Psychics, clairvoyants, fortune tellers… you’d think with their supernatural powers they’d keep themselves out of trouble, but this ARROW collection breaks us of that notion pretty swiftly. From Fulci faves to Herschell Gordon Lewis oddities via modern indie classics, these horror heroes really should have seen it coming.
Something Weird (1967)
This scratchy, psychedelic ride from the godfather of gore Herschell Gordon Lewis opens with a shocking subway attack and winds its way through karate, ESP, LSD, sex, Cold War paranoia, serial murders and witchcraft to deliver an extraordinary journey into the unknown. After taking a power cable to the face, Cronin Mitchell (Tony McCabe) gains extra sensory powers, becomes a TV psychic, and is enlisted by the government to hunt a serial killer. His horrific burns also make him the target of a very horny witch, who captures him within a curse and poses as his beautiful ‘secretary’ Ellen. McCabe is the stand out amongst some quite stilted acting, as the manic, deranged and morbid Mitch, and there are some campy, prolonged sequences with him demonstrating his abilities. With lines like ““God only knows what he can do with a face like that” and “It’s bad enough with all these murders, now we have ghosts too!”, this is quite the watch and one that’s recommended for its low-budget 1960s charm. It’s truly bizarre and a lot of fun.
Puppet Master (1989)
This cult horror from Tourist Trap (1979) director David Schmoeller spawned an ongoing franchise and became one of the definitive living doll slashers. A group of psychics gather at a California hotel at the invitation of their old colleague, now believed dead, only to discover mysteries of resurrection and immortality, and to be picked off one by one by the murderous puppets. The film employs stop motion animation and some inventive camera work and sound design to bring the puppets to life, and despite some pretty goreless killings, this is a good time – particularly with the puppets’ designs and idiosyncratic ways of despatching their victims. It’s half campy slasher, half supernatural melodrama by way of And Then There Were None. Nazis, slugs, taxidermy, and bad sex scenes all add to the entertainment. Also keep an eye out for an early appearance from horror icon Barbara Crampton.
The Psychic (1977)
Lucio Fulci had a certain fascination with all things psychic and in this lesser-seen of his films – a supernatural giallo – he further explores premonitions and visions through Jennifer O’Neill’s psychic who becomes tormented by deadly foresight. The Psychic – or Murder to the Tune of Seven Notes – employs giallo tropes like murder mystery and amateur sleuthing, with occasional viciousness to the level that only Fulci can provide, but in more of a low-key way than his other entry in this list.
City of the Living Dead (1980)
The first film in Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell trilogy, and his second appearance in this collection, City of the Living Dead is a true shock and gore masterpiece, seeing Fulci revel in gruey zombie hellscapes and deliver some genuinely iconic sequences like the bleeding eyes and vomiting entrails scene, a bonkers pickaxe ‘rescue’, a gnarly brain drilling and a hurricane of maggots. The plot is straightforward: a New York psychic dies during a séance (later to come back to life, mind) when she has a vision of a priest who by hanging himself opens the gates of Hell, and a reporter investigates by traveling to Lovecraft-inspired Dunwich to play part-time detective and see if he can save the town, and the world. It’s all teleporting zombies, religious hysteria and squishy brain gouging – AKA a timeless slice of Italian horror genius.
The Deeper You Dig (2019)
From the enduringly impressive DIY filmmakers the Adams Family comes this creepy and affecting folk horror tale where the line between the living and the dead is stretched thin. Written and directed by Toby Poser and John Adams, and starring real mother-daughter dream-team Poser and Zelda Adams, this is a dark and captivating meditation on love and loss, and another triumph from the frankly ridiculously multi-talented family collective. Poser plays Ivy, a sham psychic who loses her daughter Echo to a tragic road accident. Local reclusive Kurt (John Adams) thinks he can hide what’s happened beneath the dirt but Echo won’t rest easy, becoming a haunting presence as she reaches out to the living. If you were a fan of the Adams’ 2022 Hellbender, you’ll love this (and vice versa – seek them out).
Black Rainbow (1989)
This brilliant supernatural chiller went direct to video upon release, which is far less than it deserved. British filmmaker Mike Hodges (Flash Gordon, Get Carter) wrote and directed this accomplished take on bogus clairvoyance that turns only too real, as traveling psychic Martha (played by an enigmatic and captivating Rosanna Arquette) becomes troubled by premonitions of her congregation’s deaths. This has more late-80s sheen than the other entries in this round-up, with solid performances and an enthralling structure, and is well worth your time.