By Alya Stationwala
Spooky season is finally here! If you’re looking for something to watch in the dark, look no further. While Freddy Krueger and Michael Meyers may be wandering the streets of the U.S., here are some purely Canadian features that will have you begging for a Timmies Double Double to keep you from having nightmares. From getting lost in the snowy landscape of Banff National Park or getting mauled by a deranged miner, here are our top Canadian horror picks.
Summer of ‘84 (2018)
A serial killer story from the Montreal-based directorial trio RKSS (Francois Simrad, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell), Summer of ’84 follows a Stranger Things season 2-esque cast in their attempt to uncover the person behind the mass killings in their area. Heavily vulgar, this coming-of-age story successfully leaves you in suspense, especially in the highly climactic third act. With a slower pace than most horror movies, this Canadian feature focuses in on the mystery more than the fear in a distorted and dirty Goonies -like homage.
Essentially a Canadian tourism ad, Ghostkeeper follows stranded snowmobilers facing a mysterious creature found in the abandoned hotel they stay in to keep warm. Based on the Indigenous legend of the Wendigo, a flesh-eating monster, the movie promises a creature-feature but ends up being more of a suspenseful ‘lost in the snowy wilderness’ story like The Shining. Filmed in Banff with an ever-changing script, it’s a slow burner but nevertheless a truly Canadian suspense story featuring Hudson’s Bay coats and endless snowy landscapes.
Taking place almost entirely in the confined space of a radio studio, this Ontario zombie flick is definitely different. A normal work day for radio host Grant turns sour when he gets a call about a mass virus spreading across the downtown area in his small town. Turns out the cause is the English language. Possibly an Anglo-Saxon vs. French Canadian satire, this oddly funny zombie apocalypse never really shows the creatures but does show native English speakers struggling to remember the French language.
Now a cult classic with multiple sequels under the same name, Cube is an escape room set in a claustrophobic maze. Riddled with motion censored traps, several strangers are stuck in the confined spaces of a box, 26 rooms by 26 rooms, where they have to help each other and use their strengths to figure out what’s going on and how to get out. If you have a fear of tight spaces, you might want to stay away from this movie by American-Canadian director Vincenzo Natali.
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
This Canadian slasher by George Mihalka tells the story of the town of Valentine Bluff that faced a serial killer that murdered a mass group of young people during a Valentine’s Day dance 20 years prior to the film’s setting. Now, with a fresh batch of teenagers who only know that story as a local legend, another Valentine’s Day dance is underway, and the gas-masked killer is back. My Bloody Valentine is a classic small-town murder movie with police cover ups and rowdy teens, but where this movie earns its horror fame is in the killings: a guy getting cooked into hot dogs, and a woman becoming part of a shower system — this horror movie is shockingly inventive when it comes to gore.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
A coming of age, puberty metaphor shaped into a werewolf horror flick, this Canadian feature directed by John Fawcett did what Megan Fox did in Jennifer’s Body before she ever put on that short school-girl skirt. Pinning two very close siblings against each other when one starts kidnapping dogs and having unprotected sex, this sister-versus-sister creature feature has all the angry teenage fighting, paired with oblivious parents to the crazy shenanigans going on, to make a movie filled with screams, blood, and fun.
The Changeling (1980)
In this haunted house-poltergeist scenario mixed with Ghost Whisperer-like aspects, such as helping the dead move on, a widowed composer (John Russell) ends up in a secluded Victorian mansion to try and get his life back together after a car accident that killed his wife and daughter. When cupboards start opening and things start moving around by themselves, he discovers the ghost of a young boy that is seeking help to figure out how exactly he died in the house. John delves into an investigation on the boy, and the more he finds out, the darker things turn. If you’re looking for the origin of the famous horror scene of an object (usually a ball) bouncing slowly down the stairs only to land at the feet of the person watching, this is your movie.
Of course, you can’t have a top Canadian horror movies list without including famous Canadian director David Cronenberg. Three years before he made his famously disgusting The Fly starring Jeff Goldblum, he made Videodrome, a horror story that pushes the limits of reality television. When Max Renn (James Woods) finds a broadcast of pure sex and brutality, he begins to face a mind-altering reality created by the subliminal messages of the show, controlling hallucinations and the blending of what is real and what is not. Paired with Canadian Howard Shore’s unnerving score, the movie questions television viewership on a whole new level.
Les Affamés (2017)
Directed by Robin Aubert, this Quebecois horror film and TIFF selection in 2017 is a classic zombie apocalypse story with a slight twist. While still having the traditional unlikely group of survivors bonding and people-eating zombies caused by a virus plot, Aubert adds in a little mystery. His zombies gather mounds of toys, furniture, appliances and other pre-zombie items from their past to look at and feel pain when injured. How the virus spreads and why they do this weird ritual is never really explained. Rather than going into the build up of an outbreak, Les Affamés places viewers in the middle of the action to enjoy all the zombie goodness straight from the beginning.