The Alternative’s Favorite Horror Films

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It’s that time of year again ghouls and goblins, horror movie time. Now if you’re like us, every time of year is horror movie time, but every genre buff will tell ya, it just hits different in October. For our favorite month, we will be recommending our favorite scary films, so you can watch too! We have some nightmare fuel for ya, and also just some silly fun movies to watch when you aren’t in the mood for a scare.

Take a look at some of our favorites below, and check back throughout the month because we will be updating it with more and more great films.

1408 (2007)

John Cusack (yes, John Cusack!) is a depressed C rate horror writer who goes to scary places and writes about them. Haunted as he is, he has never even seen a ghost. Creepy bed and breakfasts beg him to stay to increase their sales, but one New York City high rise hotel does everything they can to persuade him from staying. The hotel’s room #1408 is a ghostly deathtrap where there have been 56 deaths. It’s sort of like The Shining but contained to a single small room. “It’s an evil fucking room.” Despite all that, the author demands they let him stay in the room, and eventually they relent.

What he finds in 1408 is much more than meets the eye. Initially he is talking shit, but once he starts getting spooked (radio playing, baby crying), he takes it as a challenge. What he doesn’t realize, is that the room is a place that is truly haunted, and not just haunted. The room itself is a psychological trap that lures in anyone who stays there and never lets them leave. Cusack nails the role, and he carries almost the entire film by himself in the hotel room. Samuel Jackson plays a good hotel manager and aside from a Monk cameo that’s pretty much the entire case. The solid special effects combined with the tricky writing, makes for a movie that is scarier than you’d expect, and sticks in your head for your next hotel stay. – Henderson

Pontypool (2008)

Pontypool is a thoughtful mindbender of a movie about talk radio and zombies, so it had me hooked from the start. It opens with a radio host (Stephen McHattie) and his small staff chatting conspiracy theories on the airwaves, but they begin to notice that strange things are happening in their small backwater community during a frozen Canadian winter.

The film stays almost entirely in the small radio studio and among the staff, and it’s a unique way to watch a zombie apocalypse take place, but that isn’t the only thing that is unique. These are also not your traditional zombies. Sure, they try to eat you alive, but they spread in an unusual and intriguing way. There aren’t many truly new things in horror, but Pontypool found one. – Henderson

Dale and Tucker vs Evil (2010)

Often hillbillies and country folk are the monsters in horror movies (Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, etc.), but what if we were just misunderstanding them? This very simple question makes up the plot of the horror-comedy Dale and Tucker vs Evil.

The film is the goofy gory story of 2 country dudes, Dale and Tucker, (very charmingly played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk), who head off to the country for vacation and encounter some college kids looking to party in the woods. The college kids instantly think they are monster that need to be avoided, and when one of the college girls falls into the lake and is saved by Dale and Tucker, the college crew assume she is going to be murdered. The movie then proceeds to show as the frat boys continually injure and murder themselves in an attempt to “save” their friend. Dale and Tucker just keep being stuck in situations that do not look at all like they’re innocent. This simple silly story is carried by the good acting by the leads and the overall zany feel of the whole film. – Henderson

WaxWork (1988)

WaxWork, (not to be confused with the inferior House of Wax) is an 80’s horror comedy that is a perfect mix of creepiness, practical effects, blood splatter, wacky storyline, and insane quotable lines “BUT MOM, I NEED THE CAFFIENE, BADLY”. Basically, it’s the story of a bunch of rich college kids that enter a wax museum where the figures come alive. “Weird place for a waxwork, maybe they don’t like customers.”

As they enter each exhibit, they get sent into the world of each setting, its just too bad that instead of celebrity wax figures, they are all murderers and monsters. It’s pretty basic and predictable plot, and the characters are pretty standard 80’s horror fare, but the setup allows the teens to fight against all sorts of different monsters including vampires, the phantom of the opera, a werewolf (played by gimili from LOTR), a goblin alien thing, and more.

Is this a “good” movie? Hmm… no not really, and I don’t think it even tries to be. But it’s a fun watch. If you like what you see, the sequel is somehow equally as insane and even featuring a little Bruce Campbell. Like I said, this plotline allows for some pretty fun horror setups. – Henderson

Scream (1996)

Scream has quickly become one of my favorite horror movies. It’s a murder mystery at heart, caked in a sense of dark humor, suspense, and classic horror movie tropes. I found myself questioning my trust in the characters for the entire movie, and enlightened in the film’s climax.

It is perfectly 90’s; The music, clothing, and lifestyle are exactly what you should expect. If the movie took place in another decade, it wouldn’t work as well. Texts from a crazed killer would be a lot less eerie than calls, and less baggy jeans may have allowed an easier time running away.

The first twenty minutes were unexpected, as there was no set up. The suspense begins right in the very first moments of the movie and ends in shock. At a very basic level, it is about a masked killer, who targets a group of teens for an unknown reason, but it unfolds into a much larger conspiracy. Scream is the perfect movie to start your Halloween season without completely sacrificing your ability to sleep, but maybe your ability to answer your phone. – Ryan B

Raw (2016)

It’s in this french film’s underlying premise that makes Raw an unforgettable act of horror. Mixing together coming-of-age with cannibalism, the thriller is a masterpiece at depicting a more dramatized version of how we view ourselves and the transition of who we, ultimately, are destined to become.

If anyone remembers, this is the movie that had audience members fainting from its gore at film festivals, building to be one of the best body-horror films of the last decade. It details a young girl’s life as she goes off to college, obtaining an addictive taste to off-menu options. Littered with social commentary and conversation starters, Raw is an exploding feminist, female-body politic piece. If you get queasy quite easily, be weary of watching, but the movie’s lasting impact is worth it. It really is. – Hope

Midsommar (2019)

Midsommar hit the theaters this summer and opened up the genre of thriller and horror to new heights. A follow-up to Hereditary, Ari Aster both wrote and directed Midsommar after much critical acclaim for Hereditary. However, his sophomore film is not at all like Hereditary. The main plot of the film follows a young couple, Dani and Christain as they are struggling to keep their relationship together. After Dani goes through a great tragedy, they decide to embark on a trip to the Midsommar festival in a small town in Sweden.

As they experience the festival, the distance between Dani and Christian grows stronger. Aster in multiple interviews doesn’t label this film as horror, but as “a break-up film.” This I agree with, and is really the most haunting part of the film. The way communication operates in romantic relationships is, in my opinion, the key to success. The way that Dani and Christian communicate throughout the film is heart wrenching. Having very little to no communication with each other, and at many points, Christian complaining to his friends of the burden that Dani’s trauma and anxiety puts on him. As Dani finds family and community throughout the festival, Christian steers further and further away from her.

Removing the gore and other horror elements scattered throughout the film, Aster does really make a movie about a break-up and all of the stages that a break-up goes through. He tells it in a very gruesome setting, but between the visuals, dialogue and soundtrack, Aster conveys a contemporary break-up classic. Something that makes you reflect upon your own relationships, past or present that makes this film so scary. – Sarah

The Shining (1980)

If you haven’t seen The Shining yet, then what are you doing? Stanley Kubrick’s classic thriller is a must see for any fan of films. Kubrick masterfully unravels the story of a family of three who move to The Overlook Hotel to essentially be a house-sitter for the winter season. As the family settles in, they notice strange things happening in the hotel and eventually the Hotel gets to them.

Kubrick’s use of cinematography in The Shining is exquisite. From the long drawn out shots of Jack sitting at his desk to the reverse carpet scene with Danny, it’s the small details that really make this movie grand. Jack’s slow descent into madness and how the family pretty much gets engulfed by the possession of the Hotel is what makes this film terrifying to some viewers. The iconic line “Here’s JOHNNY” with Jack Nicholson’s face framed by a broken piece of wood in a door can be recognized even by people who’ve never seen The Shining.

The slow burn the family has into nearly tearing each other apart is what makes The Shining a master of thriller. Each detail is given full attention, making not only for a stunning screenplay and story but also a visual narrative. For any fan of thrillers, any fan of visual media, cinema, etc. The Shining is a must see for all. – Sarah

The Gate (1987)

Not everyone wants to be absolutely horrified every time they turn on a horror film. Sometimes you have a mixed crowd or just kids present. The Gate is the perfect movie for those situations. It’s the story of 2 kids who find a magic hole in their yard that leads to “a sleeping race of demons older than the bible?” when home alone for the weekend and haunting ensues. As with many horror films, this entire movie is carried by a handful of excellent child actors. The crew enlist the older sister and her grouchy 80’s af friends to fight back the demons and close the hell gate.

This one borders just the right level of spookiness and animation without getting too horrifying for a rookie horror fan. Even better, its one that not many people have seen before. Which if you ask me, makes for a happy haunted Halloween for the whole family, or just a good night in on the couch. – Henderson

The Ritual (2016)

The Ritual is a scary new horror about a bunch of British dudes who decide to go hiking in Sweden “its like the Appalachian Trail but more history than hillbillies”. Unfortunately, they decide to take a shortcut through an old forest, and it turns out the history they find there is not so fun. Like Blair Witch Project and other similar films, this movie is made scary right off the jump because getting lost in the woods is scary. You don’t know which way to turn and there’s no one to help you. This is made even more scary when you are being hunted by some unknown creature, and once you learn what that creature is, then things get maximum scary. Well acted, violent, and not overly long, this is definitely one of the better and most intense horror films Netflix has released so far.

Tremors (1990)

If my childhood is any indication, Tremors was the best horror movie ever, resulting in 9-year-old Hope watching it anytime it was on and annoying my parents until they bought me the entire Tremors saga. Even though this campy, sci-fi film about killer worms in the earth was mocked, endlessly, on release, there are others out there like me that have an undying appreciation for this tailspin of a flick.

Reaching cult-like heights, there is something about this b-rated, horror-comedy-western (?) featuring incredible dialogue by Kevin Bacon, himself (The man says “motherhumpers” seriously in one scene) that is preposterously lovable. It plays to its strengths, never pretends to be anything but a game of “Don’t Touch the Lava” with “graboid” monsters (that were taken as inspiration for Stranger Things’ Demogorgen), and has just enough action intertwined with a funny script to keep it a horror classic that anyone can watch and find something they enjoy. And if you do, there’s several sequels that are just as ridiculous as the first. – Hope

Goodnight Mommy (2014)

An instant worldwide success in the horror community, this Austrian, psychological fright follows the perspective of twin boys, Elias and Lukas, who come home to their mother having her entire face wrapped up in bandages, which acts as an unsettling visual element for the majority of the movie. As their mother recovers from her cosmetic surgery, things around the house and the behavior exhibited by her turns dark. This enacts Elias to believe it isn’t really their mother underneath the mask but something impersonating her.

Goodnight Mommy is mostly quiet in dialogue and score, making any loud noise or raised voice even more effective, and its prolonged run-time gives the audience even more time to be lulled into a disturbing case of paranoia. The entire last half of the flick is momentous and rises to insane heights, coming to an end that’ll have you scratching your head for a while after. – Hope

The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015)

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a movie about 2 catholic boarding school girls who stay behind during a winter break. Rose the troublesome senior, and Kat the awkward freshman are stuck together in the cold empty school, after meeting for the first time in the headmaster’s office with only a couple nuns to watch over them. However, both of them have more secrets than they are letting on, and the school itself is hiding something even bigger and darker.

This film is a psychological thriller as well as a horror movie, and it lunges forward with a disjointed non-chronological timeline that keeps the viewer off balance. This is one of those scary movies that drills itself into your mind and settles in there. As you ruminate on each one of the characters, you pick up on more that you may have missed, and suddenly become even more terrified. This film also breaks somewhat new horror territory, what happens to the possessed when the demons are gone. I don’t want to give away any more than that. – Henderson

Kill List (2011)

As someone who has seen their fair share of horror, from all varieties, nothing could’ve prepared me for the dread that the Kill List gave me and continues to give me each time I remember it. British-made, the film’s budget of only $800,000 didn’t hinder it’s overall impact, something that is much darker and more unexpected than you are led to believe throughout the film.

The film follows the journey of Jay, a former soldier and now hitman, the first-half of Kill List is basic in it’s premise. Him and his best friend, Gal, are sent on this assignment to kill three men who have done irreputable things, ranging from pedophilia, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. The standout scene from the first half of the film is the grimly execution of the pedophile, something that shouldn’t feel as satisfactory as it does. But, it is in the Kill List’s second act where the damn bursts and everything comes to a heart-pounding climax. Revealing elements that no one would’ve guessed beforehand, the visuals and psychological trauma portrayed is as disturbing as it gets, something that should be applauded for by the way it is filmed. At the end of the movie, you’ll want to go back, immediately, and hunt out clues while the fading of the last scene will have you saying “What the Fuck” over and over again. – Hope

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

J.J. Abrams followed up to the shakey camera P.O.V. monster-flick, Cloverfield with a sequel that is far from the original. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat with suspense. The film follows a young woman, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, after a car crash that leaves her kidnapped (or saved?) by a man named Howard, played by John Goodman. Howard claims there has been an alien invasion and they need to stay in his bunker, but he seems a little too comfortable with the situation.

The writing is superb, swinging the audience from feeling safe to the verge of extreme danger. The entire film feels as if you don’t know what will happen next, hacking into those spaces when the audience and the characters feel vulnerable and tearing that all down. Abrams does an excellent job at maneuvering the camera to assert the character’s power or lack there-of. Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a ball of terror and suspense. A good watch for those who aren’t a fan of jump-scares but also want to be shaken to the core. – Sarah

V/H/S (2012)

V/H/S is a film that terrifies me, because it feels like something dark and real that anyone could stumble onto in a video collection or a strange blog. The movie is an anthology of different P.O.V. or home-video style videos containing the supernatural, the possessed, and anything in between. The low quality of the film itself is what makes the film so scary and realistic. It’s “found footage” style is what makes it feel as if it could happen to you or anyone for that matter.

Watching it for the first time, I had serious doubts, but as each sequence continued, I realized this is not your typical B movie anthology. It scares you when you least expect it and has such a wide range of creatures and monsters that there’s definitely something you will be afraid of. The stories are loosely tied together, but mostly you can just tune in for the roller coaster of frights. If one doesn’t get to you, the next one will. – Sarah

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter’s best movie. That’s right. I said it. I know what you’re thinking. “What about The Thing? Or Halloween? Or Big Trouble in Little China? Or Escape From New York?  And to you I say “Ok, In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenters fifth best movie”. But John Carpenters fifth best movie still puts Mouth of Madness in the hall of fame for any cinema fan.

In the Mouth of Madness is set in a town that doesn’t exist, Hobb’s End, New Hampshire. But we soon discover that Hobb’s End is far from fiction. Madness follows Sam Neil (Jurassic Park) as a private investigator who’s hired to track down a man named Sutter Kane, a best selling horror author and this universe’s Steven King (although canonically, King also exists in the universe). There are strange reports of Sutter Kane’s new novel causing insanity in its readers and the author himself has gone missing. What follows is too spoiler-ridden to discuss here but suffice to say In the Mouth of Madness is home to an uncommon brand of horror. A creeping feeling of dread more akin to Lovecraft than Blumhouse, and rarely captured on film. On that alone I’d recommend this movie, but thankfully there’s a lot more that makes In the Mouth of Madness worth the watch. – Ryan Manns

Grave Encounters (2011)

When you’re a diehard horror movie fan, you’re almost like a ghost hunter. You’ve seen a lot of spooky shit, but you’re still searching for something no one has seen yet, that’ll still scare you. If you’re like me, you may have also did some amateur ghost hunting of your own. My friends and I used to investigate an abandoned asylum in Jersey. Once while walking through a courtyard in between one of the many buildings, I saw a silhouette staring at me from a window on the 3rd floor, when I yelled out “How did you get up there?”, they responded “Tunnels. Come on in.” I ran away. I think that’s why I like movies about ghost hunters so much. I can 100% verify that there are people this stupid, and there are so many ghost hunter shows on TV, which makes for a very realistic scenario and a good excuse for everyone to have cameras.

Grave Encounters is a movie about one of those ghost hunter groups, that struggling to keep their show from getting cancelled, locks themselves in an abandoned insane asylum overnight. As the caretaker says, “I don’t know if ghosts exist, but if they do, this would be a good place to go looking for them.” At first, they are begging for ghosts, then they are begging for no more ghosts.

There are so many “found footage” fake documentary style films out there, but this is one that is particularly well done. It feels just like you are watching an episode on cable that went too far, and that makes it feel particularly spooky. The effects aren’t amazing, but they are good enough to give you a scare. When hunters realize they aren’t escaping out the front door, the fear factor ratchets up. Sometimes when you’re horror hunting, you find a real one. This is one of those. – Henderson

The Changeling (1980)

After an old composer dude loses his family in a horrible car accident, he becomes super depressed and moves into an old house which happens to be haunted. The old classic formula, but this movie is 1 of the OGs of the genre. Yes, one of the original haunted house films. Its pretty serious, and more gray and sad, than frightening terror, but sometimes that’s just the sort of horror movie you need. Dealing with death is mostly sad and gray and cloudy, not as exciting as advertised.

The ghost brings itself out slowly at first, but as the hauntings grow in intensity you will feel more drawn into its story. Who knew about the ghost? Was this house purchase a trap all along? This film, along with the Poltergeist, created the genre which has been much imitated, but this film might be one not every horror fan has seen. No gore. Good Acting. No CGI, a pure classic. “Its an old house, it makes noises”. A well made spooky film. – Henderson

The Stuff (1985)

The Stuff is a nearly perfect film. Its silly, its weird, its creepy, its full of quotable lines, and it has a powerful and thoughtful anti-capitalist message. Yeah, this one has meaning folks. For some reason, films that critique our consumer society don’t get the press they deserve. Hmm… well this is like a 1980’s version of Sorry To Bother You, and it cuts just as deep while still being a fun watch even a one-percenter could enjoy.

The Stuff is a movie about a great new food product that everyone loves, it tastes good, and once you try it, you want to have more! It practically sells itself! Does anyone even know what it is? Who cares! Its spreading so fast and everyone is getting rich! The only people investigating the tasty blessing are The Stuff’s competitors, big ice cream corporations through a spy named Mo “Money”, a cookie entrepreneur “Chocolate Chip Charlie”, a disgruntled former employee, and a random child who happens to see The Stuff moving on its own. The film shows as The Stuff dominates American society and becomes the most popular food item on the planet, before exposing its… side effects. The first time you watch this movie you will be tuning in for the roller coaster ride and fun practical effects, but on the second watch you’ll be taking notes for your Marxist thesis. – Henderson

Channel Zero (2014 – 2018)

Channel Zero is a horror series inspired by reddit posts, and it’s on the Sci-Fi channel. That sounds absolutely destined for failure, but despite all that its good! Each season is about 3 hours long and tells a riff on a story from an internet creepypasta. Season 1 is about a demented children’s show that captures those that watch and it stars that guy from Parks and Rec (no the other guy, the other other guy). Season 2 is about a haunted house that’s just a bit too scary and a bit too difficult to leave. Season 3 is about a family of ghostly cannibals and a city beneath their grasp. Season 4, I just started but it’s about a troubled marriage, and I’m pretty sure ghosts will be involved. All 4 are well acted and contain just the right amount of creepy visual effects. They stray away from bad CGI and almost all of the writing is well done. Each season I thought the quality would decrease but it hasn’t, and it ended up becoming an anthology horror series that is worth your time. – Henderson

Get Out (2017)

The culprit in a horror film is typically out of one’s control and difficult for some to perceive as legitimate. Racism checks those boxes, making it suitable for the genre. In Get Out, Chris is understandably uneasy about meeting his white girlfriend’s family, as interracial dating can be a point of contention, but still strives for open-mindedness when Rose assures him he’ll be welcomed. That glimmer of hope is eroded when he becomes yet another victim in the family’s tradition of hypnotizing and manipulating people of color. Soon, Chris finds himself defenseless and panicked.

Horror films often fabricate something fantastical to incite terror, like a demon clown or a ghost, but Get Out demonstrates that preexisting aspects of day-to-day life can be horrifying, too. It still employs exaggeration, which is on-par for the genre, but it’s heavily rooted in our horrific reality. Get Out is a case study in the excellent work that members of marginalized groups can produce when they’re given a chance to flourish as creators, and the truly unique stories they are able to tell. – Bineet


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