In the spirit of my last review, There’s Someone Inside Your House, I want to maintain the trend of horror that happens in high school. Movies, I should specify. High school on its own is plenty horrifying. Anyone who claims otherwise was probably the one doing the terrorizing. I said what I said.
Teen horror is such a fun subgenre—it’s campy, dramatic, and (much like teens themselves) it can get away with being a little dumb. Teenagers are among the most resilient, enduring hours and hours of high-pressure schoolwork, mornings and evenings and even weekends relinquished to extracurriculars, every cell of their bodies and inch of their minds stuck in a painfully werewolf-like transition. For these reasons and more, they make for ideal Final Teens.
So if you’re watching to relate or you’re watching because this watered-down level of scare is more your jam, I offer you five teen screams from the last few decades that anyone can enjoy this Halloween season.
Some people just hate their birthdays. Whatever the reason, at least they only need to deal with it once a year. Sorority girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) has the unfortunate double whammy of being murdered on her birthday, then waking up the next day only for it to happen all over again. And again. And again. Yes, director Christopher Landon found a way to adapt Groundhog Day into a millennial-age horror movie, filled with blood splatter and a creepy baby mask. Its ridiculous Blumhousian plot is best enjoyed as one you don’t take seriously at all, a satirical slasher that you watch for laughs rather than screams. With a title like that, how could you not?
Forgive me for including Craig Gillespie‘s Fright Night remake in lieu of Tom Holland’s 1985 original, but this adaptation was written by Buffy screenwriter Marti Noxon, and it features the likes of Colin Farrell, Toni Collette (she can seriously play any type of mom, whether it’s unsettling, horrifying, or in this case . . . normal?), David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin!), Imogen Poots, and—as I hold back tears—Anton Yelchin, may his sweet soul rest. Yelchin plays Charley, a teenage boy convinced that his new neighbor (Farrell) is a vampire, preying on women in the town, the next of which is bound to be his mother. Noxon’s script achieves the perfect balance of dark humor with sobering moments that drive the story home, just as she did with Buffy.
The year 2009 did not deserve Jennifer’s Body, a darkly salacious horror-comedy about teenage girls written by Diablo Cody (Juno) and directed by Karyn Kusama (The Invitation). Viewers had a hard time letting Megan Fox be anything other than a bedroom wall poster or smartphone lock screen if they were an early adopter of such luxury and here she was, holding her own as the titular Jennifer, Satanic virgin sacrifice gone wrong, licking the flames of Zippo lighters and quite literally preying on boys—though she infamously alluded to a preference for “both,” in the era when bisexuality was still regarded as something for men to watch rather than a legitimate identity. Its R-rating got a Teenage Me booted from the theater on my first try but after a successful viewing on my second go, it instilled a belief that this cult classic belongs on every high school film syllabus.
You’re probably familiar with this one—a mother and daughter, unable to see eye-to-eye, wake up in one another’s bodies after the cosmos decide to deal them each a new perspective. It’s Christopher Landon; he’s at it again! This time he draws inspiration from Freaky Friday to show us what would happen if a teenage girl (Kathryn Newton) trades places with . . . a serial killer, played by Vince Vaughn. Imagine being a high school kid and some sweaty, six-foot-whatever middle-aged man comes running at you in the hallway claiming he’s a sixteen-year-old girl and he needs your help to steal a cop car and find the local murderer who took off in his real (living) body, to break the Indigenous curse of La Dola. If you’re now wondering if Jason Blum produced this one too, he did. The tone mirrors Happy Death Day and will be a favorite for both people who love slashers and people who still listen to Lindsay Lohan’s “Ultimate” from the 2003 version of Freaky Friday with one of the OG Final Girls, Jamie Lee Curtis.
In this case, I am discussing the original and not the disappointing remake (which succeeds only in assembling a diversified cast of witches and as a half-hearted attempt to acknowledge the trans girl experience, then fails with its poorly written storyline and phoned-in climax.) Andrew Fleming‘s masterpiece takes us back to mid-90s Los Angeles where new girl Sarah (Robin Tunney) transfers to a Catholic school and is quickly taken in by the school’s outcasts, each of whom claims to be a witch. But Sarah is the one with the true, heritable power, causing a rivalry with ringleader Nancy (Fairuza Balk). The Craft handles the universal adolescent experiences of bullying, popularity, and social expectations incredibly well for its time and it even gets a lot about witchcraft right. Even if witches aren’t your thing, watch this film for the baby faces of Neve Campbell, Rachel True, and Skeet Ulrich; the iconic dark academia fashion; and Love Spit Love’s cover of How Soon Is Now, two years before Charmed reused it as its own theme song, thus turning Morrisey’s self-pity power ballad into the modern witch’s walkup song.