Every Halloween, when you want to check out a horror movie to get your heart racing, or a hilarious scary movie send-up to celebrate the holiday with laughs, everybody seems to cycle back to some of the same old classics.
While the slasher movies we've all come to know and love are classics for a reason (see: Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer or Scream), it’s fun to dive a little deeper into the realm of obscure horror, where some of the truly great fright flicks hide in the shadows.
Check out ET’s suggestions for some of the great lesser-known gems of spooky cinema with this year's alternative Halloween viewing guide:
Typical Fare: Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn
Alternative Option: Let the Right One In
This thoughtful Swedish horror tale, directed by Tomas Alfredson, is an entirely unique take on the well-trod territory of vampire flicks. The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Oskar, who is the target of local bullies. Oskar befriends Eli, a new neighbor girl, whose arrival in the town happens to coincide with a series of gruesome murders. Their burgeoning love story -- along with Eli's unusual condition, which makes her thirst for blood -- drives this surprisingly emotional and romantic tale of dark horror. The American remake, Let Me In, isn't a bad retelling if you simply cannot handle subtitles, but nothing beats the original.
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Comedic Option: What We Do in the Shadows
If you're looking for a comedic take on the genre, What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary about a group of vampires from different generations who all live together in an apartment in Wellington, New Zealand. The film stars Flight of the Conchords' Jermaine Clement, who also co-wrote and co-directed, alongside Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi.
Honorable Mentions: Blade II, Shadow of the Vampire, Near Dark, Only Lovers Left Alive
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Typical Fare: Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This 1982 English-language murder mystery/slasher, from Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, is terrifying (and occasionally, laughably campy) in so many different ways, it's almost impossible to describe. The story follows an American crime writer traveling through Rome, who discovers he's being stalked by a serial killer hell-bent on brutally murdering anyone involved in his upcoming novel, and driving him Unsane (which is the incredibly stupid title that got slapped on this movie when it was released in America). Considered to be one of Argento's last real masterpieces, Tenebre's bloodbath cinematography, unhinged acting and unsettling tone are pitch-perfect, and some of the biggest scares come from moments of almost-surreal madness basically unrelated to the actual plot. It certainly isn't your standard, modern slasher, but it's a film that will stick in your psyche for quite a while.
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Comedic Option: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) are a pair of backwoods mountain men and best friends who go on vacation together at a fixer-upper summer home in the mountains. Despite their good nature and kind hearts, they are wrongly assumed to be murderous redneck hillbillies by a group of stuck-up, preppy college kids. When Tucker and Dale rescue one of the girls, Allison (Katrina Bowden) from drowning in a lake, and take her back to their cabin until she wakes up, the college kids assume they've kidnapped their friend, and go on a mission to "rescue" her, leading to a series of hilarious and incredibly violent misunderstandings.
Honorable Mentions:It Follows, The Babadook, Candyman, Suspiria, American Psycho
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Haunted House Movies
Typical Fare:Paranormal Activity, Poltergeist, The Amityville Horror
Alternative Options: 1408
Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 is a vibrant, terrifying ghost story packed with legitimate fears, mind-bending twists and deeply unsettling scares. John Cusack stars as a professional skeptic who writes books about haunted locales and comes to the Dolphin hotel to spend the night in its spooky, ghost-filled unit -- the eponymous room 1408. The hotel's manager tries to warn him, and soon the writer realizes that this is one ghost story that's incredibly true and impossible to escape. From Cusack's tense tete-a-tetes with the hotel's manager, played with menacing perfection by Samuel L. Jackson, to the movie's unrelenting sense of unease, to the paranoia-fueled twists, 1408 is an underappreciated gem.
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Comedic Options:Ghost Team One
Another mockumentary, this supernatural comedy follows two roommates, wannabe ghost hunters who set out to impress their hot neighbor by proving that their apartment is haunted. The movie's humor skews way more juvenile and childish than cerebral, but the laughs are consistent and the scares are ridiculous. While skewered by critics, Ghost Team One is an impressive independent effort from a group of dedicated comic actors and filmmakers.
Honorable Mentions:We Are Still Here, The Others, The Orphanage, Stir of Echoes, Beetlejuice
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Typical Fare:Alien, Cloverfield, Jaws
Alternative Options:The Descent
This outdoorsy, adventure-themed horror masterpiece will definitely make you rethink any plans you might have to go exploring uncharted cave systems in the wilderness. The film follows a group of female friends who go on their annual adventure outing but end up getting lost after spelunking in unknown caves. Soon, however, being stuck in a cave with quickly dwindling supplies ends up being the least of their worries when they discover they aren't alone -- and the humanoid creatures who dwell in shadows are very, very hungry.
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Comedic Option:Attack the Block
This fast-paced British horror-comedy starring Star Wars' John Boyega takes place in a tough area in London, and tells the story of a group of young gang members who discover that their neighborhood is being threatened by a group of savage alien creatures who crash-landed in a meteorite. While the thick South London accents might be hard for some to understand, it's a darkly funny take on the genre.
Honorable Mentions: The Host, Troll Hunter, Nightbreed, Pan's Labyrinth
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Body Horror Flicks
Typical Fare:Human Centipede, Hellraiser, The Fly
Alternative Option:The Thing
If you want to walk away from a movie feeling completely paranoid and unsettled, The Thing is a great option. John Carpenter's iconic alien horror flick isn't as obscure as some other body horror classics you could choose from (like almost anything from David Cronenberg), but it is easily the most terrifying and universally frightening. The movie follows a group of scientists in Antarctica who become the victims of a shape-shifting alien parasite that can take on the form of anyone it infects, before turning into a nightmarish creature of pure terror. With skillful performances from Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley and really the entire cast, along with unparalleled practical special effects by Rob Bottin, few movies can come close to the desolate dread and terror of The Thing.
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A small, rural American town is overtaken by a horrifying alien plague that mutates the residents into grotesque monsters and bile-spewing zombies. All that stands between the alien menace and their goal to consume the planet is Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) and a rag-tag group of uninfected townspeople. Written and directed by Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn, this incredibly gross comedy horror also features stellar performances from Elizabeth Banks, Jenna Fischer and Michael Rooker.
Honorable Mentions: Videodrome, Contracted, Altered States, Society, The Stuff
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Typical Fare:Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, The Crazies
Alternative Options:Train to Busan
This nightmarish South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller follows a single father who takes his young daughter on a train to visit her mom. Along the way, a woman infected with a zombie virus begins to turn, and quickly sets off an outbreak on the train. As the passengers battle the monsters inside the train, the pandemic rages through the countryside. It's like everything World War Z tried to be, but more intense and vastly more harrowing.
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Comedic Option:Cabin in the Woods
Assuming you've already seen Shawn of the Dead and Zombieland, one of the best comedic takes on the genre in recent years is Cabin in the Woods. While it's technically a meta-commentary on the entire horror genre -- stuffed with enough references to delight any horror fan -- the main thrust of the plot borrows heavily from The Evil Dead, and the zombie scares are legitimately frightening, while managing to remain hilarious at the same time. Technically, they are menaced by a "zombie redneck torture family," which turns out to be a significant distinction.
Honorable Mentions: Warm Bodies, Pontypool, Cemetery Man, Rec, Dead Alive
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Obviously, this is not a comprehensive guide to every great obscure horror film, but rather a good starting point for anyone who wants to expand their scary movie horizons this Halloween.
For more movie news and commentary, or to share some of your favorite little-known horror flicks, you can follow Zach Seemayer on Twitter @ZachSeemayer