Halloween is upon us! Sadly the horrors of the COVID-19 pandemic still reigns upon us, and despite the temptations of getting dressed up in costumes and partying with friends, it is always best to stay home. But just because you’ll be spending halloween at home two years in a row, doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun. Microwave some popcorn and cozy up the bed, you can never go wrong with a scary movie on a halloween night.
I personally don’t watch a lot of horror, but when I do, it’s often not for the thrill, but for the laughs. I’ve always associated horror movies with memories of my friends and I laughing at scary scenes (one of the most memorable ones for me would be the ending scene of Hereditary where Toni Colette’s body floats up into the treehouse—that was hilarious!). So for this year, I thought it would be a good idea to dive back into 80s American exploitation cinema for the best low-budget “so bad it’s good” comedy-horror films.
Among the flourishing Hollywood cinema—where musicals and noirs dominated movie theaters—exploitation films challenged the norms and standards of cinema at that time. Like Hollywood blockbusters, the main purpose of exploitation cinema is to make money. The difference is that exploitation films do not care for production, aesthetic, or quality, but rely on taboo subject matter to attract audiences. Young moviegoers visit the grindhouse to watch screenings of low-budget genre films with gruesome violence, explicit sex and gore—films that would never have passed censorship. Genres of exploitation cinema includes slashers, blaxploitation, biker movies, surfer movies, nazisploitation, movies about nazi surfers! On top of niche themes, exploitation cinema can also be characterized by their poor acting, cheap props, terrible sound, and cinematography. But despite throwing all the things that make a film of good quality out the window, the grindhouse creates cult classics and fans.
Watching exploitation cinema is always fun to me because the over exaggerated acting on top of the obvious fake blood distracts me from all the other terrible aspects of the movie. It is not only funny, but also impressive to see what filmmakers can do with very little budget, and what kind of absurd stories are created without the restrictions of censorship. However, please do keep in mind that these movies are grotesque and contain many sensitive topics, so viewers might want to do a little research instead of diving head first. With less than a week left until Halloween, it’s time to bring back exploitation films.