With Halloween closing in, the hunt for something scary to watch becomes harder as the years go by. With all the classics seen and franchises running, it’s easy to miss the terrifying gems that have come out over the last few years. Not looking for another Michael Meyers flick? Understandable. Not in the mood for Chucky? Consider yourself covered.
Stoner terror, a disturbing documentary about the power of myth, and contemplative ghost stories make up the list below of recent horror movies you might have missed. Some good films don’t generate word of mouth, others are buried under bigger releases, and some just get better with time. Grab your popcorn, turn the lights off, and feel free to watch these through your fingers.
1. 4/20 Massacre (2018, dir. Dylan Reynolds)
While celebrating their friend’s birthday on a camping trip, five women stumble across a marijuana farm. Of course, this farm is guarded by someone who does not want them there. Massacre isn’t the outright horror comedy you might expect from reading its title. It’s a slasher film with a wink in its eye and gore on its mind.
Dylan Reynolds assembles a strong female cast and doesn’t feel the need to lean into stereotypes when writing LGBT characters. A female driven horror movie can usually descend into misogyny fairly quickly. But a strong screenplay and game performances keep the film on track. 4/20 Massacre is a breath of fresh air as it’s smart enough to not be self-parody and scary enough to satisfy audiences.
2. Borderland (2007, dir. Zev Berman)
Currently sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Borderland is a horror movie not for the weak at heart. Director Zev Berman based his film on the tragedy of Mark Kilroy, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1989 by Jésus Constanzo and his cult. While the film’s character names have been changed and details are fictionalized, what matters most about the idea behind the film is that a version of this actually happened. That’s scary enough.
The film is a travelogue of terror that’s equal parts Wolf Creek and Perdita Durango, but feels brand new all on its own. Buckets of blood and gore don’t take away from the startling realism that accompanies the fantastical elements, making this a jarring experience even for seasoned horror veterans.
As a part of the After Dark Film series, Horrorfest named this one of the “8 Films to Die For” and the horror that’s presented in the film makes it clear that it earned the title. Boy Meets World alumnus Rider Strong turns in an excellent performance.
3. Kill List (2011, dir. Ben Wheatley)
Kill List is the very definition of slow burn. Filling up all 95 minutes with expertly crafted atmosphere, the film follows two ex-military hitmen working to complete a “kill list” of three targets. While working through the list, their journey becomes stranger and relentlessly scary.
This is a dark and moody film. It’s drastically different from the director’s own A Field in England, showing Wheatley’s range as a filmmaker. Moments of Polanski inspired terror make this film truly unforgettable, and Wheatley’s direction is taut and economical. Prepare for an ending that won’t leave you any time soon.
4. Killing Ground (2017, dir. Damien Power)
Killing Ground is a film that wants to feel as real as possible and it achieves that effect in spades. A camping trip turns into a nightmare when a couple discovers a child and an abandoned campsite. The film doesn’t waste any time settling the viewers in for a suspense filled ride and when all hell breaks loose, there’s no escaping it.
The film’s timeline bounces around and keeps the viewer at the edge of their seat waiting for not just what happens next, but when. This is pure Aussie fear at its most undiluted. The bleak setting and realistic nature of the menace and violence make this a deeply unsettling viewing.
5. Penumbra (2012, dir. Adrian Garcia Bogliano and Romiro Garcia Bogliano)
Punumbra operates on one simple notion – how stalked it can make the audience feel. The film follows a business woman in Buenos Aires who needs to find a renter for her family’s apartment. She’s led into a space where no one is who they say they are and nothing is what it seems to be. By the time the deal is closed, it’s far too late to turn back.
The film takes some cues from horror classics like Rosemary’s Baby and functions as one long claustrophobic build up to an unnerving conclusion that echoes other genre classics but stands on its own. Christina Brondo’s performance is a love letter to cinema scream queens.