The month of October is Halloween season. While people out there still treat Halloween as a one-day type of thing, we don’t. While some people cringe when they see Halloween decorations hit the shelves in September and they mock those who enjoy the holiday as much or more than Christmas, we smile. We welcome Halloween with open arms. For many of us movie fans, especially horror fans, Halloween is the best time of the year. To celebrate that, we wanted to prepare a list of horror films that you will want to track down to get in the Halloween spirit.
Now, if you’re a horror film fan, you have probably seen or at least know of all the big genre hits by now. We want this list to be helpful to you, so highlighting films that had major theater releases and have been discussed ad nauseum isn’t something you’ll find here. We wanted to list horror films that have slipped under the radar. The longer that one of these films have been out for release, the greater the chance it’s become a hit by now, so we will also focus on relatively new films here.
We’re not necessarily talking to horror fan aficionados here. This list is for those of you who are in the horror mood and want to see something new this season. Almost all of these films have reviewed well, so this isn’t a purely subjective list either. Still, we’ve got some personal favorites on the list and tried to exclude the films that are totally out of season. If it’s about Christmas, it won’t be here. Here are 15 Horror Films You’ve Never Heard Of (But Need To Watch Before Halloween).
Listen, we get that May has been around for 15 years and has become well-known in the horror community. Its presence on a list of “films you’ve never heard of” is probably pushing it, but it gains some major bonus points for a Halloween setting. Besides, too many people still haven’t watched May, and we need to fix that. May tells the strange story of a disturbed young woman who progressively gets more awkward and more violent. It’s a nice deviation from the typical slasher and creates a sympathetic look at the villain from a horror film. Although May has picked up in popularity since then, it was virtually unheard of around the time of its release.
14. We Are What We Are
We Are What We Are is the story of a family trying to maintain and hide their unorthodox ancestral customs. Although it starts out with traditional horror elements, it eventually morphs into something more restrained than the average horror film. When you take the film as an entire piece, however, it really does have something for everyone. There is camp and cheese, but there is also elegance and classical horror. There’s homage and traditional horror elements, but there is also satire and social commentary. This is one of those films that will satisfy you no matter what your mood is. Do you want to think or do you want to turn your brain off? We Are What We Are will work for both.
13. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
We debated whether or not we should include The Blackcoat’s Daughter for a couple of reasons. For one, it stars Emma Roberts, and it’s probably more mainstream than all of the other films on this list. The second issue we have is that it takes place in the winter. While we accept that many people enjoy watching all types of horror films for Halloween, we’re not big on winter horrors in October. For this reason, we never watch The Thing around Halloween as so many like to do. Even still, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is here because it’s an excellent film. It’s beautiful and atmospheric, but it also relies on shock and traditional scares when needed. The movie is difficult to sum up, but it is basically about two young girls who are left alone to deal with a mysterious force at their school over the break.
Resolution is a film that uses the classic haunted house horror film setting to tell an engaging and often humorous story. This is a smart horror film that is more clever than it is terrifying, but it still has enough horror in it to quench your horror movie thirst. There are scary scenes, but this is not a jump film horror. Don’t expect that. This is a concept film that is much more about atmosphere and commentary on the genre than it is traditional scares. Still, the mood it develops and the intensity of the film is perfect for a Halloween horror night. Resolution knows what it wants to be from the very beginning even if you’re not sure what that is until the end.
11. The Banshee Chapter
Even though the topic of Banshee Chapter, that of conspiracy theories and CIA testing, might not be what you think of when you think of Halloween, this film is scary. The Banshee Chapter is not the most original film you’re going to watch all year, but it is filled with the horror tropes that people are looking for during the Halloween season. The Banshee Chapter will likely remind you of the scary episodes from The X-Files, which is definitely not a bad thing. It borrows from the paranoia storylines of the past, and it borrows from various other horror giants. The biggest criticism this film gets is about the drama at the core of the script, which is never as good as it promises to be. But the scares are never the problem so, as a Halloween horror film, you won’t be disappointed.
While we’re not the biggest gore horror fans, Excision can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to just that. Yes, it’s gory and gross, but it’s one of the better body horror films in the past several years. This has all the strangeness and shock you could want in a film. It’s dark and twisted and plays with humor in dark and twisted ways. It’s biting social commentary on teenage life and image, and it is as current as ever. In terms of its appropriateness for Halloween, Excision is not the most seasonal film on this list, but it works. Knowingly influenced by the likes of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, Excision will gross you out but it will also impress you in ways you couldn’t imagine.
9. Grave Encounters
Like May, Grave Encounters is one of those films that have become well-known in the horror community. Still, the average film fan has not seen this flick, with most writing it off as a cheap knock-off of Paranormal Activity or the other found footage films of the times. Really, this film is much closer to the cult classic Ghost Watch from 1992, and it was executed almost as well. Grave Encounters follows a television crew as they visit and document a haunted psychiatric hospital. Even though the critics don’t love this film, horror fans have been singing the praises for Grave Encounters since it was released in 2011. For the most part, the complaints that many have about the film are unfair. Many criticize the fact that it doesn’t feel authentic, but it is a movie. It shouldn’t need to be said, but if you can’t suspend your disbelief, you’re not going to enjoy it as much. Similarly, if you can’t accept that animals can speak English, you’re going to have a tough time with Dr. Dolittle.
8. Let Us Prey
Let Us Prey is an interesting concept that takes its time setting up. The final act makes it worth the time investment, though, so stick with it. There’s nothing really new in Let Us Prey, but don’t let that scare you off. The setup is a play on the popular trope in horror, a bunch of interconnected characters isolated together, but it’s popular because it works. The director, Brian O’Malley, is no fool either. He knows that he is standing on the shoulders of the horror films before him and he uses that. He expects that the audience will see where he’s going before he gets there, so he uses that to his advantage and mixes things around. There are cheap scares and clever twists. This is a fun film and O’Malley is an excellent horror director, so your Halloween would be wise to include him and Let Us Prey.
7. The Devil’s Candy
While The Devil’s Candy is a film dedicated to die-hard horror fans, there is enough in this film to satisfy even those who aren’t in on the entirety of the joke. Playing with the expectations in films dealing with unsafe houses and the occult, this film often comes close to comedy with its playfulness. By the end, however, the violence and the scares will be more than enough to remind you that you’re watching a horror film. There’s plenty of intelligence and shocks here. This will keep everyone happy. The Devil’s Candy is unsettling enough that it can be the Halloween film primer or it can be the main event.
6. Starry Eyes
In 2014, horror fans were gifted with the little gem that is Starry Eyes. This film is a modern look at the cult of Hollywood and the pressures that come with it—a particularly hot-button topic right now. Although a body horror that gets gross at times, Starry Eyes never crosses into the land of sick-to-your-stomach imagery. The story at the core is nothing new, as it’s essentially Rosemary’s Baby meets Black Swan. But Starry Eyes is very self-aware. It dances around its influences without ever spitting in their face or pretending to be ignorant of them. As far as Halloween scares go, this isn’t the most frightening movie you’ll watch, but it will honor the season properly.
5. The House Of The Devil
There are times in The House of the Devil where the writing appears to drag a little, but the payoff in the film is worth the wait. In order to get the most out of the movie, there’s a necessary investment in the character, the atmosphere, and the tension. Horror is not always about the scare but the anticipation of the scare as well, and this film is incredible at providing loads of anticipation. The House of the Devil is about a babysitter who is hired to a job in an old house. When she gets there, it’s revealed that there is no baby to look after. The House of the Devil feels and looks like it’s from another time, but it is fully aware that it’s speaking to a modern audience. This one is great for setting an eerie mood in your house this Halloween.
Even though the desert doesn’t scream Halloween, the horror anthology that is Southbound is a treat for horror fans and film fans alike. Over the years, Halloween film fans have learned to love anthology shows and films because of collections like Tales From the Crypt, The Twilight Zone, Creepshow, and even Trick r’ Treat could be included in that. Southbound might not join up as nicely as the latter film and isn’t as Halloween-based, but this one is creepy enough to get scares and pulpy and campy enough to get some real enjoyment out of many different types of fans. There is also a style and an atmosphere to the stories in Southbound that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch. Each of the stories take place on a deserted highway stretch and deal with themes of isolation. This is a great addition to your Halloween lineup.
Even though Halloween is not typically about subtlety, we decided to include Creep in this list because of how effective the film is at creating a weird feeling. A twist on the found footage genre, Creep tells the story of a guy hired to film a subject for a mysterious project. Once he accepts the job, the photographer discovers that the subject is not who he claims to be, and the project changes to something he didn’t sign up for. This film is much more subdued than any other film on this list and there is also some humor in it, but it will stay with you long after you see it. There is a lot to love about Creep, and its intelligent delivery will surely impress you.
2. A Dark Song
A Dark Song is much more than just a horror movie to watch on Halloween. It is easily one of the best horror films of the year and maybe one of the best films of the year overall as well. Telling the story of a woman who wishes to perform a complex and dark ritual that requires her and her guide to completely shut themselves up in an old mysterious house, A Dark Song is a slow burn but, when it gets into the scares, is purely terrifying. In the end, the film is strange, beautiful, scary, and everything in-between. It is more unexpected than you would expect and more haunting than you would like it to be. Though it looks like a typical Irish haunted house horror on the surface, A Dark Song is a very rich and deep film that comforts just as much as it terrorizes.
1. We Are Still Here
There may be nothing that goes better with Halloween than haunted houses. These two are old friends. In the early years of cinema, the haunted house was visited often, perhaps too often. In recent years, directors have had to be more selective and more creative with their haunted house visits. We Are Still Here is a homage to the horror films and filmmakers of yesteryear. It feels like an old and authentic haunted house movie infused with modern twists and a slow-burning plot that will suck you in. Though it is gory (and that might scare some film fans away), there is a restraint and a class to the film and the writing. If you love horror and you somehow missed this one, fix that as soon as you can.
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