A few weeks ago, we published a detailed rundown of what horror games we think you should play this Halloween season. But with no trick or treating this year, you’re going to have a lot of extra time on your hands to be scared. Luckily for you, Game Informer is always here to help. Rather than suggesting horror video games for you to play, this time we’re here to run down some scary movies we think you should watch if you like things that go bump in the night.
Did you like Friday the 13th: The Game? Check out Sleepaway Camp
It would be too easy to recommend a Friday the 13th movie here. Instead, you should watch the criminally underappreciated Sleepaway Camp. Released in 1983 by director Robert Hiltzik, Sleepaway Camp tells the story of Angela Baker and her stay at Camp Arawak. Angela doesn’t quite fit in and is often bullied by the older kids at camp, or much worse, tried to be taken advantage of by the adults running the camp. Conspicuously, though, all these people die in very, very horrible ways.
In a lot of ways, Sleepaway Camp is your run-of-the-mill slasher flick. A bunch of kids get up to some trouble, they die horribly, and it’s all pretty cheesy and poorly acted. And you could argue some of the content in Sleepaway Camp has not aged gracefully by 2020 sensibilities (maybe check out Does The Dog Die before watching). On the other hand, there’s an ambition to Sleepaway Camp that sets it apart from other slashers. Coming out in 1983, during the deluge of slashers trying to cash in on the success of 1978’s Halloween, Sleepaway Camp tries to tell a story about being trapped in your own body and feeling uncomfortable in your own skin. As Bartłomiej Paszylk wrote, it’s an “exceptionally bad movie but a very good slasher.” In recent years, the movie has gained a strong cult following and even received some critical reevaluation.
Whether or not Sleepaway Camp pulls any of that off is up to the viewer, but it’s an admirable attempt to do something smarter with a pretty boring genre. Interestingly, Hiltzik has only made two movies: Sleepaway Camp and 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp, one of the many films in the series. Hiltzik, who is a New York City lawyer these days, reportedly was unaware the movie even had a following until he was approached to record a commentary for it in 2000.
The hook of Sleepaway Camp, and the thing that’s always mentioned by its fans, is its shocking ending. And for good reason. It is extremely shocking. I won’t spoil it here, but the sound alone has bothered me ever since I first saw the movie. Count me among the biggest fans of this exceptional bad movie but very good slasher.
Did you like Outlast? Check out Noroi: The Curse
A dime a dozen and still overpriced, found footage media is everywhere these days. It’s relatively cheap to produce, easy to fill with jump scares, and easy to get bodies in seats. But there are some stand-outs, like the godfathers of the genre, The Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust. There’s also Noroi: The Curse, which came out in 2005, two years before the first Paranormal Activity blew the genre wide open.
This once-hard-to-find-outside-of-Japan horror movie is less of a found footage film and more of a scrapbook of different events tied together to tell a sort-of cohesive plot. Using “actual” found footage and that of news broadcasts, live shows, and old documentary footage, Noroi tells the story of Masafumi Kobayashi, a paranormal investigator who has since gone missing after his house burned down, as he looks into paranormal happenings around Tokyo and how they’re connected. It all goes very poorly for Kobayashi.
Noroi is never overtly scary. It believes in its story enough to allow fear to bubble in its viewer, dragging on, and building a slow burn before its final climax. It’s also unafraid to be bleak. The movie never lets you out of its grips, never giving you a moment of brevity, always holding you down below the surface with it. If you’re not tired of found footage movies, give this one a shot. It’s a genuinely unique take on the genre and has some really disturbing moments that will stick with you.
Did you like P.T.? Check out The Exorcist III
We couldn’t do this list without including P.T., the “playable teaser” for Hideo Kojima’s now-canceled Silent Hills game. It’s against gamer law, actually. But it gives us a chance to talk about The Exorcist III, the best Exorcist film you’ve never seen.
What ties P.T. and The Exorcist III together (aside from them both being somewhat about possession) is the persistent sense of dread in each. For the hour or two you play P.T., you are always on edge. From the opening seconds of The Exorcist III, a feeling of anxiety will be in the pit of your stomach, slowly rising as things get worse and worse. It is easily one of the tensest movies ever made.
Taking place 15 years after the exorcism of Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist, and ignoring the events of Exorcist II: The Heretic, The Exorcist III follows Lieutenant William F. Kinderman, the investigator on the Dennings case in the first movie, as he attempts to solve a series of murders around the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington D.C., the setting for the original film. While fingerprints suggest these murders were perpetrated by different people, the method of murder used matches the killings of The Gemini Killer, Kinderman discovers. The only problem is The Gemini Killer was executed 15 years ago. Or maybe he wasn’t, as it’s revealed a patient in the psychiatric ward of the hospital the movie largely takes place in was found 15 years ago catatonic and amnesic, until one day waking up claiming to be The Gemini Killer.
It’s not the most coherent plot, and the way the movie shoehorns in a relationship to the events of the original Exorcist movie are largely unneeded. However, once the movie gets going, it never stops. Only the second (and final) movie directed by William Peter Blatty, who wrote The Exorcist novel and film-adapted screenplay, The Exorcist III is a masterclass in restraint and suspension. Murders or violence are rarely shown on-screen, we’re only given brief glimpses of the aftermath and detailed descriptions from characters, such as a body expertly drained of blood or a corpse stuffed full of rosaries. There is also the single best jump scare ever committed to film in this movie. I won’t say anything other than it is horrific.
Inevitably, The Exorcist III will forever live in the shadow of The Exorcist. And for what it’s worth, I think there’s merit to that. The Exorcist is one of the greatest movies ever made, much less one of the greatest horror movies ever made. But don’t sleep on this sequel! It’s easily available on streaming services and shows a writer-turned-director at the top of his game.
Did you like The Last of Us Part 2? Check out Lady Vengeance
Okay, technically not a horror movie, but bear with me. Like The Last of Us Part 2 (which you could argue is also technically not a horror game), Lady Vengeance, as the name implies, is about revenge. And more than that, it’s about the hollowness of revenge and the lengths in which we’re willing to go to exact that vengeance.
The final part in South Korean director Park Chan-wook’s Vengeance Trilogy, proceeded by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, starring Parasite’s Park Dong-jin, and the critically-renowned Oldboy, Lady Vengeance tells the story of Lee Geum-ja as she gets out of prison after being convicted for the kidnapping and murder of a six-year-old boy 13 years earlier (might want to check out Does The Dog Die before watching this one, too). We learn that at one time Dong-jin became a sensation in South Korea because of the young age in which she admitted to committing her crime but has also become a beacon of the effectiveness of prison reform. It’s worth pointing out, Lady Vengeance is full of twists and nothing is what it seems at first.
Outside of prison, Dong-jin gets to work on her meticulously crafted plan for the revenge and murder of the man who landed her in prison. I’ll stop short of saying anything else about the plot of the movie, but once you find out the true nature of what’s going on in Lady Vengeance, what it lacks in traditional scares it makes up for with the true horror of human nature.
For me, Lady Vengeance is the standout movie in the Vengeance Trilogy, though they’re all worth watching. It’s a beautiful film, and perhaps Park Chan-wook’s most visually stunning until his 2016 psychosexual drama The Handmaiden. It’s also unafraid to deeply examine human flaws, taking close looks at anger, betrayal, and what we’re willing to do to feel justified in our actions.