Ten Underrated Films For Your Halloween Horror Festivities
It’s October, and that means Halloween is weeks away. That’s a big event for many pop culture enthusiasts. You dress up as characters or references. You decorate your homes. You buy all the candy. You put on some scary movies. You’ve had Friday the 13th, The Evil Dead, or, appropriately, Halloween every single year. You know The Exorcist by heart. Don’t you feel like something else? If you don’t feel that way, great! You can enjoy some of the season’s greatest treasures time and time again. If you’re looking for something a bit different, allow us to help.
We’ve hand selected some criminally overlooked films for this list. This can either represent great horrors or thrillers no one thinks to put on during Halloween, or underrated films of the genre overall. There’s nothing wrong with having your staple picks, but sometimes the scariest frights come from the unknown. It’s time to venture forth. Consider any of these ten films when you’re ready to venture forth.
Take a Danish filmmaker (Carl Theodor Dreyer) and his borderline refusal to conform to the norms of talking pictures. That’s exactly what Vampyr feels like: a reliance on the amount of success visuals alone can have on a creeped out audience. Maligned when it first came out, Vampyr is now championed for its focuses on surreal imagery, and the empty spaces between breaths. There are many forgotten silent films to pick from, and Vampyr has its cult audiences, but I still think it’s worth a mention here.
Considered by many to be the first “slasher”, Michael Powell’s solo foray into uncharted territory with Peeping Tom was considerably a career suicide. What’s scarier than a horror film where film is the biggest weapon of them all? Like Vampyr, Peeping Tom has been much more welcomed nowadays, perhaps because it went a little too extreme for its much safer time.
Eye Without a Face
The French New Wave movement transitions into horror so well. The vagueness of a shrill society. The mists of existential dread. The coldness of loneliness. All of those facets ring true in Eyes Without a Face: a deeply disgusting look at a paternal love that takes a dive into monstrous psychosis. The most frightening part is the pulse the film has. All of this was meant with the best of intentions. That makes me feel a little more uneasy: the notion that a character thought this was okay.
Wait Until Dark
While not a monster picture, I’ll go on trial and confess that Wait Until Dark is, without question, one of the most thrilling experiences any movie can offer. One single room for most of the film. A recently blinded wife during a home invasion. That’s all you need to know. Actually watch this in the dark, and you’ll forget all about the Hayes production code. It won’t matter. The goosebumps will still rise off of your limbs, and you can’t stop them.
Hour of the Wolf
Ingmar Bergman has made many films about the fragility of the human mind. In Hour of the Wolf, he puts all of his eggs in one basket, and the deliriously trippy experience pays off. There’s little build up, or desire to make you second guess what you’re seeing. Hour is a full on nightmare, and it’s one of the more gung-ho films Bergman made during this era. Whether you try to dissect this film or not, you’re in for a weird time.
Nosferatu the Vampyre
Of course, the German expressionist Nosferatu is a Halloween classic. It’s one of the earliest beloved horror films. But, we have to give Werner Herzog some love, too. His version (Nosferatu the Vampyre) is a heavily stylized remake that refuses to resort to only using shadows. The colours in this film are much richer than you may have anticipated. The warmth of scenes is presented, and you can feel just how cold the environments are. Plus, not many people are as inherently unsettling as Klaus Kinski.
This has to be one of the greatest examples of an over-the-top film I have ever seen. Possession is part domestic drama, part legal thriller, and part body horror. Andrzej Żuławski wanted to replicate his own experiences with divorce here, and boy does it show. You know something is a bit off, and then the actual crux of the film hits you. There’s no turning back. Featuring Isabelle Adjani’s completely disturbing performance (my personal favourite of any horror film ever), Possession is one insane film.
As disturbing as Paul Haggis’ slightly-decent social drama winning Best Picture is, this entry is actually about David Cronenberg’s most screwed up film to date. The leads have a fetishized obsession with car accidents, and the people who get hurt (or die) in them. The film feels like a parallel universe, almost. It’s more robotic than most films you’ll ever seen. Everything feels distant, mechanical, or just simply nonorganic. Maybe we feel that way, because we don’t want it to be true. By the hypnotically nauseating end, you’ll know that Crash is one of the most twisted films ever made by a mainstream filmmaker.
Pretend you didn’t see this film on a list like this. Bring it up to a friend who doesn’t know it exist. Put it on. Takashi Miike has dabbled in many genres, so Audition could be anything. It seems innocent at first: a widowed father who wants to date again, and is encouraged by his producer associate to create a fake casting call to find his true love. One or two weird things happen in the middle, then the film descends from quirky romantic dramedy into one of the most disgusting films ever created (and I sincerely mean that). It’s the ultimate cinematic sucker punch. It gets really graphic. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say Cam is probably the first film in years to make me quiver in my seat. Maybe it’s seeing the vulnerability of women being preyed upon in a sick society, even to this day. With the internet unleashing an army of new eyes, Cam introduces an out-there plot thread that sends everything into a tailspin. The film overall is uneasy, with its bright vibrant colours and voyeuristic camera angles. By the end, you’ll understand predatorily behaviours, millennial suffering, the damage of a potent male gaze, and self sabotage to get by. I’ll insist this is the most overlooked Blumhouse production.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.