A film geek’s guide to Canadian horror movies

A list of the greats from David to Brandon Cronenberg

Image by: Josh Granovsky

What do you get when you cross exploding heads, teen wolves and vigilantism? The glory of Canadian horror movies. 

The following five flicks span the past 25 years of Canadian film and have made an immense impact on the genre. Since it’s the Halloween season, it seems natural to keep the spookiness alive. 

Scanners (1981) 

There’s no one quite like Canadian director David Cronenberg, not just when speaking of the horror film genre but also the film industry as a whole. His earliest works are the stuff of pure horror magic. 

One standout film, and his first big success, is 1981 sci-fi horror film Scanners. The film’s plot features a group of supernatural characters with powers of telepathy, telekinesis and mind-control — dubbed Scanners — recruited by an organization called ConSec to act as human weapons.

Scanners takes place in a world where corporations act without restraint in making the most powerful weapons possible. The film also has a scene where a guy’s head explodes, which is always a bonus in a good horror film.

Scanners presents classic Cronenberg gore and has the ability to make your skin crawl. 

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

This next film was shot in Nova Scotia and came out in 1981. Although not necessarily considered a “good” movie, My Bloody Valentine presents a classic, cheesy Canadian horror flick.

A little unclear as to its relation to Valentine’s Day, the film tells the tale of a miner who goes crazy and starts killing people with a pickaxe. 

The stupidity of connecting the tale of a spree killer wearing a mining outfit with Valentine’s Day is only remedied by seeing the spilling of guts and blood. 

When it was sent to the American movie rating board, members had to cut nine whole minutes from the original film because of the extreme goriness and violence. There was an American remake of My Bloody Valentine made recently that was truly awful. But good for one thing, the remake only seemed to make the Canadian version better. 

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Werewolves, teen sex and a fascination with death — Ginger Snaps has it all. 

This film follows two girls in high school who have to deal with the abnormalities of having a werewolf in town. One of the girls, Ginger, is bitten by the creature and begins to have all the classic signs of that affliction — howling at the moon, growing hair all over and exuding pure wolfishness. 

During this bizarre transformation, Ginger also begins menstruating and having unprotected sex and, well, going through werewolf-style puberty. This added element, not just of strong female characters but of actually exploring the lives of young women on film was unheard of in horror movies at the time.

This film presents a scary, iniquitous world that’s only separated from our own realities by some supernatural oddity.  

Hobo with A Shotgun (2011) 

Following his Blade Runner fame, Rutger Hauer  plays the titular hobo in this 2011 film who goes on a killing spree in a town where homeless people are mistreated. 

Like many of the exploitation films made in recent years, Hobo is an empathetic take on homelessness featuring a highly complex and sympathetic protagonist.  

The murderous actions of Hauer’s character are gross and despicable, but they’re also the only choice he has due to the systematic discrimination and subsequent lack of protection he faces as a homeless person.

Antiviral (2012)

Sometimes, there’s commentary in the carnage, and this proves true in the film Antiviral released by director Brandon Cronenberg in 2012. 

The story takes place in a world where people are obsessed with celebrities to a sickening degree. The protagonist Syd works at a clinic where people infect themselves with the same diseases as various celebrities with the belief that these shared infections will somehow connect them.

It also features a meat market which sells the cloned flesh of famous people to feed the obsessions of society. In other words, Antiviral features a decent take on the overzealous consumption of celebrity news and pop culture that’s present in today’s society. 

While this is a niche aspect of film, there are evidently some gems in Canadian horror films. These five movies exhibit the best of not just this genre, but the Canadian film industry as a whole. 

While many people can identify Canadian horrors from not being polite to the phrase ’Prime Minister Harper,’ few can identify Canadian horrors in film. These five movies are great examples of Canadian horror movies from the past quarter-century to watch around Halloween. 



canadian film, Halloween, horror

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