If you think of horror from the UK and Ireland then you’ll most likely conjure up images of slow-burning, relatively-genteel, ghost stories in big empty manor houses. And you wouldn’t be wrong for doing so. Both countries produce a lot of movies like that and they’re often the best in the world. But don’t think that’s all that the region has to offer up on the subject of horror.
No matter how much you learn, there’s always a wider world of movies out there and we’re always interested in spreading underseen greats to more people who might love them. If you’re a fan of tense, pulse-pounding, bloody, and inexplicably disturbing horror movies then there will be something on this list for you.
10 The Hallow (2015)
Corin Hardy’s strange Irish fairy tale is a movie where you can really feel the passion for other horror movies coursing through it, particularly the earlier work of Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro.
From the unassuming set up of a conservationist and his young family staying in an old house in the woods, Hardy lets loose a pretty unrelenting barrage of effects and frights from all manner of creatively grotesque puppets, suits, animatronics and animation.
9 The Canal (2014)
Another predominantly Irish production that’s more on the ghostly side of the equation, but no less intense or ghoulish than a monster movie like The Hallow. Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal charts the deeply unpleasant breakdown of a marriage and its ghostly parallels with a gruesome murder that took place in the couple’s home about a century before.
It may sound fairly cerebral but, really, The Canal is as straightforward as ghost stories come and it knows exactly which screws to turn to dish out a lot of shocks, even if you can see where the story is going most of the time.
8 Don’t Knock Twice (2016)
Caught somewhere between our first two movies on the list is Welsh director Caradog W. James’ demonic psychological horror story.
There’s plenty of otherworldly scares going on but the heart of the movie is the strained relationship between an estranged mother and the daughter that she didn’t feel she could care for until now. A monstrous curse doesn’t help matters but the emotional bleakness and isolation of their situation in a cold country home provides the really lasting chills.
7 Without Name (2016)
If you like your horror vague, but powerful, then Lorcan Finnegan’s underrated Irish horror is one to check out immediately. It’s essentially a stripped-down, near-reversed, version of The Hallow. A land surveyor oversees an Irish forest and the guilt that he feels over his failings as a husband and father begin to overpower his grip on reality as he feels a malevolent, shapeless, force emanating from his surroundings.
Though certainly not to everyone’s tastes, Without Name is an adept horror movie in its construction of atmosphere. It never shows you anything horrific or grotesque because it never needs to and there’s an immense power in that.
6 Isolation (2005)
If you’re looking for all-out monster madness, you can’t do much better than Billy O’Brien’s criminally underrated Irish creature feature.
A struggling farmer accepts some experimentation on his cattle from visiting researchers and things go as well as they usually do in situations such as this. Some of the final stages of the genetic abominations that spring forth from his livestock will definitely leave a lasting impression but so will a lot of the movie’s quieter, equally well-constructed, moments of tension.
5 Possum (2018)
From the mind of writer and director Matthew Holness, who some may know as the fictional horror icon “Garth Marenghi” from the cult TV show Darkplace (be sure to check it out if you don’t), Possum is disturbing and impactful in a number of very original ways.
The story centers around a disgraced puppeteer who must move back into his dilapidated childhood home and face the recurring horrors of the abuse he suffered there. The movie hinges on Sean Harris’ unwavering performance as a deeply broken man who struggles to maintain his sanity. His most horrific puppeteering creation stalking him, motionless yet incredibly terrifying.
4 In Fear (2013)
Jeremy Lovering’s visceral horror movie feels huge in some ways, despite being mostly set in a car, and confusingly claustrophobic in others despite also being set in a seemingly-unending forest.
If you’ve never experienced British country roads before, you’ll just have to take our word for it when we say that In Fear perfectly captures the engulfing feeling of nature in that environment. The roads become like corridors getting narrower and narrower as the main characters become lost in the unassuming backroads that become more like a nightmarish labyrinth. It’s Allen Leech’s unforgettable psycho that’s their real problem though.
3 A Field in England (2013)
In terms of standout directors to emerge from the horror genre in Britain from recent years, there are few who’ve matched the status that Ben Wheatley has achieved in the world of cult movies. He’s achieved a lot of success with the crime genre also, often mixing them together, but his most left-field exercise in genre is the film we’ll recommend on this occasion.
Set during the English Civil War, a group of soldiers and alchemists find themselves in the titular field. There, with the help of some hallucinogenic mushrooms and some dark magic, the lines between worlds begin to unravel in their pursuit of a buried treasure. It’s a heady, psychedelic, tumble down the rabbit hole that clearly draws influence from a wide source, but the result is hugely original.
2 And Soon the Darkness (1970)
It’s very important to be clear that what we’re talking about here is the 1970 original movie directed by Robert Fuest and not the 2010 remake. If you’ve seen the remake, don’t let that deter you. Fuest’s movie is completely different and you’ll understand why they bothered to even re-make a mostly uneventful 40-year-old movie that few people have ever heard of. The original And Soon the Darkness oozes style and foreboding.
It follows two young British women, Jane and Cathy, cycling in rural France. After an argument, they become separated and, when Cathy goes missing, Jane’s frantic search turns their idyllic, sparsely-inhabited, landscape into something far more sinister.
1 In Fabric (2018)
Perhaps the most unique and accomplished voice to come out of British horror movies (or British movies in general) in the past decade, Peter Strickland started out weird and has only grown bolder in his peculiarity since. His latest film, In Fabric, standing as his greatest achievement yet in a string of unconventionally frightening horror experiences.
Essentially revolving around a killer dress, In Fabric is an intensely odd film. If you can say that it ended up where you expected it to then you, my friend, are a liar. You have no idea where In Fabric is going and that feeling of powerlessness from being totally at the mercy of a director’s vision, mixed with their off-kilter sense of humor, is kind of scary in itself.