The Canadian horror imagination has produced many fantastic horror films over the years. The Great White North has played a role in shaping the horror movie genre. Beyond the usual Canadian fears of cracking ice rinks lies a deep consciousness of mythology that Canadian filmmakers have helped shed some light on. Let’s look at some of the best Canadian horror films to hit the big screen.
10 My Bloody Valentine (1981)
First on our list is the 1981 slasher My Bloody Valentine. This horror film was released in 1981 and starred Paul Kelman, Lori Hallier, and Neil Affleck. The premise of the film is that a group of young adults is throwing a Valentine’s Day celebration, but due to their carelessness, they anger a vengeful maniac dressed in miner gear. This movie is notable for having faced heavy censorship on its release. It featured violence and gore that caused it to have nine minutes cut from the final product. It stands above other slashers of the time for its maturity and the strength of its characters. Many slasher movies at the time made their characters one-note because they just existed to be killed. The kill scenes in the movie give it a genuinely creepy atmosphere that still holds up to this day.
9 Screamers (1995)
Screamers is a Canadian sci-fi horror film that was released in 1995. It stars Peter Weller, Roy Dupuis, and Jennifer Rubin. The plot involves two mercenaries that are on the planet, which has since become a toxic wasteland after a war. These mercenaries are trying to settle a labor dispute that has become violent. However, once they arrive, they find that the weapons that were created to protect the mines have begun to replicate and attack everyone in sight. Things are further complicated by the fact that these weapons have the ability to assume a flawless human form. It is memorable for being a fast-paced thriller that never lets the pace drag. The film oozes the atmosphere and is put together with intelligence and a unique charm.
8 Videodrome (1983)
Videodrome is a body horror science fiction film that was released in 1983. It was directed by David Cronenberg and was his first film with backing from a major Hollywood studio. In contrast to his early films, he used a budget of nearly $6 million. The story follows a TV channel president named Max Renn, who is played by James Woods. His channel begins failing as he starts losing viewers, so Max starts to look for more programs to put on the air. He discovers a mysterious program called “Videodrome,” which features torture and punishment.
Max thinks he has a potential hit on his hands and starts broadcasting it on his channel. However, things are not as they seem, as his girlfriend goes to audition for the show and disappears. What he thought was fake gore may hide something more sinister underneath. The film features believable body horror and wows audiences with stunning visual effects. While it initially was a box office flop, it developed a cult following enough to be considered a cult classic.
7 Dead Ringers (1988)
Next up, we have Dead Ringers, another David Cronenberg film that was released in 1988. The film follows a successful gynecologist named Elliot, who is played by Jeremy Irons. Elliot works at the same practice as his identical twin Beverly, who Irons also plays. Elliot is a womanizer and has many affairs with his patients despite being married. Elliot entertains himself by giving his conquests over to Beverly to enjoy. Because they look exactly the same, Elliot can dump these girls without them knowing he is dumping them. Things change when one of the patients can deceive Beverly, who starts to go insane. The movie benefits from Cronenberg’s experience with body horror. The medical setting provides plenty of opportunity for a body horror story combined with a psychological drama.
6 7 Days (2010)
7 Days is a horror film that was released in 2010. It is a mystery thriller directed by Daniel Grou, who based it on the novel written by Patrick Senécal. The film’s premise is that a doctor named Bruno, played by Claude Legault, hunts down and tortures the man responsible for sexually assaulting and murdering his daughter. After his life is destroyed by losing his daughter, he puts together an intense plan for revenge that involves drugging an officer and using a remote-controlled computer to hide his operation. Bruno taunts the police by saying he will kill the man in seven days and will relinquish himself to be arrested after he is done. What follows is seven days of torture and mocking. However, at the end of the seven days, he lets the man live while still getting arrested himself. It is a gut-wrenching experience that weeds out even the bravest horror movie watchers.
5 Ginger Snaps (2000)
Another excellent Canadian horror movie worthy of your time is Ginger Snaps. This film was released in 2000 and starred Katherine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, and Kris Lernche. It plays out as a horror mystery story, where two outcast sisters have been attacked by a mysterious wild creature. One sister named Ginger recovers from fatal wounds, but it turns out that she is turned into a werewolf on every full moon. While her sister tries to cure her, Ginger starts to enjoy her change in body and personality. She goes on to infect other people with the curse, ultimately having to be stopped with a syringe and a knife by her own sister. The film has a high critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising its sophisticated characters and its intellectual musings on middle-class suburbia.
4 Backcountry (2014)
Backcountry is a wilderness horror film that was released in 2014. The film is the directorial debut of Adam MacDonald. It follows a couple who become lost on a hike through the wilderness. Unbeknownst to them, they have intruded on a black bear’s territory and are now fighting for their lives. A great trick the film does is build an atmosphere through its use of sound and silence. As a member of the audience, you hear every change in the environment, down to the slightest sounds. You can feel the deterioration of their relationship as the characters are subjected to increasingly intense survival scenarios. It is a gory affair that is well-paced, well-acted, and tense at the right moments. You feel the fear of being consumed by the bear, and the performances make the film feel very believable.
3 Ravenous (2017)
Ravenous is a Canadian film released in 2017. Robin Aubert directs this French-language film. In the film, the residents of a small town in the countryside have to deal with an outbreak of zombies. The apocalypse has already started with the spreading of the plague that turns infected people into flesh-eating monsters. The people who live in rural areas are the only ones left, and there are only a few survivors. The remaining humans pass the time shooting zombies and finding supplies to survive. A group of survivors comes together in a singular house to survive when they realize a horde of zombies is going to pass right through the town.
With each scene, fewer and fewer survivors remain alive as they turn on each other and become zombies. There is more going on than meets the eye when they discover the zombies gathering objects together and performing weird rituals. The film received glowing reviews when it came out. It was complimented for its witty script and intense moments. The violence is appropriately handled and creates a tense horror thriller atmosphere. It is probably the best zombie-road trip movie around.
2 The Dark Hours (2005)
The Dark Hours is a horror mystery film that was released in 2005. It was directed by Paul Fox and starred Katie Greenhouse, Aidan Devine, and Gordon Currie. The story follows a psychiatrist named Samantha, who is dying from brain cancer. She is all set for a getaway trip with her sister and husband to take her mind off things. Fate would have other plans; however, as a mental patient would escape and hold the group, hostage. What makes matters worse is that this patient was cared for by Samantha and is intent on getting revenge. What follows is a night of torture and tense survival horror. Critics praised the film for its intense torture scenes and fast pacing. It has a short run-time that doesn’t mess around and gets straight into the horror.
1 The Changeling (1980)
At the top of the list is the 1980 film The Changeling. This Canadian horror film was directed by Peter Medak and starred George C. Scott as a composer who accidentally killed his family in a car accident. After being distraught by his loss, he leaves town for a spooky house in Seattle. He encounters a supernatural ghost and works to unravel the secrets of the ghost’s death. The film is a haunted house thriller that is a master class in setting the atmosphere and creating ambiance. It has many well-composed shots of gothic horror that add to the building tension that never relents throughout the film.