There are a number of horror themed documentaries out in the wild and available for your viewing pleasure. Whether you’re in the mood for educating yourself on true crime, hoping to learn the origin of Halloween, or just want a behind-the-scenes peak at one of your favorite horror films you’re sure to find something to satisfy your thirst. Given the great abundance of titles available it would be foolish to try and narrow them down and rank a top 10. But we did it anyway. In an effort to provide FSR readers with a fun variety for this Halloween season, I, along with the assistance of the rest of the Horror Boo Crew, have dug through the pile and pulled out 10 docs we think every horror fan should watch. If you disagree with our choices, make your own list.
Keep reading for a look at 10 horror-themed docs that all horror fans should watch as voted on by Rob Hunter, Kieran Fisher, Brad Gullickson, Meg Shields, Jacob Trussell, and myself.
10. You’re So Cool, Brewster: The Story of Fright Night (2016)
If you have a question about Fright Night, this doc has answers and then some. From casting details, to the ins and outs of every single practical effect, to what the heck kind of monster Billy Cole was — this doc’s got it all. In fact, it’s so relentlessly thorough that even the biggest fan is liable to learn something. I for one get a real kick out of any and all anecdotes from the FX team, who were, at the end of the day, a gaggle of very talented and very coked out kids, “dealing with stupid chemicals in a rather stupid way.” Fright Night is so flagrantly made with love and this doc is a total testament to that. Tom Holland’s inescapably earnest final direct-to camera address is particularly moving. Though, Steve Johnson explaining how he absentmindedly melted the soles of his feet off while neutralizing an acid-soaked puppet is also…evocative. — Meg Shields
9. Why Horror? (2014)
What makes Why Horror? such a rewarding documentary is because the films subject, Tal Zimmerman, is us. He’s an actor and writer for Rue Morgue Magazine, but most prominently: he’s a horror fan. The type that will covet a Foreign Language poster for The Exorcist or search to the bottom of a bin of used VHS tapes in hopes of finding some rare, unique gem. But Why Horror? isn’t about horror films directly, but rather why we are attracted to the macabre. From the anecdotal to the scientific, Zimmerman and co-directors Rob Lindsay and Nicolas Kleiman navigate how multifaceted horror fans are. And while the film may be preaching to the choir that is the die hard horror hounds among us, the film successfully captures the essence of what being a fan of this genre really means. — Jacob Trussell
8. Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
Horror has been a staple of film since the beginning of cinema. One could argue, and I would be that one, that horror is the most classic of all film genres. While horror films originate from all over the world, no country has had a larger impact or been more synonymous with the genre than America. This documentary rounds up a number of high profile horror icons — Joe Dante, John Carpenter, and George A. Romero to name a few — and provides a rundown of American horror from the earliest silent shorts all the way up to the modern day. It never dives too deep into any one film, but does a wonderful job providing a high level overview of America’s history with the genre. Die-hard horror fanatics and the casual observer are sure to get a kick out of this. — Chris Coffel
7. The Nightmare (2015)
I’ve experienced sleep paralysis before, which could make me biased when it comes to how haunting I find Rodney Ascher’s documentary, The Nightmare. But rather my own personal experiences gives the film a modicum of believability which otherwise I may not have had based on the outlandish stories at the heart of the film. Ascher’s documentary crosscuts these purported real life stories with Lynchian cinematic re-enactments. This blending of fact and fiction is a staple of Ascher’s work, which also includes the Kubrickian collage Room 237 and his television special Primal Screen. While I do think The Nightmare potentially crosses the line when it comes to exploiting some of its subjects, Ascher makes a clear line between himself and his film, actively working against the crutch of so many other documentaries: making himself the subject. — Jacob Trussell
6. Wolfman’s Got Nards (2018)
The Monster Squad was not unleashed upon this world to massive critical acclaim or box office success. In 1987, the film was a dud. Over time, thanks to cable television and VHS, Fred Dekker’s childhood saga of Universal Monster (shhhhhh, don’t tell that studio) hunting grew to vibrant cult status. Wolfman’s Got Nards not only chronicles that surprise journey for the filmmakers and cast but it explores the fans’ point of view as well. In digging into the passion that fuels fanaticism, director André Gower and producer Henry McComas elevate Wolfman’s Got Nards from your basic Blu-ray special feature and into a heartfelt celebration of pop culture. You don’t need to love The Monster Squad to appreciate this documentary, but if you do, you’re gonna deeply cherish the experience. — Brad Gullickson
5. Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th (2013)
Any horror franchise that runs as long as Friday the 13th has is bound to be a mixed bag, but even the lesser entries are fodder for fascinating behind the scenes information. This epic doc tackles each of the films with enthusiasm, detail, and first-hand accounts, and in addition to offering up plenty of new tidbits about the talent, MPAA cuts, production snafus, and more, it’s also entertaining in its own right as an exhaustively well-crafted making-of doc. — Rob Hunter
4. The American Scream (2012)
I love Halloween and always have. It’s been my favorite holiday all my life and for a number of years my family went all out in decorating our house. It wasn’t uncommon for trick-or-treaters to end up hanging outside in our front yard taking in all the festivities. I was convinced no family was more dedicated than ours when it came to Halloween. Then I watched The American Scream and discovered that other families create full on haunted houses. This may have burst my bubble some, but at least I can live vicariously through people that are crazier than I am. For those that have an interest in extreme decorating this is a movie that is a must for every October. — Chris Coffel
3. Best Worst Movie (2009)
The only thing that’s better than Troll 2 is the documentary dedicated to the movie and its legacy. As the title suggests, the doc examines the cultural impact of a movie which many people consider to be the creme de la creme of awesome trash. Personally I think Troll 2 is too unique and weird to be called trash, but whatever. Anyway, the doc is a hilarious and heartwarming celebration of a little movie that’s genuinely beloved by fans and the cast and crew that made it. No one, besides the director, are under any illusions about the kind of movie Troll 2 is. However, this self-awareness and sense of humor is what makes them perfect subjects for a documentary. This is as good as life gets. — Kieran Fisher
2. American Movie (1999)
Small town life doesn’t always present opportunities that enable us to conquer the world, but that didn’t stop Mark Borchardt from giving up on his dreams of becoming a micro-budget horror filmmaker. American Movie follows the aspiring director and his friends as they make a horror movie and all the setbacks that come with it — like having no money or conventional talent. The beauty of the doc, however, is just seeing how these people go about their lives. They don’t seem real, but they are. And they’re hilarious. That said, American Movie is also a sad film about folks who ultimately feel destined to never realize their delusions of grandeur. At the same time, there’s inspiration to be taken from seeing them try to all the same. — Kieran Fisher
1. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)
Wes Craven started something special with A Nightmare on Elm Street as it’s a horror film, and eventual franchise, that gives personality to both its killer and its victims (even if the killer’s charisma wears off pretty quickly through the sequels as Freddy moves from nightmare factory to joke machine). This stellar, in-depth doc explores the franchise’s highs and lows equally with input from more than a hundred people involved in the films’ production, from directors and stars to the wizards who brought the makeup effects to glorious life. It’s an epic film that will fascinate genre fans and Elm Street fans alike as it reveals details, triumphs, and failures with honesty. — Rob Hunter
Go behind the scenes and read more entries in our 31 Days of Horror Lists!
Related Topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists