BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1991)

From HOME ALONE to CHILDREN OF THE CORN, movies about dreadful youngsters aren’t exactly novel. But in the case of the 1981 horror BLOODY BIRTHDAY, the kids are not alright. This Ed Hunt film features just about the most brazenly homicidal killers in memory, producing a concoction so vile it’s as delightful as poisoned icing.

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DEADLY MANOR (1990)

As one of the last films by Spanish exploitation director Jose Ramon Larraz, DEADLY MANOR is not without charm. The 1990 horror is familiar in setup, but overachieves in terms of atmosphere and characters. The screenplay by Larraz, Larry Ganem and Brian Smedley-Aston makes great use of the titular Hillburn Manor, a century-old mansion slipped into a New York village.

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HELL NIGHT (1981)

Without question, HELL NIGHT is a formula movie. That’s not always a bad thing, as plenty of other horror flicks have achieved an awful lot out of formula. But in the case of Tom DeSimone’s picture, it’s hard to say anything impactful happens until it’s too late. The method is kind of all there is, even if it is gussied up in pseudo-Gothic dress.

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THE PREY (1983)

Directed by Edwin Brown and based on a screenplay by Brown and his wife Summer, THE PREY is a compelling entry in the slasher genre. It is unique for its nearly languid feel, a sensibility which might frustrate some. Indeed, the central conceit of the characters being “prey” in the most natural sense of the word is a tad overbearing.

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THE MUTILATOR (1984)

THE MUTILATOR is a surprisingly entertaining slasher, a sort of SAVED BY THE BELL meets FRIDAY THE 13TH – except with a little more beer. Directed by the incomparable Buddy Cooper with co-director John S. Douglass, the film is also known as FALL BREAK and contains a theme song of the same name. That extraordinary tune comes courtesy Peter Yellen and the Breakers.

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SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS (1988)

Five years after the scandalous events of Robert Hiltzik’s SLEEPAWAY CAMP comes SLEEPAWAY CAMP II: UNHAPPY CAMPERS, a 1988 horror that jacks up the comedy and has no lack of sexual obsession. This time, however, the focus is on punishment and castigation. It’s a lot of stupid fun.

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SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

A campy horror in more ways than one, Robert Hiltzik’s SLEEPAWAY CAMP is as demonic as it is peculiar. This 1983 picture is a wicked slasher, showing us a world that is insane and wholly recognizable. Its placement at a deliriously detached and amoral camp plays to the fears of anyone who’s been dropped off in the middle of nowhere to “enjoy the summer.”

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BLACK CHRISTMAS (2019)

Directed by Sophia Takal, the 2019 version of BLACK CHRISTMAS has a clear task. That task is presumably controversial, as many a viewer was allegedly triggered by the “feminism” prowling within. This film is guided by feminism, the sort of thing sure to offend some of the pill-popping typecasts that call themselves horror fans.

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W. (2008)

Oliver Stone’s W. resonates today like an artifact from another reality, sometimes even another planet. This 2008 biopic of George W. Bush explores a political and personal life that was, at the time in many circles, judged for its ineptitude. In the light of this year and this time, it feels downright picturesque.

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