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Top Five Underrated Hixploitation Movies
10 August 2014 | A personal selection by Brandon Engel

When the home of Wisconsin farmer Ed Gein was raided by police in the late 1950's, they found the motherload of morbid oddities. It was quickly discovered that he had murdered a woman and hung her from the rafters like a freshly killed deer, and that was just the normal gore (never mind all of the faces in bags, rooms filled with skin lampshades and upholstery, and jewelry made out of pieces of female anatomy). When the news of Gein's madhouse broke nationwide, horror auteurs were gifted a goldmine of perversions to inform their scripts.

The plotlines of Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Silence of the Lambs are almost, if not more, infamous than the killings that inspired them. But because it's summertime, let's take a look at some lesser known films inspired by other rural, redneck human equivalents of an above-ground pool.

5. Three on a Meathook (1972) [Trailer]
This was a Psycho knock-off by director William Girdler, who is also noteworthy for directing the blaxploitation clone of The Exorcist called Abby [Trailer here]. It also tells its own version of the Ed Gein story, and features scenes where, not one, but three women are hung on meathook. The film has its shortcomings, but it helped set the stage for superior grindhouse fare, most notably, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

4. Motel Hell (1980) [Trailer]
Kevin Connor's splatter comedy tells the story of Farmer Vincent (Rory Calhoun) and his bumbling, corpulent sister Ida (Nancy Parsons), who run the "Motel Hello", out in the middle of nowhere. Farmer Vincent is regionally famous for his jerky. What is the secret of Vincent's mystery meat? It's made of tenderized, tortured tourists, who are "planted" in a field (buried up to their heads) and swiftly executed. Most memorable scene: Vincent donning a hollowed out pig's head to engage in a chainsaw duel.

3. Eaten Alive (1976) [Trailer]
This was one of Tobe Hooper's finest, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Funhouse. It features Chainsaw alumnus Marilyn Burns (who recently passed, by the way — R.I.P. Marilyn) and Robert "Freddy Krueger Himself" Englund. The film tells the story of a hotel owner who feeds obnoxious guests to his pet alligator. This is one of a few films by Hooper to make the now-infamous "Video Nasties" list in the UK.

2. Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) [Trailer]
The second installment of H. G. Lewis's infamous blood trilogy, this film tells the story of a town of southerners who lure hapless yankees to their bicentennial celebration as "guests of honor." The town treats their northern guests to free hotel rooms, southern barbecue, and...ritualistic torture and dismemberment. We come to learn that that the town's inhabitants are all ghosts of civilians wiped out during the Civil War. The film features Playboy playmate Connie Mason (who also appeared in Lewis's Blood Feast [Trailer]).

1. Deranged (1974) [Trailer]
Released the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deranged is a more direct telling of the life and crimes of Ed Gein. Roberts Blossom stars as Ezra Cobb, who goes batty after losing his mother, the fundamentalist paranoiac who perverted her son's perception of women and inadvertently drove him to homicide and grave robbing. Also noteworthy: the film features special effects from a blossoming Tom Savini. It's showing regularly now on El Rey Network, so be sure to check it out if you've never seen it (more details here).