We’ve all been there: You’re scrolling through the titles at the local video store (well, more likely, Walmart discount bin and/or On Demand listing) looking for horror offerings and a great title catches your eye. You click on it and the movie that spills forth is nothing like what the title promised. There’s hardly a chainsaw in sight in ALABAMA CHAINSAW HOOKERS, and it takes place in Georgia! What gives?
Titles are a good hook to nab views, whether or not the movie actually reflects it at all (just think of all the Italian movies that have been repackaged as sequels to THE EVIL DEAD or ZOMBI), and horror movie producers are especially guilty of misleading audiences. Here are eight titles that I find incredibly exciting, but don’t reflect the content (or sometimes even the genre) that they seem to promise. But the time for frustration has come to an end, because I’m here to recommend some movies to watch instead that do fit that description. Enjoy!
IT COMES AT NIGHT
Here’s a recent one that has been frustrating people. Although IT COMES AT NIGHT has been marketed as a killer apocalypse movie with maybe a monster or zombies of some kind, it’s definitely more of a dark family drama about creeping dread that would rather leave everything ambiguous.
What to Watch Instead: FROM THE DARK (2014)
What this title needs is a good nocturnal monster. The perfect antidote is the Irish thriller FROM THE DARK, which centers on a couple lost in the countryside who are being pursued by a creature that is repelled by light, a la LIGHTS OUT.
Horror fans were probably disappointed the second they realized that BLACK MASS wasn’t about Satanists, but rather was a gritty crime biopic starring a pile of latex with Johnny Depp underneath.
What to Watch Instead: HÄXAN: WITCHCRAFT THROUGH THE AGES (1922)
This Swedish-Danish silent film will make you want to scrub your skin with holy water. This documentary-style depiction of the history of witchcraft (featuring an appearance by the Devil himself), HÄXAN is a completely inimitable film that captures a spirit of uncanny evil like no other.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN
Jason does hit up Manhattan, at least in one scene, but fans were disappointed when this excitingly titled slasher sequel delivered a bunch of kills on a boat and then subbed in Vancouver for New York City at every possible moment.
What to Watch Instead: THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)
Those looking for a slasher wreaking havoc in the Big Apple should look no further. While Lucio Fulci’s THE NEW YORK RIPPER is a much grimmer movie than your average FRIDAY THE 13TH entry, all the exteriors of this Italian production were actually shot on location. If you’re looking for another murderous exploration of the New York of yesteryear that will make you want to take a shower, MANIAC is a good companion piece for this one.
DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE!
This 1980 slasher does feature a killer calling into a radio psychologist in NEW YEAR’S EVIL style, but only one kill explicitly features a phone. The rest of the horror stems from sweaty grindhouse atrocities that don’t live up to the fun promised by the title.
What to Watch Instead: PHONE (2002)
This South Korean flick fits right into the “evil technology” vein of J-horror at the time, including films like ONE MISSED CALL and RING. This one is actually about a cursed phone number, which one journalist accidentally acquires after she changes her number. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re looking to expand your import watchlist.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
Now, SEASON OF THE WITCH was neither a HALLOWEEN movie nor a witch movie, but it’s a shame that that awesome title sat there wasted for decades. It really deserved better.
What to Watch Instead: BLACK SUNDAY (1960)
Barbara Steele in a witch movie? Sign me up! This Mario Bava classic was based on the Russian short story “Viy,” and revolves around a witch who was horribly murdered and returns two centuries later to seek her revenge.
This 1989 direct-to-video slasher is another grotesque misnomer. Instead of killing camping teens on the moon (How? Why? Who cares? It would’ve been awesome!), our slasher makes the mundane choice to attack a camp in the woods. Gee, where have I heard that one before?
What to Watch Instead: TITAN FIND (1985)
It’s not exactly a slasher movie, but TITAN FIND, also known as CREATURE, depicts German and American space crews battling it out with an alien monster on a distant moon of Saturn. It’s got ALIEN DNA through and through, so it’s not not a slasher. And it’s got a moon and everything!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love CHOPPING MALL, but that title just completely fails to fit the plot, which involves malfunctioning security robots shooting lasers at Barbara Crampton.
What to Watch Instead: THE INITIATION (1984)
THE INITIATION has it all! Daphne Zuniga, Clu Gulager, and PSYCHO’s Vera Miles as an unstable family unit! An overnight sorority initiation in an abandoned mall! A psycho slasher murdering them all one by one! It’s the frothy hybrid of soap opera and slasher movie you never knew you wanted.
This is another solid entry in the horror canon, but I just can’t get over the fact that the titular Pumpkinhead demon doesn’t actually have a pumpkin for a head. It looks way better than that, but I came here for a pumpkin, you know?
What to Watch Instead: JACK-O (1995)
I’m not here to endorse JACK-O as a classic of the form, but it does actually give its demon a pumpkin head, so I’m not complaining either.