Halloween is almost upon us! While a good horror story can chill me to the bone for a long time after I’m done reading, well done horror films have a tendency to instead hit me hard and fast, but leaving me pretty okay in the paranoia department afterwards. Tons of sites do lists of movies you have to see for Halloween, and while they contain the classics, they don’t exactly give new material for people who’ve seen them all. So, I decided that I would list off my recommendations for lesser known, sometimes indie horror movies. This is not an all inclusive list in the slightest, but I think it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for something a bit different than “Halloween” or “The Shining.” This is all my opinion and is ranked in no particular order. Also, these are movies that I watch multiple times a year, so that will say something.
1. “Evil Dead II” – Now, this is a bit of a tough entry to fully explain. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell created the original Evil Dead trilogy in the 80’s and early 90’s. The first film “Evil Dead” was treated as a full fledged horror movie, with only bare hints of humor here and there. Raimi was able to impressively come up with a new film shooting style by creating his own homemade filming rigs. While it’s a good movie, it does have its problems. Its follow-up, “Evil Dead II,” is the high water mark of the series. “Evil Dead II” is basically a remake of the first movie with the lessons the crew learned after making the first movie. It features a somewhat deeper story, great practical creature effects done on an Indie budget, and some of the creepiest and most disgusting sequences of all time. Check it out if you love movies about isolated cabins, demonic curses, surrealism, gross-outs, and just the right touch of camp.
The third movie, “Army of Darkness,” takes place directly after “Evil Dead II,” and abandons most of the horror focus for campy-horror-comedy. While not as scary as “Evil Dead II,” “Army of Darkness” is an extremely fun movie, and one of my favorites. If you do happen to watch it, look at the effects and realize that it came out around the same time as “Jurassic Park.” The name “Evil Dead” might seem familiar, as it was recently re-imagined into a combination of the first two movies, with the blessings of Raimi and Campbell.
2. “The Innkeepers” – A great example of a classic ghost story, following two employees of a historic inn as they prepare to start closing the place for good. Rumors have spread through the staff that the hotel was always haunted, so the workers spend the last few slow days trying to capture the existence of the paranormal. With a wonderful build up and a setting that uses a beautiful old building and turns it from charming-by-day, to ominous-by-night, it’s a great movie that gives a sense of general unease throughout the film. Watch this one if you like classic hauntings, psychological horror, and slow but atmospheric builds with likable lead characters.
3. “The Tunnel” (2011) – An Australian independent found-footage movie, “The Tunnel” takes place as a documentary set after the events of a news crews investigation of abandoned railway tunnels. Interviews with the lead characters are interspersed with their hand-held footage from Sydney’s abandoned railway tunnels, giving extra depth to the characters. The interview parts are primarily exposition, but are presented in a way that gives context to past conflicts and allows the actors the chance to act normally in the found footage portion. If you like claustrophobia, found footage, abandoned underground structures, and things lurking in the darkness. The film can be hard to find since their distribution site was pulled down, but it can be rented on Amazon, and is occasionally on Netflix Instant.
4. “V/H/S,” “V/H/S 2” – Slipping into a found footage stretch, I’m including these movies due to the structure behind their filming. In each movie, several horror directors were chosen to create a short film of their choice with the only restriction being that they would need to be found footage. Each of the films has 5 short films and a meta story. With topics ranging from murderers to hauntings to zombies among other things. Some of the stories fail to really take off, but thanks to their short running times, it’s never really an issue. The great shorts more than make up for the lackluster ones. Check this out if you like compilations, the supernatural, and don’t have any problems with nudity or gore.
5. “Grave Encounters” – I don’t only like found footage movies, I swear! If you’ve ever wanted to see a ghost hunting show where they actually find something, this is the perfect movie for you. It tracks a TV crew spending the night in a haunted hospital while filming a ghost hunting reality show. As you’ve probably figured out, something is there, and the characters are way out of their depth. Check this out if you like abandoned hospitals, vengeful ghosts, and psychological horror. Stay away from the sequel unless you like bad movies that aren’t fun bad, or movies that try and dig themselves out of the finale created by the previous movie’s ending.
Honorary Mention: “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” – If you like fun things and horror movies, check this out. Seriously.
Must sees (so society doesn’t shun you): Alien/Aliens (the first is the perfect can’t-escape-and-being-stalked movie, the second is where all action cliches came from. Seriously.), The Thing (the original, but the new one was pretty good in its own right,) The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror (the original), The Shining, Night of the Living Dead (1968), and a ton others. I’m not a big fan of slasher movies, but the original Halloween (1978) is a must.
Any recommendations? These are a few of the ones I really enjoy, but I’m always looking for new things on Netflix and the like. If you have any favorites or want to tell me that my choices are horrible, let me know! In the future I’ll post some of my favorite short horror films that can be found on YouTube.