Consider celebrating Halloween this year by watching overlooked movies starring killer puppets, tentacled sea creatures, Nazi zombies, cannibalistic immortals and a house that eats schoolgirls. We sure hope you like nightmares.
Nothing is creepier than vintage puppets that seem to move and talk all on their own. Then again, the people who own and care for those puppets are just as icky. In "Dead Silence" from the creators of gore classic "Saw," young widower Jamie Ashen (played by Ryan Kwanten) returns to his hometown of Ravens Fair to search for answers to the murder of his wife Lisa, played by Laura Regan. The death may be linked to the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts). All clues lead back to an evil puppet named Billy that was sent to Lisa shortly before she was killed. But how can a puppet kill? And is the ghost of Mary Shaw truly behind it all? A bit of advice: if you own any creepy puppets or dolls, be sure to take them out of the room before you start watching this movie.
'Dead Snow' (2009) & 'Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead' (2014)
The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi. But what happens when Adolf Hitler and his ruthless SS troops come back from the dead? In "Dead Snow," a ski vacation turns deadly when a group of medical students run into the stuff of nightmares -- Nazi zombies. In its sequel "Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead" Russian zombie World War II soldiers fight Nazi zombies in the ultimate battle. While these plots sound like "South Park" episodes, the movies are a mix of comedy and complete terror. After all, who wants to be stuck in a snowstorm with a bunch of evil Nazis that eat human flesh?
Florence Cathcart (played by Rebecca Hall), a skeptic of all paranormal activity, has made it her personal mission to unmask charlatans who pretend to speak to the dead to make money off the bereaved. But what happens when she actually comes face-to-face with a ghost? Florence is hired by a boys school headmaster (Dominic West) who thinks his students are being harassed by a spirit of a little boy. "The Awakening," set in 1921, is dark, sad and hauntingly beautiful.
A clairvoyant diner cook (played by late "Star Trek" actor Anton Yelchin) joins forces with his girlfriend (Addison Timlin) and the town sheriff (Willem Dafoe) to prevent an unknown catastrophe from happening. "Odd Thomas" is both funny and horrifying, but considering how Yelchin died from a freak accident in real life, the movie seems extra eerie. That said, this movie really shows how talented Yelchin was and how dearly he will be missed.
A crazed serial killer stalking a woman staying in a remote cabin in the woods is nothing new in the horror film genre. But in "Hush" the woman is anything but defenseless even though she happens to be completely deaf. I watched the film on mute and then rewatched it again with sound to see if it was just as terrifying to experience if I couldn't hear like the lead character. The verdict is that the movie is scary either way, but it offers an unusual twist that makes it extra fun to watch twice.
Everyone knows how social media trolls can turn your life into hell. But in this horror film, the hashtag you use could mean the difference between life and death. "#Horror" follows a group of wealthy junior high school girls who go from being obsessed with their smartphones to fearing for their lives. Someone is killing the girls one by one and streaming their murders online. The film feels a lot like an episode of "Black Mirror," but scarily enough the cyberbullying transforming into murder seems all too real.
What happens to an immortal from the Bible who's stuck living with the worst of humanity in modern times? In "He Never Died," Jack (played by punk icon/actor Henry Rollins) is an immortal who must stick to a boring, predictable daily routine (sleep, eat at the same diner, go to bingo, buy blood from a hospital worker and go back to sleep) to avoid his cannibalistic ways. But when his ex tells him their daughter Andrea (Jordan Todosey) is on the way to his apartment for a visit, his life is turned upside down. Rollins expertly plays an exasperated immortal who just wants to be left alone but can't help killing everyone who annoys him. Even when he's covered in blood and eating human flesh, it's hard not to root for him.
Attending a new school can be frightening, but even more so when your fellow students start to disappear without a trace. Based in 1938 in Korea, "The Silenced" follows young but sickly girl Joo-ran (Bo-yeong Park), who is transferred to the Gyeongseong Boarding School. The mysterious school is run by a strict headmistress (Uhm Ji-won) who demands excellence at every turn, and refuses to offer any explanation when students start to disappear. Joo-ran teams up with her new friend Yeon-deok (Park So-dam) to figure out the secrets of the school. The ending is worth waiting for.
Even if Halloween is your favorite spooky holiday, that doesn't mean it's the scariest. In this anthology of short horror films, "Holidays" gives other holidays their own terrifying tales. The Easter bunny is anything but cuddly. Unrequited crushes get a bloody tribute on Valentine's Day. And shopping for the ultimate Christmas gift takes on a truly dark turn. Even Mother's Day gets a witchy makeover.
A black and white German silent film may not seem like the ultimate scare-fest, but "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" was the kind of movie that gave everyone who saw it in 1920 plenty of nightmares. In the film, insane hypnotist Dr. Caligari uses a somnambulist (someone under hypnosis) to commit horrific murders, and even a kidnapping that leads to an insane asylum. The plot could easily apply today considering how many people use hypnosis to lose weight or stop smoking. But what really makes this film unique is its artistic visual style featuring unusual landscapes that twist in unusual angles. The film is an essential work of German Expressionist cinema that some historians say was a premonition of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
The British-American horror drama television series "Penny Dreadful" features the intertwined tales of Mina Harker, Count Dracula, Victor Frankenstein and his monster, Dorian Gray, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, Renfield, as well as various witches, vampires and werewolves. The series has an all-star cast including Timothy Dalton, Eva Green, Billie Piper, Patti LuPone and Josh Hartnett, to name a few. While the series only lasted three seasons, "Penny Dreadful" takes a fresh look at these famous horror story characters that will leave you even more frightened of the things that go bump in the night.
Aliens who want to wipe out the human race are nothing new. But what if the aliens looked like circus clowns? Not that we need a reason to be scared of clowns, but "Killer Klowns from Outer Space" doesn't make our phobias any less real. These alien clowns are here for one thing only, to use humans as a food source. Plus, the clowns put on one horrific puppet show.
When your house is under attack by psychotic killers wearing animal masks, it's hard not to be scared. In "You're Next," a tense family reunion turns into all-out war when outsiders invade the house and start slaying everyone with crossbows, knives and other weapons. Good thing one of the visitors knows a thing or two about defense. The movie is filled with the kind of murderous scenes that may have you checking the locks on your windows before the credits roll.
In "Grabbers," giant tentacled creatures attack a small Irish island. But when the residents discover the monsters hate a high blood alcohol level in their victims, there's only one thing the residents can do: fight the creatures while staying very, very drunk. This movie is more quirky than truly frightening. Plus, it's a great movie to watch while drinking a few whisky cocktails, or on the rocks just like the brave but sloshed humans in the movie.
"House" is the kind of film you have to watch multiple times to make sense of. And there's no guarantee you'll ever be able to process the bizarre nature of this film. Think of it as a cross between "Twin Peaks," "Poltergeist" and "Alice in Wonderland" with a lot of blood and beheading. This Japanese horror film is about a teenage girl who travels with her friends to visit her aunt, and they are devoured by the home itself. Plus there are weird musical numbers and a killer piano. There are supernatural traps all over the house, not to mention a creepy cat.
What happens when a couple of well-meaning hicks get mistaken for deranged maniacs? In "Tucker and Dale vs. Evil," we see two hillbillies played by Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, get accused of murder by unlucky and paranoid college kids who keep dropping like flies. The movie turns every horror film cliche -- promiscuous teens, idiot jocks, wood chipper deaths and evil in the woods -- into a twisted joke. You'll laugh, scream, wince and hope Tucker and Dale get out alive.
This indie horror movie gives new meaning to the phrase "Eat your heart out." Those who can't stand blood and gore should probably skip it. For the brave horror fans who do watch it, "Eat" is the kind of movie that will make them wonder, "What did I just watch?" It doesn't have the highest ratings, but it's worthy of a viewing just to see how exactly the main character -- a desperate actress named Novella McClure -- manages to gnaw on her own appendages. You might want to avoid dining while watching the movie, just to be on the safe side.
Which is worse, being trapped at home with strange family members or evil spirits? In the New Zealand horror film "Housebound," a young woman under house arrest finds herself wondering if she would have been safer in jail.
When you suspect a classmate of being an energy vampire, how do you prove it? That's exactly what schoolgirl Rebecca must do at her prestigious boarding school in "The Moth Diaries." The movie also touches on toxic friendships, adult apathy and the dire need to belong.
Not all cannibals are sadistic freaks who need to eat human flesh to survive. Or at least that's what "We Are What We Are" tries to convince us. For the cannibals in this horror film, it's not only a way of life, it's a religion. And it doesn't help matters when you're a young girl in love, and your dad insists on eating your crushes.
Sometimes you just need to relax while mocking a retro horror film. Rifftrax to the rescue! Hilarious hosts make fun of "Tourist Trap" so you can laugh and scream about this movie showing unsuspecting victims tormented by a serial killer who likes to make giant puppets from mannequins.