Creepy Movies Set in Small Towns That You Might Have Missed


Happy Twin Peaks Sunday, everyone. Now that you’ve survived National Donut Day this week — and hopefully saved a few tasty treats for tonight’s new episode of the Showtime series by David Lynch — it’s time to warm up the boob tube with a few films before the show. Like the small, weird town of Twin Peaks, these movies are also set in strange locales. If you love creepy houses, eerie townspeople, and secrets that entire communities keep locked away, you’re in the right place.

Race With the Devil

This is what happens when you go on a road trip with the fam, witness a Satanic ritual in a small Texas town, and have to fight for your life. Peter Fonda and Warren Oates lead this hysterical horror actioner, which is alternately tense and absurd.

Messiah of Evil

Husband and wife Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz directed this 1973 Lovecraftian horror film (with lovely art direction), about a young woman who sets out looking for her estranged father in a small coastal town where the vampiric, cannibalistic residents worship the blood moon.

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death

There’s atmosphere to spare in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, which takes place in misty New England. Jessica (Zohra Lampert in a beautiful performance), recently released from a mental hospital, questions her sanity once more when a mysterious woman shows up at an old farmhouse and turns Jessica’s world upside down.

The House of the Devil

A college student desperately needs to make bank so she can afford her new apartment while attending college. She takes a babysitting job that turns out to be a cover for something sinister. Director Ti West plays on the paranoia of the real-life satanic panic era and the aesthetic of occult films from the ’70s and ’80s in this genuinely creepy chiller.

The Wicker Man

A detective (the great Edward Woodward) travels to a small island community searching for a missing girl, but winds up being targeted by a group of pagans who have plans for the Christian stranger. Robin Hardy’s 1973 film with a socio-political bent has a shocker ending and a fantastic cast, including Christopher Lee at his most flamboyant, Britt Ekland, and Ingrid Pitt.

The Snowtown Murders

Bleak af, difficult to watch, and based on true events, Justin Kurzel’s 2011 film reveals the dark side of one family as they perpetrate and experience horrific events. “The Snowtown Murders is distressing and almost unbearably painful, the most frightening film about a psychopath I’ve seen,” wrote Roger Ebert in his 2012 review.

The Blood on Satan’s Claw

A vicious young woman starts to control a village’s children, influencing them with her evil ways. This 1971 British horror film is for people who would enjoy the witchier version of Children of the Corn.

We Are Still Here

Ted Geoghegan’s indie horror film finds a family grieving over the death of their son in rural New England. But strange goings-on in the house disturb the family’s peace with messages from beyond the grave — and the townspeople might know more than they let on. Scream queen Barbara Crampton gives a moving, subtle performance.

In the Mouth of Madness

John Carpenter directs this 1994 Lovecraftian film about an insurance investigator who discovers that there’s more to a horror writer’s books than its fans realize. Look for Planet of the Apes star Charlton Heston as a publisher.

Troll 2

Claudio Fragasso directed Troll 2 using a pseudonym — and you’ll quickly realize why. The 1990 film, cast with local townspeople and produced by a crew that didn’t speak Engish, is often cited as the worst movie ever made. The plot is simple (and ridiculous): a family head out on the road to explore life in a new town and become food for a gaggle of vegetarian trolls (yes, very specifically vegetarian) who hope to turn them into plant food.