ByJennifer Schwartz, writer at Creators.co
Writer, bookworm, I cry over people who don't exist and I'm still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.
Jennifer Schwartz

There is no doubt a lot of lackluster horror out there these days, offering nothing but cheap jump-scares, mindless carnage and characters dumber than dirt. If you’re sick of these tricks, you might be searching for films that are of similar caliber to the highly-praised intellectual and inventive horrors of recent years such as The Babadook, It Follows or A Girl Walks Home at Night to set this mood this October.

Fortunately for you, other equally smart and original horror films do exist out there that may have just slipped under your radar. These horror gems are usually adored by critics, yet for whatever reason may still remain somewhat obscure — and in some cases, even misunderstood by viewers if the story is conceptually different from the formulaic trash we usually pay to see in theaters.

Even though you may not have been able to see these horror films at a cinema near you, they are conveniently available to stream right now from the comfort of your home. In no particular order, here are 10 smart (and underrated) horror films, and why you need to give them a watch this October.

10. 'The Devil’s Candy'

'The Devil's Candy' [Credit: IFC Midnight]
'The Devil's Candy' [Credit: IFC Midnight]

From Australian filmmaker Sean Byrne, The Devil's Candy opens with artist Jesse Hellman (Ethan Embry) having just bought his wife and fellow metal-head young daughter a beautiful dream house in the countryside — despite hearing it has a rather murderous past — because the price was just too damn good. But when Jesse starts hearing strange voices in his head and his paintings become inexplicably more and more disturbing, he realizes he’s made a grave mistake and has exposed his family, specifically his daughter, to a terrible evil.

Why it's so smart: The Devil's Candy cleverly uses metaphors for "selling your soul" and flips all of the most infuriating horror movie clichés on their heads. With over-arching themes of commitments vs. temptations and the fine-line between being inspired and being possessed, this story is ultimately about the trials of parenting.

Tomatometer: 92%

Year Released: 2017

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu

9. 'Honeymoon'

'Honeymoon' [Credit: Magnolia Films]
'Honeymoon' [Credit: Magnolia Films]

Newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) decide to defy the norm and honeymoon at a remote lakeside cabin. The secluded location makes for a romantic getaway for the lovebirds, until one night Bea disappears into the woods and a frantic Paul discovers her naked and in a sleep-like trance. Paul's fears only worsen when his bride starts acting forgetful and her behavior turns increasingly bizarre, leading him to believe something truly malevolent took place in the woods that night.

Why it's so smart: From director Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon is a rare intellectual horror that begs the question: how well do you really know the person you married? Instead of spitting out cliche frights the viewer can quickly recover from, this film gradually builds on paranoia and a suffocating atmosphere and does not let up. It is an original story that presents its horror in an understated, yet severely disturbing nature you won't soon forget.

Tomatometer: 73%

Year Released: 2014

Watch on: Netflix, iTunes, Vudu

8. 'Stake Land'

'Stake Land' [Credit: IFC Midnight]
'Stake Land' [Credit: IFC Midnight]

From director Jim Mickle, Stake Land is a surprisingly emotional story of an apocalyptic country devastated by vampires. Nick Damici co-writes and stars as a John Wayne-inspired vampire hunter called “Mister” who travels across the barren wastelands with his young protégé in training, Martin (Connor Paulo), in search of “New Eden” — a sanctuary where vampires have not yet overtaken.

Why it's so smart: For an incredibly low-budgeted indie film, Stake Land offers one of the most creative and truly terrifying takes on the vampire in years — featuring a religious cult that actually wants the vampires to take over. However, the real horrors of this film work because of your investment in the characters and their harrowing story.

Tamatometer: 75%

Year Released: 2010

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu

7. 'The House Of The Devil'

'The House of the Devil' [Credit: Magnet Releasing]
'The House of the Devil' [Credit: Magnet Releasing]

Strapped for cash, sophomore college student, Samantha (Jocelin Donehue), takes up a babysitting gig in order to make rent for her new apartment. When she arrives at the old mansion on the listing, she learns the homeowners essentially tricked her — there are no kids, and she misleadingly was hired to house-sit while a sickly old woman hangs out upstairs. This is slightly concerning, but Samantha is tempted by the $400 she can earn just from watching TV for a few hours. As you might suspect, nothing good is to come of this situation.

Why it's so smart: Dedicated to its 80’s retro styling, The House of the Devil is a 2009 indie horror film directed by Ti West that gives a clever homage to the tried and true babysitter horror. Stick with this one; it’s a slow-burn, tension-filled climb to an all hell-breaks-lose kind of climax.

Tomatometer: 86%

Year Released: 2009

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu

6. 'Creep'

[Credit: Sony Pictures]
[Credit: Sony Pictures]

Creep is a found footage film about a videographer named Aaron (Patrick Brice) who answers a Craigslist ad to shoot a video diary in a secluded mountain town. There’s no denying his client Josef (Mark Duplass) is a little…eccentric, but after several hours of filming, Aaron begins to question the motives of the man in front of the camera.

Why it's so smart: Creep is a found footage film done right. This indie production was done entirely by the two stars of the film — Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice co-wrote the script and Brice directed it. Working with very little and producing very visceral scares, Mark Duplass's performance is incredibly unsettling and, well, creepy.

Tomatometer: 96%

Release date: 2015

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu

5. 'Raw'

[Credit: Focus World]
[Credit: Focus World]

A French film directed by Julia Ducournau, Raw tells the story of a vegetarian vet school freshman, Justine, who upon a series of cruel hazing rituals, is forced to eat a rabbit kidney, which triggers a dramatic change in her appetite. Having been vegetarian her entire life, she becomes ashamed and conflicted when she starts ferociously craving meat. Going as far as eating raw meat straight out of the package, Justine fears nothing will satiate her hunger. Good thing her older sis is on campus to show her the ropes.

Why it's so smart: With strong themes of family, love and accepting your temptations in order to overcome them, Raw is at its core, a coming-of-age cannibalism story. Sound crazy? What's crazier is how much the human element of this film will draw you in, specifically Justine's unconditional relationship with her older sister.

Tomatometer: 90%

Year Released: 2016

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow, Vudu

4. 'They Look Like People'

[Credit: Sundance Channel]
[Credit: Sundance Channel]

Perry Blackshear's indie psychological horror film They Look Like People is about a young man named Wyatt who has a special gift of seeing shape-shifting demonic monsters for what they really are — even though to everyone else they look like regular people. Wyatt receives mysterious phone calls late at night that foretell an impending war, and even though he is meant to keep this knowledge to himself, he makes the decision to track down and warn a distant friend of the creatures enclosing all around them.

Why it's so smart: This is dark, minimalistic psychological horror at its best, with strong underlying messages of friendship and the taboo of mental-health. This one will tug on your emotions and leave you a ball of nerves by the climax. Pro tip: Go into this one without watching any trailers and just experience it for what it is.

Tomatometer: 89%

Year Released: 2015

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow

3. 'Boys In The Trees'

[Credit: Mushroom Pictures]
[Credit: Mushroom Pictures]

On Halloween night, two estranged child-hood friends walk home through the woods. In between trying to spook each other with a game they played as kids, they find themselves learning they aren’t so different from their younger selves as they’d like to believe. The true terror lying in the tragic reality of why their friendship ended, this is not necessarily a traditional “horror” film, but rather a supernatural drama with the perfect Halloween atmosphere, and a soul-crushing message.

Why it's so smart: Boys in the Trees is a paranormal coming-of-age story by Australian filmmaker Nicholas Verso that is anchored by themes of friendship, loyalty and forgiveness. While it is not categorized as blood-curdling horror, it certainly has horror elements to it. Think Goosebumps meets the fear of becoming an adult and losing your childhood innocence — it may not be the scariest film you watch this October, but the content it uncovers is certainly dark.

Tomatometer: 77%

Year Released: 2016

Watch on: Netflix, iTunes

2. 'Train To Busan'

'Train to Busan' [Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment]
'Train to Busan' [Credit: Well Go USA Entertainment]

The debut film from Korean director Sang-ho Yeon, Train to Busan follows a group of passengers traveling from Seoul to Busan on a train that's been overcome by a violent viral outbreak. When it is learned that the virus is ravaging every city country-wide, our main protagonist, a disengaged workaholic father named Seok-Woo (Yoo Gong), makes a promise to his young daughter Soo-an (Su-an Kim) that he will get her safely to Busan, the last city where possible refuge remains.

Why it's so smart: Happily I can say that no, this is not just another zombie movie —in fact, if you see any zombie movie in the next few years, let it be this one. Studying the innate nature of humans when put in life or death situations, Train to Busan constructs fully realized characters that well-earn your emotional connection.

Tomatometer: 95%

Year Released: 2016

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, FandangoNow

1. 'The Invitation'

[Credit: Drafthouse Films]
[Credit: Drafthouse Films]

In Karyn Kasuma's psychological horror/thriller, The Invitation, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) is invited to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife — who he hasn't seen or heard from in two years. As the dinner takes place in Will's former house (that his ex now lives in with her new husband), Will is already a little anxious and uncomfortable. However, it's not long after being introduced to his ex's off-beat new friends that Will suspects something sinister is taking place.

Why it's so smart: Karyn Kasuma knows how to effectively build tension and dread to the point where you’re squirming on the edge of your seat. The character of Will also bluntly voices the concerns of the audience, offering the viewer a breath of sanity in an otherwise maddeningly fraught environment. You feel for Will and his torment, and while some may be able to see where the climax is heading from early on, the agonizing pace and raw execution leaves the grand reveal more than satisfying.

Tomatometer: 88%

Year Released: 2015

Watch on: Amazon, Netflix, iTunes, Vudu


While you won't find any mass teen-slashings or lame CGI-monster reveals in these films, you will find well-crafted, contemplative horror that will haunt you long after the credits roll.

What other smart and underrated horror films would you recommend? Share with us below!

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