HALLOWEEN IS JUST A FEW DAYS AWAY, and you might be in the mood to watch some movies that’ll give you the chills here and there. Why not look for a scare in a movie with Houston ties? There are some scary flicks out there either made by Houstonians, or set right here in Space City.
Here are five movies that come to mind:
Sugar Hill (1974) — Future Police Academy producer Paul Maslansky briefly dipped his toe in the Blaxploitation genre with this flick, a zombie horror film where title character Diana “Sugar” Hill (Marki Bey) uses voodoo to get revenge on the people responsible for her boyfriend's death. Shot on a $350,000 budget, the movie was based and filmed in Houston, using such locations as the Heights branch of the Houston Public Library, used in the film as the “Voodoo Museum and Research History Building.”
The Swarm (1978) — Legendary disaster-movie filmmaker Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) went to Houston for this one, a film that’s been considered one of the worst films ever made. Of course, he rounds up an all-star cast (Michael Caine, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland, etc.) as people who try not to get affected by venom-carrying killer bees. Even though it’s seen as not one of Allen’s best, costume designer Paul Zastupnevich did get an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design.
Dead & Buried (1981) — The late Houston Chronicle film critic/cartoonist Jeff Millar partially came up with the story (eventually fleshed out by sci-fi legends Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon, who eventually disowned the film) of this banned-in-the-U.K. horror flick, from future Poltergeist III helmer Gary Sherman. James Farentino stars as a sheriff who finds out the local coroner (Jack Albertson, in his final film role) is creating some zombies. Also starring a pre-Freddy Kruger Robert Englund.
Student Bodies (1981) — Before the Scary Movie franchise mocked the slasher film genre, this oddball film was the first to make fun of Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. Shot in Houston and at high schools in Richmond and Katy, the film has comedian Richard Belzer (billed here as “Richard Brando”) as a pervy-as-hell serial killer known as The Breather, making creepy phone calls to teenage girls before killing them in the weirdest fashions. If you ever wanted to see someone get taken out with a paper clip, this flick’s for you.
Bad Hair (2020) — Houstonian and Dear White People director Justin Simien pissed off a lot of sistas when he came with this tongue-in-cheek horror flick. Set in the image-crazy ‘80s, this movie has Elle Lorraine as a young, ambitious lady who gets all weaved up in order to thrive at a hip TV station. Little does she know that her weave has a mind of its own, and it’s ready to wipe out anyone who dares get in its way. Reviews were mixed, with African-American women being the most critical.