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Deep Cut Horror Movies You Need to See

Are you tired of watching Halloween over and over again? Are you over Freddie Krueger? I've compiled a list of the best deep cut horror movies to watch leading up to Halloween!
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As we near the real countdown to Halloween, it’s the perfect time to get into the spooky season. Even if you haven’t been as festive this year as previous years – because let’s be honest, 2020 has been scary enough without spooky movies. But sometimes it’s fun to just let go and forget about what’s going on in the world.

With that said, I’ve compiled the list of my absolute favorite horror movies that everyone should watch before Halloween. (Or on Halloween, I’m not the boss of you) Much like my Must-Read Horror Novels for Spooky Season, these are deep cut movies.

You’re not going to see any of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, or Halloween. No Grudge or even the arguably much better Ju-on, the original Japanese version. No, these are movies that you’re going to have to go out of your way to watch and trust me, they’re worth it.

Celebrate Spooky Season the right way – hot chocolate, extra marshmallows, a super-soft blanket, and lots of gory, bloody, campy, and downright terrifying movies.

Note: Some of these movies are gory. Bloody. Violent. Scary. If you are easily offended by any of these things, be careful which trailers you look at and what movies you look up. By its very nature, Halloween is sort of gritty. You’ve been warned!

Looking for something funny?

Maybe you’re not really that into horror movies, but you want to join in. That’s totally okay! While I love horror movies, get really jumpy, so sometimes I have to go the funny route while watching with friends.

My Top Funny Recommendation:

Tucker and Dale Versus Evil

MovieClips Trailers

Released: September 30, 2011

Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk

Runtime: 89 Minutes

Tucker and Dale starts like any other good horror movie. A group of teens is going to a cabin to enjoy a long weekend of drinking, questionable sexual choices, and more. Tucker and Dale are two good old boys who are enjoying their time fishing, drinking beer, and making their cabin their own.

The kids, however, have clearly watched too many horror novels. And they seem to think Tucker and Dale, who truly wouldn’t hurt a fly, are crazy killers out to get them.

Highlights include the teen who impales himself trying to run away, the one that jumps into the wood chipper, and poor Tucker and Dale telling the police officer that these kids just keep killing themselves!

It plays up the horror movie tropes without being dumb, and is fun for everyone. Unless you hate gore… there are some bloody bits.

Slither

ScreamFactoryTV

Released: 2006

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Spoiler alert: I will watch almost anything Nathan Fillion is in. I think it’s a holdover from my deep love of Firefly (#BrowncoatForLife), but when this came out in 2006, I broke my firmly held rule of never watching horror movies in theaters (with consideration for those around me, as… I do jump. And squeak. And scream. It’s not pretty.) to see it opening weekend.

This was the directorial debut of James Gunn, who went on to do a little series called Guardians of the Galaxy. Ever heard of it? You can see in this film little moments of brilliance that truly make it an underappreciated black-comedy horror.

Slither is set in South Carolina after a meteorite falls into a town and infects a wealthy resident with an alien snake-worm that takes over his brain. Its goal? Take over as much of the town as possible.

Slither has it all. Horror, laughs, some very gross scenes that make me take a wide berth around slugs… this was wildly underappreciated at release, but is an excellent movie.

Other Funny Movies

If you’ve seen Tucker and Dale, check out The Cabin in the Woods (2011), directed by Drew Goddard (his directorial debut!) and co-written by Joss Wheadon (of Firefly, Avengers fame). Five college students are headed to the woods for a fun time and get caught up in a dark, ancient secret. Sound serious? No, it’s actually fantastic. But stop! Don’t read anything more about this. If you’d made it to 2020 without knowing how it ends, don’t go spoiling it for yourself. You’ll never see this coming.

Lionsgate via GIPHY

I almost didn’t include What We Do in the Shadows (2014), since I think it’s gotten a lot more recognition with the new television series. However, it remains one of my favorite funny Halloween horror movies, so I wanted to talk about it.

Paramount Pictures via GIPHY

What We Do in the Shadows is filmed mockumentary style, and follows four vampire roommates as they go about their daily lives. They range in age, but all are old (including the one chained to the basement…), and all have the typical “vampire” powers, like levitation and transformation.

This movie is just genuinely fun, and I can’t recommend it enough.

If You Like Traditional Horror Movies

Alright, you want the normal scare – just something you haven’t seen? We’ve got you covered.

Trick ‘r Treat

Warner Bros via GIPHY

Released: October 4, 2009

Starring: Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker

Runtime: 82 minutes

This is legitimately a Halloween favorite in our household. I’ve got a small Sam figure that wobbles when light touches it, that my husband bought me because I couldn’t possibly leave the store without it. Trick ‘r Treat asks the question: what would happen if the spirit of Halloween was a person? And that Halloween spirit wore a creepy burlap mask and forced everyone to follow a set of specific Halloween rules?

Well, you’ve got Trick ‘r Treat. It’s five short stories woven together in a single town, the imaginary Warren Valley in Ohio. Sam is endearing and the movie is just scary enough to be truly great. After watching this, you would absolutely think twice about smashing a pumpkin or complaining about Halloween decorations.

Grave Encounters

Cinedigm

Released: 2011

Starring: Sean Rogerson, Ashleigh Gryzko, Mackenzie Gray

Runtime: 95 minutes

Much like Trick ‘r Treat, Grave Encounters holds a very special place in my heart. This Canadian film is done in a found-footage style that is so overdone now, but in 2011 was still at least a little cool. Despite the fact that it was a decently large box office hit (With a budget of $120k, it made $5.4 million), most people I talk to haven’t heard of it!

The movie follows a group of people taping one of those cheesy ghost story TV shows you see on the History Channel despite the fact that they have nothing to do with history. They’re locked in an asylum overnight, but predictably, it does not go as planned. Hallways change, doors are locked… stuff gets crazy, you guys.

For some reason, this movie has stuck with me more than almost any other horror film I’ve seen as an adult. The main character is so convincing in his slow, steady descent into madness, and there is something truly unsettling about the way they continue to struggle to get out of the asylum but simply cannot. This is a must-watch for me during the Spooky Season every year, and I’ll bet it will be for you, too.

WNUF Halloween Special

wnufhalloweenspecial

Released: 2013

Starring: Paul Fahrenkopf, Aaron Henkin, Nicolette le Faye

Runtime: 83 minutes

As this starts, you understand what is happening immediately. We are (apparently) watching a Halloween special from the television station WNUF, which aired in 1987. The plot centers around Frank Stewart who thought the best idea for a Halloween special would be to investigate a reportedly haunted house, where a series of brutal murders took place.

What starts as a novelty gets serious when Frank realizes this isn’t just going to be a joke, despite what he believed entering the home. The paranormal investigators along for the ride warn Frank that there is a “menacing presence” and as long as they were in the house, they were in danger.

The movie gets more and more tense as the situation turns serious, and Frank grows utterly frantic by the end. There are fun ‘commercials’ thrown in that give this truly authentic vibe, and by the end, you’ll be wondering how Frank ever thought this was a joke.

Bug

KillerCinemadotcom

Released: 2006

Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick Jr.

Runtime: 102 minutes

Bug is one of those psychological horrors that really messes with your mind, even after leaving the movie experience. The movie is based on a 1996 play and takes place mostly in a single motel room. The story follows Judd as she becomes involved with a man recently discharged from the Army.

As the story goes on, the soldier – played by Shannon – becomes more and more convinced that the government is watching them, and the motel room is full of bugs. (Get it? It’s the movie name… you get it?!)

As you watch the movie, you see Shannon’s mental state slowly deteriorate, taking what is left of Judd’s sanity with it. This film is grimy, dirty, and makes you question what is really going on. The ending is going to have you wondering what was real, and what the couple made up in a set of drug and mental illness-induced delusions.

Pontypool

Maple Pictures via GIPHY

Released: 2008

Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle

Runtime: 95 minutes

This creepy and unsettling Canadian horror was based on the book Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess, who adapted it himself for the movie – reportedly it only took him 48 hours. Inspired by the way the infamous Orson Welles’ radio broadcast The War of the Worlds unfolded, much of what is going on is told through transmissions from a radio.

The story opens with annoying shock-jock radio host Grant Mazzy (he even has an annoying name…) getting assaulted by a woman who just repeats the word blood over and over again, before staggering away. Reports come in about a riot, but witnesses are few and far between. Reporter Ken Loney ends up transmitting from a grain silo that he had to take refuge in… but from what? Who are the rioters… and could these reports of them eating each other, and themselves, be true?

Really, this is such an underappreciated movie – it made just over $30,000 in box offices, but it’s weird and quirky and really makes you wonder what is going to happen next. The way the plot is played out through a series of transmissions and hidden messages is charming. Don’t be fooled, though – director Bruce McDonald has said multiple times these are not zombies.

It didn’t have the biggest budget, but that is certainly part of the charm.

The Monster Squad

TriStar Pictures via GIPHY

Released: 1987

Starring: Andrew Gower, Robby Kiger

Runtime: 82 minutes

The Monster Squad is an 80s classic that takes all the aspects of a horror movie and explodes them. It’s probably more fair to put this in the funny category, but if you’re looking for a great horror movie to watch with your kids, The Monster Squad is a great choice.

The story is basically a bunch of meddling kids who love horror and monsters get caught up in a real life monster situation. A team of monsters, led by Dracula, are trying to take over the world. The only people that can stop them? Spunky 80s kids.

It’s funny. It’s a little spooky. And it’s a must-see for Halloween viewing!

If You Like Anthologies

Don’t really want to sit and watch a long, drawn-out movie? Do you prefer shorter, bite-sized movies with lots of different stories? Me, too – some of the best horror comes from shorts. These are my absolute favorite anthologies.

V/H/S

Epic Pictures Group

Released: 2012

Starring: A collection

Runtime: 116 minutes

V/H/S is a collection of ‘found footage’ shorts, all written and directed by the same group of guys – Adam Wingard, David Bruckner, Ti West, Glenn McQuaid, and Joe Swanberg. There are 5 shorts within V/H/S:

  • Tape 56
  • Amateur Night
  • Second Honeymoon
  • Tuesday the 17th
  • The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger
  • 10/31/98

Also included in an alternate ending to 10/31/98.

Each short is sort of linked together, but they can be watched individually without missing much. My favorite is the last, a story of four boys who are looking for a Halloween party but sneak into the wrong house. They think what they’re seeing is a very elaborate haunted house, but it’s really some seriously paranormal stuff. There are no happy endings to this one. (Unless you count the alternate ending, I suppose)

V/H/S has spawned two sequels (the creatively named V/H/S/2 and V/H/S: Viral) as well as a spinoff movie based on Amateur Night, called Siren. A reboot of the original, called V/H/S/94 was announced in June, but no word on progress yet.

The ABCs of Death

Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

Release Date: 2012

Starring: A collection

Runtime: 124 minutes

This is a true collection of shorts. A gathering of 26 different shorts, each directed by a different director, makes up this excellent collection. Each director was assigned a letter (get it?), and told to figure it out. Seriously, very little direction was given, other than their own letter, and the theme of Death.

Because of this, you get a huge variety in the shorts, which makes this collection so easy to watch. After the first watch-through, you may find yourself tempted to skip around to your favorite letters for a second viewing. Do it! It’s a little bloody, a little dark, but very excellent.

The ABCs of Death spawned two sequels, ABCs of Death 2 and ABCs of Death 2.5. Okay, so I never said that they were cleverly named…

Bonus: International Horror Movies

If you don’t mind reading your horror movies instead of listening, there are some absolutely incredible international horror movies out there. I’m going to go ahead and tell you to avoid Italian horror right now because I truly have never enjoyed a single one, but don’t worry: there are plenty of options.

I would be remiss if I didn’t start with Japan, truly the king of horror. Japanese horror is often less over-the-top gore and jump scares and more horror that messes with your mind in subtle, deep ways. I mentioned Ju-on earlier, and Ringu (1998) is another that everyone knows. Both of these spawned US versions that did very well at the box office.

Corpse Party (2015) is based on a video game, anime, and manga of the same name, and has a dark, twisting story that leaves you on edge.

Pulse (2001) was one of the first J-horror movies I watched that really made me deeply unsettled. This cult classic is now almost 20 years old (yikes), but it’s still as disturbing as it once was. The story is about spirits invading real life through the internet, and driving people crazy – to suicide, or eventually to disintegrate into black stains. Even though the technology shown is out of date, it really nails in the feeling that we’re truly alone, no matter how connected we are.

If you like urban legends, check out Kuchisake-onna (2007), sometimes called Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman in English. Based on an urban legend about a woman left mutilated by an ex lover, it’s got the real creep factor that’s just realistic enough to make you uncomfortable.

Shudder via GIPHY

If you want something more recent, Howling Village (2020) came out this year and was written by none other than Takashi Shimizu, the mind behind Ju-on. It’s based on a real-life place, and a real murder that took place there, which gives it extra creep appeal when you realize that. It’s a lot of mind-bending, and a ton of spook.

Korea has it’s fair share of horror films, too – while not as well known as the J-horror scene, Korean films are starting to gain traction in the US.

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) has a seriously crazy ending. Like, it’s so crazy I don’t even want to allude to it – but if you like a good twist, this is the one to go with. It is based on a Korean folktale. Two sisters entangled in an awful situation beyond their control, surrounded by some supernatural twists, leads to something truly awful. This is the highest-grossing horror film Korea has ever put out, so you know it’s good. Don’t bother with the American remake… they gave it an effort, but it’s just not the same.

If you like found footage, check out Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum (2018), the second-highest-grossing horror film in Korea. It takes place in a real-life place, the abandoned hospital in Gwangju, one of Korea’s most haunted locations. Need I say more?

While not traditionally as scary as some, Train to Busan (2016) is truly a masterpiece, and an excellent Korean addition to the zombie horror scene. It mostly takes place on a high-speed train as a zombie outbreak is happening, threatening the lives and safety of everyone on board.

Next Entertainment World via GIPHY

South of the border, we have We Are What We Are (2010), a movie regularly describe as a Mexican Cannibal Drama. I can seriously get behind that. If that’s not your cup of tea, Guillermo del Toro directed The Devil’s Backbone (2001) that truly shows his vision in horror. It’s not as widely appreciated as it should be, but it’s truly a great work of art for the time.

Alleluia (2014), from Belgian, is sort of like watching a movie through the eyes of a serial killer. Set in the 70s, the premise sounds so cliche I don’t even want to describe it, but watching it? A totally different experience.

Once more for the found footage genre, we’ve got [Rec] (2007) out of Spain. Don’t be fooled if you’ve seen Quarantine, the shot-for-shot Sony version. [Rec] is seriously terrifying – and if you like it, the sequel picks up exactly where it leaves off.

Finally, I would be remiss without talking about Let the Right One In (2008) which came out of Sweden. We’re talking the original, not the 2010 version – yes, it was remade just two years later. There’s something incredibly unsettling about a 12-year-old stone-faced child expressing what it’s like to be a vampire.

Happy Halloween, folks!