The Scariest Movies For Spooky Season Aren’t The Ones You’ve Heard Of

We are in a historically good year for truly terrifying horror films right now, but you wouldn’t know it just by looking at the box office. If you’re headed to the cinema for your annual dose of frights this October, you have a lot of options in the horror genre, but none that are particularly worthwhile. Ian Goldberg’s gothic horror sequel and the umpteenth uninteresting spin-off of The Conjuring, The Nun 2, has been trucking along for six weeks. Meanwhile, Saw X and The Exorcist: Believer went head-to-head at the start of October for a competition to see which movie can leave a bigger stain on its respective franchise’s legacy. Spoiler: it’s The Exorcist.


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Saw X is actually one of the better Saw movies – though its brand of horror falls more into the category of cathartic gore porn than actually terror-inducing. Ditto for A Haunting in Venice, the most horror-themed of the Agatha Christie adaptations, but certainly nothing that will compel you to sleep with the lights on. Also, it’s kind of a drag.

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But there are exceptionally scary movies out there right now if you know where to look. One of the cruelest, most disturbing movies this horror fan has seen in years is an Argentinian film called When Evil Lurks. Like The Exorcist, When Evil Lurks deals with demon-possessed children unleashing hell on a small rural community. But where Believer stumbles in its rote religiosity and bizarre pro-life themes, When Evil Lurks is a narrowly focused, relentless barrage of paranoia, dread, and some of the most savagely violent imagery I’ve seen in years. If you’re lucky you might find this one at an AMC theater near you, but it’s also premiering on Shudder October 27.

Hulu has been hit-or-miss with horror lately, but No One Will Save You is a must-watch creature-feature that plays like a home invasion thriller. The aliens in No One Will Save You are familiar enough to tap into our primal fear of little green men, but their interesting biology and animalistic behavior gives them instant horror icon status. It starts to lose steam in the third act and its too-clever ending is sure to be divisive, but it’s worth the journey if you’re looking to reinvigorating your fear of the things that might be out there beyond the stars.

On October 6, V/H/S85 debuted on Shudder. The sixth installment in the horror anthology series features stories about a murder cult, a virtual reality death god, a shapeshifting tentacle monster, a camera that captures a boy’s dreams about murder that later happen in real life, and the return of an Aztec blood god amidst the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. There are no bad shorts in the V/H/S series, and this year’s has some of the best.

By far the scariest movie of the year is Talk To Me, a fresh spin on the standard haunted object/cursed teenager genre. What makes Talk To Me so chilling is the way the ghost isolates and manipulates its victim. Giving the malevolent spirit an agenda beyond terrorizing the hapless teens adds meaningful layers to their living nightmare, and leads to a satisfyingly grim payoff that isn’t easy to shake off. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the psychological torture depicted in Talk To Me, nor its extremely disconcerting images of self harm. This one came through theaters over the summer, but just landed on VOD at the end of September.

If you’re a Shudder subscriber, I highly recommend you check out Attachment and Huesera: The Bone Woman as well. Both came out this year, and they’re both terrifying in completely different ways. Skinamarink, also streaming on Shudder, technically released in 2022 when it premiered at a film festival in Montreal, but it wasn’t available to see in theaters or streaming until this year. Finally, we can’t talk about the year’s scariest movies without mentioning Beau is Afraid, a surreal odyssey of shame and guilt from Ari Aster, director of Midsommer and Hereditary. It’s three hours of disorienting chaos in the style of Aronofksy’s Mother and Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, though ultimately easier to digest than either of those.

I’m not so pretentious that I can’t appreciate pop horror too. This year brought us M3GAN, Evil Dead Rise, Scream 6, and Knock at the Cabin, which are all well worth your time. But the best horror is almost always the ones you have to seek out on your own – which only adds to the mystique and trepidation. When Evil Lurks and Talk to Me are the kinds of movies you shouldn’t watch, but if you want to do spooky season right, you’ll be glad you did.

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