Much like Ghostface himself uttered in the immortal Scream, everyone has a favorite scary movie. Over the decades, so many films have set out to frighten and disturb audiences that it can be tricky to find a new addition to one’s rotation of John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and George A. Romero films. However, recent years have brought several notable releases that bring something fun or unexpected to the grotesque, morbid, or downright freaky cinematic offerings to date. Here are five thrilling horror films that flew under the radar and could offer a fresh alternative to classic Halloween viewing.
1. Frailty (2001)
Bill Paxton may be far better known for his acting roles in films like Aliens or Twister, but many moviegoers may have overlooked the psychological horror film that marked his feature directorial debut. Paxton stars as an axe-wielding father of two boys who believes it is his family’s mission to hunt down demons who have come to Earth in human form. The film is loaded with shocking moments of violence and more than a few twists. Moreover, it’s a complete exercise in tone and visual aesthetic, effortlessly creating an atmosphere that will keep viewers on edge.
2. Red Eye (2005)
The late Wes Craven will always be remembered for classics like The Hills Have Eyes and A Nightmare on Elm Street. However, the horror maestro also brought us this taut airborne thriller, which stars Rachel McAdams as a young woman who ends up sitting next to a mysterious man (Cillian Murphy) with murder on his mind on a late-night flight home. While it isn’t a traditional frightfest, the film is a Hitchcockian exercise in mostly bloodless suspense. Moreover, it’s a must-see for fans who haven’t caught up on some of Craven’s late-career highlights.
3. Slither (2006)
Long before James Gunn became a geek icon with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he made his directorial feature debut with this ode to old-school B-movie creature features. Gunn mainstay Michael Rooker is soon overtaken by an invading host of alien monsters, developing into a mutant monster that may be instrumental in the destruction of a small town. It’s up to Nathan Fillion’s local sheriff and unrequited love Elizabeth Banks to defeat the menace and prevent this plague from spreading. With that cast and premise, this horror-comedy is destined to be a cult classic.
4. 1408 (2007)
Recommending a horror film based on a Stephen King story isn’t exactly novel. However, while Misery and The Shining are certainly worthy of repeat viewings, this under-seen Mikael Håfström film deserves to be added to the writers-in-turmoil section of your collection. John Cusack stars as Mike Enslin, a writer known for documenting potentially haunted locations who gets more than he bargained for when he checks in at the Dolphin Hotel. What follows is 104 minutes of unforgettable psychological terror that essentially serves as a horrific one-man show.
5. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Writer/director Michael Dougherty sets out to make Christmas a horrifying concept with this year’s Krampus, but before that, he broke down the “rules” of All Hallow’s Eve in this anthology film. Featuring four interconnected stories all set on the same Halloween night, this film brilliantly balances a dark sense of humor among its stew of gross-out moments, supernatural excursions, and jump-scares. Once stuck in the studio system, the film never saw a proper theatrical release but now stands as a cult classic among horror fans, with a sequel in the works to boot.
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