MOVIES & TV
Creepy alternative horror films you may not have seen
If you’re like me, you’ve already seen the typical top horror films most tend to recommend, like The Exorcist, The Shining, Halloween, Jaws, Psycho, the list goes on.
Fantastic movies, to be sure, but if you’re looking to step outside this scary comfort zone, here are a handful of terrifying alternatives…
As Above, So Below (2014)
This unassuming film packs a surprising punch, blending psychological and physical horror, and forces us to examine our fears and test our wills.
It uses a steadicam documentary-style to bring us into the haunted underground catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. The lead, Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) is intelligent and resourceful, the script is smartly written and keeps us guessing throughout, and during the climax we literally can’t breathe until the very end.
The Conuring 2 (2016)
James Wan‘s follow up to The Conjuring is not only worthy, it is downright terrifying. You don’t need to see the original to enjoy this installment in the horrific adventures of paranormal investigators and exorcists, Lorraine and Ed Warren.
Wan blends elements of The Exorcist and Poltergeist, sets the film in eerie London in the 1970’s, and uses modern technologies to deliver a truly haunting tale that will sit with you even after the movie ends.
The Omen (1976)
Don’t even think about watching the terrible 2006 remake instead. The original is where it’s at. It tells the tale of a boy adopted by a political family who is believed to be the son of the devil. Gruesome accidents tend to befall those who get too close to unraveling the mystery.
The Omen is a classic. Gregory Peck in the lead as Robert Thorn adds a credibility and realism to the story. If he can accept the reality of the horrific events unfolding around him, we have no choice as well.
Shot in ’79 on a shoestring budget, directed by Don Coscarelli, Phantasm has a gritty independent feel that gives it its sense of realism.
A dream-like pace and surreal imagery add a psychological component to a tactile, tangible world, with a physical horror that plays out before our very eyes. It introduces us to one of the most iconic characters in all of horror cinema in the Tall Man.
J.J. Abrams is a particular fan of Phantasm, and lended his support and resources so that Coscarelli could meticulously oversee a frame by frame 4K digital restoration of the original piece. Phantasm: Remastered, just released, presents the original film with a remarkable clarity. It was an experience when the resolution was blurry. It’s even more incredible now.
The story itself uses the atmosphere of cemeteries, mausoleums, and creepy morticians as the jumping off point for an epic tale that is much more than meets the eye.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
This sequel to the 1974 classic lures you into a false sense of security. Made 12 years after the gritty original, it wants you to think it’s nothing more than a corny 80’s follow up and misfire. The first hour will give you that impression, and you’ll slog through it wondering what’s the point?
The second half of the film is literally a descenet into hell as our victim plummets into an underground world inhabited by a sadistic cannibalistic family and we start to wonder if we are ever going to see daylight again.
The film is just as twisted, ruthless and brutal as the original, has gone largely forgotten amidst a flurry of mindless sequels and remakes, but is worth the journey if you think you can stomach it.
Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)
Yes, it’s true, Disney made a horror movie terrifying for kids. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s an interesting test for when your kid is old enough and thinks he’s brave enough to watch a horror film. But be mindful, like any scary movie, this isn’t for the feint of heart.
The film was, indeed, made by Walt Disney Productions, based on the novel by Ray Bradbury, and the two leads, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade, are just 12 years old.
Jonathan Pryce puts in a wonderfully strong performance as Mr. Dark, and the film casts classic actor, Jason Robards, as Charles Halloway, to give it that elder statesman credibility.
Robards plays the librarian in a small town, also Will’s father, who is much older than a typical 12-year-old’s dad. When Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival comes to town, Will, Jim and Charles find themselves in the middle of a plot to transform the townsfolk into Mr. Dark’s carnival freak minions.
If your kids are looking for something to test themselves, it’s a worthy film. They may not make it all the way through. There’s a spider sequence in there that still gives me nightmares. But if they keep pestering you to watch something scary, it stays in safe territory and won’t leave them scarred for life.
Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)
This sequel doesn’t quite have the same Steven Spielberg “Amblin” movie magic sparkle the original had. But it does have Reverend Cain. And Reverend Cain is one of the scariest bad guys ever to be put on screen. He is literally the stuff nightmares are made of. His presence adds a new dimension to the paranormal terror that stalks the Freeling family.
When I was a kid, I begged my parents to take me to the theater to see this. Then I begged them to leave after the first 20 minutes. Yep, it does what it needs to do. It’s scary, all right.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Another worthy follow up that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. If you’re looking for an 80’s slasher to indulge in, give Freddy’s Revenge a shot. Krueger remains in the shadows and keeps the puns to a minimum like the first film. Here, he possesses the soul of an innocent boy, Jesse, whose parents have moved into the infamous house on Elm Street.
Krueger murders through Jesse, which brings an added dimension to the iconic serial killer. And in one of the best scenes across the entire series, Krueger slaughters an entire house party full of kids. It’s great 80’s horror fun.
Prince of Darkness (1987)
One of John Carpenter‘s lesser known horror films is also one of his most potent. In Prince of Darkness, he blends both science and religion to concoct a story that takes us to the brink of hell. There’s devil worshipping, zombies, murder, possession, you name it. It’s a smaller film in scope with epic implications, and it turns out to be pretty darn scary.
The Descent (2005)
The great part about the horror here is that we think the movie is headed in one direction only to discover it goes the opposite way.
Things go from bad to worse for this group of adventuresome girlfriends who decide to go spelunking only to find themselves trapped in a cavernous maze. The deeper they go, the worse their plight, and we get the sense as the deaths start piling on that it’s going to be very difficult for just about any of them to make it out of there alive.
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