October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the creepiest college-set horror movies is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
Congratulations, you got into college! High school is behind you, as is your childhood. Higher education is your new pursuit until your parents turn their backs and leave ya pickling inside your dorm. Out come the kegs and in go the closet weed-gardens. If you thought teenage slasher debauchery was wild and depraved before, wait until Frank the Tank shows up on the scene.
College-set terrors inject an extra layer of relish into their slaughtering. There’s no pretending innocence within these runtimes. Everyone on campus is over-sexed and screaming for punishment. Yes, sir, may I please have another. Students happily protrude their bottoms for pledge, but when the fraternity brother is Ghostface, they will regret all that hard work they drilled into their SATs.
Our Boo Crew is here to offer assistance. We’ve studied the tapes, examined the worst-case scenarios. These creepy college-set horrors were voted on by hard-knock graduates and survivors: Chris Coffel, Rob Hunter, Mary Beth McAndrews, Meg Shields, Anna Swanson, Jacob Trussell, and myself. The aborted scholars below should have just joined the workforce. Don’t do as these pupils did.
10. Happy Death Day (2017)
If there is one truth about a college horror movie, it’s this: you’re guaranteed to watch at least one shitty character die. Relishing on-campus jerks getting their comeuppance is simply one of the joys of watching this subgenre of horror. The subversion Happy Death Day plays with is what if the on-campus jerk is the character you’re meant to root for the most? That person, in this case, is Tree (Jessica Rothe), a self-centered student uninhibited by the consequences of her individual actions.
While she is our heroine, as she tries to discover why she’s reliving the same day again and again, we get to watch her die over and over in increasingly wild ways that are deliriously fun to watch, even if we ultimately want her to survive the night. The charm of the film, outside of Rothe’s engaging performance, is that we get to see the on-campus jerk come to terms with their jerkiness, allowing the film to be an emotional maturation of the college horror film. (Jacob Trussell)
9. Flatliners (1990)
You never went to school with kids like these. Joel Schumacher went hunting for a new brat pack and came away with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon. Do they feel like the types of science nerds you had in your class? No, not really. They’re way cooler, and with that cool comes heaps of watchability. Flatliners is not hunting realism anyway. Schumacher is plunging into the macabre and the weird, exploring what lies beyond death and utterly eradicating pedestrian collegiate worries. This sci-fi horror tale is rooting inside The Twilight Zone, looking for Rod Serling, and while it never quite finds him, what it does uncover is shudderingly compelling. (Brad Gullickson)
8. Urban Legend (1998)
Urban Legend rides the wave of Scream’s popularity but surfs its own righteous inner tube. The film immediately grabs your attention by leaning into all those horrible campfire tales that we’ve all heard before. But like Scream, Urban Legend keeps your attention by thoroughly delivering genuine college kid personalities. The performers do their job. You like these kids. You don’t want them to die. And when they do perish, you wail along with them, and you feel their loss when their throats gurgle and fill with blood. But you also feel their victories when they face off with the killer and survive. (Brad Gullickson)
7. Sorority House Massacre (1986)
Look, is Sorority House Massacre a thinly-veiled rip-off of Halloween? Yeah, sure. It’s got the same set-up or at least the set-up as modified by Halloween II’s retcon, and it kicks back and follows John Carpenter’s beats. But director Carol Frank takes that slasher frame, slaps it on the sorority movie skeleton, and triggers her own tense slasher set-pieces. Once you bury the Halloween comparisons and accept the film on its own terms, Sorority House Massacre zips through its runtime, grabbing its willing audience by the throat. (Brad Gullickson)
6. Hell Night (1981)
I never joined a fraternity (or sorority, for that matter), but movies have taught me that they are nightmarish organizations filled with the worst people imaginable. Case in point, Tom DeSimone’s under-appreciated Hell Night. Young pledges are made to spend the night in an abandoned mansion, but surprise! It ain’t empty, and the homeowners are pissed about the trespassers. Hijinks ensue of the murderous kind until only Linda Blair is left to take down the patriarchy.
This is a favorite of mine for numerous reasons that land it a spot on this list of the best college horror movies, but two stand out. First, while it’s R-rated, the film is actually kid-friendly (and belongs on our kid list!) There’s no nudity, the language is tame, and the kills are far from gory. It’s a fun slasher! And second, it’s also home to some terrific set-pieces and super creepy beats. The slow carpet-rise as the killer comes up through the floor behind our protagonists? Terrifying. The tunnel chase? Horrifying. The final kill and shot? Classic. (Rob Hunter)
Related Topics: 31 Days of Horror Lists