Sometimes, you just want to see something gross and weird.
It’s a common desire among horror fans. After all, the genre’s known for pushing the boundaries of taste, gore, and sometimes even narrative to some wild places, so while it could be great to queue up Hereditary or Beast again, sometimes you just get the urge to see something that’s just sorta… out there. Luckily, there’s a huge range of horror movies out in the world, and a lot of funny, gory, trashy, weird stuff that’s definitely worth seeing. But with so many titles, it’s useful to have a couple of movies as a jumping-off point. So without further ado, here’s our list of old favorites, modern classics, and simply weird offerings to help you find your new trashy, weird horror favorite.
(As a brief note, though, trashy doesn’t mean bad!)
Street Trash (1987, dir. Jim Muro)
It’s only fitting I start the list with a movie that has “trash” in the title, and Street Trash works to earn that dubious honor. Chronicling the exploits of a group of homeless New York City lowlifes in a junkyard, Street Trash kicks off its plot with a discount liquor called Tenafly Viper that liquefies anyone who drinks it, and the theft of money belonging to Bronson, the junkyard’s unhinged despot. While the movie does deliver on all the scenes of unhinged violence, body horror, and grimy sexuality that this premise would entail, it spends just as much time developing its cast of transients and their various relationships, making its scuzzy cast human enough that you care about them, but still vile enough that you don’t mind when something awful happens to them. Street Trash is the kind of movie described as “delightfully trashy,” an insane mix of slapstick comedy, gruesome kills, gritty street-level New York filmmaking, and people dissolving into multicolored goo that sounds like it’d be wildly uneven if it didn’t work so weirdly hard to balance all its various elements out.
Basket Case (1982, dir. Frank Henenlotter)
Frank Henenlotter’s twisted little debut about a seemingly normal young man and the twisted, lumpy “twin brother” he carries around in a basket is so widely hailed as a classic of trashy cinema that it recently got a full 4K remaster by the Museum of Modern Art. The plot itself is relatively simple, with everyman Duane trying to live a normal life (at least when he’s not getting revenge on the doctors who separated him from his murderous conjoined twin Belial and/or placating his twin to stop the little monster from killing and/or eating anyone who gets in range of the basket Duane uses to carry him around). But it’s the little touches that make this all worthwhile, from the wildly expressive puppet used for Belial (the thing even manages to look sad and strangely endearing at times), Duane placing a large order at McDonald’s and dumping the entire thing into the basket to feed his brother, a supporting cast best described as “eccentric,” and Frank Henenlotter’s bizarre sense of humor, a thing that would become a trademark in later movies like Frankenhooker and Brain Damage. It’s scuzzy, gruesome, odd, and surprisingly funny, all the things a good trashy movie should be.
Fried Barry (2020, dir. Ryan Kruger)
Opening with a fake censor’s classification and titles declaring the movie “A RYAN KRUGER THING,” it would be an understatement to call Fried Barry “a little unusual.” Following a ten-minute opening that sees scummy drug-addict Barry verbally and physically abusing the similarly sordid characters in his day-to-day life, Kruger yanks the wheel sharply to the left with a psychedelic abduction/torture sequence guaranteed to give viewers acid flashbacks to when they watched Mandy and flings us headlong into the story of a relatively innocent alien visitor beamed to Earth in Barry’s body to experience life as a human being. The result is a wild but somehow surprisingly touching crawl through the seedy underbelly of Cape Town as the mute alien collides with a chainsaw-wielding torturer and murderer, mental hospital inhabitants, gangsters, prostitutes, drug addicts, and Barry’s friends and family. It’s certainly not a movie for everyone, but it’s a highly effective throwback to some of the shaggier, trashier ’80s movies that manages to add some humor and heart with Barry’s bug-eyed innocence and odd reactions to human behaviors.
Read Sam’s full review of Fried Barry here.
Blood Diner (1987, dir. Jackie Kong)
In the 1980s, Jackie Kong (The Being) was asked to direct a relatively straightforward remake of the Herschel Gordon Lewis classic Blood Feast, about a cannibalistic restaurateur trying to resurrect an Egyptian goddess by sewing the body parts of murdered women together. Upon looking at the script, Kong decided to add her own personal flourishes and some more uniquely weird touches to the film. The resulting movie follows two brothers following the orders of their undead serial-killing uncle to murder the women who eat at their trendy vegetarian restaurant and Frankenstein their pieces together so they can resurrect the ancient goddess Sheetar. But rather than being a straightforward slasher picture, Blood Diner is a wild fever-dream of a movie featuring naked kung-fu, topless aerobics massacres, a foulmouthed brain in a jar, necromancy, human sacrifice, head explosion, a ton of offensive humor, and scariest of all, a ventriloquist who owns a rival diner. While it’s a silly, trashy mess, it’s also incredibly self-aware, has some inventive kills, and lets the audience in on the joke enough to be the best silly, trashy mess it possibly can.
Stream it: Roku
Motivational Growth (2013, dir. Don Thacker)
A 2013 throwback to greats like Brain Damage and Little Shop of Horrors, Motivational Growth stars Adrian DiGiovanni as Ian Follivor, a grotesque shut-in who decides to kill himself upon losing his favorite television set, Kent. Upon accidentally knocking himself out in the bathroom, he awakens to find that the massive pile of mold in the corner (who insists on being called The Mold, thank you very much) has grown a mouth and started giving him advice. But as Kent sputters back to life and starts giving cryptic warnings, suddenly the jabbering fungus seems even more sinister with his “big, big plans” and unusual free-associative rants. While the grimy set design can be a little too effective and the running monologues from Ian sometimes get a little distracting, it’s a strange little movie, one part gruesome horror-comedy and one part weird existential dramedy. All anchored by an amazing cast of character actors and of course Jeffrey Combs at his most deranged voicing The Mold. It may not be quite your cup of tea, but you’ll never see anything else quite like it, either.
Editor’s note: at the time of publication, Motivational Growth wasn’t available on any streaming platforms. Check your favorite retailer for copies on DVD & BluRay.
Tromeo and Juliet (1997, dir. James Gunn)
Troma Entertainment is a rare breed, even in the world of trashier cinema. Their weird combination of shambolic productions, fan labor, semi-improvised scripts, and people who end up in their productions for the hell of it combine to create some of the weirdest, trashiest films ever made, schlock distilled down to its purest essence and fired directly into the veins. Tromeo is their twisted take on Romeo and Juliet, depicting a sleazy blood feud between rival porn producers Monty Que and Cappy Capulet that turns even nastier when Tromeo Que and Juliet Capulet fall in love with each other, jeopardizing Juliet’s impending marriage to a meat tycoon. The movie sets its tone right away when Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead appears onscreen to act as narrator over a montage of violent scenes that get more absurd by the second. If you’re looking for B-horror adaptations of classics, well, this is no Phantom of the Opera, but if you’re looking for something that manages to be deeply offensive, deeply disgusting, and deeply touching and funny sometimes all in the same scene, this will definitely give you that.
TerrorVision (1986, dir. Ted Nicolaou)
Sometimes you just want to see a bunch of loathsome people eaten by a barely sentient one-eyed trash heap, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. If so, this is definitely the movie for you. When the Putterman family installs their new massive satellite TV setup, a mixed signal brings them a huge slimy monster called the “Hungry Beast.” The beast immediately starts gobbling the family up, beginning with the conspiracy-theorist grandfather, and then moves on to luring the swinger parents, their horny friends, and then rest of the family to their doom using a talent for mimicking voices and faces as the assault rifle-toting kid hero tries to stop it. It’s a comedy, but it’s definitely on the darker side, featuring a cartoonish cast of top-tier character actors who kind of deserve their gruesome ends at the hands of an incredibly well-designed creature. It’s considered a classic of B-movie cinema, and it’s easy to see why.