My Top 5 Non-Horror Horror Movies

I decided to give some love to my favorite movies that contain horror elements but are not typically classified as such or labeled in that genre – Fantasy, Science Fiction and Psychological Thrillers. These are movies I’ll pop in during my favorite month of the year without feeling like I’m straying too far from my family tradition of only horror related movie fare during October (thanks to my Moms).

Netflix is going to be the only ground I go to in order to determine whether or not something is strictly “horror” so if you find it labeled as horror somewhere else on the internetz or in the real world, you are the Grand Duchess/Duke of Moviedom. All hail. 🙂

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5. FLATLINERS

Why This Wins: A ripe bit of early 90s nostalgia featuring six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Kiefer Sutherland. Julia Roberts. Oliver Platt. And one of the Baldwin brothers, but it’s not Alec so I doubt anyone cares (he’s the hang-dog Keanu Reeves-looking one). The premise, for those not in the know, is a group of mostly white male medical students, with Julia Roberts as the token female, get together and electrocute themselves to near death in order to have spiritual visions. Unfortunately, they bring the malicious ghosts of their past sins back, which proceed to haunt them. Most of the action takes place around Halloween and there’s lots of spooky cathedral scenes with billowing sheets of white and plastic. Keifer Sutherland looks classicly cracked out. The scene which spooked me the most as a child is Julia Roberts discovering her Vietnam Vet father shooting up in their bathroom. It involved lots of red lighting and a spooky mirror shot which skeeves me to this day.

Crappy YouTube Trailer Ahoy:

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4. THE MACHINIST

Why This Wins: This movie rules but I can’t really say why because it will give away the plot and all the mystery, so suffice it to say…there is a lot of symbolism laced in every ounce of the screen. It’s streaming on Netflix Instant Watch right now and I clicked through it again to collect specific creepy examples, noticing little fun bits and elements I had missed during my first viewing several years ago. Christian Bale starved himself into startling thinness to pull off this role and the visual shock of his emaciated form shuffling on the screen is quite unsettling. The score is mixed with Hitchcockian violins and low-bass (without being too obvious) and the shriek and grind of machinery contrasted with the spooky silence of the town setting the main character inhabits also serves to increase the uncomfortable.

This is yet another psychological thriller, which I guess aside from Fantasy, Sci Fi and true Horror – is the only other film that gets to make a pretense of creepy.

Other Bits of Awesome: A theme park haunted house which lays out the entire mystery of the film. The main characters name Trevor Reznik is a reference to Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails (the screenwriter was apparently a huge fan). The plot is based rather loosely on a Fyodor Dostoyevsky short story (I won’t reveal the title, it will ruin the ending) and at least two other Dostoyevsky titles can be spotted throughout the film. The film was considered too dark and “complicated” to be financed by American dollars, so it was produced and shot in Spain.

Check Out the Trailer, and then just go ahead and watch the damn film already:


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3. ALIEN and ALIENS

Why They Win: First widely recognized action heroine role. While most people remember this as Ripley being intensely bad-ass, this is not-so-secretly a horror movie. The single white female being pursued by a menacing force is not treading any new ground. As all good horror damsels in distress, she rises above the fear and overcomes in the end. Don’t get me wrong – I super love this flick but anyone who thinks this is straight action with no trappings of the typical sexist horror film isn’t paying close enough attention. In fact, the whole thing has a skeevy sexual overtone with the alien force trying to impregnate her with it’s demon offspring. Coupled with a total “trapped in a confined space with a slasher” vibe, nicely pulled off with the claustrophobic and cramped ship serving as a back drop.

One of the main reason these films get so much love is because they’re in space and space is primarily the providence of the menz. So it was all new and exciting and erotic to see a chick whupping an alien when for so long it was Captain Kirk and his away team getting all of the hot and heavy action.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching Ripley kick ass? But take note that this occurs in a science fiction world where the presence of women on-board a ship is not treated with awe and exceptionalism.

Alien and Aliens are the standards against which all great sci-fi alien claustrophobic spaceship films are inevitably held. If you make a film like this and don’t pay some kind of homage, you are a fool.

I was hoping to include a great scene or two to display what makes this film so terrifying, but unfortunately the only clips on YouTube are of trailers or Sigourney Weaver in panties. Fucking awesome. So here’s a clip where Ripley is being bad-ass which also nicely displays a bit of the spaceship creep:


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2. PAN’S LABYRINTH and DEVIL’S BACKBONE

Why These Win: Technically The Devil’s Backbone is categorized as a horror film, but Pan’s Labyrinth is not. These are grouped together in my mind as companion movies – they are both centered around the Spanish Civil War which took place in the 1930s and feature creepy kids and supernatural elements with a horror angle. Perhaps it’s the Faun that sets Pan apart and makes it more fantasy than horror. Either way – these films are fantastic examples of the great things being done in Spanish cinema. Some of my favorite “creepy” directors, Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron, hail from this country and I’m thrilled to to be able to revel in all this imagination. If Hollywood seems hell-bent on crushing creativity, at least we have the Spaniards keeping it on life support.

Guillermo’s creatures are visual masterpieces and he and Peter Jackson run neck and neck in terms of who can create and bring to life sumptuous fantasy worlds (and then populate them with creepy crawlies). The news that Guillermo is in line to direct the film adaptation of “The Haunted Mansion” was a particular high point at San Diego Comic Con.

Other Bits of Awesome: Also check out The Orphanage (another in the awesome Spanish creepy films series) for a movie with orphans in it, that doesn’t manage to demonize them. I know, it’s a shocker. In fact, the heroine of the film is an orphan.

Here’s the Devil’s Backbone trailer. I’m assuming ya’ll have seen Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s on Netflix Instant Watch if not.

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1. DONNIE DARKO

Why This Wins: It takes place during Halloween, which explains the Frank costume but not the overly eerie vibe of this film. It’s a hard one to shake and I’m not even quite convinced that the Director knows why half of the stuff is in there but it’s got some haunting imagery coupled with a melancholy and moody soundtrack. That fucking rabbit suit gets me every time: “Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?” is easily one of the best retorts. And axes. Axes are always creepy. As is the idea of watching Donnie slowly lose his mind and commit random acts of violence against his sleepy upper-middle-class community.

Other Bits of Awesome: It stars the Gyllenhaal twins, who’ve not appeared in anything else together. The Evil Dead cameo. It was produced by Drew Barrymore. Roslin from BSG appears as Donnie Darko’s cool but aloof mom. The Gary Jules version  “Mad World” is easily one of the best 80s song re-dos from our generation.

The Evil Dead cameo plus  a chilling conversation between Donnie and Frank:

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They Also Ran:

Single White Female: This is more of a straight thriller than a horror but it always stands out to me because of the focus on the female relationships. Unlike Fatal Attraction or The Hand That Rocks the Cradle which both revolve around men – Single White Female is truly a creepy flick that is woman-centric. Hedy (the villain) doesn’t just want to steal Allie’s man or kill her off for revenge. She wants to be Allie’s everything and eventually seeks to become her. While it could have easily been construed as a sexual obsession, the movie was sure to emphasize a dead twin sister and focus on Hedy having a personality disorder.

The tension and thrills aren’t exceptionally intense but it feels important to highlight the rare films that examine relationships between women in whatever form they might take shape.

Seven: This seemed like another one to highlight not because it was one of my personal favorites but because it’s sort of the Grand Daddy of Torture Porn. And I hate torture porn. I do have some love for this film. The cast is fantabulous. The deaths are gruesome and inventive and thankfully occur mostly off-screen. Would Saw exist without Seven? Prolly not. And would Hostel exist without Saw? Prolly not. So all the nasty “horror” films which are sucking up all the production money and using up all the horror slots at the theatres would go away.

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

7 responses to “My Top 5 Non-Horror Horror Movies”

  1. Dan says :

    No ravenous?! I love that creepy film! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0129332/

    • tinyheroes says :

      I like it as well, but it feels more like someone else’s pick and not mine. I’m glad you pimped it! 😀

  2. Hisham says :

    To be fair, D el Toro and Cuaron are originally from Mexico, not Spain.

    North America, represent!

    • tinyheroes says :

      This is true – but aren’t they getting all their funding from Spain? It’s sad that you have to leave the continent in order to get exciting artistic films made. 😛

  3. Erika says :

    I about choked to death on my lunch when Venture Bros referenced Flatliners this week. SO HILARIOUS!!!

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