Ten Excellent Horror Documentaries
Horror films, in all of their standard portrayals and mainstream productions, are still often times considered taboo. Why? Because of the subject matter, mostly. But, sometimes, it’s because of the stories they’re loosely based on. Movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror were made using well-known and well-documented facts, yet the films themselves are still touted as ‘fiction’.
Sometimes, certain horror flicks garner such a following and help turn the genre on its heel, that it’s only a matter of time before documentaries on the movie’s making are released. And, consequently, those documentaries become almost as popular as the films themselves.
And, lastly, the documentaries themselves really are the movies, and no fallible Hollywood nonsense was ever created to smear the name. Stories about hauntings, burials, and exorcisms are all over the place and some are, well, lackluster at best, but a few are so incredibly sorrowful and bothersome that they’ve taken on lives of their own.
What follows is a list of ten documentaries that fall into the above categories. They are excellent and worth a watch.
- Children of the Grave
For a nice dose of creepy with a dash of reality, it's tough to outdo stories featuring the mistreating and subsequent death of orphaned children. If you have kids - or presumably even if you don't - this documentary will just straight up give you the willies and may even make you shed a tear.
- Elm Street 4: The Making of a Nightmare
Why Elm Street 4? Well, for a film franchise that, after Dream Warriors, needed a pretty decent shot in the arm, it's hard to deny the gift given by master director Renny Harlin and producer Rachel Talalay. Sure, The Dream Master wasn't the greatest film in the franchise, but it was the best one not helmed by Wes Craven. The documentary follows the making and some excellent interviews, especially by the ecstatic Talalay.
- The Real Amityville Horror
What did the Lutz's actually see? Did they really flee the famous haunted abode after only 28 days? Or, on the flip-side of the coin, did they just dupe a willing public in order to make as much money as they could? It's hard to say, but the documentary makes a convincing case for both opinions. Either way, a great flick came out of the tale, and a not-so-great remake. Naturally.
- Friday the 13th Documentary Parts 1-8
This documentary of the Crystal Lake Slasher follows tales from the initial genre-changer all the way through the Tommy Jarvis years (played originally by the great Corey Feldman) and on to the nearly laughable Manhattan movie. Interviews with cast and crew telling stories of certain scenes and little-known facts really makes this a must-watch for fans.
- Halloween: A Cut Above the Rest
Anyone who considers themselves a dyed-in-the-wool horror aficionado can't deny the cultural impact of John Carpenter's masterpiece, Halloween. And thus, why not listen to Carpenter regale you with the true story behind the movie and all its trials and tribulations. How did "The Shape" acquire his unforgettable mask? How did Jamie Lee Curtis become the incomparable Lori Strode? It's all here and worth a look.
- The Fear of God: The Exorcist
Despite what you've been led to believe, the story of a little girl's exorcism never happened. Well, at least in the case of William Peter Blatty's story. Here we get director William Friedkin, author and screenwriter Blatty, and stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, and many others waxing excitedly about their time on set. However, there were many bizarre occurrences and incidences that are talked about as well. It's a great doc.
- Masters of Horror
Anything hosted by Bruce Campbell is okay in my book, especially if it's for a show about "Masters of Horror" and the contributions they've offered to the world of film. Featuring interviews with John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and Dario Argento, among others, you'll hear how these artists' most famous films came to be and just how they changed the genre. Oh, and Campbell is as charmingly witty as always.
- BBC: A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss
Mark Gatiss is a well-known BBC reporter who does a masterful job covering nearly every major turning point in the long and storied history of the horror genre. Not only does he cover everything from Gothic Horror (Frankenstein and Dracula), but he also leads us through Hammer, American splatter, and many of the most significant points on the terrifying timeline. But the best parts have to be the interviews with surviving cast members of classic films. A great series.
- Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw
Not your typical documentary, for sure. This story follows seven different people involved with the classic film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, through its inception, its filming and its critical reception. Sadly, the only thing I wish could have been different was the oddly missing testimony from director Tobe Hooper. However, the great stuff from Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) nearly makes up for it. This is a must-see for anyone who's a fan of this masterpiece.
- Terror Takes Shape: The Thing
John Carpenter's The Thing is quite possibly one of the greatest horror/thriller movies of all time, regardless of the fact that it is, indeed, a remake. I've seen it easily fifty-plus times and it keeps getting better. The creation and filming is somewhat lacking, although nearly every cast and crew member is interviewed and gives solid gold nuggets on the production. Effects master Rob Bottin absolutely steals the documentary with his epic tales of how things were made, failed and retried. This is a must-watch.