Watching horror movies is a staple experience of Halloween and October as a whole. While most people might be occupied rewatching the endless renditions of Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th for the umpteenth time, I thought I’d compile a list of older, not-so-popular horror films that come with their own brand of fresh scares. Don’t cover your eyes!
Into creepy ventriloquist dolls? This is the movie for you. While the most notable horror doll today may be known as Annabelle, this movie features a doll by the name of Billy, who is mysteriously mailed to the home of Lisa and Jamie Ashen.
Following the doll’s appearance into their lives, and the unnerving murders that start occurring since, Jamie learns about the dark legend of Mary Shaw, a long-ago murdered ventriloquist whose name the locals of Ravens Fair dare not speak. With a stubborn cop biting at his tail, Jamie digs for answers in the shadowed corners of his hometown, uncovering the secrets of a curse that threatens the lives of anyone who encounters it.
This movie has it all. An ancient curse, creepy dolls, a looming ghost, and a remote old town. As one of James Wan’s first works — yes, the dude iconically known for his direction of Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring — this film will certainly have you jumping and giving dolls a wide berth for a good week or two. The unsettling moments of “dead silence” strewn throughout the movie will also make for an unforgettable horror experience!
Grab your gamer friends and get ready for a fun (and scary!) movie that uniquely combines horror movie elements with horror video games. If you’ve ever thought about how lucky you are that your fate isn’t tied to your video game character, this movie will give you a glimpse into what it would be like if your lives were intertwined.
Similar to many horror films, this movie starts with a group of teenagers who (stupidly, unsurprisingly) unlock the curse of a mysterious video game set in a derelict mansion on the Gerouge Plantation. In the game, they encounter the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who hunts down her victims and bathes in their blood to keep herself young. But soon, they start to panic as they realize dying in the game means dying the same way in the real world.
While many may consider this a silly B-movie, I think it’s a wonderfully underrated horror film with a strong and unique concept. There is an endearing presence of early 2000s culture (including goth and scene girls, which are total staples of the time!) intermingled with a rare instance of actually seeing a video game created and animated for a horror movie production. This movie turns both the characters and viewers into active members of the story, so you won’t want to miss it.
Fair warning: you won’t hear the eerie vibrations of a video game controller the same way.
3. 1408 (2007)
Ah, yes. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson — you simply can’t ask for better. Based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name, this movie follows Mike Enslin, an author who specializes in debunking paranormal occurrences in various self-proclaimed haunted houses. After years of being unimpressed and disillusioned by the concept of the paranormal, he checks into the Dolphin Hotel’s famously fabled suite, 1408 — something the manager desperately urges him not to do.
But Mike is nothing if not stubborn, and he certainly wasn’t cowed by the manager’s fearful attempts to keep him away. He sees that there is nothing to be afraid of when he checks in and that it is a simple, if not boring, hotel room. But gradually, strange things start occurring in and around the room and Mike finds himself confronting an evil presence and his own abject terror.
Whew, this one’s a doozy. Our dreamiest leading man Cusack makes a gripping psychological performance in this film that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. And if that’s not enough to get you hooked, you should know that the premise of the story itself is based on the true story of parapsychologist, Christopher Chacon, and his investigation of room 3327 at the Hotel Del Coronado.
For an added fun little exercise, you should also try adding the individual numbers of 1408 and discover the implications of the number they add up to ;)
Horror movies, both old and new, are staples of Halloween –– but sometimes we’re left forgetting the movies that come in between. Here’s hoping this list gave you new horror movies to explore and appreciate, while receiving some exciting scares alone or with friends. Happy Halloweentober!