There are those who regard the horror genre as an art already complete; the classics are thus, and these are the only films worth seeing again and again, perhaps annually at Halloween time. You know the ones I mean: Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scream, or going back further, any Hitchcock classic, Rosemary’s Baby, Nosferatu.
I agree classics are categorized that way for a reason, but I posit it is always worthwhile to expand the horizons of possibility and intellect. What better way to conjure philosophical sojourns than to have your pants scared off by some quality newer films?
Disclaimer: I’m not saying these are good necessarily, just scary, fun, and have perhaps slipped under your radar.
6. Slither (2006)
The first in this list, Slither, is a horror-comedy. While it isn’t a paragon of filmic excellence, it does offer an absolutely disgusting, somewhat terrifying, but mostly self-consciously hysterical ’50s creature flick parody.
Primarily about really gross worms infecting a small town man’s brain and turning him into a worm monster, it combines aliens, gross-out scares, and our American sensibilities to create a laugh-out-loud-until-you-vomit festival of slime. Watch it before you dig into your Halloween candy or else it could get ugly.
5. Sorority Row (2009)
I never expected such a worn-out premise to be so devilishly fantastic in its execution.
After a prank goes deadly wrong and some of the house sisters try to cover up the deed, a mysterious cloaked figure with a tire iron begins to exact revenge on the sorority house. With prime casting including the likes of Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Water for Elephants) and Carrie Fisher (Star Wars) and a whole litany of attractive too-old-to-be-in-college-for-real sorority sisters, this film is on a path to hilarity and awesome from the opening credits.
And it is awesome.
The entire movie focuses on the aforementioned attractive women dying one by one in a host of exciting, gory, and fun ways. I didn’t know there were so many ways to use a tire-iron. By the big reveal of the masked avenger, you and your friends will be giddy with glee at each exciting plot wrench and (spoiler) foam-party-induced death.
4. Murder Party (2007)
Murder Party is possibly the least-seen film on this list. Filmed in Brookyln, this low-budget indie horror flick incorporates our youth’s obsession with gore and punk rock simultaneously, leaving the audience trying to laugh their pants off in between and during scenes of slasher gold, all set to a kick-ass soundtrack.
It follows a group of art students who decide their piece de résistance should be a real Halloween killing, all on film. So, they disseminate flyers around the streets for a “Murder Party,” which only an unwitting and unwilling nerd, clad in a homemade cardboard robot suit, decides to attend. But he won’t die easily.
It received the Audience Award for Best Feature at the 2007 Slamdance Film Festival and for good reason. I would be tempted to call this film a gore-tastic, surprising gem — and it’s set on Halloween — so it would be a perfect pick to rent this week; you won’t be disappointed.
3. Cabin in the Woods (2011)
This is perhaps the most creative horror film in recent memory, but recentness is no reason to exclude such a masterful, scary, gory explosion of meta-horror in your Halloween line-up.
Joss Whedon, the god of nerds behind The Avengers, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, and everything else that was ever awesome, again created an almost perfect mash of genres, stereotypes, and visceral entertainment with this commentary on modern horror films.
At times hilarious, at times surprisingly terrifying, Cabin will make sure you think twice about the by-the-book slasher film you just rented.
2. Drag Me to Hell (2009)
This film has gotten mixed reviews from friends, acquaintances, and significant others, but I and the good critics at Rotten Tomatoes wouldn’t lie to you: this Sam-Raimi (Evil Dead)-directed demonic morality tale brings back the camp in a riotously entertaining romp.
Part of the fun is how the story remains somehow serious despite ridiculous plot twists and over-the-top gross-out scares. In the first half hour a disgusting old woman actually gums (in lieu of biting) our heroine’s chin. With appropriate sound effects. And it still manages to be disturbingly chilling.
The fun-ness quotient is upped by situational humor like the heroine’s need to sacrifice her kitten (don’t worry animal lovers, it’s not shown) and a moment near the end of the film when a goat is possessed by a naughty demon.
Every character in the film is relatable and somewhat realistic, so this genre-loyal tale, although slightly predictable, never loses its “could that happen to me?” edge while also delighting us with the crazy rollercoaster of a plot dipping between hellish demons and an innocent loan financier.
1. Insidious (2010)
I place this film as number one on this list because of its lack of critical acclaim. Sometimes I feel films have to piss off or confuse a lot of people for them to truly be great, and this one does both, featuring a bizarre, at first seemingly stupid, end sequence that in my opinion is actually brilliant.
A young boy is playing in the attic of his new home when he knocks his head, and something, or someone, comes to get him. After this incident he slips into a coma doctors can’t really explain, and soon enough, some weird, horrifying events begin to take place.
This film features the best (and only?) use of ukulele player Tiny Tim’s tune “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” (YouTube it) in a horror movie, during an absolutely horrifying sequence involving a black-and-white spirit.
With themes of astral projection, a creepy-ass old woman in a black veil, and some really weird paranormal investigators, this film understands its cheese and uses it to full horror potential. It’s on Netflix — see it this week!
Questions? Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.