13 Great Modern “Retro” Horror Flicks

There’s something undeniably charming about films that try to be “retro.” I’m not one to get all sappy over 90s cartoons like the rest of my generation, but even I am prone to the odd bout of nostalgia. More than just wistfully wishing that my glasses today were as rose colored as those of my childhood, there’s a legitimate style and craft in moulding something that feels authentically dated. In an industry dominated by imitations, re-releases, sequels, and shameless cash grabs, bucking the trend for the tastes of yesteryear is risky. If done right, it can be both an homage and triumph of its own.

Of all genre geeks, horror fans are chief among them for adoration of the past. Horror isn’t really a hobby, it’s an infection. At some point, horror happens to us, and we’re forever changed by it. It’s a voracious hunger for more, and an undying love for that first bite that transformed us into our ghoulish form. Seeing that love reflected on the screen by a filmmaker with the same eternal itch is a special kind of fix, a nod from the creator to the fans as much as the source material.

Never Open the Door

With Never Open the Door releasing on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD on December 6th, now is the perfect time to remember some of the best recent flicks that make us remember some of the best not-so-recent flicks. Written and directed by Vito Trabucco (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp), Never Open the Door is an homage to classic series like “Twilight Zone” and “The Outer Limits.” Telling the tale of a group of friends enjoying Thanksgiving together, their holiday is soon interrupted by a mysterious knock at the door. Shot entirely in black and white with an original score, it feels very “60s” (but with cell phones). So without further ado, here’s my 13 Great Modern Retro Horror Flicks.

13) Turbo Kid (2015)

Turbo Kid


With the apocalypse soon at hand due to climate collapse/nuclear war/antibiotic resistant pandemic/sentient GMO crops, it’s good to be reminded that the wasteland can be fun sometimes. Set in the harrowing year of 1997, Turbo Kid’s alternate reality is equal parts quirky, cute, and bloody. It’s a movie you would say kids would love, if not for the head explosions and ripped off jaws. In a world without water, the little guy needs a hero. Known only as “The Kid,” this BMX riding comic book junk trader stumbles upon the body of the Turbo Rider. But being the hero we need isn’t just about having a power glove that shoots lasers. You have to learn to be brave, trust your friends, and melt faces. It sounds campy, and definitely is. But Turbo Kid is a film with a ton of heart. A fair amount of which is ripped out of chests and left in bloody piles on the dusty wasteland.

12) It Follows (2014)

It Follows

You might think I’m cheating a bit with this one, since It Follows is technically a film “out of time.” Aside from the weird clamshell thing, there’s nothing to imply what actual era this film takes place in. With today’s hipster fashion, you can’t even really date the clothes. But the foreboding synth soundtrack and floral furniture patterns practically scream “80s.” This is one of those films that you have probably already seen and made an opinion on. It made a huge splash when it came out, but is still contentious among horror fans. Taking a spot on as many “best” lists as “most overrated” lists, it can be easy to try to make a bold claim on this film. Personally, I see the flaws, but you have to try really hard to call this film “bad.” It’s slick and unique, and the fact that everyone that sees it has a strong opinion on it speaks volumes to its effectiveness. If you’re the one person reading this that hasn’t seen it yet, do so now.

11) Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Paranormal Activity 3

Another modern horror staple that is in equal measures loved and hated, the Paranormal Activity franchise has doubtlessly molded a generation of haunted house films. Yes I know, it wasn’t even close to being the first found footage movie, but it made more money than some countries and spawned countless imitations. I’m a fan of the series, and for me the films reached their peak with the third installment. You can accurately say that each Paranormal Activity film is defined by its camera gimmicks, ranging from single camera setup to “Kinect.” Paranormal Activity did things differently, going back in time instead to the days of bulky tape recording home cameras. It forces them to get creative with their shots, leading to the memorable “camera on a rotating fan” scene. Fan of the series or not, the mix of intense action and creative shot design set the third installment close to the top of the series.

10) The House of the Devil (2009)

When I first watched The House of the Devil a few years ago, I thought they had gotten the date on the description wrong. It’s not uncommon for films to be listed by their distribution date rather than their filming, so I just assumed the 2009 release date was when the DVDs went out. It genuinely feels like this film was made in the 80s. Unlike the previous two entries, this is one that is almost universally loved by horror fans. A stylish, slow burn film, its restraint builds to a genuinely explosive finale. It’s easy enough to find streaming, so do yourself a favor and check it out. Just don’t watch it drunk or distracted, this one demands your attention.


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Ted Hentschke

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