The Top Ten Horror Films With A Local Connection To Watch This Season

Celebrate the Countdown to Halloween by Seeking Out These Horrors with a Local Connection!

Happy September, my fellow Halloween fanatics! It’s the Phantom of the Ville here, thumbing through the DVD collection in my secret underground home theater. It’s less than two weeks now until many of the local haunted attractions will be open for business, but if you’re like me, you’re already hungry for some Halloween horror.

I’ve sorted through the good, the bad and the grizzly to come up with a list of locally related horror films to feed your Halloween craving until well into October. Some of these films might be pretty hard to find, while others will likely be playing 24 hours a day on cable the last couple of weeks before Halloween. Some of them are certified horror classics while others should be certified insane, but all of them have a Louisville and/or Kentucky connection. Without further ado, let us commence au festival!

10. Dead Moon Rising (2007) None of the the films on this list are more grassroots, 100% Louisville created than Mark Poole’s low budget zombie opus. This was the film that made a local celebrity of star, Jason Crowe, who has gone on to become a force in the low budget horror film business. The production infamously amassed it’s massive zombies VS bikers climax by inviting thousands of local horror fans to show up in zombie makeup to appear in the downtown Louisville zombie apocalypse. These very extras ultimately became the customers for the first wave of DVDs pressed, all of who wanted a copy of the movie they appeared in! Genius on the Roger Corman level, if you ask me.

9. The Death Tunnel (2005) The Booth Brothers sick love song to the scariest literally haunted building in Louisville, the Waverly Hills Sanitorium, and even more specifically to Waverly’s infamous “Body Chute.” Personally, I’m not a fan of this film and it’s crazy, scatterbrained editing. It’s the kind of film where the first thing the “hot” girls do when visiting a supposedly decades abandoned sanitorium is to strip and take a hot shower in the basement. Good thing the hot water heater has been maintained all these years! On a positive note, the cinematography of Waverly’s massive and scary structure is very good and the film also features scenes shot at the University of Louisville and at Phoenix Hill Tavern.

8. The Legend of Pope Lick (1989) Local filmmaker Ron Schildknecht’s 16 minute short film is based on one of Eastern Jefferson Counties’ most infamous urban legends, the Goatman of the Pope Lick Railroad Trestles. Historically, this film has been difficult to see if you missed the original theatrical premiere and festival screenings. For years only Wild & Woolly Video owned a VHS copy, but now there is apparently a DVD loaded with special features available here: www.ronschildknecht.com/films/popelickmonster.html. I wrote about the history of the Pope Lick legend recently here: www.louisvillehalloween.com/the-goatman-blues-the-legend-of-pope-lick-then-and-now/.

7. Overtime (2011) Local director Matt Nieoff’s recent hitman/zombie/alien/action/comedy genre blender mostly works on all those levels! Two bumbling badass hitmen who only kill “bad guys” played by local wrestling legend, Al Snow, and upcoming actor, John Wells, are sent on a routine hit only to stumble into a horrorific situation where human hosts have become infected with nasty little aliens that turn them into flesh eating Zaliens! Limited quanities of DVDs were sold this year at Fright Night Film Fest, and a national DVD release is due this January. For a live action, interactive “Overtime” experience don’t miss “Xterminate: Zalien Attack” at the Asylum Haunted Scream Park which opens September 21st.

6. Dummy (2011) David Buchert, a Prospect naitive come Nashville filmmaker is someone whose horror film career I feel is worth watching. His debut film, “Blood Oath (2007),” which was written by Louisvillian David Meier Smith, is available on the Troma films label. It’s a throw back to 80’s slasher cinema, and it’s worth a look too, but this new 30 minute short film made the list because it shows Buchert’s great maturity as a horror filmmaker. It’s also a slasher film, but it has more in common with the Italian Giallo genre. The beautiful, smooth camera work and long tracking shots bare a resemblance to the work of Italian Master of Horror, Dario Argento. I bought a copy of the DVD on a two film compliation called “In the Dark” at Fright Night Film Fest. UPDATE: “Dummy” can be purchased on DVD for $10 at http://www.scarymerch.com/ and it will also screen at Scarefest in Lexington which takes place Sept. 28-30.

5. Race with the Devil (1975) It’s “Easy Rider” VS Satan! Kentucky native, Warren Oates, who went to high school in Louisville and attended the University of Louisville before becoming one of Hollywood’s greatest character actors teams up with Peter Fonda in this road movie /horror flick from the 1970’s. Oates and Fonda are on a road trip vacation with their wives in a new winnebago when they stumble across what they think is an orgy going down in the desert only to realize to their horror that they’ve witnessed a human sacrifice performed by a Satanic cult! To make matters worse, the cult members know they’ve seen them and now Oates and Fonda must fight their way to safety in a chase across the desolate back country. For more wild Oates, I also recommend one of my favorite episodes of Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” TV series, “The Hollow Watcher.”

4. Abby (1974) “Exorcist” knock-offs like “The Possession” continue to this day, but this is the only one shot completely in Louisville! William Girdler’s controversial blaxplotation demonic possession thriller stars the legendary Shakespearean actor, William Marshall (That’s Blacula himself!), as the exorcist who must confront a possessed Carol Speed in a long closed Louisville Jazz club! Lots of great Louisville locations are on display here amid the demonic shenanigans, and the movie is a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

3. Dracula (1931) The original bloodsucker and the first of the classic Universal Monster series was directed by Louisvillian, Todd Browning. Bela Lugosi and his odd Hungarian accent (he spoke English phonetically at the time) made such an impact on the popular culture that his image is now the defining image of the Transylvanian Count despite appearing nothing like described in Bram Stoker’s novel. Although the film is a bit creaky by modern standards and lacks a musical score, the first fifteen minutes set in Dracula’s castle does showcase marvelous, massive cobwebbed sets and plenty of creepy atmosphere. Browning went on to also direct the infamous, “Freaks (1932),” which would also make perfect Halloween viewing.

2. Halloween (1978) The most obvious choice on this list, Kentucky raised director John Carpenter’s masterpiece of shadow and suspense could easily be swapped with Number One on any Top Ten Horror Films list, not just a locally connected one. Its influence on Modern Horror Cinema is undebatable, and there’s very little about “Halloween” that can be said that hasn’t already been said. Carpenter’s Bowling Green, KY roots seep into every frame to the extent that even though the film was shot in Los Angeles (and palm trees occasionally slip into frame), it FEELS like the MidWestern neighborhoods we’re all familiar with in the Ville. If you turn on your television set anytime in the month of October, this film will likely be playing on more than one channel at any given time.

1. Return of the Living Dead (1985) Dan O’Bannon’s (“Alien” screenwriter) punk rock zombie masterpiece is still, and will likely remain, the favorite theatrical screening experience of my mortal life. Opening night at the legendary and much missed Showcase Cinemas on Bardstown Road was as much an impromptu celebration of Louisville youth as it was a movie screening. When the film’s curmudgeon Army general announced to his superiors that the Trioxin 245 zombie canisters had turned up in LOUISVILLE, KY someone in the middle of the audience threw their popcorn into the air and ran up the aisle screaming, “Nooooooo!” Production Designer, William Stout, told me that his wife was from Louisville and he believes that fact somehow encouraged O’Bannon to set the film in the Ville. Stout’s EC Comics influence gave us one of the greatest zombies ever created for the silver screen, Tarman, and a phenomenal cast of great character actors pulled off a miracle of low budget horror cinema.

Please feel free to add your own favorite local horror gems in the Comments/Reviews section below, and don’t be afraid to debate my own choices! See you next week!

The Phantom of The Ville

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