Take Your Seats! 10 Best Horror Movies for Back to School

It’s that time of year! The time of year that makes kids complain and parents rejoice – back to school!

I love back to school time for a couple of reasons. Obviously, I get to go out and purchase fresh Dixon-Ticonderoga pencils, get excited about it, and no one judges me for it. Clearly a big selling point for me. However, the big reason is that it starts to feel like fall! Pumpkin spice lattes, cozy blankets, earlier nights, and of course, the fact that Halloween is that much closer. You know…the time of year it is socially acceptable to be full of glee while watching a scary movie.

In honour of this milestone, check out these great horror movies to get you in the school spirit!

1. The Gallows: A high school jock gets the lead in the play in an attempt to impress a girl. As the play draws closer, it becomes more and more apparent that he is, shall we say, a less than stellar addition to the cast. A troublemaking friend comes up with the brilliant idea of breaking into the school and destroying the set the night before the play in an effort to delay it. The end result is four teens being trapped in a school with the ghost of Charlie, a boy who died in a freak accident in the same play years before. The description is hokey, but this one is genuinely scary. It is filmed in a found footage style, but using multiple cameras for different perspectives. In one instance, we actually see something play out in a hallway, then see the entire same scene from someone else’s perspective. Very cool! Schools at night are a generally creepy setting, and this movie makes very effective use of the dark to get under your skin. Check out the official trailer here.

2. Jennifer’s Body: Jennifer’s Body is the tale of an evil high school girl who is, well, actually evil. A great horror-comedy about the nature of female friendship, this story focuses on Jennifer, a girl turned demonic succubus, and her best friend Needy. As Jennifer’s blood lust grows, Needy realizes that she has to be the one to stop her. An entertaining movie with a lot to say, this one has an ending that really packs a punch. Check out my review here.

3. Cry_Wolf: A lesser known teen scene horror film, this one is a very early exploration of the damage that social media and online gossip can cause. A group of bored, privileged teens at a posh boarding school use a local girl’s death to create a rumour about “The Wolf,” a serial killer that they invent. They spread the rumour using the internet and track it as part of their weekly “lying game.” Soon after, they start being stalked, seemingly by their own creation. A cool look at how people turn on each other out of self-interest, this one gets points for being an early example of the current trend of the more overt social commentary that we are seeing in horror movies today.

4. The Awakening: A ghost haunts a boarding school for boys in the cold English countryside in the 1920s. This movie has a great, creepy atmosphere and a really interesting plot as a debunker of spiritualists visits the school in an attempt to disprove the rumours of a specter. It is beautifully shot, making effective use of fog and shadow. What I didn’t expect was such an in-depth look at PTSD after World War One, and the harm in repressing memories. Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, and Isaac Hempstead Wright round out a stellar cast, giving this one a very high brow feel.

5. Prom Night (1980): Scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis stars in this cheese-fest about four teens harbouring a secret about a child’s death many years ago. On prom night, someone begins hunting them down one by one. In other words, a classic slasher set up: revenge, teens, and a masked killer. This one gets extra points for being a great Canadian slasher that also features Leslie Nielson! Not to mention….the disco. Oh. So. Much. Disco.

6. The Faculty: I’m pretty sure this one starred every 90s teen movie household name known to man. Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett (with signature 90s bedhead), Shawn Hatosy, and Usher round out a cast of teens fighting an alien invasion in their school. The teachers have been bodysnatched and must be killed. Naturally. The hilarious thing about this one is its seemingly pro-drug message; the school drug dealer discovers that his unique brew is the only thing that can take down the creatures. Also, the way to test for the presence of the creature in a body is to snort the drug. Drugs are cool, everyone! Josh Hartnett can’t be wrong! Bizarre message, but this movie is an excellent blend of Invasion of the Body Snatcher and Breakfast Club!

7. Disturbing Behaviour: This one is sort of a flipside to The Faculty. It does include a 90s A-roster cast of its own as well, featuring Katie Holmes, Nick Stahl, and James Marsden. In this take on bodysnatchers, the bad seed students are taken to a seedy basement and given brain surgery that wipes away their rebellious streaks. But, you know, with parental consent, so it’s all hunky dory! Mad scientists, a weird janitor, and a creepy hoarde of letterman jackets…what more could you ask for in a back to school flick?

8. Cooties: The ick factor is high in this hilarious horror comedy about the most nefarious chicken nugget ever. After ingesting said nugget, the sweetest little blonde girl turns into a ravenous zombie during a summer school session. The virus quickly spreads throughout the pre-puberty population and the teachers become trapped inside. Leigh Whannell as a brain damaged biology expert is particularly entertaining. They go to a lot of places you wouldn’t think they would have the guts to (ahem, I’m looking at you, zombified baby brother!). Plus, the look on Elijah Wood’s face when someone calls him a hobbit is well worth the price of admission. If you like your gore with a big slice of humour a la Ash vs Evil Dead, this one is for you.

9. Suspiria: This seventies trip-fest is a crazy, weird roller coaster ride that tells the story of an elite, European dance academy that is run by witches. I realize that that does not sound that freaky, but trust me, it is. This is a film directed by the great Dario Argento, who is not known for shying away from gore or shock value. Celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year, this one has become a staple for hardcore horror fans. It has a seventies cheese factor, but is still very disturbing and is not for the faint of heart.

10. Carrie (1976): Carrie White and her prom. It’s so iconic by now that I don’t feel like I need to explain why this one is on the list, do I? In case I do, basically don’t pick on the shy, quiet girls. High school peoples, just don’t be jerks, okay?

Why are you still reading this?! Time to hit the books! Happy fall, everyone!

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