Five Underrated Horror Films You Need to See Before Halloween

It’s no secret that when it comes to horror films, there’s a lot of garbage out there. Scrolling through Netflix or stopping at the local supermarket Red Box is hit or miss—either you stumble upon that indie gem no one has heard of, or you’re stuck wasting the next few hours of your life on a movie you could have gone without. I’m not a fan of movies with monsters, so be warned—the following list won’t feature zombies or clowns or even the supernatural (apart from one exception). Instead, these films will make you deeply uncomfortable. They will make you think. And they will most definitely give you nightmares. 

Hush (2016)

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Fangoria

Hush is a whirlwind from start to finish. It features a deaf woman named Maddie (Kate Siegel) who is stalked by a stranger whose only motive is to kill her for entertainment. As a writer who lives alone in her secluded home, our protagonist seems like the perfect target, and yet she surprises both us and her tormentor time and time again. She’s a far cry from the usual helpless heroine, and I found myself spurring her on instead of shaking my head at her every decision. Despite the minimal dialogue, I found the film incredibly engaging. Director Mike Flanagan thought long and hard about how to portray a deaf main character to his audience, and ended up using audio effects to imply silence—including audio from ultrasounds and glaciers cracking underwater, slowed down—without completely engulfing the viewer in silence. Another marvel of this film was the realistic use of technology. The failure of technology in the horror genre is something that seems largely forced—but that’s not the case here. Definitely check this one out if you’re looking for that thrill but not interested in watching a teenage girl flounder around in her underwear. 

Available on Netflix. 

It Follows (2014)

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Thought Catalog

Even weeks after seeing the indie film, It Follows, I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s about a teenage girl named Jay (Maika Monroe), who finds herself the target of a relentless, shape-shifting entity—a curse passed on through sex with her new boyfriend. As he explains, only the afflicted can see the specter, which will sometimes take the form of someone she knows. It will follow her, persistently but always at a walk, until she either falls into its clutches or passes the burden to a new sexual partner. With ingenious simplicity, writer-director David Robery Mitchell works on multiple levels to make the fear of inevitable doom a reality.

Available on Netflix.

Raw (2016)

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tiff

I had no idea what to expect from this film, but what I got was a whole lot of “What is happening?” This french film follows 16-year-old Justine (Garance Marillier) as she starts veterinary college, where she finds herself in the shadow of her distant and dismissive older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf ). A strict vegetarian like her parents, Justine is confronted with a moral dilemma when she eats a raw rabbit liver as part of a series of the school’s wild and vicious hazing rituals. This single event leads our heroine down a dark path of unusual cravings, lurid violence, and decadent sexuality. I was enamored with this film’s immersive atmosphere—with its long stretches of silence, subtle nuances, and constant drip of revelation. A coming-of-age film like I’ve never seen, Raw left me intrigued and mildly nauseated.

Available on Netflix. 

They Look Like People (2015)

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PopHorror

They Look Like People is another film that strays from the general preconceived notion of  horror films (in fact, it’s classified as a drama/mystery). Deeply psychological and outright unsettling, this Netflix watch had me more tense than any other movie in recent memory. Wyatt (MacLeod Andrews) is a troubled man who is staying with his friend, Christian (Evan Dumouchel), in New York City after leaving his fiancé. We soon find out that Wyatt is receiving eerie phone calls from a stranger, warning him that something evil is coming. Worried, Christian tries to understand and help his best friend even as he becomes more and more unhinged—soon, Wyatt suspects people around him are turning into evil creatures. Is the battle just in Wyatt’s head, or is it real? That’s the question Perry Blackshear’s film grapples with throughout its entirety. It’s the kind of thriller that will pull you along uncertainly, and then have your reeling the last forty seconds. 

Available on Netflix.

It Comes at Night (2017)

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Roger Ebert

It looks like a zombie movie, but Trey Edward Shults’s thriller is nothing of the sort. The film, about a secluded family living in a post-apocalyptic era, succeeds in conjuring a tense, supernatural-fueled atmosphere without being supernatural at all. The mysterious and grisly disease at its center is presented in realistic terms, as an actual illness, instead of some mind-altering condition that turns people into the living dead. Smart in a way that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, the film is centered around imagery that’s symbolically loaded yet open to interpretation, anchored by the primal fear of the dark and a single hallway that leads to a red door. Shult’s inspiration from the film came after his father’s death. In fact, the first draft of script was written in only three days. After years of holding onto it, It Comes at Night finally became a film—a horror film about a disease, yes, but also a horror film about what this disease does to people before it even touches their bloodstream. 

Feature Photo credit — Unsplash

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