Disturbing Images From The Dark Side Of The Entertainment Industry
By Sophia Maddox | October 10, 2023
JoBeth Williams annoyed by an uninvited guest at the pool party in "Poltergeist" (1982)
We've got something for every ghoul and boy in this assortment of 60 of the most bone-chilling images from pop culture, sure to whip you into a spooky frenzy -- click on, if you dare. Proceed with caution -- you don't want to be the first dude who goes out to investigate the ruckus in the barn, but you don't want to be the Final Girl either, if you know what we mean. Ready, set -- boo.
In 1982, the word "poltergeist" wasn't one most English speakers were familiar with -- then the movie Poltergeist hit theaters, and suddenly everyone knew about these troublesome spirits. Poltergeist is a German word that translates to "noisy ghost," and the evil forces that torment the Freeling family in this film start out as annoying. Then a tree grabs one of the kids and the other is sucked through a portal and into the TV. OK, we're dealing with something a little more serious here. Given all the chaos, the revelation that the house was built on a cemetery is not all that surprising -- but JoBeth Williams is certainly shocked when she ends up bobbing in her swimming pool with dead bodies.
David Naughton having identity issues in "An American Werewolf in London" (1981)
The Elephant Man's loss was the Werewolf's gain. The 1980 biographical film The Elephant Man was nominated for nine Academy Awards in 1981, including the Oscars for art direction and costume design. It was not nominated for its makeup, for the simple reason that there was no Academy Award for makeup at that time. People complained that there should have been a makeup category -- so the Academy invented one. Alas, it was too late for Elephant Man to win, but at the 1982 Oscars, the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup and Hairstyling went to Rick Baker for his work on An American Werewolf in London. To date, Baker has been nominated for the award 11 times, winning seven.
Medusa, the Gorgon, in "Clash of the Titans" (1981)
The 1981 Greek-mythology movie Clash of the Titans is a masterpiece of special effects. The stop-motion animation by visionary animator Ray Harryhausen looks clunky by today's standards -- in particular, the Kraken (the monster Perseus must battle at the end of the film) moves like something from another world. But if you saw Clash of the Titans when you were a kid, the deadly Gorgon Medusa scared the pants off you. She, too, was obviously stop-motion, but the scene in her lair featured a combination of lighting, sound effects, dramatic tension and general spooky ambiance that somehow worked.
The sadness of a blank expression in "Eyes Without a Face" (1960)
Most doctors and medical associations will tell you it's not a good idea for doctors to operate on their own children. Emotion can cloud your judgment. The 1960 French film Eyes Without a Face provides an over-the-top example of a doctor who abandons the hippocratic oath out of love for his disfigured daughter who wears a creepy mask to hide her hideousness. YES, Dr. Génessier, it is a natural desire to fix your daughter Christiane's disfigurement (which was caused by a car accident) -- but NO, Dr. Génessier, you should not be slicing the faces off of other young ladies and trying to graft them onto Christiane.
Cute kids in "Village of the Damned" (1960) who are probably not a danger to humanity
Are these kids alright? No, not at all. They're the mysterious youngsters from the 1960 British sci-fi/horror film Village of the Damned, and there is something very wrong with them. They were conceived at the same time, by different mothers, and no apparent fathers, and were all born on the same day. They grow and learn rapidly; after just three years they are as large and educated as 12-year-olds. And they have a particular appearance -- they dress nicely, they have the same hair color, they move around as a pack, and their eyes are completely vacant and weird. Steer clear of these kids.
Sharon Tate is the belle of the ball in "The Fearless Vampire Killers" (1967)
The Fearless Vampire Killers was the last film Roman Polanski made before he came to America and directed Rosemary's Baby. But it's useful to know the full title: The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck. So yes, it's a horror-comedy, and it's the only film in which Polanski directed Sharon Tate. (Polanski would later marry the promising young actress, who was then famously killed by the cult followers of Charles Manson.) Tate, wearing a fiery red wig, is an attractive target for the vampires in the film. With danger looming she seems oddly more concerned with attending a fancy-dress ball they're hosting than her own safety. You have to admit, it is an awfully pretty dress, it would be a shame if she didn't get to wear it...
Meet the Xenomorph! Harry Dean Stanton's last moments in "Alien" (1979)
Though it's categorized as science fiction, Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece Alien is really a sci-fi/horror hybrid, or even a horror film set in a sci-fi environment. The titular alien (or Xenomorph) stalks the crew of the spaceship Nostromo like any great monster-movie creature of slasher-film psycho. One character describes it as "the perfect organism ... A survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility." The first crew member to confront the fully-grown alien is Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), who experiences the perfect killing machine first-hand. It doesn't end well for him.
Britt Ekland as the mysterious Willow in "The Wicker Man" (1973)
A girl has gone missing on Summerisle, an isolated island community off the coast of Scotland. When police sergeant Howie (played by Edward Woodward) comes to visit, he finds the locals unhelpful in his investigation, and unconcerned about the missing girl. And then there's Willow (Britt Ekland), the gorgeous innkeeper's daughter, who of course catches our gumshoe's eye -- and gets under his skin. At night, as he mulls over the case alone in his room, he hears her singing from the other side of the wall. She's over there doing a creepy naked dance, of course, to disrupt his snooping. Howie prays to his god, but this is Summerisle, home of The Wicker Man -- the "old gods" are in charge here.
Fashion classic: Elsa Lanchester, the Bride of Frankenstein
We're going way back and straining the definition of "groovy" here, but it's necessary -- Elsa Lanchester's 1935 portrayal of Frankenstein's monster's mate isn't just iconic, it was also ahead of its time. About 50 years ahead -- that's a hairstyle just waiting for glam-punk and the early days of MTV to happen. She's got some unfortunate scars, sure, but in general the Bride is a stylish and attractive reanimated amalgamation of a woman. She's got a look that is working for her. And her beau, her assumed fiance, her boo, The Monster, played by Boris Karloff? Not a handsome guy. Even for a reanimated amalgamation, he is homely.
The alluring Soledad Miranda in "Vampyros Lesbos" (1971)
Soledad Miranda was a Spanish actress and singer who appeared in a wide variety of films during the 1960s, but is most famous for her work with horror/exploitation filmmaker Jess Franco. In particular, she appeared in Franco's Count Dracula (1969) and Vampyros Lesbos (1971) -- although she didn't live to see the latter film. Miranda was killed in a car accident in Portugal in 1970, aged 27. In the mid-1990s, a compilation of some of the film's music (along with tracks from two other Franco films) was released as Vampyros Lesbos Sexadelic Dance Party. The album featured Miranda on its cover and was dedicated to her, and became a surprise hit, entering the top 10 of the British alternative music chart.
Twinning, but not the fun kind, at the Overlook Hotel
The creepy Grady daughters in The Shining (1980) play on our natural fascination with, and even fear of, twins. Do twins communicate telepathically? When one twin cuts a finger, does the other one feel pain? That sort of stuff. But here's an interesting detail -- it's clearly stated in the movie that the Grady girls were 8 and 10 years old when they died. They were played by twin actresses, Lisa and Louise Burns, but they weren't twins. The Shining is one of the most over-analyzed films ever made, and the twins-who-aren't-twins have sent the over-analyzers on all sorts of tangents. You wonder whether director Stanley Kubrick pulled this sort of thing intentionally, just to mess with the obsessives.
Double trouble: Mary and Madeleine Collinson in "Twins of Evil" (1971)
Why is Hugh Hefner so obsessed with twins? Actually, some questions are better left un-pondered. But Madeleine and Mary Collinson became that magazine's first twin-sister Playmates in the October 1970 issue. The folks at Hammer Film Productions, the British film studio that specialized in gothic, sexy horror films, had been planning to make a movie called Vampire Virgins -- but when they spotted the Collinsons' feature, they instead began production on Twins of Evil, starring Mary and Madeleine as the twins. We won't give away the entire plot, but we will tell you that it hinges on the standard twin switcheroo devices, made a little more interesting since one of the twins is a murderous vampire.
Bozo the Clown scares several generations of children
Think clowns are scary? Of course you do, and you don't have to read Stephen King's It or watch either of the two movies based on it to feel that way. Clowns have always been scary. This is the most famous clown of yesteryear, Bozo the Clown, who first appeared on TV in 1949 and was seen throughout the country on local channels thanks to franchising. There were Bozos everywhere at his peak, and he appeared on Chicago's WGN up through 2001. But -- really? Who thought this was a good idea for children? This freak looks much more like the stuff of nightmares than lighthearted fun. Yeesh -- make it go away, please.
Take it from Michael Myers -- homicidal maniacs prefer Dr. Pepper
Here's actor Nick Castle clowning around on the set of Halloween (1978). Castle played the murderous maniac Michael Myers for most of the movie -- not the toughest acting job in the world as Michael's face is always hidden by an expressionless latex mask. But do you know whose face is on the mask? William Shatner's. No kidding. Production designers wanted a mask with a frighteningly blank expression, and they considered four options: a Don Post Emmett Kelley clown mask, a Richard Nixon mask, a Leonard Nimoy Mr. Spock mask, and the rubbery likeness of one James Tiberius Kirk. In the end, they decided that the Kirk mask (with a few modifications) had the scary, vacant look they needed.
Can medicine cure Donna Douglas of her ugliness? Find out in... The Twilight Zone.
One of the most memorable episodes of the TV series The Twilight Zone dealt with a woman who was so ugly that others couldn't bear to look at her. She had been to the hospital ten times already to try to rectify this extreme homeliness, all without success. In the episode, she is wearing bandages on her head, having undergone her 11th treatment -- a last ditch effort to achieve a normal appearance. If this one doesn't work, she will be exiled to live among other unsightly outcasts. When the bandages come off, the woman is revealed to be beautiful by our standards (she's played by Donna Douglas, who'd become famous as Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies) -- but hideous by the standards of the pig-nosed race that inhabits the parallel universe where this story is set. Beauty -- it's all relative.
Up to this point, the high school prom had been a good one for Carrie
In Carrie (1977), the titular character (played by Sissy Spacek) has a telekinetic power she's just learning to use. Ok, fine, but that doesn't really become a factor until the end -- the real horror of Carrie is just high schoolers being evil to each other. Carrie is picked on due in part to her mother's loony parenting (mom tells Carrie she's menstruating as punishment for sin), but proceeds to gain a level of near-acceptance at the high school prom -- until the meanest of mean girls dumps a bucketful of liquid cruelty all over her. Carrie was Stephen King's first novel, published in 1974, and the film Carrie was the first to be adapted from one of King's works. King was paid $2,500 for the rights to his book; he gets a little more than that now.
Valerie Leon as Queen Tera, an evil Egyptian sorceress who could really use a hand.
In Blood From the Mummy's Tomb (1971), Queen Tera, played by Valerie Leon, sports some serious bling. There's the headpiece, the beaded top, and the bracelet -- but it's the ruby ring on her right ring finger that really draws the eye. Too bad her right ring finger is attached to a right hand that isn't attached to her body. It's a troublesome, powerful hand, capable of killing animals and people on its own (a murderous ancestor of Thing from The Addams Family, maybe). You have to watch out for the notoriously beautiful Hammer horror babes (Leon would later be a Bond Girl in Never Say Never Again) -- always alluring, sometimes deadly.
Jamie Lee Curtis makes her movie debut in "Halloween" (1978)
When director John Carpenter was prepping to make a horror movie called Halloween, he wanted Anne Lockhart, daughter of June Lockhart, to star as Laurie Strode. June Lockhart, of course, was famous for playing Ruth Martin for six years on Lassie. But Anne wasn't available, so Carpenter considered Jamie Lee Curtis. His decision, ultimately, to cast her had something to do with the publicity his movie might reap from Curtis' mother, Janet Leigh -- the supremely accomplished Hollywood star who'd played Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Really, if you're making a horror film, which would you rather have in its DNA -- Lassie or Psycho?
Janet Leigh is the Hollywood censors' nightmare in "Psycho" (1960)
You didn't see a lot of bras in movies in 1960. Nor did you see unmarried couples in bed, toilets flushing, women with no clothes (even obscured by shadows) in showers, or gender-switching apart from comedic drag. But with Psycho, 60-year-old director Alfred Hitchcock was determined to push the envelope at a time when enforcement of the Production Code (also known as the Hays Code) was waning. Hollywood was feeling competition from TV and foreign cinema, so censors were letting some risque stuff slide. Hitchcock got most of what he wanted: two bra-and-slip scenes for Janet Leigh, the flushing toilet, glimpses of Leigh's body in the "shower scene," and Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) dressed in his dead mother's clothing.
The Creature From the Black Lagoon finally gets the girl
What makes movie monsters so girl-crazy? It seems like it's always been a thing -- kicked off by King Kong absconding with Fay Wray in 1933, creatures in monster movies have been risking life and limb to obtain a lovely young human lady for unspecified purposes. For the sake of argument, say this scaly creature (from The Creature From the Black Lagoon, 1954) successfully makes off with the desirable Kay (played by Julie Adams). What happens then -- do they enjoy an evening of conversation and fine dining, then part ways? Do they dance the night away? Do they live happily ever after, with the house on the lagoon with a white picket fence and 2.3 children? We're not sure this Creature has thought this courtship through.
Linnea Quigley plays a punky creepster in "Return of the Living Dead" (1985)
Zombie horror and punk rock -- two genres (one film, the other music) that ought to go together. Enter Linnea Quigley, playing the punk chick "Trash" in Return of the Living Dead (1985). Trash is obsessed with death, and when we meet her she's chilling with some punk friends in a graveyard, wondering aloud what's the worst way to die. "Well for me, the worst way would be for a bunch of old men to get around me, and start biting and eating me alive," she says. "First, they would tear off my clothes..." Chuck, another punk, knows where she's going with this, and alerts the group: "Hey, somebody get some light over here, Trash is taking off her clothes again."
Dinner Is Served in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974)
Just another dinner party chez Leatherface. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), the whole clan sits down to eat (and like Soylent Green, dinner is in fact people) and the viewer is treated to the point of view of their captive, Sally. There's Leatherface on the right, who has killed Sally's four friends already, the Hitchhiker and the Old Man to our left, who Sally only just now realizes are in cahoots. And the chap at the end of the table is barely-alive Grandpa. There's lots of dead things on the table, the chairs are made of human bones, the lamp at back left is made of a skeleton and the lamp over the table is the skin from a human head. Could someone please pass the salt?
Yvonne De Carlo as TV mom Lily Munster on "The Munsters," mid-1960s
Actress Yvonne De Carlo was a Hollywood star who'd acted alongside the likes of Charlton Heston, Clark Gable, Victor Mature and John Wayne -- but in 1964, she was in debt. Her stuntman husband had been permanently crippled, and she needed work. Though the role of a supernatural housewife on a zany sitcom might have been beneath her professionally, she went at it with gusto, and never expressed regret about playing Lily Munster. At least the got to be top banana in the family of macabre misfits -- Lily was always berating husband Herman (Fred Gwynne in Frankenstein's Monster getup) and her vampiric father Grandpa (scene-stealer Al Lewis) for their foolishness and bickering. And best of all, she got to sing and play the harp! Not a bad gig.
Fowl Play with Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, 1963
Alfred Hitchcock: Brilliant director, self-promoting ham. Hitchcock was famous for inserting himself into his own movies in minor roles, sort of a directorial Where's Waldo stunt, and he never missed an opportunity to build his own brand. He was not gifted with matinee-idol looks (or speaking manner) but he could play the deadpan and aloof Brit perfectly. Here he is calmly tucking in to a poultry lunch while his muse Tippi Hedren fights off a menacing winged attacker -- it's all in the name of selling The Birds (1963), his first film after Psycho (1960). Oh Tippi, do please get those silly crows under control, Mr. Hitchcock is trying to eat.
Checking in with Alice Cooper at the Bates Motel
The Universal Studios Tour is a fun vacation activity if you're in the Los Angeles area, and as everyone will tell you, the Psycho House (also called Bates Mansion) and Bates Motel are highlights. Visiting the set of a legendary horror film about a murderer with serious mommy issues is kind of a must when you're Alice Cooper. The shock-rock pioneer is at home with all things macabre. Although Cooper has acted in horror films such as Prince of Darkness (1987) and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), he never got the chance to work with Psycho director Alfred Hitchcock, whose last film was Family Plot (1976).
Monster Size Monsters, from the back pages of a comic book, 1970s.
Have you ever noticed that old comic books always seemed to have the same advertisements? Sea Monkeys, Charles Atlas, 100 army men for a buck, X-Ray Specs -- later you had Olympic Prizes for Cash, Spalding Presents "Street Ball" with Dr. J and Rick Barry, and superheroes busting villains for tasty Hostess treats. The ads for 7-foot glow-in-the-dark monsters (always Frankenstein's monster, sometimes with a ghost or "Boney the Skeleton" option) were classics. The polyethylene Frankenstein is "so lifelike you'll probably find yourself talking to him." Yeah, probably -- wall decoration and companionship, for just $1.00 and 35 cents postage. Did anyone ever buy one of these?
Blaxploitation gets spooky with William Marshall's Blacula
Blaxploitation emerged as a film genre in 1971 with Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft, and flourished in the '70s with such titles as Super Fly (1972), Cleopatra Jones (1973), Coffy (1973), Black Caesar (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), Three the Hard Way (1974), Dolemite (1975) and dozens more. 1972's Blacula, starring William H. Marshall as an African prince who gets bitten by a vampire and becomes one himself, was the first (and is considered the best) blaxploitation horror film. Others to put a blaxploitation spin on well-known horror stories included Blackenstein (1973), Abby (1974, based on The Exorcist) and Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde (1976).
The Beatles clowning for the camera with bloody dead babies -- what could go wrong?
It's considered the worst album-cover fail in history -- the original cover of the Beatles' Yesterday And Today (1966), featuring the fab four dressed in butchers' smocks and covered in raw meat and dismembered baby dolls. Here were these pop-music prodigies, these mop-topped heartthrobs, the pride of Liverpool, covered in bloody dead babies, smiling. What the bloody hell? Some say the image was a protest against the Vietnam War, others say it was a statement against Capitol Records' "butchering" of their British albums. (Yesterday and Today was released only in the US and Canada, and contained a mix of tracks from Help!, Rubber Soul, and Revolver.) Yeah, it must have been frustrating for the Beatles to see their music haphazardly repackaged -- but that doesn't make dead babies on the album cover a good idea.
There are some who call him... Tim
This imposing goat-horned Enchanter shoots flames from his fingertips is locked in eternal battle with the guardian of the Cave of Caerbannog, the home of the Legendary Black Beast of Arrrghh -- sure sounds like some scary stuff. But a few more details: The Enchanter is Tim the Enchanter, played by John Cleese in the classic British comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and the guardian of the cave is the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog, a small white bunny. "A creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it... and lived!" cautions Tim. "Bones of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair! So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth."
Ingrid Pitt, the apex of Hammer glamour, in "The Vampire Lovers" (1970)
Ingrid Pitt ended up as a sex symbol, one of the most prominent beauties to appear in Hammer Horror films, but her life began with a different type of horror. Born in 1937 to a German father and Polish Jewish mother, Pitt spent three years of her childhood in the Stutthof concentration camp in Sztutowo, Free City of Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). Post-war, Pitt built up a successful acting career, eventually starring in two Hammer Horror films -- The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Countess Dracula (1971). In both films, she played a murderous villain who got what was coming to her in the end. In fact, the role of beautiful villainess was a frequent one for Pitt, even after her horror days were over, and she relished it.
Here comes the bride: Madeline Kahn in "Young Frankenstein" (1974)
Once you go Monster, you never go back? In the 1974 comedy Young Frankenstein, the late Madeline Kahn played Elizabeth, fiancee of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder). Elizabeth and Frederick have a quirky relationship -- she seems to love him, although she is awfully concerned with keeping her outfits and makeup on point for the thriving Fred-less social life she leads offscreen. That all changes, though, when she has an amorous interlude with Frederick's creation, the Monster (Peter Boyle). Next thing we know, her hair is standing on end and she's suddenly all too happy to play domestic -- with the Monster. Ah, sweet mystery of life.
Have we met? Deja vu with the Crimson Ghost
You know this guy, right? It's the Crimson Ghost, the eponymous villain from a 12-part 1946 film serial. The story isn't about a ghoul or zombie -- the Crimson Ghost is a man in a super-creepy costume who is out to steal the Cyclotrode, an anti-atomic-weapon weapon. Alright, odds are you haven't seen The Crimson Ghost, and you know this incredibly unsettling visage from another source. It has been the logo of the horror-punk band The Misfits since 1978, when it appeared on a poster for a March 28 show at the influential New York City venue Max's Kansas City.
Noted axe man stabs self, 1978
Promise made, promise kept. After the release of AC/DC's sixth album, Powerage, a journalist asked lead singer Bon Scott what could be expected next from the Aussie-Scots rockers. Bon Scott's response: "Blood." And indeed, the next release was the live album If You Want Blood, You've Got It (1978). Guitarist Angus Young, clad in his usual schoolboy blazer-and-shorts costume, is pictured impaled on his Gibson SG guitar, and coughing up blood. For hard-rock bands who deal in morbid imagery, anything might prove prophetic, and unfortunately death was lurking in the near future for AC/DC. Scott (leaning on Young's shoulder here), would live to make just one more studio album with the band, 1979's Highway to Hell, and die of asphyxiation under strange circumstances in 1980.
Caution: This frog bites
When horror-movie icon Vincent Price appeared on The Muppet Show in January 1977, Kermit just had to ask him -- "In all those scary movies you've done through the years, you're always turning into a vampire. How do you do that?" Price merely smiled, revealing vampire fangs, driving the Muppet audience wild. Little did he know that Kermit was hiding a pair of fangs of his own. The conversation ends with Kermit latching on to Price's neck to suck his blood. And so the sucker becomes the suckee, and the frog turns evil. This was 37 years before we got a real evil Kermit, in the form of Constantine, the world's most evil frog, in the film Muppet's Most Wanted.
Worst. Movie. Ever.: Vampira and Tor Johnson in "Plan 9 From Outer Space" (1959)
What's the final verdict on Plan 9 From Outer Space -- is it the worst film ever made, or is it so bad it's good? Filmed in 1956 by director Ed Wood (who also wrote the screenplay), Plan 9 was about aliens who plan to raise the dead of Earth in order to stop humans from creating a doomsday device. The cast included Vampira (a creation of Finnish-American actress Maila Nurmi) and Tor Johnson, a Swedish professional wrestler, as well as Bela Lugosi, although Lugosi's contributions were really just footage filmed years earlier, for a different poject, by Ed Wood. The train-wreck production and idiot-savant director were satirized in 1994 by filmmaker Tim Burton in Ed Wood, with Johnny Depp in the title role.
Jason pops up to say hi in the first "Friday the 13th" (1980)
Before the hockey mask and all the improbable resurrections, Jason Voorhees was just the boy who'd drowned in the lake at Camp Crystal Lake 20 years earlier. In the first Friday the 13th movie, released in 1980, Jason doesn't even kill anyone (people die, but Jason doesn't kill them). He makes an appearance at the end of the film, emerging from the water as the last girl alive, Alice Hardy, drifts in a canoe. But Jason can't possibly still be alive after all these years -- is it just a dream? Well, if it's a dream, it's a dream that continued for another 11 movies (and counting). That's some dream.
The mysterious, spooky, and altogether ooky Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones)
Morticia Addams, as played on the TV series The Addams Family (1964-66) by Carolyn Jones, is one of the great sitcom moms of all time. Years earlier, cartoonist Charles Addams had created Morticia, along with her husband Gomez, mother in law Grandmama, Uncle Fester, butler Lurch, and kids Pugsley and Wednesday for his Addams Family panels and strips -- although none of the characters had names until the TV show. Wearing her black hobble dress with tentacle-like fringes, Morticia could be seen around the house playing her shamisen, cutting the heads off roses, feeding hamburger meat to her carnivorous plant, knitting three-armed sweaters, and speaking French whenever she needed Gomez's assistance. The words weren't important -- hearing French, any French, from Morticia's lips made Gomez putty in her hands.
Cover of Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album, 1970
The cover art for Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album is one of the great sleeves in rock history, perfectly matching the band's horror-fueled sound and persona with a haunting image. What's interesting is that the band themselves had no input -- the cover photo was shot by Marcus Keef on assignment for Vertigo Records. Keef (real name Keith MacMillan) captured the image at Mapledurham Watermill, located in Oxfordshire, England. The colors are slightly trippy due to Keef's use of infrared film, and the model (who may or may not be holding a cat) has never been conclusively identified. Like many of the best horror movies, restraint is key -- it's creepy without being over-the-top.
Peter Hinwood as Rocky Horror in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)
"Come up to the lab," says Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), "and see what's on the slab." He follows this flirty couplet with another famous line: "I see you shiver with antici... pation." What's on the slab in the lab is Frank's golden, buff creation, Rocky Horror, played by model and actor Peter Hinwood. Rocky is analagous to Frankenstein's monster, but as with everything in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, he's campy and sexualized, wearing only gold hot pants and wrestling boots. Hinwood's acting career was brief, and he is now an antiques dealer. His famous shorts were added to the Hard Rock Cafe's memorabilia collection, and have been displayed at the Myrtle Beach and Orlando locations.
Labria, aka Louie, aka The Devil, aka Kardue'sai'Malloc
Look at this handsome devil -- a classic demon plucked from purgatory itself. But don't be fooled by the diabolical look, this guy is an alien hanging out at a bar. He's Labria, one of several denizens of the Mos Eisley cantina in Star Wars (1977) supplied by makeup/costume specialist Rick Baker. When additional footage needed to be shot to round out the Cantina scene,writer/ director George Lucas asked Baker to come up with more patrons using whatever masks and costumes he could find. The mask for Labria (known as "the Devil" or "Louie" on set, and later identified in the Star Wars canon as the fugitive Kardue'sai'Malloc) was likely originally created for a horror film of some kind, but its destiny was to end up in a galaxy far, far away.
Make room for Freddy in "Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984)
Here's a bummer of a bathtime -- Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Lagenkamp) has drifted off in the tub, and the supernatural dream villain Freddy is there invading her personal space most unpleasantly. The scene is from the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie, directed by horror master Wes Craven and released in 1984. Freddy, a child murderer who was burned to death by a mob of angry parents, has returned to haunt kids in their dreams. But with his disfigured face and bladed glove, he's not just out to scare the youngsters -- if Freddy kills you in your dream, you die in real life. In all, there have been nine films in the Nightmare on Elm Street series.
A Baseball Fury wants to knock you out of the park in "The Warriors" (1979)
The idea of New York City street gang members who dress in baseball uniforms and wear heavy two-tone makeup is ludicrous. But in the 1979 cult classic film The Warriors, it works remarkably well. This menacing guy is Thurman, one of the Baseball Furies, an Upper West Side-based gang who let their baseball bats do the talking. (The makeup worn by the rock group Kiss is said to have inspired the Furies' look.) Although they're intimidating, and manage to chase several of the Warriors into Riverside Park, when it comes time to brawl, the Baseball Furies aren't ready for the big leagues, and the Warriors easily defeat them.
This shape-shifter from "The Thing" (1982). It is not friendly
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), about a shape-shifting alien discovered in Antarctica, was based on a novella called Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr., published in 1938. The novella had already been made into a film once, as The Thing from Another Planet (1951), directed by Hollywood legend Howard Hawks. Carpenter was reluctant to take on the project because he didn't think he could improve upon Hawks' version. But the 1950s-style special effects and monster costume in Hawks' film did leave something to be desired. Carpenter went back to the original source material, wrangled with Universal Pictures to get an adequate creature effects budget, and made a classic of the sci-fi/horror genre.
What's in the basement, from "Satanic Rites of Dracula" (1973)
What's in your basement? An old exercise bike, boxes of prior tax returns, a washing machine -- you know what? It's not important what's in your basement, the point is, it's not as cool as what is in the basement of the Pellham House of Psychic Examination in The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). When investigators are checking out the creepy old facility, they discover three attractive young female vampires (Maggie Fitzgerald, Pauline Peart, and Finnuala O'Shannon) in chains down in the cellar. It's the sort of plot twist you'll often find in Hammer Horror films, where beauty and sex appeal are the harbingers of evil and death.
Mia Farrow has a bad feeling about her offspring in "Rosemary's Baby" (1968)
Rosemary's Baby was the first film Polish director Roman Polanski made in the U.S., featuring Mia Farrow -- known as a TV actress for the prime-time soap opera Peyton Place -- in the title role. The film tells the chilling story of a young wife who finds herself pregnant under questionable circumstances, and becomes concerned that the baby growing inside her has a sinister destiny. Could it be that the people surrounding her are all... witches? Satanists? Strange events occur, weird clues seem to show up, but is Rosemary just imagining things? The ambiguity and uncertainty create a relentless tension and dread that make Rosemary's Baby one of the best horror films ever made.
Linda Blair having a look around in "The Exorcist" (1973)
For creepy, exhausting, soul-draining religious horror, the gold standard is The Exorcist (1973). It centers on a knock-down drag-out battle between a Catholic priest and a demon who has possessed a young girl named Regan (Linda Blair). The filming of William Peter Blatty's novel was beset by problems, and some said the film was cursed. The house where the movie was being filmed caught on fire when a bird flew into a circuit box. Blair and her movie mom Ellen Burstyn were injured on set. The son of Jason Miller, who played Father Damian Karras, was nearly killed in a motorcycle accident. And shortly after the film wrapped, Jack MacGowran and Vasiliki Maliaros -- actors who played characters who die in the film -- died themselves.
Doctors with reassuring bedside manner in "Johnny Got His Gun" (1971)
Gosh, don't these doctors look comforting! These are the three military physicians assessing the main character in the opening scene of Johnny Got His Gun, a chilling anti-war film from 1971. Written and directed by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun tells the story of a young WWI soldier who is hit by an artillery shell and loses his arms, legs, sight, hearing, and ability to speak. He is kept alive in a hospital bed even though he can neither move not communicate, and drifts between reality, memories and dreams. Eventually, through use of Morse code, he is able to get messages to his caretakers. First "help" -- then "kill me." If this all sounds a bit familiar, you may be recalling the 1988 Metallica song "One," which was based on the story. Metallica used clips from the film in the music video.
Monster magnates Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr, and Tor Johnson
These four kindly, not-young men clowning around with cutlery represent some of the scariest characters of horror cinema through the 1950s. The three across the back are (left to right) Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, and Bela Lugosi. Lugosi set the standard for movie monsters with his iconic portrayal of Dracula back in 1931; Chaney had pioneered with portrayals of the Wolf Man, Frankenstein's Monster and the Mummy; and Carradine had played Dracula alongside both of them. The bald fellow they're looking to devour is Tor Johnson, a Swedish wrestler-turned-actor who often played scary tough guys or brutes on screen. This photo was taken in 1956 for promotion of The Black Sleep, in which all four men appeared. It was Lugosi's last film.
Ballet school goes bad in "Suspiria" (1977)
Starting at a new school isn't easy -- especially when the school is the Tanz Dance Academy in Freiburg, Germany. The place has some issues, as aspiring American dancer Suzy Bannion (played by Jessica Harper) learns when she witnesses a deranged student fleeing the school and babbling about a "secret iris." That's how Dario Argento's Suspiria kicks off, and what follows is chilling, bloody and stylish. Released in 1977, Suspiria is generally considered Argento's best film, and possibly the best Italian horror film ever made. A 2018 remake directed by Luca Guadagnino features Dakota Johnson in the lead role as Bannion, with Tilda Swinton and Chloe Grace Moretz joining her in the cast.
Demonic possession trying to look cute in "The Evil Dead" (1981)
In The Evil Dead, a Sumerian version of the Egyptian Book of the Dead unleashes an evil entity that possesses, one by one, a group of young people who've come to spend a weekend in a cabin in rural Tennessee. It was the second feature-length film made by director Sam Raimi, and it featured his childhood friend Bruce Campbell in the lead role as Ash Williams. Today, it's considered a cult classic (or perhaps just a classic), but the low-budget DIY film needed a couple of lucky breaks to reach its audience. One was the interest from producer Irvin Shapiro, who was able to get it screened (out of competition) at the Cannes Film Festival. That's where novelist Stephen King saw it, and fell in love with it -- King's enthusiastic praise for The Evil Dead helped the film secure distribution through New Line Cinema.
"Has anybody seen my keys?" Director David Cronenberg and James Woods on the set of "Videodrome" (1983)
Director David Cronenberg (left) is famous for the unsettling things he does to human bodies in his films -- and Videodrome (1983) is a classic example of Cronenberg's make-you-squirm corporeal invasion. The main character Max Renn (played by James Woods) runs a sleazy television station and has a girlfriend who finds pain and mutilation sexually arousing. Woods hallucinates that he's grown a VCR slot in his lower torso, and then the dream comes true. Yes, it's a VCR slot -- a VCR was a recording/playback device they don't make anymore into which one would insert VHS tapes. VHS tapes were these big clunky things we used to watch movies at home before DVDs and streaming. See, the movie was on a tape and you could rent tapes from a place called Blockbuster, which doesn't exist anymore -- oh dear, this movie might not be aging well.
Real-life horror comes to the small screen in "Helter Skelter" (1976)
The frightening saga of the Manson Family cult, which resulted in the murders of nine people in an attempt to incite a race war, came into American living rooms in 1976 as Helter Skelter. The two-part, three-hour TV movie was based on Vincent Bugliosi's book of the same name and starred Steve Railsback as Manson. The film is considered one of the best true-crime dramas ever made, in large part due to Railsback's disturbing portrayal, culminating in a tour-de-force four-minute courtroom monologue. During preparation for the film, Railsback has the chance to meet Manson, but declined, over concern that Manson might get into his head. Instead, Railsback watched and re-watched documentary footage of him: "I would watch those eyes, how he moved, how he walked. I could tell he wanted people to think he was a bad dude — and he was."
Christopher Lee and comely co-stars of "Dracula A.D. 1972" (1972)
Today we know the late Christopher Lee as Saruman from the Lord of the Rings saga and Count Dooku from Star Wars -- but in the '60s and '70s he was one of the iconic actors of the horror genre, portraying Dracula in feature films 10 times. Seven of those Dracula movies were made for Hammer Film Productions, the British production company that specialized in stylish, gothic films about classic horror characters played by creepy actors (Peter Cushing and Oliver Reed were also Hammer stars). Hammer films were also famous for their alluring female cast members, who were sort of horror's equivalent of Bond Girls. Here, Christopher Lee is enduring another day at the salt mine with (clockwise from top left) Stephanie Beacham, Marsha Hunt, Janet Key, and Caroline Munro. Munro actually was a Bond Girl in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Hunt appeared in Never Say Never Again (1983), but is more famous for being the subject of the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar."
Sinister cinema verite: "Peeping Tom" (1960)
1950s horror is identified with some classic monster movies and a lot of schlock. But a trio of 1960 films signaled a shift to a new type of horror focused on intimate violence stemming from psychological issues. It's remarkable to think that Psycho, France's Eyes Without a Face, and Britain's Peeping Tom were all released within a six-month period. Peeping Tom tells the story of a filmmaker and photographer who is compelled to document fear -- and willing to cause that fear in his subjects. His movies become snuff films as he succumbs to his darker side, becoming a serial killer.
The stylish slasher of Mario Bava's "Blood and Black Lace" (1964)
A mysterious masked figure is killing young women at a modeling agency -- but that's not all. The agency is rife with drug use, corruption and blackmail. It all takes place in Rome, Italy, documented in the moody and colorful style of master Italian director Mario Bava. The movie is called Blood and Black Lace (1964), and it's considered both the first slasher film and one of the breakthroughs that brought Italian giallo movies to international prominence. Giallo is the name for an Italian meta-genre that includes horror, crime, and thrillers, sometimes with an exploitation or sexploitation element, and usually presented with a mystery or detective storyline.