(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we celebrate the 9th Annual Women in Horror month with a look at six horror movies you haven’t seen that were directed by women!)

Every month is the right time to celebrate female filmmakers, but those of you who like labels and official designations will be pleased to know that February is Women in Horror Month, It’s the ninth for those of you keeping track, and it’s a good reminder that while there still aren’t enough women making horror movies, there are plenty of great horror movies made by women. Near Dark, Pet Sematary, The Babadook, The Invitation, Prevenge, RavenousA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and more all come to mind as known and loved examples.

But as I’m sure you know by now – and as the title of the post suggests – I’m not here to talk about the movies everyone already knows and loves. I’m here to suggest some lesser known titles that you probably haven’t seen despite being well worth your time.

Messiah of Evil (1973)

A young woman heads to a small coastal town in California in search of her father, but when she arrives, his house is empty, the townspeople are wackadoodle, and she finds only her father’s writings warning her not to come visit. That’s some bad father/daughter communication right there.

Crazy cult movies are fairly common place, but few are as creepy and creative as this one. Things just seem a bit off at first as characters act odd and discuss the coming of the “blood moon,” but as the film progresses, their behavior shifts from quirky to violent and deadly. It’s legitimately unsettling at times, with group assaults by vampires/zombies/weirdos that remind favorably of early David Cronenberg in their displays of cold terror. There’s an apocalyptic feel to it at times, both in the cult’s beliefs and in the film’s third act, and it ends with a chilling effect.

Gloria Katz wrote and directed this gem alongside her husband (despite what the opening title credits say), and she went on to write films like American Graffiti, Howard the Duck, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is easily her strangest and most memorable creation though.

Buy Messiah of Evil on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Prime.

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

A small fishing community on the California coast begins experiencing terror when bipedal creatures exit the sea to satiate their desires. Sadly for the townspeople, those desires are murder and procreation. That’s how you know the monsters are mutated from salmon.

This creature feature is straight out of the Roger Corman school of exploitation as evidenced by the riffing it does on past films as well as its gore and sexual violence. The monsters are the result of scientific experimentation by a new fish cannery that used growth hormones on salmon with disastrous results. The Rob Bottin-designed creature suits look good, the set-pieces range from bloody interactions to explosive action, and leads Doug McClure and Vic Morrow are solid as expected. It’s a tasteless cautionary tale that has sloppy fun on its way to a terrifically old school and unhappy ending.

Barbara Peeters worked a variety of jobs with Corman’s New World Pictures as an actor, costume designer, script supervisor, art director, writer, and director. She helmed her first film in 1970 and ended her directorial career with this one 10 years later. That end may be related to her irritation at discovering Corman added two rape scenes to the movie after she turned in her cut. They’re brief, but Corman says he did instruct her beforehand that the creatures should “kill all the men and rape all the women.” Good old Roger Corman.

Buy Humanoids from the Deep on Blu-ray from Amazon.

Spookies (1986)

A pervy old man desperate to resurrect his child bride traps seven bickering acquaintances in a big house with a single intention – to kill them. Of course, being a feature film and not a short he goes about it in the most convoluted way possible. Multiple threats descend upon the unwary visitors forcing them to fight for survival against increasingly odd odds.

Look, this movie’s a mess of bad writing and rough acting, and the first 20 minutes or so meanders like it just doesn’t care what you think of it, but if you give it a chance, I promise you will be entertained. Like the hottest new club in town, it’s a film with everything. Possession, puppets, flatulent dirt monsters, face melting, reptile-like beasts, an ancient Asian spider demon lady, a guy who looks like a tail-less Nightcrawler from the X-Men, a scythe-wielding Death who explodes on impact like a car that’s gone over a cliff in an ’80s action movie, and more. More I say! The last hour is a delight-filled romp of practical effects, screaming, and confusion. It’s amazing.

Director Genie Joseph got her start in Hollywood as a production assistant on 1980’s The Exterminator, but within a year she was writing, directing, and editing additional scenes for the film Spittoon. Perhaps not coincidentally, that’s the same route she took with Spookies. It was a mostly finished film called Twisted Souls before financial disputes led the producers to hand it over to Joseph and have her write, shoot, and edit in entirely new scenes. The result is magical, but sadly she’s gone on to do very little since then.

Spookies is currently unavailable.

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