Spooky season / horror movies for a tough crowd
October 19, 2020 8:58 AM   Subscribe

As Halloween approaches I'm looking for some "scary" movies to watch with my family. Looking for suggestions of the best (or "worst" best) movies that will entertain the family and broaden our horizons, movie-wise. Ideally on Netflix, Prime, etc.

We are not ordinarily into horror and horror-themed movies, but exceptionally good / fun movies are appreciated. So far over the past few years we've watched a number of "scary" movies or they've already seen horror movies they liked.

Liked movies include The Shining, Evil Dead II, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Young Frankenstein, American Werewolf in London, Silence of the Lambs, Cabin in the Woods, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, What we do in the Shadows, Alien, Gremlins, and Us.

Disliked or just so-so include Doctor Sleep, Mars Attacks, Rosemary's Baby. (Doctor Sleep was judged OK, but fared badly compared to The Shining and also gave my SO some nightmares...)

Common themes are movies with a lot of suspense but not a lot of gore (so light on slasher films and such, though the gore in Evil Dead was so over-the-top that it just got laughs), and something with some humor but apparently not slapstick humor so much. "Classic" horror films from the 30s/40s are probably a no because they move too slowly for the teens in the household.
posted by jzb to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
What about Signs ?
posted by freethefeet at 9:01 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's not a conventional horror movie, but Get Out is fantastic.
posted by exogenous at 9:05 AM on October 19, 2020 [12 favorites]

The Orphanage is good!
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:09 AM on October 19, 2020

I really enjoyed the 2017 IT. Or -- Poltergeist? Watcher in the Woods is a Disney movie from the '80s that is really, genuinely creepy, but because '80s it's also kinda campy and fun. Or The Thing!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 9:13 AM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: Train to Busan is a Korean zombie flick that was on Netflix but now is on Prime. It's about a workaholic father taking his six-year-old daughter on the eponymous high-speed train from Seoul at the onset of an outbreak of a zombie-like plague. It's excellent, not gory but full of action, and they actually bother with character development.

If you enjoy that one, there's tons of great Korean horror films out there, from monster movies like The Host to ghost stories like A Tale of Two Sisters.
posted by Gelatin at 9:19 AM on October 19, 2020 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed the recent adaptation of The Color Out Of Space as campy fun horror in the spirit of Evil Dead.

It's been forever since I watched it so I might be misremembering, but as a kid I really enjoyed Price of Darkness as a suspenseful but oddball horror movie.
posted by Candleman at 9:29 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Tremors is a 1990 monster movie that is fun and suspenseful; it's a rental on Prime and other services.
posted by JDC8 at 9:31 AM on October 19, 2020 [10 favorites]

Let the right one in
posted by ReluctantViking at 9:37 AM on October 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

posted by cooker girl at 9:40 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

posted by rodlymight at 9:47 AM on October 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, if you haven't seen Poltergeist, it hits about all the notes you reference and squeaks in (somehow) with a PG rating despite being scary as hell. It's credited as a Tobe Hooper movie but it plays a lot more like a Steven Spielberg movie.

Dead Alive, known outside the U.S. as Braindead, is huge (if outrageously gory) fun from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. You could also try Jackson's less outré The Frighteners, which is PG-13.

Re-Animator is as much fun as any horror movie I can think of but it's also outrageously gory and, moreover, genuinely perverse, with a scene of attempted sexual assault that may be too much for family viewing.

Drag Me to Hell is a really well-done PG-13 horror thriller from Evil Dead maestro Sam Raimi with a problematic ethnic stereotype as an antagonist.

Attack the Block is more of an action movie, but good Halloween viewing, with John Boyega in a major role. And while we're in Great Britain, if you liked Shaun of the Dead, you could try its spiritual sequels, Hot Fuzz and The World's End.

Someone above mentioned Bong Joon-ho's The Host, which is an excellent contemporary Korean monster movie. If you're really looking to broaden your movie horizons, you might consider some other non-English language movies, including Japan's surreal 1970s schoolgirl freakout House or Takashi Miike's monster mash-up, The Great Yokai War.
posted by Mothlight at 9:49 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Witch is a bit slow, but it's really beautiful and just creepy enough to hold your attention.
posted by hydra77 at 9:51 AM on October 19, 2020 [7 favorites]

It's a few years old, but I really enjoyed The Innkeepers. It's a rather traditional but effective haunted house story.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 9:55 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The 1980s Poltergeist is genuinely good, fun, campy, scary, and imo an almost perfect horror movie. A real stand out at a time when slashers were big.

It Follows is heavy on suspense and creeping dread.

The Ones Below is a spiritual reboot of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and is plenty scary.

The Conjuring movies are pretty ok if you want some decent devil bullshit. The Insidious movies are fairly ridiculous but noteworthy for having a woman in her 70s carry the series.

The Witch is excellent, one of my favorite movies of all time not just horror, but it might have a bit more blood than you'd like.
posted by phunniemee at 9:56 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

with a scene of attempted sexual assault that may be too much for family viewing

Re-Animator is high on the list of movies that I'd rather have died than watched with my parents as a teenager (or for that matter, now).
posted by Candleman at 10:37 AM on October 19, 2020

One Cut of the Dead. It's Japanese and has subtitles, and I can say no more about it except it's one of the best movies I've seen in a long long time.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2020

If they’ll tolerate an arty, somewhat philosophical zombie movie, Ravenous on Netflix might be good. There is some gore, not nonstop.
posted by lakeroon at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2020

The Prestige.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

The Others (2001, with Nicole Kidman. So good!!)
posted by lovableiago at 10:50 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I was going to recommend It Follows and The Others too. The Ring might be too scary. You could try the Japanese original if you don't mind subtitles but I found the remake scary enough. I actually enjoy watching Pitch Black when I need a little stress relief and The Descent is awesome but horrifying.
posted by victoriab at 11:28 AM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

If they liked Alien then you should definitely watch Aliens. It's one of my favorite movies and there are so many references to it in pop culture that the teenagers will enjoy the a-ha moment of discovering where some of those memes and jokes came from.
posted by victoriab at 11:34 AM on October 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thirding 'The Host' (2006) it's pure genius! Starts off as a parody of a monster movie, breaks every rule, and then turns into something profound. One of the great under-rated films of the 20th century so far. Everyone should see it.

I've had my fill of the zombie genre, but I'd make an exception for 'The Girl with All the Gifts' (2016), which has a fairly intelligent script and some impressive acting. Some gore included.
posted by ovvl at 11:54 AM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Lost Boys.
posted by BoscosMom at 1:18 PM on October 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

A 'fun' horror (not scary) tv show is Santa Clarita Diet, available on Netflix. The wife turns into a zombie and it's comically gory, but it's about a family carrying on with that (minor) setback.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:27 PM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Based on your previous successes, I suggest Happy Death Day and the sequel, Happy Death Day 2U. They’re best experienced without spoilers but I can say that they are definitely not typical slasher movies and are very much in line tone-wise with some of your other choices.
posted by notheotherone at 1:29 PM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I recommend this one so often people probably think my uncle directed it or something, but: They Look Like People. No gore, no jump scares, but very suspenseful (especially at the very end) and, to me at least, very moving.
posted by holborne at 1:42 PM on October 19, 2020

Best answer: For something lighter, I learned today that Disney+ has all the Treehouse of Horror episodes from The Simpsons.
posted by COD at 3:20 PM on October 19, 2020

Maybe some Aussie horror with Wyrmwood and The Babadook.
posted by chrisulonic at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A lot of the above suggestions are good but I'll take a different tack. I often think of Prime Video as the weird video store of my youth so I'm often digging deep for the more out there stuff. So if you are in that kind of mood and have a Prime subscription... for instance I noticed the wonderfully silly Devil's Rain was added to the system. It definitely fits as being one of the worst - from the director of the Dr. Phibes films (which are fun if you haven't seen them) and features an incredible cast: Ernest Borgnine, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino,William Shatner, John Travolta, Tom Skerret and Anton LeVey. It is terrible! Grizzly, Prophecy (the mutant bear movie not the Christopher Walken movie), Yeti - The Giant of the 20th Century (Italian King Kong ripoff), the bizarre Cruel Jaws, Shaw Brothers horror films Oily Maniac and Black Magic 1& 2, the pretty horrible Birdemic, Beyond the Seventh Door (Canadian oddity that is cheap and very entertaining), and Evil Within (previously). All weird and/or "bad" in their own ways.

For better stuff, James Gunn's Slither and Stuart Gordon's Stuck are not great but they are both demented fun. Bernard Rose's (director of Candyman) Paperhouse is pretty interesting. Amazon exclusive Vast of night is worth a look.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:30 PM on October 19, 2020

I really liked Housebound. I also have a soft spot in my heart for The Frighteners.
posted by gudrun at 7:16 PM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

You’re Next and The Guest.
posted by hazel79 at 7:26 PM on October 19, 2020

Did nobody mention Nightmare On Elm Street? Probably the most perfectly written and filmed horror movie. The last few seconds were tacked on by the studio to set it up for a sequel, but it's great and scary. Also the heroine finally says, 'I've had enough,' does some reading, and kicks the bad guy's ass.
Diabolique. It's old, black and white, and the copy I saw was grainy and had bad subtitles. It's still very creepy. Normal people go about their daily lives, but there's a thread of horror that slowly takes over.
Nomads. I saw this in a tiny room in a house I'd never been in before, huddled under a blanket with my date so as not to freeze. It's about normal, happy people slowly accepting that the supernatural is real and they've stumbled into something they can't possibly handle. It was terrifying.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Eight Legged Freaks is a creature feature that is stupid and cliched and I love it. It's a movie that knows the usual tropes and works with them ("Why didn't you tell anyone?" "I'm a kid! No-one listens to the kid!"). As a fan of old B-grade movies, I think this pays homage very well. Lots of green spider guts, jump-scares but not too blood thirsty.
posted by ninazer0 at 9:19 PM on October 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Here's another AskMe currently in play that is more horror comedy in tone.
The local library is another source for some of these films.

Some horror films with a higher scare factor:
Anything Vincent Price.
Classic Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolfman, The Invisible Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Other black and white classics, like King Kong, Godzilla, The Fly, The Blob, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Phantom of the Opera.

And a few color entries that may not have been mentioned:
The Birds (1963)
The Other (1972)
The Thing (1982)
Leviathan (1989)
Mimic (1997)
The Relic (1997)
Reign of Fire (2002)
The Descent (2005)
Cloverfield (2008)
Monsters (2010)
Underwater (2020)
posted by TrishaU at 3:17 AM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

2014's Housebound is really great. For some reason it's only on Hoopla and Tubi in the US but it's a gem of a horror-comedy.
posted by mediareport at 4:38 AM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

How about The Sixth Sense?
posted by dancinglamb at 8:59 AM on October 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

Blair Witch project is pretty cool (and cheesy), and my old favorite is Brainscan. Super suspenseful!
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 8:59 AM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe a trip across some early 80's horror would be fun? Big Trouble in Little China and They Live fit the funny, suspenseful. Return of the Living Dead is funny, suspenseful and a gory.

The others, well, maybe not for little kids. To see them as part of the horror cannon of the 80's is pretty cool though. Have fun!

Motel Hell (1980)

Terror Train (1980) (David Copperfield and Jamie Lee Curtis!)

Hell Night (1981) (Linda Blair)

C.H.U.D. (1984)

Q (1984)

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

They Live (1988)
posted by zerobyproxy at 1:25 PM on October 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

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