As a great man once said, it’s shite being Scottish. Which means that my homeland has a list of particularly brilliant horror movies to its name; maybe it’s because I can relate to them more than movies from other parts of the world, but there are a few Scottish horrors that really stand out to me as some of my favourites of the genre. For spooky season, let’s talk about some of the finest horror movies set in this bonny land (and the ones that will make you never want to even think about it again).
A Lonely Place to Die
The Scottish Highlands are amongst the most beautiful places in the world – but the distant, isolated hiking trails make a great backdrop for this nasty, intense 2011 horror. Following a couple who discover a young woman trapped in chamber in the mountains, it’s got a great mix of stomach-churning physical fear, as they are forced into dangerous climbs to escape, as well as a great mystery underpinning the central storyline. The amazing Melissa George carries this for me in the leading role, while director Julian Gilbey manages to drive home the hopelessness of the landscape he uses as his starting point.
Yes, this is just a chance for me to talk about friend of the blog Gerard Butler’s best performance to date – but that’s not the only reason to give The Vanishing a shot. It’s a great triple-headed monster of a movie, following three lighthouse keepers on a remote Scottish island as the appearance of a mysterious stranger shakes up their dynamic, building to a gruesomely effective finale that makes the most of the brilliant Peter Mullan in a restrained but weighty turn. It’s a masterclass in tension-building, and the windswept backdrop only serves to add to the sense of isolation and distance both between the characters and from the rest of society in general.
Urban Ghost Story
If you thought Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist could have really used a bit more kitchen sink drama, this is the movie for you. The underrated 1998 classic follows a young girl in Glasgow after she is nearly killed in a car accident – and attracts the attention of a malevolent spirit as a result. It’s got a strong throughline of social commentary, and director Genevieve Joliffe brings a touch of the brilliant Candyman to her modern haunted house. Look out for a cameo from Lord of the Rings’ Billy Boyd in an early role, and count the number of soon-to-be soap stars you can see in the main cast.
Death of a Vlogger
Now, maybe it’s just because I’ve spent a decent part of my adult life living in the ropey little tenement flats the likes of which this movie is set in, but Death of a Vlogger is one of my all-time favourite found footage horror movies. Following a vlogger (director and star Graham Hughes, given it laldy) as he attempts to capture a haunting on-camera, it blurs meta-commentary, genuine horror, and great scares – as well as a brilliantly Scottish sense of humour (“ya spooky cunt” is in regular rotation in our household parlance) – together to create a confident, compelling micro-budget movie.
By Lou MacGregor
(header image via London Horror Society)