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I believe that a midnight movie should be a nocturnal movie. Of course, it’s only a personal idea. I’m not about to go around trying to make it a law of genre cinema. Nor to reject diurnal movies that others catalog as midnight movies because of this belief.

Some day I’ll accept that’s not the case.

But as long as I have fuel to make my point I’ll keep thinking of midnight movies as a very nocturnal variation of the cult classic.

The fuel I am talking about are movies I think fit the bill of my midnight movie nomenclature.

Here are twelve of those I consider horror midnight movies, that I enjoyed watching very late at night.

Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

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Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is an odd movie of the not-infrequent Floridian species of midnight horror movie.

The reckless characters go to a cemetery, in a Florida swamp. They do a black magic ritual in the cemetery, and things go very wrong.

I love this movie, but seen for what it is you have to have quite an acquired taste to like it.

Seen from what it is I’d say it’s evident it is a micro-budget flick, and a very kinky one at that.

Yet, somewhat, for me, it ticks all the boxes in what I think an entertaining midnight horror movie should be. And yes, it’s a wholly nocturnal movie.

The inciting incident is very realistic. Think about it. Most horror movies are about people being victimized. Supernatural or monstrous entities that come to haunt or pursue the characters for a reason.

Horror movies in which the characters go in search of the entities actively are the exception, never the rule. Well, they do that in this black comedy horror midnight movie.

The Norliss Tapes (1973)

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The Norliss Tapes is a TV movie in length and production values that was the pilot episode for a TV series that never got made.

A paranormal investigator in the early 1970s in San Francisco comes upon a case that gets the better of him. Considering that this is one episode (one tape) of the whole story, watchers shouldn’t judge this TV movie too harshly.

The Phantom of The Paradise (1974)

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I think The Phantom of The Paradise is a textbook case of “What if The Phantom of The Opera Happened in the 1980s in the USA?”.

This movie is a very, very memorable musical horror dramedy.

Personally, after a lifetime of watching horror movies, the times I get scared watching one are the exception.

It also takes a ton of bizarre antiques to make me laugh. Yet, The Phantom of The Paradise has some scenes that are so primal at the humor level that it made me burst into laughter more than once.

Its Gothic aspect is part of its attractiveness, but watch it to have a good laugh.

The Turn of The Screw (1974)

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Dan Curtis’s take on the Henry James ghost story is, as I see it, overshadowed by all the other Dan Curtis horror movies.

This movie is not as remembered as the others, and that’s a pity because it’s a quiet nightly movie full of dread.

It’s a period piece and for me, The Turn of The Screw gets brownie points for its Victorian exteriors and interiors.

Phantasm (1979)

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Now I’m going to cheat a bit on this list because I’m going to recommend more than one movie in the Phantasm saga.

I’m going to recommend the first four as great horror midnight movies. The first and the second much more so.

Don’t get me wrong, all of them are very nightly movies, but the third and the fourth have long daylight scenes. Still, the overall percentage is still biased towards night scenes in those two movies too.

Alone in The Dark (1982)

Cult Classic from The 1980s: “ALONE IN THE DARK” 1
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Horror Cult Classic: Alone in The Dark (1982)

Alone in The Dark
is what I would call an ideal midnight movie. This movie has something for most horror fans, even if it’s more of a slasher/terror movie.

I might be biased towards loving it because it is as much a punk movie as it is a horror movie.

Visiting Hours (1982)

horror midnight movies
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This movie isn’t a prodigy of midnight movie film-making, but it has something, I don’t know what, that took me back to the nineteen-eighties. And that felt great, by the way.

I don’t know if it was the photography as a whole or elements of it like the lights. Yet, this movie captures a feel of the movies of the 1980s I haven’t experienced very often while watching series and movies of that period recently.

Dead of Winter (1987)

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I would save Dead of Winter for a winter night. Thankfully, I watched this movie during a cold winter night and it was a very immersive experience.

Dead of Winter is a very quiet and creepy thriller. I don’t know you, but I love a movie like this one.

In times like the present, when most movies, even many horror ones, are non-stop in-your-face action, a movie like Dead of Winter is very welcomed.

Dead End (2003)

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Dead End is another movie that’s almost wholly filmed at night. The crossover between horror and road movie is masterfully executed in this movie.

Probably the most attractive aspect of Dead End is that it’s a very nocturnal movie, with a very creepy premise similar to Reeker’s.

Reeker (2006)

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I don’t know if you know Reeker. Do you?

If you watched it, I should probably tell you that I’m seriously obsessed with movies that are a variation on Reeker’s main plot line.

If you haven’t watched Reeker yet, then I wouldn’t say any more to not spoil it for you. I’d only say watch it if you have the opportunity.

Whatever the case may be, if you need a dose of midnight horror, watch this movie.

The topic fascinates me so much that I would watch it again. Even when I know I won’t feel the original shock because I already know what’s happening and what will happen in the movie.

Mandy (2018)

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Mandy was, for me, something unexpected. This movie came from left-field the night when I found it on a streaming service and watched it.

I wasn’t expecting any of the many things it delivered.

Haters will condemn the script, saying… I don’t know what they would say or already said. You know how those who like to knock everything down are.

The weirdness factor of this movie is high and true, but movies don’t need to be logical and understandable to be good, right?

You can’t say Mandy is horror, and leave it at that, since this movie explores more genres. The genres in Mandy are heavily crossed over. When the horror part must hit you, it does.

When the drama narrative must make you feel the feelings of the protagonist (and thanks to Nick Cage’s performance too) it also achieves that.

Watch this movie if you like A) retro movies about the 1980s, B) movies about conspiracy theory monsters, and C) badass vengeance movies.

Terrifier (2018)

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The first Terrifier film and the fourth appearance of Art the Clown. This one is another 100% nocturnal movie.

Probably the most memorable of all is the Art the Clown media, not counting Terrifier 2 which I watched a few months ago and still remember vividly.

Some would say that the events depicted in Terrifier are too upsetting to watch before going to sleep. I say, if you want to watch an eerie, merciless, and immersive nocturnal horror movie watch this one and you won’t be disappointed.

Any Horror Midnight Movie Recommendation?

Please leave them on the comments below.

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© Bholenath Valsan 2024 — 12 Atmospheric Horror Midnight Movies from 1972 to 2018 – Midnight Movies


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