10 Best Horror Documentaries for Halloween
Whenever spooky season rolls around, people get in the Halloween spirit by bingeing classic horror flicks and checking out the latest bone-chilling releases. But there are also many horror specials and documentaries to feast upon that offer a wealth of insight and information.
They’re not just exclusive to nerds who want to learn more about the films they love. Such factual programming offers an invaluable suggestion box for what horror movies you should watch that you might not have seen before.
The likelihood that there will be more than a few movies mentioned in the specials and docs below are extremely high, and you can bet there will be something you have never seen before.
The selection below is the best horror specials and documentaries you need to watch this Halloween.
Hail To The Deadites
This documentary (currently on Shudder and elsewhere) is more about the fandom than it is about the films its based in. But I suppose that’s the charm behind the Evil Dead franchise. It’s built on the backs of fans who have strapped in for the film series’ ride of breakneck tonal changes, character focus, and penchant for goofy comedy. When the doc was released, the franchise included an original series, a rebooted film, and a short film. Meaning not only were fans reveling in the old lore, but the franchise was making new ones with its two other non-canonical entries. The documentary encapsulates the glee of every horror nerd, despite the focus on Evil Dead nerds. And horror films, from the perspective of the fans, are about how much you, yourself, enjoy the show.
Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity
The Paranormal Activity franchise has been around for over a decade, and although some may disregard the sequels, the original movie made a huge splash when it debuted in 2007. It raked in approximately $193.4 million at the box office and spawned six sequels, all of which collectively earned $890.5 million. Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity, released in 2021 on Paramount+, showcases the making of the movies and includes first-time interviews with the cast & crew, alongside unseen footage throughout the franchise, alongside a preview of Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, which released alongside the documentary on Paramount+ (where you can watch the doc for yourself).
The Movies That Made Us
Although the Netflix show usually covers films of any genre, Season 3 appears to have a tight focus on horror. Each episode of the Movies That Made Us is roughly 50 minutes long, covering classic films like Halloween, Jaws, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Aliens. Each installment showcases the stories from the cast & crew, what it was like working on the film, and how much impact that film had once it hit theaters. Most insightful was the Aliens episode and hearing how tumultuous the filmmaking process was against director James Cameron. Although less detailed than previous entries on the list so far, the production value behind the show is unmatched, bringing in an entertainment factor that’s lacking from the rest.
Birth of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead is one of the most important movies in the genre and serves as the cornerstone of all undead films. Birth of the Living Dead showcases how George A. Romero went about shooting his seminal film way back in 1968. All of the archival footage provided by H. Rap Brown and Fred Rogers were unseen up till this point and serves as a gateway back in the annals of history where guerrilla filmmaking was at its peak. Romero, a young college dropout, collected local policemen, iron workers, housewives, and a roller rink owner to produce this horror classic. He also introduced the industry to a new genre and era for Hollywood monsters: flesh-eating zombies. Birth Of The Living Dead is available for free on Tubi and Roku, but it’s also on Shudder.
Another Shudder original, Cursed Films, is a docuseries that focuses on the myths surrounding the production of some of Hollywood’s most “cursed” film sets. The first three episodes cover the most notorious cursed films: The Exorcist, The Omen, and Poltergeist. Many tragedies hit these films, including deaths, accidents, gun firings, and bombings. The series also delves into the initial controversy behind each movie as they were released and if there is any validity to the curses. This series is a great blend of horror movie insight and real-life true crime circumstances not usually found in tandem.
Eli Roth’s History of Horror
Eli Roth is the Kevin Smith of the horror movie fandom, a man with skin in the game that also nerds out about the topic as much as the most hardcore horror enthusiast. Eli Roth’s History of Horror originally came on AMC and featured the titular director as the host delves into the cultural significance of some of our favorite horror movies. The show covers movies by subgenre, like slasher, zombies, and vampires, Then the guests delve into the lore, the impact the films within the subgenre had, and its evolution throughout the years. Interviewees include the usuals like Stephen King and Linda Blair, but also unexpected inclusions like Quentin Tarantino. There’s also a podcast version of the show where Roth sits down with special guests (usually directors) to talk about spooky stuff, ranging from personal horror stories to the influences that led them to the genre. Although the show ended with 3 seasons in 2019, it’s readily available on Shudder alongside its podcast counterpart.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
Never Sleep Again (also directed by Farrands) is another thoroughly made documentary akin to its sister film Camp Crystal Memories. It covers the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise in roughly 4 hours, from the original movie to Freddy vs. Jason, with narration from the first final girl Heather Langenkamp. The documentary explores the behind-the-scenes of each film, Craven’s initial motivation behind Freddy’s inception, and what each creator brought to the franchise after that. It also features the movie monster’s impact on pop culture and how Freddy essentially built up production studio New Line Cinema before being absorbed by Warner Bros. in 2008. Much like Camp Crystal Memories, this doc is available to rent and purchase on YouTube, Apple+, and Vudu. It’s also available on Best Buy and Amazon in either physical or digital.
101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
A modern-day take on Bravo’s countdown miniseries, Shudder’s 101 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time emphasizes “horror.” There’s insight from actors, creators, scholars, and enthusiasts, including, but not limited to, Keith David, Joe Dante, Mike Flanagan, and special effect wiz Greg Nicotero. The show originally premiered on Shudder on September 7, with new episodes streaming every Wednesday. Although it covers some of the same films as its spiritual predecessor, it also benefits from covering many new movies in the last 20 years. And Shudder doesn’t limit itself either, despite strictly covering horror. There are recent international entries and some terrifying television moments included as well. One of the best antidotes from the ongoing miniseries so far is Holland recalling how long it took to get the perfect shot of Chucky rolling under the sofa in the original Child’s Play.
Camp Crystal Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th
Camp Crystal Memories (directed by Daniel Farrands) is the most detailed and informative documentary on Friday the 13th. It’s definitely the most extended documentary on the topic, clocking in with an almost 7-hour run covering the franchise from its humble beginnings to its most recent 2009 reboot. It also keenly showcases the climate of studio slasher horrors ranging from the ’80s and into the ’90s. There are tons of unseen photos, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews from over 150 cast & crew members involved in the franchise. Each film is given time to be thoroughly covered and includes interviews from the likes of Betsy Palmer, Wes Craven, Tom Savini, and many more, all narrated by the franchise’s own Corey Feldman. My favorite interview has to be by Palmer, who initially looked down on the horror genre due to her prestigious Broadway background before accepting Friday the 13th as her most famous role. The only place to currently stream this documentary is on Hoopla, but it’s also available to rent or purchase on Apple+, Vudu, Amazon, and the rest of the streaming services that allow you to purchase content.
The 100 Scariest Movie Moments
Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments is a must-watch special for diehard horror fans. It’s been almost 20 years since it first premiered and is remembered fondly on Twitter every Halloween season by folks who say the same thing. Not only is it an educational wormhole down the scariest moments in the film (not just horror movies, either), but you get takes from some of the biggest names in the genre. Famed makeup artist Tom Savini’s there, as is Eli Roth, George A. Romero, Stephen King, John Carpenter, and Jennifer Tilly, to name a few. For some reason, there are also a few oddball guests like Robert A. Riggle Jr from Step Brothers (the guy that screams Pow!) and the twins from The Shining, but every interviewee has the enthusiasm of a horror fan, making them all welcome additions. It even inspired a newly created scary movie countdown, which is also on this list. Be prepared to be introduced to many films worth revisiting, some of which you may have never even heard of. The best part? The entire special is available on YouTube for free (for now).