The twelve horror movies on this list feel a lot like cult classics, but going by my personal method to decide what constitutes cult cinema and what doesn’t none of these is actually one.
My personal method, like I wrote elsewhere on this website, to decide if a movie deserves the cult classic status is very simple.
If the movie in question was either made or produced (distribution doesn’t count) by a big studio, that disqualifies it from being called a cult classic by me.
I used IMDb’s rating to order this list, it’s ordered from the lowest-rated to the highest.
12. The Funhouse (1981)
Universal produced this horror gem. This movie is neither like “Carnival of Blood” (1970) or “Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood” (1973). This is a well-written and equally well-filmed horror classic by Tobe Hooper.
I named those two movies that came before because I think that, somewhat, what “The Funhouse”, which in certain parts looks very b-grade, does is what those other two movies tried to do and failed, a scary horror movie set in an amusement park.
It may be that I’m a fan of dark rides and ghost trains and every other similar amusement, but I’m very upset to see this movie as the lowest rated of this batch.
This movie is purely and simply a love letter to the lovers of the theme park, amusement park, and funfair. The whole of the first third of the movie is spent getting to know the park, its rides, and the personages that populate it.
11. Of Unknown Origin (1983)
No, the man in the movie’s poster is not Walter “Heisenberg” White. It’s actually Peter Weller. The plot of this movie is more or less this: Robocop, now a yuppie, meets rat, rat decides to set up camp in Robocop’s apartment, rat makes Robocop crazy, you can imagine the rest.
10. Zeder (1983)
“Zeder” was one of those movies with that hard to pinpoint something that makes it very clear that the item in question is a product of the 1980s.
It’s hard to tell from where the feeling may come, it may be a product of the iconic technology used to film it, it may be a less objective sensation caused by a combination of elements. I don’t know. But “Zeder” is one of those movies that feel totally 1980s to me.
Another example of what I’m saying, that came to my mind while writing this, is “Lair of The White Worm”. That’s another movie with that strange 1980s atmosphere, that I feel in many horror movies of that decade.
Anyway, be warned that the plot in Zeder is a very, very slow burn. This movie may annoy you and bore you for nigh 85-95% of its running time, but when the payoff at the end comes, it’s going to amaze you.
9. Dead of Winter (1987)
This is a movie to watch deep into the winter, in one of these lonely, cold nights where spring still seems a faraway dream.
Not many movies made me feel like “Dead of Winter”, and I’m an addict to its feels and looks. Some day you’ll be able to get a list on this site that will group this movie with many other midnight specials (as I love to call them) like it.
8. Inferno (1980)
Argento’s output is way too long and interspersed with Giallo cinema. It is going to be a chore for me the day I decide to curate his movies to separate the horror gold from the (as I see them) inferior Giallo productions that don’t interest me as much as his pure horror movies.
I know that it’s not what I’m going to say, just stupid, but also a gross generalization or comparison, but I think this could be considered a spin-off of Argento’s Mothers saga, it’s about witches, and we all know that witches are Dario’s forte.
7. Elvira: Mistress of The Dark (1988)
The first movie with exuberant Elvira in the lead may fool many as its status, but since it was produced by (among others) NBC Productions, its status as a cult classic remains dubious to me.
I would classify EMoTD as a black comedy with horror elements, still, you can’t deny that Cassandra Petersen is a heavyweight in the horror arena since the 1980s and, like it or not, pretty much Vampira’s successor, so that makes both this movie and the sequel interesting for horror fans.
6. Body Double (1984)
A movie about a claustrophobic horror b-movie star. Not much else to say about “Body Double”, other than Melanie Griffith characterized as a young woman of the era (rather punk-ish), looks gorgeous in this flick; she was 28 years old, by the way.
5. Dark Night of The Scarecrow (1981)
It hurts to call this movie just a relative cult classic, but it’s not clear to me who produced it.
IMDb only shows Wizan productions in the free version of the website, but in a different database CBS appears as its production house, so TDNoTS as not a cult classic is still debatable for me.
4. The Hidden (1987)
If we consider “Twin Peaks”, “Roswell” (1994), and “The Hidden”, we could say that Kyle MacLachlan is a genre actor for the weird. This movie certainly looks like what you’d call a cult film. Yet, it was produced by Warner Brothers’ subsidiary New Line Cinema.
3. White Dog (1982)
A rather bizarre, if not that unthinkable, movie produced by Paramount. Movies in general teach a lot of stuff, and the thing you’re going to learn in this one belonging to the horror drama genre, I guess that is a very difficult thing to learn, and the odds of learning it by yourself are virtually zero.
2. Warlock (1989)
This is a well-done little movie, with a thrilling plot and interesting setting. It has all the trappings of a cult classic and more. Yet, it isn’t one, since it was produced by Fox.
1. The Night Stalker (1974)
The introduction of the endearing paranormal detective Kolchak to audiences. This movie shouldn’t be classified as a cult classic, even if it is super-cheesy. It is actually a TV movie that was produced by Universal.
It also works as a pilot for the TV series, but IMDb doesn’t make that fact obvious and even gives the database entry for the whole series and hence a wrong running time.
Conclusion: Cult Classics or Not
I’m not actually satisfied with the audiences perception and rating of these movies. They seem to favor the ones that look and feel more accomplished as horror cult classics even if they, going by my method, can never be considered as such.