Howdy, dope fiends! It’s no secret there’s plenty of entertainment that can be improved with certain substances–ask anyone who has ever gone to a Phish show or sat through an entire infomercial. Horror movies are no exception. There’s no shortage of bizarre and freaky splatter flicks that get even weirder under the influence. If you’re looking for a trip, I’ve picked out 5 of my favorites (along with a recommended dosage to get into the right headspace). And hey, if you choose not to partake, these celluloid fever dreams might be the closest you can get to an altered state.
But before we go any further, let me toss out a quick DISCLAIMER to protect my ample ass. To any narcs out there… this article is for entertainment purposes only. That means two things. 1) Ma, if you’re reading this, assume I’m clean as a nun after her Sunday bath. 2) Know your limits and adjust accordingly! Kleaver and Deadman’s Tome take no responsibility if you puke all over your favorite t-shirt. Now that we’ve gotten that legal mumbo-jumbo out of the way, let’s dive right in. So grab your buds (heh heh) and some munchies, because it’s 5 o’clock (or forty minutes prior) somewhere!
#1 House / Hausu. Japan, 1977. Dir. Nobuhiko Obayashi
Recommended Dosage: 1 tab of acid or 5 giant bong rips.
If you haven’t seen this psychedelic nightmare yet, you’re in for a treat. Gorgeous and her six teenybopper girlfriends head out to auntie’s house in the Japanese countryside. (Each of the schoolgirls is conveniently given one personality trait and a related name, a la the Seven Dwarves.) Unfortunately, auntie is a witch and has an army of household objects that are ready to come to life and kill!
House is like a demented lovechild conceived in a threeway between a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Evil Dead II, and a Monkees record played backwards. Keep an eye out for my favorite parts, like the disembodied head with a penchant for biting asses, or auntie waltzing with a cheap-o skeleton (rattle them plastic bones!), or the piano that eats people, or a bear serving up ramen noodles… for some reason. The whole thing ends with an ocean of blood that matches The Shining’s elevator in sheer volume. Pay close attention to the fate of the girls’ useless “white knight” teacher, Mr. Togo. You’ll never look at a banana the same way again. According to my Wikipedia research, no one at Toho Studios wanted to direct this picture because they feared it would be a career-killer. Their loss. House is a true gem, and even received a Criterion Collection release.
#2 Tromeo & Juliet. USA, 1996. Dir. Lloyd Kaufman
Recommended Dosage: 1 line of Adderall, 1 pint of rum, and the endorphin rush from a self-inflicted safety pin piercing.
Most of Troma’s movies could fit on this list, but why not class things up with their only Shakespearean adaptation, written by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn? You’re definitely going to need a stimulant to keep up with the punk-rock madness contained in this film. In the first ten minutes alone you’ll witness a mumbled speech by Motorhead’s Lemmy (R.I.P.), a dead squirrel, actual footage of a nipple piercing, and finger removal by way of a desktop paper cutter.
The campy, scenery-chewing acting is better than most Troma flicks… well, some of it. Valentine Miele, who plays the Mercutio role, is particularly entertaining. The film loses something after he meets his fate at the end of a Hitler-faced hammer. It doesn’t take long for shit to get really weird: Rats crawl out of a pregnant stomach, Tromeo and Juliet fuck inside of a see-through box (“What light from yonder Plexiglass breaks?”), and a monstrous dong threatens our fair heroine. For maximum enjoyment, drink whenever the characters do, or when someone gets their head caved in. You’ll get good and fucked up. I’m still waiting for Uncle Lloyd to tackle Hamlet!
#3 Suspiria. Italy, 1977. Dir. Dario Argento
Recommended Dosage: 1 joint and a glass of red wine.
It’s a classic of horror cinema, but I’m not sure how people watch this one without cannabis. After a few hits, the ever-present red/yellow/blue color scheme practically jumps off the screen, and the repetitive score improves immensely. The first kill, with a beating heart and shattered glass ceiling, remains my favorite. But Argento is a master of jarring images–the maggots in the attic never fail to make me gag. See if your pot-addled brain can figure out some of the stranger stuff in this film. Why does the foyer of the dance academy have blue velvet walls? What’s the deal with the little kid with the bowl-cut and short shorts? Does Goblin know more than three songs? Like a lot of the Italian horror films of this era, the pacing can drag at times. There’s no shame if you fall into a kush coma; just make sure to tune back in for Suzy’s showdown with the decrepit coven queen at the end.
#4 Brainiac / El Baron Del Terror. Mexico, 1961. Dir. Chano Urueta
Recommended Dosage: As much Tecate as you can drink.
This turkey demands a Mystery Science Theater-style riffing, so do what I do: slam back some watery Mexican brews and start yellin’ at the screen! The titular Baron/Brainiac, a necromancer and all-around bad dude, is burned at the stake in 1661. He swears revenge, and returns 300 years later as a rubber-masked monster with a kung-fu beard and a taste for grey matter. (He should’ve gotten a job as a gigolo in Tijuana instead. The Baron’s tongue is longer than Gene Simmons’, and his hands end in odd, tube-like fingers that could fit snug around some south-of-the-border boners.) The plot follows a pretty standard mid-century fright flick formula. The Baron meets a hapless victim and sucks out their brains, while the protagonists bumble around looking for answers. Shit gets set on fire. Rinse and repeat for the next 60 minutes. Watch for the Baron spooning brains into a cup like they’re tapioca pudding. Chug whenever the floor is covered with dry-ice fog.
#5 Frankenhooker. USA, 1990. Dir. Frank Henenlotter
Recommended Dosage: A 40 oz. and a blunt.
The cover of my DVD features a review from none other than Bill Murray: “If you only see one movie this year, it should be Frankenhooker.” Take his word for it! Our story begins when Jeffrey, a wannabe Herbert West type from Jersey, sees his fiancee killed in a tragic lawnmower accident. (“The vivacious young girl was instantly reduced to a tossed human salad,” says a news reporter. “A salad that was once named Elizabeth.”) Jeffrey keeps her head, but needs a body. In order to find the perfect specimen, he begins stalking, er… women with negotiable affections.
Henenlotter shoots on-location in New York City, back when it was sleazy as hell. His cast of unknowns adds to the grimy authenticity. This flick is absolutely bonkers! Highlights include flying body parts, purple nipples, and a certain face the revived Elizabeth makes (you’ll know it when you see it). Drink heavily whenever Jeffrey drills a hole into his own skull, someone is topless, and/or a hooker freaks out on supercrack. Frankenhooker has been one of my favorites since high school. At the tender age of 18, your esteemed author began and abandoned a script for a musical version. Maybe Lin-Manuel Miranda can get involved.
Bonus: Brain Damage. USA, 1987. Dir. Frank Henenlotter
Recommended Dosage: A shameful hangover.
If you enjoyed Frankenhooker, check out Henenlotter’s most explicitly drugged-out movie. A phallic alien parasite feeds off human brains while giving its victims colorful, trippy visions. After the hedonistic bacchanal previously recommended, this one a cautionary tale… the sweaty, gory withdrawal scene will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to kick a bad habit. Everything in moderation, kiddies!
About the Author: Philip W. Kleaver lives in Baltimore and writes speculative fiction. His work has appeared in Shotgun Horror Clips and Deadman’s Tome Trumpocalypse. One of his stories will be produced for an upcoming episode of That Horrible Woman, a horror podcast. Find him on Twitter @pwkleaver or on his website, pwkleaver.wordpress.com.