Seven Underappreciated Horror Movies You Should Watch this Halloween.
Halloween is right around the corner and if you’re anything like me, you’re looking for some new (to you), horror cinema to add to your Devil’s Night itinerary. Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for my social life), I watch an unhealthy amount of movies, so here are a few of my favorite, underappreciated horror movies that you should absolutely check out this Halloween.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter aka February (Osgood Perkins, 2017)
Directed by the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins and told out of chronological order, The Blackcoat’s Daughter (known as February in European markets) is yet another A24 indie-horror triumph about two girls stranded at their Catholic school over Christmas break, with the blizzard outside quickly becoming the least of their troubles.
The greatest asset of The Blackcoat’s Daughter is, without a doubt, the oppressive, creeping dread that permeates throughout the entire film. Like the movie’s protagonists, the viewer is never given a moment to feel comfortable, with the obscuring, black shadows of the school mirroring the expertly-crafted plot about loss and loneliness. There isn’t a single jump-scare to be had, and The Blackcoat’s Daughter is all the better for it.
Pyewacket (Adam MacDonald, 2017)
I’m a huge Black Metal fan, so Adam MacDonald’s Pyewacket, which starts with a close-up of main character Leah Reyes’ (Nicole Munoz) Carach Angren patch, had its hooks in me from the very beginning. However, even if you’re not a fan of Scandinavia’s greatest export, there’s still a lot to like about Pyewacket.
Having more in common with recent ventures from A24 such as Hereditary and The Witch than something out of The Conjuring universe, Pyewacket weaves the tale of an angst-ridden teenager who uses an occult ritual in order to conjure a demon to kill her mother, played by Walking Dead and Silent Hill star Laurie Holden, who totally needs to sit on my face right now. The film is a masterful display of slow-burning, suspenseful horror with plenty of twists and turns that’ll keep even the most lethargic viewer at attention. If nothing else, Pyewacket may have you asking, “Where were all the cute, Black Metal girls with hot Moms when I was in high school?”
The Exorcist III (William Peter Blatty, 1990)
While the original Exorcist is rightfully praised as one of the greatest horror films of all time, for my money, the second sequel is the superior film. Written and directed by the author of The Exorcist novel, William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist III features absolutely brilliant cinematography and some of the best dialogue you’ll hear outside of a Tarantino film.
The legendary George C. Scott plays Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, a detective investigating the Zodiac-inspired Gemini Killer, when he quickly discovers that not everything is as it seems in Georgetown. What follows is a horror noir masterwork that’s often imitated, never duplicated (David Fincher would draw heavy inspiration from The Exorcist III in his breakthrough crime-thriller Se7en) and features the greatest jump-scare in all of horror history.
Avoid the Director’s Cut for your first viewing if at all possible, it’s a novel curiosity, but the theatrical cut is possibly the only case in which studio interference made a film better. The visual feast of the studio-mandated climax, along with the chaotic re-edit, only add to the splendor of this underappreciated, cult classic. Be on the look-out for cameos from Samuel L. Jackson and… Fabio, of all people.
Altered Minds (Michael Z. Wechsler, 2015)
An elderly doctor on his death bed, surrounded by his children on a cold, winter night is how Altered Minds starts, but this psychological thriller is anything but saccharine. Exploring the United States government’s MKULTRA mind-control program, Altered Minds combines themes of familial mistrust with one of the most maligned black projects in American history to great aplomb.
The performances are what really stands out here, with everyone involved bringing their acting a-game, but Ryan O’nan steals the show with his unsettling performance as the mentally disturbed Tommy Shellner. In the hands of a lesser actor, this role could have been a disaster, but O’nan knocks it out of the park. Arguably the greatest asset Altered Minds has, however, is that despite its dark subject matter it’s a Halloween movie you can watch with grandma… she won’t be too disturbed.
Cult (Koji Shiraishi, 2013)
It is impossible for me to give enough praise to J-Horror director Koji Shiraishi, he’s such an underappreciated presence in the realm of horror and I think more people need to be aware of his filmography, which is why the last three entries in this list are going to be dedicated to his work.
Cult is a found-footage film that tells the story of a Japanese mother and daughter who are being tormented by the machinations of, well, a cult. As the movie progresses, things get worse and all the traditional routes for dealing with the cult’s black magic fail, they’re forced to retain the services of an exorcist who looks like he just stepped out of an anime.
Cult isn’t Shiraishi’s best film, but what it does arguably better than the rest of his filmography is reveling in the absolute absurdity of the situation in which the family finds themselves. As with all Shiraishi productions, the acting is top-notch, the pacing is deliberate and when visual effects are used, they’re implemented in a seamless manner. Definitely check out Cult if you were disappointed by the last couple Paranormal Activity movies, and who wasn’t?
Occult (Koji Shiraishi, 2008)
Yes, Koji Shiraishi has one movie named Cult and another named Occult, so it’s understandable if the header of this paragraph caused you to do a double-take. The good thing, however, is that they’re both definitely worth watching.
Occult starts off with a mass stabbing at a Japanese tourist destination, followed by the perpetrator taking his own life by plunging into the sea. What follows is one of the most unsettling dives into the Japanese occult ever put to tape, with Shiraishi following one of the survivors of the stabbing, who also happened to have hieroglyphic-like marks carved into his flesh by the murderer. Although the ending may put some off, I think it’s an eerie take that works within the confines of the film’s restrained budget.
Noroi: The Curse (Koji Shiraishi, 2005)
Noroi: The Curse is the most terrifying found-footage horror film ever made, bar none. The plot is long, complex and incorporates over a dozen characters, but if you’re a patient viewer who doesn’t mind slow-burns, this film will reveal its horrifying riches to you in due time. The plot of Noroi seems cliché at first: a paranormal investigator stumbles into the web of the demon “Kagutaba,” but don’t let that descriptor fool you, the film is anything but.
If The Blackcoats Daughter has an oppressive atmosphere, then Noroi has its boot on your throat for the entire run-time. The plot twists and turns around all sorts of sordid revelations, gradually building up speed until it reaches the horrendous conclusion. If you’re a fan of horror at all, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.
Read more on Monster’s Madness and Magic here: The Bared Teeth of the Fog: Silent Hill and Jacques Lacan, Part 1