Often dripping in atmosphere, often rather silly, but almost always incredibly stylish – the Italians are a very distinctive presence in classic horror history. From the stunningly shot Gothic tales of Mario Bava (Lisa and the Devil; The Whip and the Body), to the cheesy, low-budget American imitators that are naff in the most brilliant way, it’s all well worth visiting. The most loved Italian horror classics, whether they’re plot driven gialli (mystery-thriller whodunnits), or supernatural fairy tales, are united by one thing – beautiful visuals. Even if often these films are style over substance, who cares when they’re as pleasing to the eye as Inferno or Blood and Black Lace?
Of course, the sleazier side of Italian horror has its merits, too. Nasty little films like Macabre, Torso and Beyond the Darkness are thoroughly enjoyable if you can set aside your inner horror snob for a couple of hours.
15. Demons (Lamberto Bava, 1985)
"I don't know how to explain it, but it's the movie that's making this happen!"
Lamberto Bava and his contributions to the genre are understandably overshadowed by those of his father, the great Gothic legend Mario Bava. However, he proved himself to be a talented horror filmmaker in his own right when he gifted fans with one of the most unrelenting and enjoyable cult classics of the 1980s. While at first glance Demons may appear to have been conceived as a glaringly obvious cash-in of The Evil Dead with a quirky, meta setting (you decide), it's one hell of a fun ride regardless. What he lacks in the style that made his father such a master storyteller, he more than makes up for in childish enthusiasm - and we appreciate it every bit as much. A surreal, carefully paced and beautifully shot ghost story is always appreciated, of course, but sometimes it's nice to be able to switch off your brain for a while and indulge in some cheesy, delightfully gruesome carnage.
The make-up design of the titular demons is grotesque, and the film features one of the most repulsive and satisfying transformation sequences in horror history - complete with exploding pustules and all. The heavy rock soundtrack, wonderfully crappy acting and diverse cast of characters (I guarantee that you'll be rooting for Tony the pimp) all make Demons a must-see horror landmark of 80s Italian horror cinema.