velvet Vampire (1971) – Writer/director Stephanie Rothman was a rare female bird in the old boys club of exploitation filmmakers during the 1970s. When most of the women on sets were either the “talent” (wink wink) or getting coffee, she was turning the genre around by making movies about the females in the nurse’s outfits and strip clubs instead of stringing together moments scintillating nudity. Although Velvet Vampire was her only horror film, Rothman’s 1974 The Working Girls featured a pre-Elvira Cassandra Peterson as one of the titular working girls. The Velvet Vampire not only adds some twists into vampiric lore but also includes some subtle nods to the counter-culture and polyamory.

Cassandra Peterson

8) Dead Dicks (2019) – First Time Watch! I am not sure how this came across my radar, but I am glad I watched it! A very tight, single-set piece about a mentally ill man’s inability to stay dead after killing himself and his sibling’s vain attempts to help him. Matt Keyes stars as the annoying downstairs neighbor we all have had.

Matt Keyes