Horror movies are inherently at least a little bit weird. These picks lean into it, resulting in some twisted, hilarious, haunting, and horrifying films. Next time you're in the mood for something a bit off-beat, one of these bizarre but great horror movies should do the trick.
1. The Vanishing, 1988
Hollywood remade this one in 1993 with Kiefer Sutherland, changing the ending and ruining the film. You’ll want to find the original 1988 film in Dutch and French. (It’s worth having to read the subtitles.) It is one of the most tense and tightly-plotted thrillers ever made. Every scene holds a clue. A young woman disappears at a highway rest stop. Her boyfriend makes it his mission to find out what happened to her. Be warned…. He does.
2. Don't Look Now, 1973
In this film based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a couple grieving the accidental death of their daughter. In Venice, they encounter two women who claim their dead daughter is trying to reach them. Sutherland’s character steadfastly refuses to believe it, in spite of some spooky evidence. The terror here doesn’t come from the paranormal events themselves, but from the effect they have on a grieving father who desperately wants to believe the world is rational.
3. Possession, 1981
Isabelle Adjani won the Best Actress award at Cannes for her performance, including perhaps the most terrifying scene ever filmed in a subway tunnel. The movie centers on the collapsing marriage between Adjani’s character and her husband, played by Sam Neill (Jurassic Park). But what exactly is coming between them? Director Andrzej Zulawski does not hold back on the gore. The English-language version is slightly less bloody than the French one. A streaming version of the film is tough to find, but you can buy it on Amazon.
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4. Pontypool, 2008
The hero of this horror thriller is holed up inside a radio station in Ontario, Canada as he slowly learns that something horrible is unfolding in the world outside. He is a ‘shock jock’ radio host, but that can’t prepare him for the shock of what’s coming. Weird and subtle, this film has something to say about the dangers of careless speech.
5. The Brood, 1979
Director David Cronenberg gets his gore on in this sendup up of the weird psychotherapies, like Primal Scream, popular in the 1970s. When Nola is sent to therapy with Dr. Hal Raglan, he quickly discovers her past of abuse and neglect. As she delves into the details of the people who caused her harm, strange, deformed children begin killing those that Nola accuses. The terrifying brood will stay with you long after the movie ends. Initial critics were unimpressed with The Brood, but it slowly gained a cult following.
6. Two Thousand Maniacs!, 1964
This splatter flick trades on just about every stereotype of the Southern redneck. In fact, some critics say this is the film that invented the killer redneck trope that has been used in horror movies since. Surprisingly, the movie was a big hit in the South, where it played mostly at drive-in theaters. Basically, Two Thousand Maniacs! is the horror version of Brigadoon. A group of hapless Northern tourists are lured to the small Southern hamlet of Pleasant Valley, where they are tortured and murdered as part of the town’s Centennial celebration.
7. The Last House on the Left, 1972
This was director Wes Craven’s first feature film, and it’s not for everybody. Critics (and audiences) left the theater in droves. Critic Gene Siskel called it the “sickest” movie of the year. It was heavily censored and banned in many countries. But in spite of all that, it was a box office success. Two teenage girls are tortured and murdered, then the killers get theirs. It is considered a pioneer in the genre of revenge porn. The Last House on the Left was inspired by the Swedish film The Virgin Spring directed by Ingmar Bergman. So it is a kind of classic–if you can stomach it.
8. Repulsion, 1965
This psychological thriller is considered one of director Roman Polanski’s best. It stars Catherine DeNeuve as a young woman left alone in a London apartment who begins to hallucinate. At first the horrors are coming from her own mind, but then they aren’t. This is Polanski’s first film in English. Of course, he went on to make the horror classic Rosemary’s Baby.
9. House of the Devil, 2009
The budget was less than a million dollars and the movie barely ran in theaters, but director Ti West managed to make a hit both with audiences and with critics. West pays tribute to the horror classics of the 70s and 80s, so horror fans will be in on the jokes. Terrorized babysitters, demonic possession, scary pizza deliveries: This one has it all.
10. Funny Games, 1997
Michael Haneke directed this sadistic psychological thriller about two young men who torture a wealthy family, just for fun. This movie is so disturbing that many people can’t sit through it. The violence may have been meant as a social commentary, but that doesn’t make Funny Games any easier to stomach.
Feature still from "Possession" via Limelight International