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Five Unconventional Scary Movies To Watch This Halloween

Jesse Wente shares his favourite truly scary films

by
Oct 31, 2016

We asked Jesse Wente, Director of Film Programmes at TIFF Bell Lightbox, for his Halloween extra-curricular picks beyond the traditional slasher flick. Here are five films that might not go "boo!" but will leave you terrified.

If you’re looking for a dark comedy:

Bad Taste | Peter Jackson | 1987

Peter Jackson’s first feature film “in which there's an alien invasion and a New Zealand farmer has to thwart it... Hilarious. But not really scary. The farmer spends much of the movie putting his brain into his head. It keeps falling out."

If black-and-white classics are more your thing:

Last Man on Earth | Ubaldo Ragona | 1964

Watch what Wente calls “one of the original zombie movies." It's a Vincent Price horror film based on the 1954 Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend.

If you're looking to find an unsuspecting modern classic:

Kill List | Ben Wheatley | 2011

When you queue up Kill List, you’ll ask: "wait, this is a horror film?" What starts as a mundane kitchen-sink drama of British realism twists into the grisly story of an ex-soldier-turned-assassin. These contract kills aren’t what you’d expect.

You want a found-footage predecessor:

84C MoPic | Patrick Sheane Duncan | 1989

One of the original found-footage films from the '80, it's centered on a documentary crew in Vietnam filming a training video for boot camp back home. Says Wente, “It's unpleasant. Of all the movies that I've seen about Vietnam that communicated the horror, this one has something very visceral, very unnerving.”

(An introductory disclaimer for the Manitoba premiere of the BBC movie Threads circa 1985, with CKND-TV President D.C. Brinton.)

Extra credit for those wanting to be truly horrified:

Threads | Mick Jackson | 1984

A horrifying look at two British families during and after a nuclear confrontation between the United States and Soviet Union. This topic was well-trod territory in the 1980’s, but nothing came close to this. “It is as grim and dark and horrible and I have seen it twice in my life and I can't imagine watching it ever again," recounts Wente. Fair enough.

*This article originally appeared on tiff.net October 2015.