Public Domain Horror for Halloween | Top 5

Begun anew these streaming wars have!

With the VOD landscape once again becoming fractured as every media conglomerate attempts to wall off their own little garden of content, it has become a whirlwind of inconvenience (and expense!) to get eyes on a bit of pop-culture schlock with which to get your shiver on for Halloween. Well, be afraid, dead reader! Be very afraid, for your enterprising (and cheap!) friends over here at GUO have compiled a Top 5 list of horror movies anyone can watch.

This Halloween, GUO is proud to serve up five horrible tales of terror and the macabre whose copyright has, either due to age, bankruptcy, or incompetence, slipped beyond the grasp of corporate bean counters. All of these titles can be freely downloaded from The Internet Archive and can be owned and shown without fear or reprisal or DRM. No trick, these are a real treat!

Take your blood pressured medication, dig your nails into your favorite armchair, and join us on a journey into the dark.

5. Spider Baby or The Maddest Story Ever Told

This gem of a film is, depending on your past experience, either a dark, gritty take on The Addams Family or a lighthearted peek at the family freak show from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Toss in a delightfully whimsical theme song crooned by Lon Chaney Jr. himself, and you've got a fun-filled fright fest from a family you'll be dying to spend time with.

Following the death of the patriarch of the genetically cursed Merrye family, distant relatives arrive with legal council in tow to take the children away. It is up to the family's loyal manservant Bruno to straddle the line between these folks from the city and his murderous wards to do what is best for the family. What follows is classic Old Dark House story featuring this macabre family attempting to... entertain for the night while Bruno wrestles with what fate is best for his adopted kin.

Lon Chaney Jr. (Larry Talbot (aka The Wolfman)) is charming as ever as the morally torn Bruno. Sid Haig (Captain Spaulding of The Devil's Rejects) gives a mesmerizing performance and the mute man-child Ralph.

Part humor, part horror, all fun, Spider Baby pulls off an ending most will be unlikely to see coming. This one certainly has the cred to pull of its subtitle of The Maddest Story Ever Told.

4. The Last Man on Earth

An obvious title for the spellbinding story of a solitary scientist left alive after the rest of the world has turned undead. This Vincent Price (Needs no citation) vehicle was the first of at least three movies based on Richard Matherson's novel I Am Legend and a fantastic showcase as to just how versatile Price was as an actor. While a much lower key adaption of the source than Charlton Heston's The Omega Man or Will Smith's I Am Legend, this is the movie most deserving of the novel's title. 

Price's internal monologue is unforgettable and he continues to fruitlessly struggle to find a cure and strain against loosing hope in a world turned vampire. It doesn't help that dead husk of his former friend and colleague shows up banging on the door every night tempting him to embrace the futility of his existance. The ending is more reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode than a traditional film, and I mean that in the very best way.

3. Shock

So where do we go after the immortal Vincent Price? Well, to another Vincent Price movie as it turns out. And it's not the one you were expecting. Although, yes, The House on Haunted Hill veeeery nearly made our list, we're showcasing 1946's noir horror thriller Shock.

Janet is a nervous wreck waiting impatiently for her fiance to come home from the second war to end all wars when she sees a murder take place  outside her hotel window and falls into a catatonic state. The specialist called in to treat her is, as fate would have it, the same gentleman Janet witnessed killing his wife. Thus Janet, sole witness to the murder, ends up in the care of the murderer.

What makes Shock such a terrifying story is that it is so very plausible (for a horror flick) and impossible to see any way out. I mean, who believes a diagnosed crazy person saying their psychologist is going to kill them?

2. City of the Dead (U.S. Title: Horror Hotel)

What's the most important visual effect in a horror movie? Fog, of course! And, man, o man, does this flick have jaw dropping impressive amounts of the white stuff on display!

And that's not the only shining moment of cinematographic magic on display. The cursed village of Whitewood was fully constructed and the dark machinations of the satanic cult that dwells there are brilliantly shot by experts that clearly knew how to make the most of the stark contrast only available on black and white film. Seriously, this is one of the most visually striking horror films ever made.

Toss in the megalithic presence and voice of the inimitable Christopher Lee (Count Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku) and an early game changing of the guard (So to speak. Yeah, I'm tiptoeing around spoilers), and this isn't just one of my personal favorites from the public domain, but a treasured classic of horror film in its entirety.

1. Night of the Living Dead

There is simply no way to justify any other film being at the top of this list. Well acted, wonderfully shot, and immeasurably influential, Night of the Living Dead cemented the, now formulaic, pattern of a zombie movie and made George Romero a legend. There is nothing I can say here that hasn't already been said a million times before. Tension, terror, gore, and social commentary combine in a perfect storm with this masterpiece that never made its creators a trace of they money they deserved due to forgetting to put a copyright notice on the film.

And that will do it for your fiends over here at GUO. We hope you enjoy feasting on these forsaken delights as much as we enjoyed serving them to you.

As always we'd like to remind you that...





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