Spooky season is officially upon us. The leaves are turning, pumpkin spice is flowing, and Halloween is fast approaching. As a result, the team at TFS has decided to compile a list of the best Canadian Horror Films of all time. From classic slashers like “Black Christmas” to the genre-pioneering “body horror” films of David Cronenberg, Canada has long been a hub for top-notch horror.
For the true film enthusiasts — fear not. Our list features a balance of both mainstream flicks and indie gems, spans decades of Canadian filmmaking, and includes recent entries like Skinamarink and Infinity Pool.
Why are Canadian Horror Movies Unique?
The Great White North has birthed some of the most bone-chilling horror films of all time, to the point that horror has become a culturally defining genre for our country. Canadian filmmakers routinely tap into horror to explore themes tied to our country’s roots: harsh wilderness, isolation, indigenous folklore, diversity, and so on.
As you will see, a handful of films on this list provide social commentary on the experience of being ‘other,’ while many follow a recurring narrative: a tranquil, everyday setting is suddenly disrupted by violence and terror, while routinely drawing inspiration from Canada’s rugged small towns, forests, prairies, and tundras.
At the same time, Canada is also known internationally for its indie fantasy and horror scene. The city of Montreal is home to Fantasia Fest, a one-of-a-kind festival that we spotlighted in our top five film festivals of 2023 list.
For those unfamiliar, Fantasia Fest is a fantasy and horror genre festival beloved for its eclectic programming and experimental offerings. According to the festival organizers, Fantasia is an “event hell-bent on showcasing the most exciting, innovative and individualistic examples of contemporary international genre cinema.”
1. “Black Christmas” (1974)
“Black Christmas” is not just another horror movie; it’s a true cult classic that set the standard for slashers at the time of its release (1974). The premise of the film revolves around a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and terrorized by an unknown assailant during their Christmas break.
For many, “Black Christmas” is considered to be one of the best horror films ever made. This is largely because it broke new ground by opting to leave the identity of the film’s killer ambiguous. it also featured a chilling score and made exceptional use of POV shots to create tension.
2. Ginger Snaps (2001)
“Ginger Snaps” is a coming-of-age horror story that follows two death-obsessed sisters who must deal with a monstrous transformation. The film focuses on the challenges of adolescence while adding a werewolf twist. What makes this film so interesting, is the way that it uses horror tropes to tell a very relatable story about teenage angst. In our opinion, it’s a must-watch for any horror fan interested in a fresh take on the werewolf subgenre.
3. Videodrome (1983)
This list would be incomplete if did not include a David Cronenberg film. Often referred to as the king of body horror, Cronenberg has gifted the world with some of the weirdest, most whacked-out horror films of all time. While choosing just one movie to highlight was a challenge, in our opinion, the sci-fi horror film Videodrome stands out as a must-watch.
The film delves into the twisted realm of a television executive who discovers a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. As he becomes increasingly engrossed, he finds himself entangled in a mind-bending, reality-altering conspiracy.
4. Bloody Valentine (1981)
Set in a small Ontario town, “Bloody Valentine” revolves around a Valentine’s Day dance gone horribly wrong. The film follows a group of young people who go missing one by one, adding a layer of dread to their romantic festivities. It’s a Canadian horror movie that subverts horror conventions to critique societal norms surrounding love and romance.
5. Skinamarink (2022)
“Skinamarink” is a Canadian horror film that takes the concept of a haunted house to a new level. The film follows a couple who move into a house only to discover that one of its rooms harbours a dark secret. With its unique premise, “Skinamarink” offers a fresh perspective on the haunted house subgenre, one that expertly plays with liminal spaces, an unsettling phenomenon turned TikTok horror subgenre.
6. The Changeling (1980)
“The Changeling” is a psychological horror film that delves into the realm of the supernatural. Starring George C. Scott, the film follows a composer who, after the tragic loss of his family, moves into an old mansion only to find it haunted by the spirit of a child.
The film masterfully combines elements of a traditional ghost story with psychological horror, creating an atmosphere of dread that lingers long after the credits roll. What makes this film stand out is its nuanced approach to the supernatural. Unlike other horror movies at the time, it leverages ghosts to explore themes of grief, loss, and the afterlife.
7. The House By the Lake (1976)
“House By the Lake” centers on a wealthy couple who retreat to a lakeside cabin in Ontario for a weekend getaway, only to find themselves terrorized by a group of local thugs. Warning: it’s a harrowing film known for its gritty, realistic take on the home invasion subgenre. Despite its disturbing nature, the movie acquired a cult following amongst grindhouse enthusiasts and was remade in 2017.
8. Ravenous (2017)
“Ravenous” is a survival horror film that offers viewers a one-of-a-kind commentary on colonialism. Set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, the film follows a group of strangers who must fight for their lives against an unknown monster-like enemy. Its approach to horror is both cerebral and visceral, making it a standout entry in Canadian cinema — especially for those interested in films that offer more than just scares.
9. Pontypool (2008)
Stephen McHattie stars in “Pontypool,” a Canadian horror film that revolves around a radio host who begins to suspect that something monstrous is happening outside his station. The film offers a unique twist on the zombie apocalypse narrative and is a must-watch for any horror fan.
10. Infinity Pool (2023)
Last on our list, we have a recent movie by David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon Cronenberg. “Infinity Pool” is a provocative and highly stylish film that provides a scathing critique of privilege and hedonism. The movie features renowned actors Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman in the roles of James and Em, an affluent couple who choose to spend their vacation on the secluded island of La Tolqa. After a tragic incident occurs, they find themselves plunged into the hidden, sinister world of the resort, where they encounter a disturbing version of pleasure-seeking tourism.
As the leaves fall and the air grows colder, there’s no better time to curl up on the couch and dive into the eerie world of Canadian horror cinema. Our curated list of the best Canadian horror movies of all time offers a spine-tingling array of films that we promise will wreak havoc on your nerves this Halloween season.
From the groundbreaking work of David Cronenberg to the social commentaries embedded in films like “Ravenous” and “Ginger Snaps,” Canadian horror is a genre that continually pushes the boundaries of storytelling, fear, and cultural critique.
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