Every October, I (along with countless other horror movie fans) try to fill up as much free time as possible watching scary movies in preparation for Halloween festivities at the end of the month. At a certain point, though, one realizes that they have watched all of the “essential” horror classics. The Shining and The Exorcist are great, but even the best films can become tedious when they are viewed year after year.
In light of this pressing issue, I have cobbled together a selection of horror films that don’t typically appear in the Internet’s myriad “Best Halloween Movies of ALL TIME” lists (not toward the top, anyway). These films are, to varying extents, decidedly not typical horror films, and some of them are not particularly scary or traditionally “good.” Still, they’re all worth watching for their own ~*special~* reasons, and I hope that they help broaden your list of spooky suggestions this Halloween.
Note: Pretty much all of these films feature strong amounts of disturbing violent and sexual content. I do not suggest any of them to viewers that are sensitive to harsh images or heavy narrative elements.
With the Matthew McConaughey renaissance threatening to dissolve into inevitable backlash at any moment, now might be the last appropriate time to enjoy his films guilt-free. Frailty was Bill Paxton’s feature directorial debut, and it manages to cultivate a creepy atmosphere and decent axe-murderer mystery plot without completely relying on genre cliches.
Day of the Dead (1985)
George Romero’s third film in his original Dead trilogy is simultaneously the silliest and the most ambitious, attempting to tackle not only the conventions of the zombie genre but also heavier themes like medical ethics. One of the main plotlines involves a scientist’s sleepless attempts to domesticate and educate a zombie. The acting is pretty bad, the makeup is both dated and impressive, and the movie also features an extremely of-its-time synthesizer soundtrack.
The Fog (1980)
John Carpenter released The Fog two years between his classics Halloween and The Thing, and he somehow completely missed the mark. This movie is bizarre and ridiculous, and its monsters are vengeful ghost pirates. Still, it features plenty of crazy colorful lighting, nonstop fog machines (truly living up to its title), and lots of scenes taking place in spooky dark churches.
Possession is a film that toes the line between brilliance and laughability, and it is possibly the strangest film on this list. Fans of Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder will be pleased with the dark and mysterious plot about a woman’s increasingly strange and violent sexual behavior, but director Andrzej Zulawski manages to pack in enough gore and tentacles to satisfy straightforward horror fans as well.
3 Women (1977)
This Robert Altman film is really not a horror film at all, but it is perplexing and difficult, and its final act is disturbing in a way that is difficult to explain (or comprehend, really). With lots of bizarre culty imagery and strange music, this is a great suggestion for fans of Maya Deren and other abstract psychological filmmakers.
Rabid is one of David Cronenberg’s first proper feature films, and it provides interesting insight into the earliest manifestations of the thematic fascinations and stylistic techniques that mark his later work. It’s about a creepy phallic parasitic alien that turns an unsuspecting young woman into a bloodthirsty host, so it’s also sloppy and weird. The film is a strange take on the zombie movie that predates many of the cliches and conventions that are now typical in the genre.
Perfect Blue (1997)
I don’t typically get into anime, but Perfect Blue is an exception that will earn the respect of any naysayer. An extremely dark and disturbing psychological thriller, the film follows a young pop star as she attempts to avoid the advances of a mysterious stalker while seguing into a career as a TV actress. The film is also worth watching for its amusingly dated plot elements involving early Internet technology.