For this Halloween season, I decided to fill in some of the glaring gaps in my movie watching history. I picked out a bunch of horror and horror-adjacent films I had never seen before (don’t judge me) and sat down to expand my experience with horror on screen. Foreign films, classics, and more recent releases–here are flash reviews of this year’s watch list in a vaguely chronological viewing order.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
There’s a lot more going on here than I realized when it first came out. Themes of gender and sexuality wrapped up in a monster/slasher and carried by two strong leads. I now understand why so many people appreciate this one.
Attack the Block (2011)
London teenage gangsters vs. aliens. John Boyega in the lead. What’s not to enjoy?
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
I get why this is the zombie movie that set the path for so many zombie movies to come. Its age shows in places, sure, but other pieces feel ahead of their time. So much of it still holds up, and the movie clearly left its mark on everything that followed.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Striking cinematography. A strong pair of lead actors. And I do believe that this movie achieved exactly what it was aiming for—I’m just not entirely certain what that was.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
So nineties, but definitely a familiar piece of the slasher timeline.
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Better production values and a lesser story than the first. Still a perfectly adequate slasher movie experience. Didn’t realize Jack Black was in this.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
I built up some of these movies in my mind to be so much more gruesome than they actually are. A vital piece of the slasher cannon with some truly unsettling sequences, but ultimately lacking the depth I hope for in a horror film.
Odd Thomas (2014)
A great lead actor and some cool story ideas are hampered by a low budget and a poor script.
No One Gets Out Alive (2021)
If we’re on the way to a cinematic universe of Adam Nevill adaptations, I will not complain. Merging gender, race, and social politics with atmospheric horror, a haunted house, and a freaky monster, this one is a gripping example of engaging horror that also has something more to say.
It Comes at Night (2017)
Definitely not what I expected, but a visceral horror-thriller nonetheless—where fear itself is as great a threat as whatever else is lurking outside the walls. It’s got one of those third acts that hits hard and doesn’t let up.
A technology-infused Korean zombie movie with a strong focus on its characters and the grim reality of trying to survive the end of the world. Balancing story and theme, it manages some welcome moments of freshness in a familiar genre.
Army of the Dead (2021)
A heist movie wrapped up in zombie trappings. Not really horror by most metrics—this one leaves the screen dripping with gore while still managing a more lighthearted tone. Full of Snyder’s style of storytelling, it’s a romp through the zombie apocalypse with an engaging cast of misfits.
Blood Red Sky (2021)
With a fresh take on a familiar horror subgenre, this German film finds the human story at the heart of a violent clash between human and monster. Also interesting to see bits of stylistic influence from Nosferatu so many years later.
In the Tall Grass (2019)
A striking concept stretched into too long of a movie that starts to feel boring just when it should be getting interesting.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
I don’t know entirely what this was, but it worked. A gruesome satire of the modern art world, the movie does its own thing and does it very well—bolstered by a standout cast and a willingness to not be hemmed in by expectations.
His House (2020)
Haunted house stories and immigrant narratives blend well. This isn’t the best one I’ve seen, but with a timely blend of social commentary and atmospheric horror, it definitely has its merits.
Bird Box (2018)
It took me way too long to make time to watch this. It’s everything The Happening wanted to be and so much more. Everyone talked about it when it released, so I don’t think I need to pitch it too strongly.
Old but influential. Very cool use of shadows in the cinematography.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
A few more name drops from the Dracula novel and nearly 60 years worth of advances in filmmaking—but otherwise a remarkably faithful update of the original film.
An old one and less intense than I expected based on reputation, it’s nevertheless entertaining, well-done, and completely deserving of its status as a classic.
Halloween II (1981)
It’s a horror sequel, but even in that, it serves as an engaging part two and sort-of conclusion for a story that the creators soon after decided to abandon in favor of alternate continuities.
Adding more style to the mythos and more gore to the kills, this retconning sequel doesn’t bring a whole ton of fresh insight to the original. But if you’re going to reboot a horror classic, you can do a lot worse—bolstered by a clear respect for the original and a strong return from our lead.
The one that brought slashers back around. Frightening, self-aware, and with enough meta to bolster the experience without dismantling it.
Scream 2 (1997)
This series is funnier than I expected without sacrificing its uniqueness or its chills. And as far as sequels go, it carries itself well in the aftermath of the first.
Scream 3 (2000)
Carrying a slasher trilogy (for now), across three movies is almost inevitably going to be bumpy, but with the entertaining cast and consistent elements to tie the series together, this third installment allows itself to grow without losing its center. Plus, so many big actors turning up across this entire franchise makes for an entertaining watch.
Scream 4 (2011)
Bloodier, more meta, and quite a wild ride. With a bold opening, the movie knows it’s bringing back a slasher for a fourth time. Diving headlong into some of the challenges of sustaining a horror franchise, its strong cast and a dynamic premise still have a whole lot of fun with themselves. It’s clearly another go-round, but no one does it quite like Scream.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Dramatic, stylized, and reveling in its own excesses, the relatively faithful adaptation is entertaining in both its cast and its boldness.
28 Days Later (2002)
Shot in the grainy style familiar to other gritty British dramas, it’s a rough and gruesome zombie survival story bolstered by some unique elements, a focused story, and a strong cast.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
With a strong cast and a willingness to do something a little different with the story, it’s a fair successor in style and spirit, but the end result doesn’t quite reach the heights it aims for.
Happy Death Day (2017)
Surprisingly, this is the fist movie in this whole batch to get me with a jump scare. Overall, a funny and self-aware groundhog day slasher that hits some good emotional moments. It doesn’t deliver anything revolutionary, but it does have a lot of fun along the way.
Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Bringing back familiar elements while also making things new, the sequel is more sci-fi than horror as it remixes the original with heart and humor. The end result is a bit messy, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Capitalizing on its slow build and everything it doesn’t show you, the movie does a lot with its simple contents. It remains the found-footage standard for a reason, creating a stressful, slow-burn horror story that explodes into a truly frightening final sequence.
It Follows (2014)
I heard so many good things about this one, but I need to sit with it a bit before I decide how I feel. Atmospheric and thematic, the movie nevertheless delivers some great chills while upsetting expectations and delivering a horror story more focused on its characters than on fitting into a mold.
30 Days of Night (2007)
Lots of blood. Lots of vampires. Some gorgeous visuals. And it captures the soulless-monster image as good as any movie I’ve seen.
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Excellent performances from the two leads form the core of this movie, with their every interaction heightened through remarkable cinematography. The rest of the story feels somewhat secondary to their dynamic and the terrifyingly predatory presence of Anthony Hopkins.
The Thing (1982)
You’re not going to hear me arguing against its position as one of the greatest horror movies ever. The Thing itself is very gross.
While it doesn’t reach the heights that Get Out did, strong performances, terrifying presentation, and Peele’s special brand of socially-conscious horror combine to make Us a thrilling survival story.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
A bit old and occasionally silly, this remake delivers interesting social commentary alongside some truly chilling moments—plus, unsurprisingly, a healthy dose of body horror.
A Quiet Place Part II (2021)
While expanding on the original with some new situations and the always-welcome addition of Cillian Murphy, this sequel never really captures the simple tension and tight family dynamics that made the first excel. It’s a worthy successor in some ways, with its strong cast and gripping production values, but ultimately a lesser movie even as it aims for more.
A somewhat familiar premise achieves frightening delivery with some strong central performances and a keen attention to detail from the creators. Easily the most unsettling film on this list.
The Host (2006)
While the special effects are a little lacking, in Bong Joon Ho’s capable hands, this is one creature-feature that is also a whole lot more. Blending humor, horror, and drama, the monster kicks off the story, but the true center comes from the complex character dynamics and blistering social criticism.
The Invisible Man (2020)
A modern reimagining of the classic story finds a wealth of thematic complexity in its gripping story and a powerful performance from Elizabeth Moss. Applying the original premise to an abusive relationship, the end result is a tense thriller that says a lot without needing to spend time on its own message.
The Shining (1980)
Kubrick’s fingerprints are all over this one. Despite its technical skill and status as a classic, I feel weird saying I didn’t love it. Fascinating story and definitely some chilling moments, but the overall film feels more concerned with its own style than with telling a good story.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
It’s fun seeing how different cultures shape their own vision of familiar subgenres. This is a quiet movie, sometimes spending more time with atmosphere than plot, but it crafts an intriguing narrative set among dark Iranian streets walked by predatory men and an even more predatory force of reckoning.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Another classic. Delivering a less-typical killer, a chilling surprise ending, and establishing the conventions of so many stories to come, it’s definitely one of the defining pieces of the genre.
Friday the 13th, Part II (1981)
New camp. New killer. Same old story. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone pull a chainsaw on the slasher though.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)
An interesting one to wind down this venture with. A wild and stylized blend of horror and absurd comedy, this story of a paranoid man who just wants to do his laundry manages to deliver a more complex final act than I expected. It’s a strange film, but Simon Pegg’s energetic performance works hard to pull all the rest together.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Achingly tragic and deeply human—even when its characters aren’t.