Top 10 Strangest Low-Budget Horror Films
#10 - THE THING WITH TWO HEADS [1972]
THE THING WITH TWO HEADS [1972] Image

"If you cut off my head, that'll be murder!" According to the tagline: “They transplanted a WHITE BIGOT’S head on a SOUL BROTHER’S body!” Bigot Ray Milland has his head transplanted onto the 350-pound body of former football player (and future evangelist!) Rosey Grier, billed as a "soul brother"! Watch the two heads bicker incessantly, ride a motorcycle, punch each other in the face, etc. Fun for the whole family! Milland’s Kirshner makes Archie Bunker seem like a bleeding-heart liberal in comparison. Meanwhile, Grier’s Moss is a falsely accused death row inmate seeking to prove his innocence. The soundtrack includes the classic "Take my Hand" sung by Sammy Davis Jr. Useless trivia: That’s legendary make-up artist Rick Baker in the two-headed gorilla costume taking part in Kirshner’s secret experiment at the beginning of the flick. Bottom line: A total piece of shit that's worth a few laughs, The Thing with Two Heads ranks up there with the likes of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971).

#09 - SUCCUBUS [2007]
SUCCUBUS [2007] Image

"Evil Never Rests!" Billed as "the first ever extreme adult horror movie," Succubus is a highly original, erotic horror film from Evil Motion Pictures that features two hot adult film stars: Raven Riley (as the "Demonslayer") and Liz Vicious (as "Lilith" the Succubus). Succubus starts out with a series of gruesome murders that shake up a quiet Midwestern town. Raven is a museum curator who teams up with the local police chief to uncover the truth of what turns out to be an ancient mystery. When I first heard the title of this movie, I thought it was some sort of erotic riff on "Incubus" or something. However, I later discovered that in medieval legend a succubus was a demoness who would take the form of a beautiful woman and seduce men in dreams to have sex in order to sustain herself (often to the point of killing the victim in one grotesque manner or another). And so Succubus recasts the myth into a sensual battle between good and evil adversaries with some new and often surprising surroundings. For instance, one scene takes place at a strip club called "Pussy Galore" and the climactic battle takes place at a rundown haunted theme park called "Uncle Joey's Terror Town"! Just think of some of those great low-budget horror films of the late '70s and early '80s, add some hardcore sex scenes and you will get an idea what Succubus is all about. Succubus also stars Brandi Love and Kevin Baxter, and Ron Jeremy even makes a cameo. Bottom line: Although not for all tastes, Succubus was a hell of a lot of fun to watch and essential viewing if you enjoy a totally offbeat and entertaining low-budget horror film with a good dose of hardcore sex!

#08 - WENDIGO [2001]
WENDIGO [2001] Image

A truly atmospheric horror film, Wendigo opens with a family driving to the Catskills during the winter to spend the weekend in a rented cottage. They hit a deer on a country road and have a run-in with a bunch of yahoos straight out of Deliverance. One of the hunters, Otis, is a total fuckin' lunatic. The tension builds up but before you know it the family is back on their way to the cottage. Once they arrive, strange things begin to happen. Fresh bullet holes are discovered in the walls. The kid, Miles, starts seeing ghostly visions. The next day, the family travels to the town's general store. A strange man behind the counter gives him a gift - an Indian spirit called a wendigo. Bottom line: Wendigo served as a breath of fresh air compared to all the crap I rent on a weekly basis. It's not often you catch an original film these days that reflects such a powerful personal vision (especially during the film's first hour). I can usually figure out where a film is going about three minutes into the thing but Wendigo had me guessing the whole time. Unfortunately, the energy and the originality from the first hour are not entirely sustained during the finale—but what the hell, it's still 10 times better than The Blair Witch Project. In addition, the flick features solid acting from a no-name cast. Bottom line: I haven't seen a truly atmospheric horror film like this in many years. Writer and director Larry Fessenden directed a vampire movie called Habit [1997] that I also thoroughly enjoyed. [READ THE FULL REVIEW]

#07 - SLEEPAWAY CAMP [1983]
SLEEPAWAY CAMP  [1983] Image

". . . you won't be coming home!" Another early '80s slasher film that once again takes place at a summer camp, Sleepaway Camp is the perfect film to catch in the early morning hours when you're bored as shit, drunk as shit or hungover as shit. With totally over-the-top acting, a twisted sense of humor, outrageous acts of violence and a mind-bending finale, Sleepaway Camp has managed to gain quite the cult following over the years. In fact, several sequels have been made such as Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989), both of which are notable for starring Bruce Springsteen's younger sister, Pamela. Watch at your own risk!

#06 - CANNIBAL FLESH RIOT! [2007]
CANNIBAL FLESH RIOT! [2007] Image

"We live in a sick world . . ." Cannibal Flesh Riot! is a short (running time: 29 minutes, Festival Cut; 34 minutes, Director's Cut), low-budget film (approximately $6,000) from Mad Creator Productions but I must admit I was totally blown away—it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before! Visually stunning, full of offbeat humor and always original, Cannibal Flesh Riot! also boasts an excellent musical score. Billed as "a black comedy about food," the film takes place in a creepy graveyard where we meet Stash and Hub, two redneck ghouls out for a night of total debauchery, which in this case involves grave robbing, necrophilia and cannibalism. So they overpower the caretaker and then set out to find the recently dug grave of a fresh corpse. However, they soon get more than they bargained for as the situation turns into a comic nightmare. Throughout it all, these misfits, who look like demented refugees from a Samuel Beckett play, engage in long bouts of hilarious, existential dialogue (such as an amusing discussion about the use and misuse of condiments). What really impressed me most about Cannibal Flesh Riot! was the atmosphere, it's beautifully shot, especially when you consider the miniscule budget (and even includes some amazing stop-motion animation!). The directorial debut for highly talented and prolific author/illustrator Gris Grimly, Cannibal Flesh Riot! boasts a wide variety of influences, including German Expressionism, EC Horror Comics, Universal horror movies of the 1930s, B-movies from the '50s and even the outrageously schlocky films of Ed Wood Jr. I found out after watching Cannibal Flesh Riot! that the project began as a concept to combine Gris' art with music composed by Peter Sandorff, the ex-guitarist of the internationally renowned psychobilly band, the Nekromantix. 

#05 - BLOOD FREAK [1972]
BLOOD FREAK [1972] Image

"Only the Blood of Drug Addicts Can Satisfy Its Thirst!" A drug-addicted biker and Elvis wannabe named Herschel (Steve Hawkes) eats genetically altered turkey, turns into a maniacal turkey and goes on a murderous rampage! This is a true guilty pleasure! Interviewed years later, Hawkes referred to the movie as "a sad chapter in my life." Trivia: Director Brad F. Grinter was also the brains behind Flesh Feast (1970), which starred Veronica Lake.

#04 - BLOOD FEAST [1963]
BLOOD FEAST [1963] Image

"A Weird, Grisly Ancient Rite Horrendously Brought To Life In Blood Color!" The plot, for lack of a better word, concerns the exploits of a murderous Egyptian caterer named Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold). Untalented former Playboy Playmate Connie Mason costars. Vomit bags (with the words "You may need this when you see Blood Feast!") were handed out during screenings. The first of a string of "gore films" from legendary director Herschell Gordon Lewis (known affectionately as "The Godfather of Gore," Blood Feast cost $24,000 to make and was filmed in "Blood Color." According to Lewis, "When we opened Blood Feast we had vomit bags, and all that was printed on them was ‘You may need this when you see Blood Feast!’ And people would come just to get the bags!"

#03 - BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS [1972]
BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS [1972] Image

No list of strange horror films would be complete without at least one film from legendary director Ted V. Mikels (real name: Theodore Mikacevich), who also directed such classics as The Astro-Zombies (1969) and The Corpse Grinders (1972). Blood Orgy of the She Devils was billed as "A Terrifying, Screaming Plunge to the Depths of Hell!"    

#02 - TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! [1964]
TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! [1964] Image

"This is gonna be the best centennial we ever had. Dogged if we don't!" The southern town of Pleasant Valley was totally wiped out by Union troops during the Civil War. Now, 100 years later, the ghosts of those murdered have risen up to exact revenge. The "Wizard of Gore" himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis, directed this masterpiece, one of the first of the so-called splatter film genre. 2,000 Maniacs was filmed in 14 days in St. Cloud, Florida, on a miniscule budget. Look for a moving performance from former Playboy Playmate, Connie Mason. Here's an actual quote from the movie poster: "An entire town pulsing human blood! Madmen crazed for carnage! Brutal . . . evil . . . ghastly beyond belief! . . . Gruesomely stained in Blood Color!"

#01 - THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES [1964]
THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES [1964] Image

"You dirty, filthy pig! So, I belong with the freaks, huh? I'll fix you so even the freaks won't look at you." Billed as the "world's first monster musical," this camp classic was shot in only 11 days with a budget of just $38,000! The flick was filmed in "Terrorama" (whatever the hell that is!) and most of the action takes place at The Pike, a now-defunct amusement park South of Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach, California. Although Incredibly Strange Creatures regularly makes it on "Worst Movies Ever Made" lists, it's definitely one of my guilty pleasures with its great title, carnival locale, strippers, musical numbers, incredible dream sequence, zombies and awesome final scene that takes place on a rocky beach! Ray Dennis Steckler also directed such unforgettable films as Wild Guitar (1962), The Thrill Killers (1964), Lemon Grove Kids Meet the Monsters (1965) and Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966), among many others. If you are a fan of extremely entertaining, low-budget films, I urge you to check them all out! [READ THE FULL REVIEW]

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