Readers of Signal Horizon probably remember my last article on the subject of B films this past Halloween. In that article, I focused on and recommended several low-budget movies, the cream of the crap in cinema history. That little listicle managed to be a lot of fun and undoubtedly added some spooky charm to your holidays.
However, B movies aren’t just for Halloween. Oh, no. B movies make life worth living at every time of the year. And to prove it to you, I’m going to give you four more B Movies to Watch This Thanksgiving.
The Stuff (1985)
If you happen to be anything like me, Thanksgiving stands out for approximately one reason: the delicious food. After all, there’s nothing more American than finding an excuse to stuff our faces.
Thankfully, we have a movie for that! The Stuff (1985) features an absolutely bonkers plot all around a strange alien substance crash-landing on Earth. Workers find this creamy, white substance and soon discover that it’s really sweet and really, really addictive. American corporations move forward with what they know best: commodifying it! Soon, the substance, here on named “The Stuff,” appears on grocery shelves all across the country. Its addicted consumers, named “Stuffies,” become obsessed zombies, before ‘The Stuff’ eats them from the inside out.
Nor does the craziness end at the premise! We also have a strange cast of heroes, featuring an FBI agent, a former exec who hires him, and a little boy named Jason. This film manages to be a real winner, folks. It has everything: a weird plot, strange humor, and bonkers death scenes. Plus, nothing fits the appeal and disgust of Thanksgiving gluttony like this film.
Here’s where some of you might tune out. “Hey, wait a minute,” you might protest. “What exactly does a killer gator movie have to do with Thanksgiving?”
Truthfully, I’d have to concede to the point. Nothing about Alligator (1980) makes it a specifically appropriate film for a holiday. However, I still think it deserves to be here.
Why? Because it’s a damn fun movie, that’s why.
The plot of Alligator centers on an old urban legend: the sewer gator. A baby gator purchased as a pet (really) gets flushed down the sewers in Chicago. Over the years, the gator feeds on experimented animals injected with an experimental growth serum, funded by the local millionaire and businessman, Slade. Now, our mutant reptile stalks kills and wreaks mayhem on the streets of Chicago. It’s all up to the jaded cop, David Madison, and herpetologist, Marisa Kendall, to put a stop to this scaly menace before it’s too late.
If you’re like most people, you can probably figure out why this movie is crazy fun from the premise alone. Many B movies fail on delivering the wacky promises their covers and blurbs promise. Not so with Alligator! No, this movie promises a giant alligator killing people, and, by God, it gives you a giant alligator killing people.
Perhaps the most famous scene involves the wedding of Slade’s daughter. Yes, we get a wedding party scene. Yes, the alligator attacks. And oh yes, the execution delivers on all the goofy awesomeness that entails.
If the film suffers from one weakness, it’s David Slade. The actor tries his best with what he’s given. However, the character is a giant, overdone cliche even for the time period. By far, Marisa Kendall, the herpetologist and reptile lover, would have made a better protagonist. Why our monster even happens to be her former pet! It makes wonderful sense to have her as our protagonist.
Oh, well. No movie is perfect. But Alligator comes close to that mad perfection the best of B movies provide.
Chopping Mall (1986)
Most cinema buffs know that the best films transcend the moments in time they’re created. Their themes and craft outlive us all, remaining as relevant as ever.
Chopping Mall (1986), however, is not one of those films. This movie lives breathes and spews the 80s. From the hair to the clothes to the never-ending synth score Chopping Mall belongs in this era. With the overall aesthetic Chopping Mall could never have come from a different time or place. This schlockfest lives as a time capsule, and it’s honestly all the better for it.
So, what’s the plot? Well, as the title might suggest, Chopping Mall takes place in a typical 80s mall. However, this mall contains one big new draw: a state-of-the-art security system of “Protectors.” These “Protectors” are a group of three security robots. As shown in the demo film that makes up the first five minutes of the film’s screen time, these robots have everything: lasers, a taser gun, and sleep darts. When the mall’s employees bring up some obvious design flaws (such as their ridiculous lethality), the company’s CEO reassures them they have nothing to worry about.
Naturally, this means everything goes wrong. In this film’s case, a bit of stock lightning imported directly from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab is all it takes for the “Protectors” to become the “Killbots” (the film’s original title). And, because it’s the 80s, of course, some teenage employees (played by thirty-year-olds) decide that tonight’s the perfect night for some fun after hours in the mall…
Seasoned viewers of the genre know what to expect from this premise. Some might argue that the movie might sound too predictable. In fact, despite the use of more stereotypical tropes Chopping Mall really excels at being fun, not once boring the viewer. The pace is perfect, the acting’s hokey, and the dialogue is incredible. In no other kind of film, for example, will you get such a banger like, “Let’s send those fuckers a Rambogram.”
More importantly, Chopping Mall fits the general mood of Thanksgiving pretty well. Everyone knows that, once the turkey’s digested, we’re all going shopping for the upcoming holidays. Even if malls are dying now, why not revisit that glorious consumerist euphoria with this outrageous movie?
The Boneyard (1991)
Unlike the rest of the films on this list, The Boneyard fits the assignment pretty well. It actually takes place on Thanksgiving Day! Score one for those rare Thanksgiving holiday film enjoyers.
But, of course, I didn’t just include this film for its setting. Just like many of the other movies here, The Boneyard features a rather ridiculous premise. A small town’s police force, mainly a detective and deputy, enlist the help of a traumatized psychic to help solve a recent crime. In the wake of their investigation, the psychic uncovers a terrible secret: a trio of zombified children from hundreds of years in the past! Trapped inside the morgue of a rundown hospital, our heroes must figure out how to kill these zombie kids, endure the insults of secretary Mrs. Poopinplatz (as played by Phyllis Diller), and escape home.
Compared to previous plots, some of you might think, “This doesn’t sound as crazy. If anything, it sounds like a typical zombie film.”
To that, I will give you three words: zombie mutant poodle. Yes, Phyllis Diller’s character has a poodle. And yes, that poodle becomes a zombified monster. It’s pretty damn glorious.
However, that’s not the only draw to the film. This $850,000 direct-to-DVD film also features some pretty decent special effects, creepy zombie kids, and some solid performances. In particular, Phyllis Diller hams it up plenty in all her scenes. The heroine’s actress, Deborah Rose, also gives a notable performance herself. It’s kind of amazing this appears to be her only role outside tv comedies.
All in all, this obscure gem deserves some of your love this Thanksgiving. Even if you don’t like it, wouldn’t you like to be the one in your family to boast that you saw a giant zombie mutant poodle in full cinematic glory?
And that’s all for this holiday, folks! I hope my recommendations give you some much-needed horror goodness at a pretty saccharine time of year. I’m sure many of you will not find any of these as good family viewing. But isn’t that the point? Don’t we have enough family-friendly programming to go around this time of year? So, if anything, I hope I at least make your Thanksgiving spooky and goofy.
Lyana Rodriguez (they/them) is a queer Cuban-American writer living in Miami, Florida. Their greatest interests include monsters, animals, nature writing, and staring way too long at the birds in their garden. You can find more of Lyana’s writing in their intersectional horror blog, Dark Intersections.