Not all scary films wait in the horror aisle. Some have snuck into comedy, fantasy and even the kids section, just waiting for your unsuspecting curiosity to rent (or queue, for the Netflix crowd). If you’re bored by eviscerated teenagers, disgusted by Hostel-esque torture porn and have seen every Asian horror film to be legally subtitled, consider these flicks to add a shot of creepy to your Halloween festivities.
Do you like your teen comedy with a side of sadism? Snarky and sardonic, Heathers is the ultimate counterpoint to Easy A and the vicious older sister to Mean Girls. Winona Ryder plays a smart but directionless high schooler both drawn to and disgusted by the popular clique at school — three girls named Heather.
When Christian Slater’s J.D., a psychotic version of Grease’s Danny Zuko, rolls into town, she finds herself in the unlikely position of judge and executioner. Over the top, yes, but all too disturbing when you wonder just how much some people hated the popular club back in high school.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
The 80s were a hotbed of fantasy films meant to traumatize children, but The Dark Crystal comes out on top. Although other films such as Labyrinth and The Neverending Story also featured animatronics, The Dark Crystal has no human actors whatsoever.
Instead, we are treated to a bunch of creepy elves, called Gelflings, who embark on a dangerous quest filled with destruction and danger. The uncanny valley effect is through the roof and children are lucky Jim Henson took a gentler approach to Sesame Street.
Watership Down (1978)
Laugh all you want — how can a movie about bunnies in the English countryside possible be scary? It is, when you realize these rabbits have to fend off dogs, escape toxic fumes and go to war with other ear-shredding Nazi-esque rabbits.
In Watership Down, the characters are not cuddly anthropomorphic Lion King creatures, but real animals who have to fight for survival — and often fail. The brutal and at times surreal art style never shies from blood and gore, and the plot makes it clear the original novel was never a children’s book.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Want to know where David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers picked up some of their inspiration for creep-factor?
Meet The Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters. A murderous preacher is after the money of his hanged cellmate and only the dead man’s son knows where it is. To find the money, the preacher marries his cellmate’s widow. The ensuing drama is wrought with tense chases and narrow escapes.
What sets this film apart, however, is the otherworldly, off-kilter quality of the screenplay. Combined with foreboding lighting and a terrifying performance by Mitchum, The Night of the Hunter is an atmospheric chase through the woods.
The Company of Wolves (1984)
If you consider the original version of Little Red Riding Hood — a tale of cannibalism, strip-teases and a wolf who sounds suspiciously like he wants more than dinner — it makes sense to give the story a creepy spin.
The Company of Wolves ups the ante by making it into a werewolf flick. But forget senseless gore or Taylor Lautner jailbait. This film is a mood piece, a disturbing walk along a trail where wolves can be men who are just hairy on the inside.
It’s a Freudian work, with Angela Lansbury as a creepy but wise grandmother sharing stories with her granddaughter about why girls should stay on the proper path. It’s also an interesting look into gender roles and feminine empowerment, all cloaked in a werewolf skin.
The Land Before Time, (1988)
Don’t laugh — most of you who remember The Land Before Time only saw the dopey sequels, none of which were directed by the original’s Don Bluth. But check out the first film and instead of goofy little dinosaurs, you’ll find a story about five grieving orphans trying to stave off starvation and survive in a ruined world.
The scene when the mother of Littlefoot, the film’s main character, encounters a hungry T-Rex makes Bambi seem placid. The battles and chases in the film are far more intense than typical children’s fair. To top it off, executive producer Stephen Spielberg even had certain scenes deleted after psychologists deemed that parts would cause legitimate trauma.
The original will still make your inner child wince, but keep an eye out for a mythical unedited version that appeared on Finnish television.