10 Horror Festival Hits You Need to Watch

From prestige award-winners to freaky stop-motion offerings to mind-bending psychological thrillers -- and a Nicolas Cage freakout session thrown in for good measure -- these are the horror films to put on your radar.

by | October 25, 2021 | Comments

Image from Titane

(Photo by Neon)

The fall film festival season is in full swing once again. After an unprecedented 2020, this year has seen somewhat of a return to normalcy when it comes to the biggest film events of the year, from Cannes to Venice to TIFF taking place and seeing the premieres of some of the most exciting and anticipated titles for the rest of the year.

One thing is different, though, and that is the fact that genre films were not relegated to sidebars at this years’ festivals, but rather front and center among the big premieres. Whether it was a horror movie taking home the Palme d’Or at Cannes or an epic sci-fi movie premiering at Venice, it’s a good year to be a fan of weird, bonkers, violent, gory, exciting horror movies. Before we’re flooded with prestige dramas and awards hopefuls, there is plenty to be excited about in terms of horror films that have been making waves at festivals.

To help you plan your watch list for Halloween viewing — and the near future beyond that — we’ve put together a list that highlights some of the horror movies that blew both critics and audiences away at TIFF and other recent film festivals.

Beyond the Infinite: Two Minutes

Release Date: TBD

Junta Yamaguchi’Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a one-shot time loop sci-fi film that has drawn comparisons to the surprise zombie hit One Cut of the Dead and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. The film won over critics and audiences with its iPhone-shot style, tight script, and fun yet inventive spin on the time loop story that does a lot with very little, resulting in a heartwarming and crowd-pleasing experience. RogerEbert.com’s critic Nick Allen wrote, “It’s so wild, and very telling of this movie’s brilliance, that there’s so much intricate blocking and camera movement from debut director Junta Yamaguchi, and yet you’re still caught up in the narrative momentum more than anything else.”

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Currently Available On: Netflix

A remake of the Danish thriller of the same nameAntoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal manage to capture and replicate the tension and craft of the original while putting their own spin on this story of a 911 dispatch operator trying to save a caller in danger before discovering a larger and more dangerous plot. Critics agree that this is an intense thriller featuring a fantastic performance from Gyllenhaal, keeping the audience on their toes for the entire film, which at times even exceeds the original. Critic Adam Chitwood wrote for Collider,”Gyllenhaal delivers a turn that is compellingly complex, taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster that results in one of his best performances yet.”

Image from Kicking Blood

Release Date: TBD

It’s been a minute since we got a fresh and exciting vampire movie, but Kicking Blood seems to be the right movie to fill that void with its visually striking new twist on the blood-sucking mythos. Blaine Thurier makes a movie about a female vampire who wants to become human again, but the withdrawal from refusing to drink blood might kill her. The script uses vampire myths to comment on addiction in a way that feels inventive, but critics agree that the cinematography is the real star of this child of the night. AWFJ Women on Film’s Alexandra Heller-Nicholas wrote, “With its breathtaking cinematography and effectively low-key performances, Kicking Blood is marked a unique spirit of slick delirium, where desire and ennui make strange yet effective bedfellows.”

Image from King Knight

Release Date: TBD

Richard Bates Jr.’s latest feature is a horror-comedy about a coven of witches in a California town whose high priest who goes on a journey of self-discovery. The film is a change of pace for Bates, who trades in his usual cynicism for a story of acceptance and optimism, filtered through a lot of broad and trippy humor and plenty of witchy imagery to add some levity to your Halloween watchlist. Shannon McGrew wrote in her review for Nightmarish Conjurings that “King Knight is a feel-good film about facing our past and moving forward with our own truth. It’s a film that can’t be defined by just one genre because it dips its toe in so many.”

Release Date: October 29, 2021

Edgar Wright jumped into the spotlight with a horror-comedy, but Last Night in Soho finally sees the filmmaker dive fully into the horror genre with an ambitious and hyper-stylized tale of an aspiring fashion designer who is mysteriously transported back in time to the Swinging Sixties when she sleeps. The film is a warning against romanticizing the past, a love letter to London, and a scary horror movie all at once, also featuring Anya Taylor-Joy doing a fantastic rendition of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” Writing for Slashfilm, critic Marshall Shaffer said, “Wright pushes his own craft by hybridizing formats and delving more profoundly into thematic territory than any film since Hot Fuzz.”

Release Date: TBD

Legendary Oscar winner Phil Tippett’s magnum opus is a cacophony of madness and depravity. The VFX artist handcrafts a stop-motion world of savagery and horror where wretched monstrosities rule the land, mad scientists capture and experiment on unsuspecting bystanders, and mute protagonists walk us through a silent yet visually splendid landscape unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The Pitch’s Abby Olcese said it best when she wrote, “Even at its darkest, Mad God is ART, dammit, and great art, at that. Tippett’s craft is impeccable, and he uses it to great effect, creating a detailed world and layered media, mixing puppets, models, and, occasionally, stylized human actors.”

Release Date: September 17, 2021

Currently Available On: AmazonGoogle PlayiTunesVudu

When you mix the auteur depravity of Sion Sono with the balls-to-the-wall cuckoo bananas insanity of one Nicolas Cage, you might not be surprised to know that the result is a gonzo action film that is impossible to predict. Though not strictly a horror movie, there is enough blood and screams coming from Cage’s bank robber, who is forced to rescue the granddaughter of a governor from a band of post-apocalyptic savages while strapped to a leather suit that will self-destruct if his mission fails, to satisfy even the most hardcore horror fans. Daily Dead’s critic, Heather Wixson wrote in her review that “Prisoners of the Ghostland marks an audacious new direction for Sono’s career that I’m eager to see more from in the future, and there’s no denying that he truly makes films cut from a wholly different cloth unlike anyone else out there.”

Image from Saloum

Release Date: TBD

A bold, energetic, thrilling genre mash-up that blends supernatural horror with comedy, suspense, and a bit of fantasy sprinkled in, Saloum is the second feature by Congolese filmmaker Jean Luc Herbulot and follows a group of mercenaries hiding in a holiday camp that harbors a dark, bloody, supernatural secret. There are elements of samurai films, spaghetti Westerns, and creature features that combine to make a dark, scary, and memorable revenge film. Critic Valerie Complex said in her review for Deadline, “The film weaves together supernatural horror elements with comedy and suspense. All aspects come together to create a unique story about how the cycle of revenge can come back to haunt you.”

Release Date: October 1, 2021

Currently Available On: Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu

Julia Ducournau follows up her cannibal thriller Raw with the bonkers, provocative and wildly original thriller Titane, a film that defies description but offers a high-octane story about transformations and human connections. This film already became the first horror movie to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and also won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award at TIFF, and it’s currently Certified Fresh at 88% on the Tomatometer, with an 83% Audience Score. With a haunting score, phenomenal performances, and a twisting plot that is always ahead of its audience and offers one shocking twist after another, this is one horror movie you have to see to believe. Writing for The Playlist, critic Jessica Kiang said “Ducournau’s filmmaking is as pure as her themes are profane: to add insult to the very many injuries inflicted throughout, Titane is gorgeous to look at, to listen to, to obsess over, and fetishize.”

Poster for You Are Not My Mother

Release Date: TBD

Kate Dolan’s feature directorial debut mixes folk horror, slow-burn scares, and family drama to create a thrilling psychological horror movie rooted in Irish folklore carried by gripping performances, as we follow two sisters on a coach trip to Paris that forever changes their relationship. Critics agree that this is the emergence of a new and exciting voice in the genre, one that debuts with a film that calls back to Hereditary and the best of folk horror. In his review for Bloody Disgusting, Joe Lipsett wrote, “Partnered with exceptional performances from [Hazel] Doupe (quiet, but layered) and [Carolyn] Bracken (legitimately terrifying), You Are Not My Mother is an assured, confident and exciting debut.”

Thumbnail image by Neon

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