An Alternative Halloween Movie Guide

Well, it’s Halloween soon, and that means we’re all queueing up those scary movies, right? But no doubt those DVD copies of The Shining and American Werewolf in London are looking a little battered by now. So we’ve put together a list of some of the best horror movies you might have missed, divided by genre for easy selection and to-the-point spookfulness. Watch with the lights out, and keep your pets close. Let’s get to it:

Vampire Movie

Let the Right One In

This Swedish horror masterpiece has everything a vampire movie needs to go down as a stone cold classic. Released the same year as Twilight, Let the Right One In was a brilliant reminder of the monstrous nature of these immortal creatures through the ageless child vampire, Eli, while also crafting a love story that is both moving and creepy in equal measure. And not in the Twilight way.

The Hamiltons

An odd, unsettling little vampire flick, The Hamiltons is as much a family drama as it is a vampire horror: following a family as they attempt to pick up their lives after the deaths of their parents, the slow unfolding of the truth leans away from the most violent impulses of the genre and into the dark secrets that bond families together.

Zombie Movie

Train to Busan

Train to Busan is the best modern zombie movie around, with its heady mix of gore, tension, and some of the best setpieces to ever grace the genre. It follows a disparate group of commuters, including a deadbeat dad and his genuinely adorable daughter, who have to deal with the small matter of a zombie outbreak on the titular train. James Wan is trying to get an American remake going but there’s no way he can top this.

The Girl With All The Gifts

About as far removed from a standard zombie movie as you could hope it to be, The Girl with All The Gifts slid under the radar a couple of years ago – and that’s just not fair. Post apocalypse, a world attempts to grapple with zombies as functioning members of society. the divide between the pre-zombie generation and the post violent and oppressive and more frightening than the zombies themselves. Featuring amazing performances from Paddy Considence and Glenn Close, do yourself a favour and catch up on one of the best zombie movies of the last few years.

Psychological Horror

Darling

For those of you that prefer the slowly losing your mind type of horror movie, Darling is the hidden gem you’ve been waiting for. Starring the fantastic Lauren Ashley Carter, Darling charts the increasing madness of a young woman with mesmerising visuals that create a lot of dread on a shoestring budget.

Lords of Salem

As I wrote about earlier this month with regards to Rob Zombies ouevre, I understand he makes flawed films, but even when they wobble, there’s a definitive singularity to them that makes them utterly watchable, at least to me. And Lords of Salem, his boldest work to date, is certainly a strident statement in that direction: dark, brutal, and deeper than it looks on first glance, if you’re going to go Zombie, make it this one.

Found Footage

Grave Encounters

Grave Encounters feels like a feature-length version of a great Supernatural episode as a bunch of documentary filmmakers, who typically don’t know when to leave something the hell alone, spend the night in a supposedly haunted mental asylum. It’s really a lot better than it has any right to be with a smooth pace and some genuinely disturbing moments, along with a brisk sense of humour that keeps things from dissolving into po-faced.

Ghostwatch

As soon as my co-writer mentioned this article, I agreed to do it as long as I could put this movie in it. Screw The Blair Witch Project – well, don’t, because I love it – this is the true beginning of found footage as we know and love it today. A wildly unsettling and innovative 1992 horror, it follows the apparently real BBC investigation into a supposedly haunted house – and what starts as a Parky Halloween romp soon shifts into true terror as the story unfolds with subtlety and a great sense of escalation.

Home Invasion

You’re Next

Adam Wingard’s horror thriller puts a brilliant spin on the home invasion movie by making its main character Erin, played by Sharni Vinson, just as dangerous as the masked killers. You’re Next is a brutal, twisted, and often hilarious ride that’s a blast from start to very shocking finish.

Hush

Home invasion thrillers give me the heebiest of the jeebies, and Mike Flanagan’s excellent Hush is one of the most unsettling entrances into the canon to date: following a deaf woman as she attempts to fight off a violent intruder, the movie plays with sound and vision and how they affect our perceptions of the world around us to chilling effect, helped by a fantastic performance by the profoundly unlikeable John Gallagher Junior as the assailant.

Haunted House

Under the Shadow

Not all hauntings have to be ghosts or demons as the chilling Iranian horror movie, Under the Shadow, shows us. A toxic thematic mix of war, motherhood, and a woman’s place in society, Under the Shadow mines these juicy threads while also putting a new spin on the haunted house movie. The richness of the themes and the depth of the characters lends real weight to the terror, in what is a white-knuckling fearfest that draws on the war to provide a chillingly real backdrop to the more traditional horror elements.

Ju-On

Honestly, I don’t doubt that a lot of you have seen Ju-On – or The Grudge, as it was released in English language markets – but if you haven’t, get on that, and if you have, watch it again. It’s an interesting take on the haunted house flick, with the hauntings coming from people visiting the house and then being stalked by the entities that are trapped within, with a sort of loose anthology structure built around those unfortunate enough to wander into the house without realizing the sinister secrets it holds. One of the most singularly spooky films I’ve ever seen, you need to curl up with the lights off and scare yourself stupid.

Slasher

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Oz Perkins, who is the son of Psycho’s Anthony Perkins, hit the ground running with this demonic slasher starring current Sabrina Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boyton, and American Horror Story’s Emma Roberts. Like most of my picks, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is more about dread than scaring the pants off you, as the movie doesn’t so much get under your skin, rather it enjoys slowly tearing it off.

American Mary

YES. Hideous, violent, gorgeous, and utterly memorable, The Saskia Sisters’ brilliant feature American Mary is the subversive feminist mess of your dreams. Featuring a magnificent Katherine Isabelle as the central Mary, it follows a twisted tale of murder, plastic surgery, and beauty as she descends into the grim underworld of the city and, literally, takes it apart at the seams.

Deconstructed Horror

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

I could have picked Cabin in the Woods, but that would have been too easy. Instead, I’m going for the horror movie that takes a leaf out of the old fashioned comedy-of-errors book and turns into into a comedy-of-slashers. The Tucker and Dale are harmless hillbillies who are thrust into a murderous situation by a group of teens who have seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre one too many times. Cue bloody deaths, huge laughs, and a surprisingly fearsome central villain.

Baghead

I honestly have no idea how Baghead isn’t a movie people talk about more when it comes to the horror genre and its deconstruction: a found-footage slasher that looks cleancut and obvious on the surface, directors Mark and Jay Duplass bring a surprising depth and plenty of twists to the standard story. But it’s most memorable for its excellent character work and low-key, low-budget meta-commentary on the necessity of horror and the lengths people will go to in order to pursue it.

Sci-Fi Horror

Cube

Horror maverick Vicenzo Natali kicked off a sensational career with the flawed but fascinating Cube: a sort of high-concept proto-Saw, it features a bunch of people trapped in a violent and mysterious maze, forced to work together to find a way out. Despite some dodgy acting, it features some tremendously clever set-pieces and just looks spectacular, and manages to hold up under the weight of its heavy premise.

Timecrimes

Though director Nacho Vigolondo broke through into the mainstream recently with his Anne Hathway-fronted hit Colossal, it’s this microbudget debut that I consistently come back to from him. A devilishly clever time travel horror, it adds layers and layers on to the compelling story, so many that you’re sure it’s going to collapse under its own interweaving storylines. But it holds together, and acts as a reminder that a great story and clever ideas can carry even the smallest of budgets to brilliance.

Creature Feature

Troll Hunter

Honestly, if you’re just looking for some fun this Halloween, go with Troll Hunter. An immensely inventive Norwegian found footage flick, it’s one of those films that just instantly creates a world and a mythos you can believe in. Witty, scary, and with one of the more compelling horror leads you’ll see this year, Troll Hunter is the slice of goofy, committed fun you need in your life right now.

IT

It wouldn’t be Halloween without a Stephen King movie, and since you’ve probably seen The Shining a million times, it’s time to switch things up a little. IT, despite taking place in the height of summer, is the perfect creature feature as the monster can, mostly known as Pennywise the Clown can take the form of whatever scares you. Oh, and the very first article on this site was about IT, and who doesn’t love a little synchronicity, right?

If you enjoyed this series and want to see more stuff like it, check out the rest of our Halloween series right here, and please consider supporting us on Patreon. 

By Kevin Boyle and Louise MacGregor

(header image courtesy of Stuff to Blow Your Mind)

 

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