10 Best Charles Band Horror Movies

A journey into the mind of Charles Band.

Days Band Puppet

In the world of low budget horror there are a number of producers that stand above the rest and earn a spot on the Mt. Rushmore of genre filmmaking. Depending on your age and when you fell in love with this fine art likely plays a role in determining who you’d place amongst your four choices. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, watching lots of movies on the heyday of VHS and the early days of cable, then there’s a good chance one of your choices would be Charles Band.

The son of I Bury the Living director Albert Band, Charles was born with film-making in his blood. In 1973 he made his first film with Last Foxtrot in Burbank. 45 years later and Band has produced nearly 300 films — or 6.66 films a year. The films may vary in quality, which is to be expected when dealing with this many movies, but there’s no denying that his stretch of films from the early ’80s through the mid-90s is one of the most impressive from any producer. This decade-plus run gave way to a number of classics and acted as the siren song to lure in a new generation of horror fans. This Halloween #TheBooCrew (Rob Hunter, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, and myself) celebrates Charles Band with our top 10 favorite Charles Band productions.

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10. Shrunken Heads (1994)

Shrunken Heads

A group of bozos murder some kids because the youngsters have been getting too nosy about their business. Fortunately for the kids, though, their neighborhood has a local Haitian voodoo priest who resurrects them as floating heads and uses them to do his bidding. Richard Elfman, brother of Danny who composes all the film scores you love, directed this one. His brother — who’s won prestigious awards — even lent his talents to proceedings. I like to think that this is Danny’s proudest work. Overall, however, Shrunken Heads is a gem. It’s a kids movie that isn’t age-appropriate for actual children, but that’s what makes it so much fun. — Kieran Fisher


9. Head of the Family (1996)

Head Of The Family

Why go subtle when you can use this title for your film about a giant head who rules a grim little crime family? This comic thriller is a ludicrous slice of Southern Fried noir as characters take turns screwing each other over for cash money resulting in sex, death, and one big, angry head. This is sleazy fun and a ridiculous welcome to Band camp. Now where’s my sequel?! — Rob Hunter


8. Puppet Master (1989)

Puppet Master

Even in the Puppet Master films where the puppets are supposed to be the villains rather than the anti-hero’s, they are never really “the bad guy”. This is probably the most notable departure from practically every film in the diminutive monster sub-genre. The true villains in Charles Band’s living doll franchise are the men, from Nazis to immortal inn owners, who attempt to wield the power of the OG Puppet Master Andre Toulon. While director David Schmoeller’s original straight-to-video opus is lighter on the gory puppet nonsense than subsequent sequels, every single thread you need to understand what made this franchise such a colossal success is right there, from Egyptian spells and Nazi Germany to Blade’s iconic black brimmed fedora and hook. — Jacob Trussell


7. Castle Freak (1995)

Castle Freak

A decade after Re-Animator, Stuart Gordon reunited Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton for this perverted haunted castle story. Although, instead of spooks in bed sheets, the monstrosity that patrols these stone corridors is all too human. The freak is a gray-skinned terror who has a right to his rage, and the film falls on its leads to comprehend his misery. As he’s want to do, Gordon loosely adapts H.P. Lovecraft for his own purposes, taking the ugliness of “The Outsider” and manipulating it into sensational B-movie entertainment. Combs and Crampton have exceptional chemistry even if it’s weaponized against the audience through the deteriorating marriage of their characters. Can’t we all just get along? No. There’s a beast on the prowl, and the petty squabbles of our protagonist are offensive to the thing’s very existence. You think you know pain? Meet the Castle Freak. — Brad Gullickson


6. Rawhead Rex (1986)

Rawhead Rex

Ah, the Irish countryside. With lush and beautiful rolling hills of green and potatoes galore, it’s easy to understand how this lovely locale earned the nickname The Emerald Isle. What William Drennan failed to mention in his famous poem is that whole bit about the ghastly pagan demigod with a thirst for blood hell-bent on destroying all that lay in his wake. Luckily, Clive Barker was willingly to tell us the truth. — Chris Coffel


5. Tourist Trap (1979)

Tourist Trap

If you’ve ever wondered to yourself, “What is the best starter film for a kid to get primed to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre?“, then your answer is Tourist Trap. Released in 1979, five years after Tobe Hooper’s seminal classic and just on the heels of John Carpenter’s Halloween, David Schmoeller’s Tourist Trap feels like a synthesis of both the past and the future. Retaining elements of the early 70s grittier backwoods horror with the heightened theatricality of the 80’s slasher, Tourist Trap feels out of time. With a story that features elaborate mannequin puppets and traps, plus a killer mask that is seriously off-putting, you could argue that the film may have been better remembered if it was released a decade later when slashers were getting more creative simply to keep a dying sub-genre alive. But what we are left with is a fascinating relic from a transitional period of horror that features not only a score by frequent Brian De Palma composer Pino Donaggio, but also a wonderful turn by The Rifleman’s man himself Chuck Connors! — JacobTrussell


4. Intruder (1989)

Intruder

Jennifer is working the overnight shift at her job at the local supermarket when her ex-boyfriend Craig decides to stop by. The two had a bit of an ugly breakup and after a little scuffle Craig is finally chased off by some of Jennifer’s male co-worker. Throughout the rest of the night someone begins to stalk and attack the store’s employees. Is the assailant Craig or someone else? Dun…dun…DUN! This violent and fun ’80s slasher from director Scott Spiegel features performances from Sam & Ted Raimi, a reference to Raising Arizona and cameos by Bruce Campbell and Lawrence Bender. — Chris Coffel


3. Dolls (1987)

Dolls

Stuart Gordon is one of the most consistent directors to ever work in the horror genre. Everyone knows and loves Re-Animator and some people are also familiar with From Beyond. That said, his filmography is stacked with gems begging to be rediscovered, one of which is Dolls. As the title suggests, the movie is about creepy dolls causing chaos in a spooky mansion during a thunderstorm. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing goes wrong — that’s what. Because Dolls feels right in every way. — Kieran Fisher


2. From Beyond (1986)

From Beyond

It’s probably a sacrilege of some sort to say this, but while I love Re-Animator with my every breath I think Stuart Gordon’s second H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is the better film. It’s still a heavy dose of gory madness, but it trades utter goofiness for sexy madness with gloriously over the top results. Memorable visual effects and set-pieces highlight the horror of it all, and it remains a delirious celebration of dark imaginations. — Rob Hunter


1. Re-Animator (1985)

Re Animator

What would a note say, Dan? “Cat dead, details later”? I’m not claiming that this bracket came down to From Beyond or Re-Animator. But it one hundred percent did and From Beyond can suck an undead dick. In fact it would probably LOVE that. Re-Animator triumphs by being a non-stop charm bomb that brings the slapstick scares from eye-popping start to intestinally explosive finish. The performances walk the endearing line between sincerity and camp, and Jeffery Combs has never been more well…Jeffery Combs-ier. Re-Animator is like being on a lubed up runway train powered by progressively bad decision making and if that doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, joke’s on you because no one is going to believe a talking head! — Meg Shields

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My name is Chris Coffel and I usually write about Nicolas Cage. When I'm not writing about Nicolas Cage I'm usually thinking about writing about Nicolas Cage.