So, it’s Halloween again, and every social media website from Buzzfeed to Reddit is thrusting their “Best of” lists at you, trying to convince you to watch Hostel 4 or Ju-on 8. However, for those of us not into torture porn, inscrutable Japanese spirits, or whatever the hell The Human Centipede thinks it is, there are always the B-horror movies.
When I call these “B-movies”, I don’t mean that negatively. What I mean is that I think these movies tend to get overlooked in favor of other, more established horror films. I mean, we’ve all seen Evil Dead 2 and Halloween, right? Why retread such familiar ground when your Halloween party starts to roll? Remember, part of the frisson of horror stems from novelty – if you’re watching a scary movie for the 31st time, it *probably* isn’t scary anymore. So, with that in mind, here are a few movies worth 90 minutes of your time that might’ve flown under your radar. If any of them pique your interest, check out our Last Minute Halloween Movie Matrix at the end of the post for where to find them.
H.P. Lovecraft is the king of existential horror – with one giant caveat: “in print.” Generally, when folks try to turn his ideas into movies, they either veer wildly off in unrelated directions (see: The Tomb, or rather, don’t) or devolve into camp (I’m looking at you, Re-Animator). The Thing is often held up as the shining example of Lovecraft in film, and some of that movie is borrowed from his novella “At the Mountains of Madness”: the scientific expedition at the pole, alien entities killing off the research team, etc. However, if you really want the feel of a Lovecraft story in a movie, then you should try the brilliant In the Mouth of Madness.
No other film does such a good job of capturing the absolute malignity of Lovecraftian evil, the sheer oppressive wrongness of it all – this is evil without remorse, without compunction, without understanding. This evil doesn’t get distracted, can’t be reasoned with, won’t be deus ex libered away with a well-pronounced incantation. Sporting deeply unsettling visuals, a solid cast led by Sam Neill, and an ending befitting Lovecraft, this is a movie that will ensure that you always get a little chill down your spine when you hear The Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun”.
Yeah, I know, it’s been done to death. Between Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and REC, every schmuck with a cheap camera and a green filter thinks that they can make a horror movie. Well, Grave Encounters is one that gets it right.
Grave Encounters follows a team of paranormal investigators filming for a television show (á la Ghost Hunters). They find a delightfully creepy old asylum, pay off a few folks to make up interesting stories about hauntings there, and lock themselves in for the night. The special effects are minimal (though effective) and the cast is serviceable, but the real pleasure of watching this comes from the exceptionally clever creepy moments that the script lays out.
Sometimes, horror movies are fun because you can watch one and think, “I wouldn’t do that. I’d be smarter.” If you were actually living this movie, your mind would be stuck on one loop: “The world doesn’t work this way. This stuff doesn’t happen. It can’t happen.” The incomprehensibility of what you were facing would be so overwhelming that rational thought would fly right out the window, and all you’d be left with is the animal impulse to move, to live, as you stumble from one mystifying event to the next – just like the people in the movie.
Now, we all know that horror movies set in space can be terrible (*cough* Jason X *cough*), but if you’re not in the mood for Alien on the big night, then consider trying Event Horizon.
Event Horizon is about mankind’s first ever faster-than-light spacecraft. On it’s maiden voyage the ship disappears, and it’s not heard from again until a distress signal is detected around Neptune, years later. A crew is sent to investigate and salvage the ship, but when they arrive they discover that the ship went somewhere…unexpected. Which would suck, right? You think you’re living in a Star Trek universe when really it turns out to be a bit more Warhammer 40,000. This movie is worthwhile because it’s very atmospheric (though it’s mostly hydrogen and helium, ba dum bum). Seriously though, the whole movie is claustrophobic, and the ship is just as much a character as anyone else in the film. It also has our boy, Mr. Neill, along with Laurence Fishburne.
But perhaps ghosts and spooky ships and Elder Gods don’t do it for you. If realism is your thing; if the only movies scary to you are the ones that could actually happen in real life, then consider trying out Silent House.
The setting and characters are realistic, Elizabeth Olsen is excellent, and the ending is much more satisfying than you have any right to expect at the beginning. This is one of those films that can be ruined with too much discussion, so let me just say that, while you won’t get a badass heroine from this movie like you would from, say, You’re Next, it’ll still be worth your while.
Of course, sometimes the most effective horror movies are the ones with the most humor in them. After all, Scream and Cabin in the Woods both showed us that laughter can go hand in hand with perfectly good horror. I’ve always thought that this was because humor and horror are two sides of the same coin; they’re both about how we respond to the unexpected. If you need the road less traveled for your Halloween party, consider Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.
I can’t talk this movie up enough. I’ve loved Alan Tudyk since Firefly, and he and Tyler Labine absolutely kill in this movie about stereotypes (particularly horror movie ones), communication, and the importance of making prompt home repairs. It’s all a bit silly and unlikely, but you’ll be laughing too hard to give a damn.
If you’re in the mood for a more traditional slasher, something suburban, try Satan’s Little Helper.
While this movie has more of your traditional slasher-vibe to it, what really makes it funny is the interaction between the kid and the masked killer. The little boy isn’t terribly bright, and becomes convinced that “Satan” is playing an elaborate game around town, which he is only too happy to help with. However, eventually the killer enjoys having the little kid around, which makes things even funnier as they both do things to please the other, and both end up having a good time…for a while. A visit to the grocery store for additional murder supplies and a case or three of mistaken identity round out the silliness.
Last-Minute Halloween Movie Matrix
Netflix Instant Streaming
Amazon Prime Instant
|In the Mouth of Madness||No||$15||No, $9 to purchase|
|Silent House||Yes||$15||No, $9 to purchase|
|Tucker and Dale vs. Evil||Yes||$13||Yes|
|Satan’s Little Helper||Yes||$5||Yes|