It’s almost that time of the season again… Hallowe’en is like Christmas for horror writers. Are you looking for some great horror movies to watch and scare the life right out of you? Great. But before you reach for that Stephen King DVD or watch “Halloween” for the zillionth time, you might want to check out these top 20 alternative horror movies that are (almost) just as great!
Some of these are obscure, some of them are lesser known titles by horror masters like John Carpenter and George A Romero. But they all share one thing in common. These are great films!
20. Bubba Ho-Tep (2006)
Elvis is alive and well and living in a nursing home, along with JFK, whose brain has been put in the body of an old black man. Cue an undead Egyptian mummy that is picking off the other residents one by one. Yes, this is a real movie. Worth it for Bruce Campbell’s Evil Presley impersonation alone.
19. The Innkeepers (2011)
Ti West follows up his masterful homage to 1970s slasher films, “The House of the Devil”, with this slick, scary supernatural tale about two bored, postmodern clerks looking after a haunted hotel. Scooby Doo it ain’t.
18. It Follows (2014)
A terrific modern horror film about a ghost that… follows. To say any more would be to spoil the plot. Guaranteed to completely ruin any teenage date.
17. House! (1986)
Fantastic, rubbery horror/comedy with William Katt (“The Greatest American Hero”) at his most likeable. A horror writer moves into a haunted house. What else do you need to know? With Norm from “Cheers”!
16. Martin (1976)
George A Romero is of course best known for zombie films. Here’s his vampire film. Or is it? John Amplas is excellent as the young man who may or may not be a bloodsucker in this disturbing, realistically told tale.
15. Black Sabbath (1963)
Mario Bava is not a name that is widely known. But it should be. This atmospheric, Technicolor Italian masterpiece features three scary stories and is introduced by none other than Boris Karloff!
14. April Fool’s Day (1986)
Great, fun 80s slasher movie that is a cut above the rest. Features great set pieces, but I promise you’ll never see the ending coming. April Fool!
13. Wolfen (1981)
Psychedelic horror featuring Albert Finney. Something is killing vagrants in New York City. The detective in charge thinks he’s investigating a werewolf. But the truth is stranger than he could have imagined. A very original horror movie.
12. Vampyr (1932)
If you thought the only old horror film worth seeing was Nosferatu, you’d be wrong. This semi-silent movie classic still has the power to chill with its surreal imagery and its depiction of vampirism as almost a mental illness.
11. Carnival of Souls (1962)
Made by a former banker with a cast composed almost entirely of friends and neighbours, this creepy ghost story has been imitated countless times. The fact that only the lead actress is a professional just adds to the unnerving quality of the movie.
10. The Innocents (1961)
The great Deborah Kerr stars in this adaptation of a rather unsavoury tale by Henry James called “The Turn of the Screw”. That’s all you need to know about this classic creepy kid horror movie.
9. Tenebrae (1982)
Dario Argento is one of the Italian kings of slasher movies (or giallo movies as they’re called there). This is possibly his best. An American horror author in Italy finds that someone is killing people using his novels for inspiration. The identity of the killer will keep you guessing right up until the very end.
8. Lord of Illusions (1995)
Clive Barker’s follow up to Hellraiser is less well know but equally atmospheric. Scott Bakula (Quantum Leap) is great as down-on-his-luck supernatural Private eye Harry D-Amour, investigating a very hellish cult.
7. Silver Bullet (1985)
Here is the obligatory Stephen King movie. But this is a less famous gem, starring Corey Haim and Gary Busey and based on King’s illustrated novella “Cycle of the Werewolf”. It grabs you from the start and never lets you go.
6. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Carpenter didn’t direct this sequel. But the image of kids in pumpkin masks that suddenly start to decompose will haunt me for the rest of my days. And what’s with those indestructible bodyguards?
5. Near Dark (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow’s excellent vampire road movie never says the V-word once. Beautiful photography and a classic Tangerine Dream score make this possibly the best cult horror film of the 1980s.
4. The Fog (1980)
John Carpenter’s “other” movie. A rip-roaring ghost story with Jamie Lee Curtis and some phantom pirates. Just steer well clear of the hideous Disneyfied remake!
3. Curse of the Cat People (1944)
Subtle, sophisticated, psychological horror that perfectly captures what it’s like to be a kid when nobody believes you. This film has nothing to do with Cat People or lycanthropes of any variety. The studio simply gave the writers the title to work with!
2. Dance of the Vampires (1967)
Roman Polanski directs this beautiful Gothic horror movie, complete with castles, wolves, vampires, hunchbacks, and snow-topped mountains. It’s also a hilarious comedy! The ill-fated Sharon Tate gives this movie a poignancy that was never intended.
1. The Beast Must Die (1974)
This groovy 70s werewolf movie is also a whodunnnit! In fact, you get the chance to solve the mystery for yourself while the film stops halfway through! Peter Cushing and a host of character actors are lured to a big game hunter’s isolated mansion while their host tries to figure out which one of them turns furry under the full moon. A fun time is guaranteed for all!
There you go, my pick of the best alternative horror movies to brighten up your Halloween night. Happy viewing, and don’t have nightmares!