8. Blood Feast (1963)
While ‘60s horror tended to be less gory than that of the decades that followed, filmmakers of the era didn’t avoid blood altogether, especially not those by Herschell Gordon Lewis, aka the Godfather of Gore. Throughout the ‘60s and early ‘70s, Lewis created tasteless, lurid films that splattered the screen with vibrant technicolor red goo. None of these movies have much to offer in terms of character or theme, but they deliver all the shock value one could get during that era.
Lewis began that approach with 1963’s Blood Feast, which stars Mal Arnold as Fuad Ramses, the psychotic proprietor of a catering business. Through his business, Ramses encounters victims to mutilate as a sacrifice in an Egyptian ritual to the goddess Ishtar (who is actually Mesopotamian goddess, not an Egyptian goddess, but no one goes to Blood Feast for theological accuracy!). From that preposterous and probably problematic plot, Lewis indulges impulse, resulting in a movie that makes up for its lack of skill with pure audacity.
7. Carnival of Souls (1962)
Carnival of Souls is the only narrative feature director Herk Harvey ever made. He spent most of his career directing educational and safety films, including the award-winning “Shake Hands With Danger,” immortalized by Mystery Science Theater 3000 reunion on Rifftrax. And that’s a shame because Carnival of Souls has a straightforward approach to the central haunting that makes the movie feel all the more surreal.
Co-written with John Clifford, Carnival of Souls stars Candace Hilligoss as Mary Henry, a young woman who escapes a seemingly fatal car accident at the start of the film. To heal the trauma of the event, Mary moves to Salt Lake City and tries to begin again. However, she finds herself haunted by a grinning ghoul. Mary’s slow unraveling and the man’s uncanny appearance (played by Harvey himself) chills the viewer, in part because of the dispassionate manner in which Harvey tells the tale.
6. Peeping Tom (1960)
For most of his career, English director Michael Powell worked with Emeric Pressburger on rich and respected films such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and The Red Shoes. In Peeping Tom though, Powell takes a hard turn toward the trashy, with his story about a photographer (Carl Böhm) who films the young women he murders. Despite the less than prestigious subject matter, Powell retains all of his skill as a director, giving Peeping Tom a chilling sense of reserve.
Böhm plays Mark Lewis, an aspiring filmmaker whose retiring demeanor hides a troubled psyche, not unlike that year’s other slasher killer, Norman Bates. Lewis’ troubles stem from the experiments performed by his psychologist father, stripping him of the ability to empathize with others. Despite what the film’s first audiences thought, Peeping Tom reveals itself to be a rich and terrifying psychological portrait.