Aliens, zombies, vampires, occultists, witches, grave robbers, killer plants…all jam-packed into only five movies. Does that work to their advantage? Let’s find out.
THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (1964)
What a delicious title, and the combination of sci-fi/horror concepts isn’t bad either…but one overpowers the other.
Running only 62 minutes long, this fun film gets right to the point, with an opening scene of earthlings dropping like flies after a mysterious gas attack consumes the planet.
A small group of survivors gathers in a house, and while they’re plotting what they should do in their new reality, robotic aliens start lurking around outside in broad daylight. EEK!
Turns out they kill instantly with just a touch. And then…the victims come back as zombies! None of it makes much sense, but the unnerving presentation of the zombies is definitely one that is still effective to this day in modern horror films.
From a horror history perspective, there’s also a glaring example of why horror from decades past missed golden opportunities to really get under your skin. In The Earth Dies Screaming, a frightening scene of a woman being chased by zombies has her react in melodramatic horror to a surprise approach of a zombie before we see it. It seemed few directors from back then dared have us experience the shock of a terrifying appearance along with the character back then…aka: the jump scare.
It’s Romeo and Juliet…with a witch.
Centuries ago, a woman from one family was buried alive after a rival family accused her of witchcraft.
In current times, a couple from the opposing families plan to get married, and the families aren’t happy. Neither is the witch, who is accidentally resurrected.
This is one creepy witch. She roams the house of the enemy family in her hooded robe, terrifying and killing off the inhabitants.
She’s also working with a cult of family members in a dark dungeon in the basement. Plus, Lon Chaney Jr. makes an appearance…and barely seems to be able to deliver his lines.
Not the most inspired plot, but the witch and the camera following her absolutely steal the show as she lurks around the shadowy house.
DEVILS OF DARKNESS (1965)
It’s beyond me why anyone would consider mimicking a Hammer film, but this movie did…and it’s even more boring than a Hammer film.
A group of friends travels through a town filled with gypsies…and an underground vampire cult. When all but one friend is murdered, the final guy takes an amulet from the scene of one of the crimes.
The vampire cult pursues him to get back the amulet, and there are red-robed cultists thrown in for good measure. None of it helps make this any less of a dialogue heavy bore with no scares, gore, suspense, atmosphere…or actual vampire action.
DIE, MONSTER, DIE! (1965)
Such a great title for a relatively boring Boris Karloff movie.
A guy heads to the estate of his fiancée, but once he arrives in town he is denied a ride there by everyone he tries to hire.
Once he finally reaches his destination, he meets his future father-in-law, Boris Karloff. The wife is “sick” and stays in hiding. Karloff is a scientist secretly keeping a radioactive meteorite in his basement lab.
The main guy and his fiancée, who’s oddly oblivious to the horrors occurring in her own home, constantly hear screaming in the house and roam the halls trying to locate the source.
53 minutes in, they find deformed monstrosities in the green house. She gets attacked by a plant, and bats attack. Then they are chased by deformed humans. One’s face totally melts in stop motion like the face at the end of Evil Dead. The other looks like a silver-faced robot. What I’m saying is, the weird final 25 minutes of the film make up for how boring the rest of it is.
THE UNDERTAKER AND HIS PALS (1966)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before—a restaurant’s success is due to the fact that the owners are using human meat. In this case, they’re in cahoots with an undertaker who disposes of the leftovers…
The Undertaker and His Pals is definitely an early adapter of this commonly used concept, however, it’s more blatantly a total knockoff off Herschell Gordon Lewis gorefests of the time. It’s super bloody, corny and almost darkly comic, has little in the way of character development, and has a weak plot designed simply to deliver more death and torture.
In other words, it’s a totally hip and cool slice of sixties exploitative trash.
The killers are quite melodramatic in their entrances, wearing masks, helmets, and goggles (they’re bikers) as they abduct their victims and brutally mutilate them. If you love HGL, definitely check this one out.