Okay, now that I have your attention: welcome to October, the month of horror movies! “But Tom,” you say, “what can I watch that won’t break the bank?” Well, I have some good news for you, and it will come free with your being part of Tufts: Kanopy!
Kanopy is a streaming service that Tufts subscribes to, and you therefore have access to at no extra cost. There are a ton of interesting documentaries, indie films, and movies from around the world on there, but right now I am here to talk about some good old fashioned horror films that you can watch for free (which I will keep reminding you of). And you can watch it on your laptop, phone, or even cast it to your TV, so it’s nice and convenient too
Note: every single link below will lead you to a listing on Kanopy unless otherwise noted. But a link is not an automatic endorsement – this is just a cross-section of somewhat famous movies, some of which you may have heard of, others you may not have. If I think highly of a particular film, I will note it in the description.
Older School Horror
Let’s say you’re like me, and one of the things you’re always curious about is where horror movies really started taking hold. What would you guess? Hitchcock, perhaps, with Psycho? Well, that’s 1960, and he did Dial M for Murder in 1954. So maybe even earlier? What if I told you that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a crazy psychological horror film from 1919? Or that Nosferatu is an unsettling vampire movie from 1922? Nosferatu, by the way, was a super unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s book Dracula, and the vampire design stands strong in the pantheon of frankly terrifying looking monsters.
But hey, maybe silent films aren’t your thing. That’s cool! Not everyone is into them. What about something like Black Sabbath from 1963 (no, not the band, although they’re excellent too). It’s a horror anthology starring Boris Karloff! Or 1964’s The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, based on the book I Am Legend? Or, heck, speaking of Vincent Price, why not give House on Haunted Hill a shot?
I would be remiss if I didn’t end this section with Black Christmas. It’s not the first slasher film (arguably, that could be Psycho), but it laid the groundwork for the behemoths that would come after, like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream. So worth a watch if you’re into slashers!
Zombies and Creepy Towns Oh My
Let’s just get this out there: George Romero is King of the Modern Zombie. Every single zombie movie or TV show you have seen owes itself to Romero’s legacy, and particularly his startling debut Night of the Living Dead. In 97 minutes, in stark black and white, all filmed on the outskirts of Pittsburgh in a single house, Night of the Living Dead is, somehow, more than you’re ready for, even if you’ve watched all 157 seasons of The Walking Dead. And hey, if you’re on a Romero kick, why not check out Day of the Dead while you’re there? It’s the 3rd of his original Dead trilogy, and the opening song got sampled by The Gorillaz for their track “M1A1” off their debut album. Talk about legacy.
If you’d prefer “creepy town with murderers,” there’s always The Hills Have Eyes, from legend Wes Craven (who younger members of the audience may recognize from Scream fame). Incidentally, if you like that, The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 is also on Kanopy.
Time to Laugh
Okay, that last section got heavy. Let’s get goofy. Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a send up of the slasher genre, particularly the “cabin the woods” type (like Friday the 13th). It’s a combination of “weekend fishing trip gone wrong” and “slasher flick,” and is a lot of fun for it. There is also the amazing What We Do in the Shadows, directed by Taika Waititi. This answers the question “what if vampires of different styles all lived in a house together as roommates in the modern era?” and answered it so well that there’s now a follow-up show with 2 seasons under its belt. I think I’ve watched each of these two movies twice now, and plan to watch them more. Indicidentally, Taika has two other movies on there: Boy and the heartwarming Hunt for the Wilderpeople. (If his name sounds familiar but you can’t place it: recently, he directed Thor: Ragnarock, and Jojo Rabbit. These are all from before that).
Although this one isn’t strictly a comedy, The Blob is a 1959 movie starring a teenage Steve McQueen, about a gelatinous blob that somehow terrorizes a town. Which feels like it’s got a great comedic vibe to it by today’s standards, you know?
Let’s Get Weird
Okay. Maybe the other stuff isn’t really your vibe. What if it’s the kind of horror movie filled with tension and weirdness? Like 1977’s Suspiria, directed by Italian master of horror Dario Argento? It was recently re-imagined (which might be where you recognize the name from), but this movie about a ballerina getting caught up in a dance company run by an evil witch still hits strong. Or perhaps Enemy, where Jake Gyllenhall plays both a minor movie actor and the stranger who looks identical to him, and ends up stalking him? Maybe Scanners, which is David Cronenberg’s movie about people who can explode heads. Or you could always check out David Lynch’s Eraserhead, which is pure David Lynch weirdness.
Of course, for some very modern and recent weirdness, you could always watch 2019’s The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson, crazy facial hair, and crazier accents. And yes, that Robert Pattinson.
Fun fact: the director of The Lighthouse also directed 2016’s The Witch, both of which were produced by A24, a studio with a strong showing on Kanopy. But I give them their own section because of some other movies of theirs you may recognize: Hereditary and Midsommar are both from the studio, as is Green Room. Go give their entire catalog a look, but here’s a link to their horror offerings.
At the end of the day, you’re the only person who knows what you’ll want to watch. But please know, I’m not even scratching the surface of Kanopy‘s offerings – they have 414 films listed under Horror & Thriller, which means if you started today and watched 1 per day you’d finish on November 30, 2021. And that’s assuming they don’t add more (which, come on, of course they will).
So. You have access to a treasure trove of free movies, and this is the season for horror. Go to the JumboSearch listing for Kanopy, follow the link out to the site, sign in using your Tufts username & password, and really make this month work for you! Five minutes worth of work for a ton of entertainment, and not a single extra dime spent. Aside from the popcorn you’ll need, but you’re on your own for that.
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