Welcome back ghouls and goblins, it’s getting to be that time of year again where things start to become just a little bit more spooky than usual.
Horror movies have always fascinated me ever since I was a little kid, and while there are numerous infamous horror franchises and standalone movies that get talked about on repeat ad nauseum (Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, to name a few), many great and entertaining horror films often end up flying completely under the radar, which to me is a real shame and why I’ve chosen to go out of my way to highlight some of them every year.
With that said, here’s 10 really good hidden gem horror movies that are surely going to elicit some thrills, chills, and maybe even a few laughs if you have a macabre sense of humour like I apparently do.
10. Eden Lake (2008)
Eden Lake is a downright disturbing watch about a young couple on a romantic weekend getaway who end up being confronted by a gang of evil youth with terrifyingly brutal consequences. The film pulls no punches, it’s a visceral thrill ride from start to finish, and it features an uncompromising ending that will most likely infuriate you. Be warned, once you get sucked into the film’s storyline, it will seriously mess with your emotions.
9. I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)
A young Michael Landon stars in this drive-in creature feature as an angry teenager who’s being used as a guinea pig by a twisted hypnotherapist. Spoiler alert, the hypnotherapy turns Landon into a werewolf. I Was a Teenage Werewolf was revolutionary for its time, creating a wave of copycat films in its wake. It’s a fast paced black and white horror film that highlights 1950’s culture and still holds up surprisingly well, even by today’s standards.
8. Fright Night 2 New Blood (2013)
Just to clarify, this isn’t a sequel to the 1985 horror classic Fright Night, it’s simply a remake of it. While I generally find remakes to not be worthy of my time, this one was actually pretty decent. Charley Brewster and his buddy “Evil” Ed Thompson are on a school trip to Romania when they end up having a run in with a female teacher who turns out to be a vampire. Lots of chaos and blood ensues, and the mayhem is captured with flash and style by the director.
7. Pay the Ghost (2015)
I can’t write a recommendation list without including a Nicolas Cage movie, so this year I decided it would have to be Pay the Ghost. Cage plays a professor who’s being haunted by ghostly images after his son was abducted the year before during a Halloween carnival. An eerie and intense watch, the film has just enough chills involved to give it the feel of a good old fashioned ghost story, and I think it’s one that’s well worth indulging in on a dark October night.
6. The Last Exorcism (2010)
When an evangelical minister allows his final exorcism to be filmed by a documentary crew, he ends up dealing with way more issues than he’d originally bargained for. The film is part of the hand-held horror genre (think Blair Witch Project) and it doesn’t jump into the action right away, instead choosing to build up suspense through character development all the way until the wild third act plot twist. The story had me captivated from start to finish.
5. Cutting Class (1989)
A murderer is on the loose in this high school “whodunit” film that features Brad Pitt in his first ever starring role. Pitt teams up with two other high school teens to solve the mystery behind the murders. The film alternates between comedy and horror, and it’s hilarious seeing Pitt play an arrogant high school jock before he went on to become a famous A-lister. The film itself is actually pretty enjoyable, with a similar vibe to Heathers.
4. Scars of Dracula (1970)
I wanted to include a Hammer Film this year and my go to is always Scars of Dracula. This is the sixth installment in Hammer’s Dracula series, and it’s the fifth movie starring Christopher Lee as Dracula. After dying in the previous film, Dracula once again comes back to life spreading evil from his mountaintop castle and killing villagers who dare to come near his resting place. For a film that was made cheaply in 1970, it holds up remarkably well. I think it’s the most underrated film in the entire series, mainly thanks to some solid practical effects and a fine performance from Lee as the notorious count.
3. Bad Moon (1996)
Yes, another werewolf movie, but Bad Moon has a really neat plot twist that makes it wholly original. After Michael Pare’s bitten by a werewolf while on a jungle expedition, he comes back home to live with his sister’s family, putting them all in danger. Their only hope for survival is Thor, the family dog. I won’t spoil anymore of the plot for you, but rest assured, Bad Moon is an excellent werewolf film that goes straight for the jugular.
2. Summer of 84 (2018)
When a teenager thinks his next-door neighbour might be a serial killer, he enlists his high school buddies to help spy on the man over the course of one fateful summer. A dark coming of age story set in the 1980’s, Summer of 84 is a well made, creepy film that focuses on one of the best mysteries I’ve seen in ages. The film is funny, dark, and legitimately disturbing as it consistently ramps up the intensity until the third act when it suddenly goes off the rails with real stakes and real consequences. Not your typical serial killer film, it’s an excellent throwback to 80’s adventure films with touches of horror spliced throughout.
1. Jack-O (1995)
My top movie pick this year is none other than the low budget horror cheesefest Jack-O. What’s it about, you might be wondering? Well, some dumb teenagers accidentally bring back to life a possessed pumpkinhead scarecrow who wants revenge on the ancestors of a family who hanged an ancient warlock. I think that sums the plot up pretty well. If you’re looking to have a few “apple ciders” with your friends while enjoying a Halloween-themed horror movie this season, definitely give Jack-O a watch. It’s hilariously bad yet so incredibly entertaining all at the same time, and it’s very worthy of your time.
Tyson Whitney is a devout cinema fan and also the editor of the North Island Gazette in Port Hardy.