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 dead friend.
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 experiments.
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 dream sequences.
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 servant.
The Disembodied (1957)
A photographer on an expedition in the jungle runs afoul of a voodoo cult.
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 alter-ego.
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 deadly threat.
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 (2.15 "Phases").
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 created.
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 creature.
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 alien-invasion films).
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 threatening horror.
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 Girl").
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The first in a series about a monster which kills you in your dreams.
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 intentions.
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").


<<BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.>>

John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sun Sep 26 12:58:43 2004