We're doing an extra special Unstreamable of all horror films this week to remind you to SUBMIT A SHORT FILM to SLAY, our independent horror short film festival. We're looking for your slow burns and thrillers! Giallos and Grand Guignols! Capitalist cults! You've got until August 28 to submit—think about the fame and prizes.
If you're thinking: "Unstreamable? In this pandemic?" Scarecrow Video offers DVD takeout and a great rental-by-mail service so you can safely rent rare DVDs during self-isolation. Click here to learn more about their program.
USA, 1973, 99 minutes, Dir. Bernard L. Kowalski
The pacing in Sssssss (which, yes, I chose for this column purely because of the name) is terrible. There's an old, evil herpetologist Dr. Carl Stoner (Strother Martin), who turns his sorta hot assistant, David (Dirk Benedict), into an unwitting guinea pig, injecting him with cobra venom in an attempt to transform the man into a sentient king cobra. And for the first hour, the film plods along with its rather uncharismatic leads and thin plot.
HOWEVER. Your patience is more than rewarded in the final third of the film, when David starts going full snake. The makeup is incredible, done by John Chambers who is best known for his work on Planet of the Apes. It makes the sequence where David actually turns into a King Cobra hilarious, but also deeply unsettling, elevating this mostly trash film into something noteworthy. Also of note was that Dr. Stoner was based on the real-life herpetologist Bill Haast, who would extract venom from snakes in front of audiences at his Serpentarium in Florida starting in the late '40s. The film also used real venomous snakes that were not defanged during production, giving Ssssss that oily, snaky sheen.
I included this one because I want to see a SLAY submission that has some truly disgusting and unsettling makeup transformations—turn someone into a human-sized cockroach goddamnit! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Italy | France | Spain, 1971, 104 minutes, Dir. Lucio Fulci
Lizard in a Woman's Skin isn't actually about a lizard in a woman's skin. Sorry. It's a psychological horror with strong late-'60s psychedelia. While there are very few lizards, there are lots of lady-on-lady fuck scenes. Some people like that.
The turning point between the '60s and '70s is my favorite era—a contradictory pivot sometimes called Hippie Modernism. The era saw the vilification of the hippie, which is something to get into but not right now. Just know that this colorful trash film has a lot of fun hippie-vilification. And a LOT of acid, which is supposed to be scary?
The film is most famous for its scene where dogs appear to be cut open and surviving on machines. (It's a little like Midsommar if you know what I mean.) It's gory but in a giallo way. The blood is too red. Dusty, even. Still, viewers were legitimately horrified and the prop master had to go ON TRIAL to show that his dogs were just prop dogs. The court was suspicious. I love that.
I'm including this in our horror round-up because we need some psychedelic shorts in SLAY. Let acid inspire your nightmares. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1977, 94 minutes, Dir. Jeff Lieberman
In the film, nice well-adjusted people start losing their hair and having psychotic breaks that turn them into killing machines. The only connection between them all is a strain of LSD they took in the '60s called Blue Sunshine. Their indulgences ten years prior have come to bite these now upstanding citizens in the ass, long after their initial trips are over.
The plot is honestly a bit murky—somehow a Sean Pean lookalike is the only one who's threading the needle here—but the premise is interesting enough to start making you paranoid. What if the psychedelics you took now, along with your open-hearted, optimistic nature, came back to zombify you in 2030? I thought about it for exactly one second before I decided that'd be pretty freakin' sick.
I included this one in the line-up because I want to see a SLAY submission that deals with legalized weed. There are a lot of horror-twinged plot possibilities with state-approved drugs. The Man is never on your side... JASMYNE KEIMIG
Hong Kong, 1980, 102 minutes, Dir. Sammo Kam-Bo Hung
Like most '80s-era Hong Kong horror films, Encounters of the Spooky Kind (great title) is feverish with nonstop and nonsensical gags and stunts. There are arms that extend across rooms, decapitated chickens, zombies afraid of eggs......
Encounters of the Spooky Kind is known for being the father of the jiangshi film genre, which is based around the "hopping zombies" mentioned in Chinese folklore. Not just any basic ass zombie, these freaks are reanimated corpses controlled by Taoist priests. These zombies also, as the name suggests, hop, which is cute. Encounters takes the jiangshi folklore and mixes it with comedy, kung-fu, and horror to create a hybrid genre that's very fun.
Notably, Sammo Hung plays the lead in this. Hung helped lead the Hong Kong New Wave movement in the '80s and has a very silly style of fighting that's, I'm sorry, a little Seth Rogan-esque. Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were both referred to as "Da Goh," which means "Big Brother," until they starred in the same movie together. At that point, Hung became "Da Goh Da," which means "Biggest Big Brother," since he's been around the longest.
If someone could add some hopping zombies to their SLAY submission, it would certainly have my vote. CHASE BURNS
Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. We don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.