Classic Horror Movies
Buffy episodes are frequently based on taking a old horror movie
monster or plot, and twisting it into high school life. To help
come up with ideas, here is a list of classic horror movies with
some comments on possible Buffy usage.
- The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
- A evil genius kills his victims by campy-poetic means.
- The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas (1957)
- A low-budget monster-hunt.
- Alien (1979)
- A classic old monster-horror movie done with new glitz.
- Altered States (1980)
- A modern twist on an old mad scientist plot: a scientist uses
hallucinogenic drugs and sensory deprivation which transform
him to earlier evolutionary states. This was clearly the
basis for the cursed beer episode (4.5 "Beer Bad").
- An American Werewolf in London (1981)
- Werewolves have been done many times, but this one is rather
unique -- especially for its mix of comedy and horror, and
the dream sequence where the werewolf is visited by his
- Attack of the 50 foot Woman (1958)
- A bizarre film about a woman who turns into a fifty-foot giant
following contact with aliens. She decides to take revenge
upon those who wronged her using her new power.
- Attack of the Puppet People (1958)
- A deranged puppet master shrinks real people to play parts
in his troupe.
- The Blob (1958)
- A campy monster fight featuring the rebel teenager trying to
save stupid adults.
- The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962)
- A psychotic surgeon keeps his fiancee's brain alive after
she is decapitated in a car crash. He tries to find a donor
body for her, with attendent problems from the failed
- Carnival of Souls (1962)
- An eerie dream-like ride portraying the passage of the soul
of a girl who died. It has a lot of material for spooky
- Cat People (1942,1982)
- Here lycanthropy is a family curse rather than a disease,
and brought on by sexual arousal rather than the phase of the
moon. There was a 1982 remake with Nastassia Kinski with
rather less subtlety than the original.
- Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
- This was clearly the basis for the swimmers-on-steroids
Buffy episode (2.20 "Go Fish"). An RPG scenario could
focus on what happened to the transformed athletes, or
where the drug came from.
- Curse of the Demon (1956)
- Demon-summoning scrolls and satanic cults in England. This
was a seminal film in the genre which forms the basis for
a number of Buffy episodes.
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
- An alien and his mighty robot land and try to convince the
Earth to come to peace, with attendant problems. While
difficult to adapt outright, one can easily use references
to this and the theme of the good emissary with a destructive
- The Disembodied (1957)
- A photographer on an expedition in the jungle runs afoul of a
- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920, 1932, 1941)
- A classic of horror featuring a dual identity. This has been
the basis for countless plots. A bit of magic or magical
potion could easily allow a high school student to have an
- The Exorcist (1973)
- A classic of a little girl possessed by a demon. Buffy episodes
tend to be about creatures you can hit, while the horror here
is trying to save the girl being possessed.
- The Fly (1958 and 1986)
- The original was silly but unsettling, while the remake was
gorier but less effective.
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The prototypical mad-scientist/construct film. This was clearly
the basis of the resurrected football-playing brother episode
(2.02 "Some Assembly Required").
- From Beyond (1986)
- A loose adaptation of Lovecraft which explores the idea of
another world all around us that we simply cannot see. But
when we can see it, things in it can see us!
- Gremlins (1984)
- The original of a rather silly theme of little mischievous
creatures as deadly antagonists. It is set in a Capra-esque
small town, where everyone seems to misjudge the small but
- The Haunting (1963 and 1999)
- A classic haunted house film, featuring a scientist trying to
prove the existence of ghosts.
- Horror of Dracula (1958)
- The first and best in a long series pitting Christopher Lee's
Count Dracula against Peter Cushing's Van Helsing. It is
their personal clash which is interesting. This was a basis
for the Dracula episode (5.01 "Buffy vs Dracula").
- The Howling (1981)
- A popular modern take on the werewolf myth, based on the
Stephen King book. Werewolves featured in several Buffy
episodes, starting when Oz first discovered his curse
- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957,200)
- A man at first becomes sullen and depressed as he becomes
smaller, then in the second half fights for his life in his
own cellar. A magical or scientific curse could easily be
the basis of a Buffy episode -- with the scoobies rushing
to find a way to reverse the process as the hero shrinks.
- Invaders From Mars (1953)
- A minor classic which perfectly transfered the paranoia of the
50's into a science fiction nightmare. This, along with
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was one of the basis of the
mind-controlling-bazors episode (2.12 "Bad Eggs").
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1979)
- The original was far more subtle -- the horror being of
going to sleep and changing.
- Island of Lost Souls (1932 and 1996)
- An adaptation of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" about a scientist
who sets himself up as god over a race of man-beasts he has
- It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)
- A campy fight with an alien creature on board a spaceship.
The crew try increasingly outlandish attacks (poison gas,
flamethrowers, etc.) in a misguided fight against a
- It Came From Outer Space (1953)
- A crashed spaceship causes mysterious disappearances. An
important twist is that the problem is resolved peacefully
(in contrast to some of the other Communist-scare
- It Conquered the World (1956)
- An alien teams up with a disgruntled scientist to use
mind-control devices in a plot for world domination.
- Jaws (1975)
- A modern classic. The key with this film is how it
slowly and subtlely builds from a fishing expedition to a
- King Kong (1933,1962,1976)
- An old classic twice remade. Sympathy with the giant ape
is the real key here.
- The Lost Boys (1987)
- Vampires as rebellious youth in Santa Cruz. The key to this
is how the vampires recruit the older brother by the coolness
of their gang.
- Not of this Earth (1957,1988,1995)
- An alien agent disguised as a human terrorizes Southern
California in an attempt to acquire blood for his dying race.
- The Mummy (1933)
- The mummy's goal in this original is to find the princess he knew
three thousand years ago and confer immortality on her. The mummy
only appears briefly as such, as he can pose as a normal man.
This is similar to the Buffy mummy episode (2.04 "Inca Mummy
- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
- The first in a series about a monster which kills you in your
- Night of the Living Dead (1968)
- A classic and the first in a long series. The totally mindless
violence of the zombies is key to the horror.
- The Omen (1976)
- Introduces the demon-child Damien as a classic schtick. The
"Anointed One" of the first season was a nod to this, but
little was done with the concept.
- Poltergeist (1982)
- A classic ghost story, especially notable for how it makes
everyday objects (TV sets, toys, trees, steaks) seem
alive and malevolent.
- Re-Animator (1985)
- A loose adaptation of the Lovecraft work, but also amusing
and horrific at the same time.
- Tarantula (1955)
- Scientists are trying to perfect a nutrient using radioactive
isotopes. Two assistants inject themselves and become insane
mutants, injecting lead scientist Carroll and letting loose a
giant tarantula. Late in the film he becomes more and more
mutated as the creature is hunted down.
- The Thing (1951 and 1982)
- The original is notable for the conflict between scientists who
want to communicate and soldiers who want to kill. The remake
introduces the ability to mimic the appearance of any human,
adding mystery and paranoia to the plot.
- This Island Earth (1955)
- An alien invasion plot with a twist. The aliens come to Earth
in peace, and cooperate in research to save their dying
planet. However, a plot is uncovered of their covert
- The Unearthly (1957)
- A mad scientist creates grotesque zombies in his research
towards the fountain of youth.
- The Wasp Woman (1960)
- Side-effects from an experimental cosmetics youth formula turn
a woman into a monster at night. This was possibly an influence
on the she-mantis episode (1.04 "Teacher's Pet").
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John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sun Sep 26 12:58:43 2004