Texas can be a scary place. If we’re going by these five movies, our fair state is full of Satanist cults, murderous families, and demons with an interest in Matthew McConaughey. It’s a wonder we don’t spend most of our days full-on screaming.
It’s the season for haunted houses, Halloween parties, and — best of all — horror movies. It’s a time to revisit the classics like Psycho and The Exorcist, but it’s a little more terrifying when the horror is set closer to home. This Halloween, try some of these terrifying flicks set in our own backyard.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
A stone cold classic that doesn’t need much introduction, the Texas Chain Saw Massacre remains one of the bloodiest entries into the Horror Film Hall of Fame. Set in middle-of-nowhere Texas, the influential slasher flick follows five young folks on an ill-advised trip into middle-of-nowhere Texas, where they encounter a family whose hobbies include grave robbing, torture, and unconventional power tool use. More than 40 years and countless imitators later, the slaughterhouse of a movie still manages to shock.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
A little more lighthearted than some of the films on this list, Bubba Ho-Tep features B-movie superhero Bruce Campbell as an aging Elvis Presley, who traded places with an impersonator and is happily living out his golden years in an East Texas nursing home. The elderly black man just down the hall is President John F. Kennedy. “The best movie to star both the King and JFK” pits the American icons against an ancient Egyptian mummy hoovering up the souls of their fellow nursing home residents.
The Texas elements: It’s set in small-town Texas (are our cities not scary enough?), and it stars noted Texans Bill Paxton and Matthew McConaughey. The horror elements: A serial killer is on the loose, and a man has some dark secrets to share about his father, a religious fanatic who enlists his two sons on a mission from God. Said mission involves executing sinners, as directed by visions from a wrathful angel. This film about family and fanaticism got some rave reviews when it was released, and has since built a bit of a cult following as a modern horror masterpiece.
Race with the Devil (1975)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven’t seen this. But the premise — a “fusion of car chase film and spooky horror” — is pretty undeniable, and it’s got Peter Fonda in full Easy Rider mode as the lead. Two couples leave San Antonio in an RV, the snowy climes of Aspen their destination. After accidentally seeing too much of a Satanic cult ritual in (where else?) small-town Texas, the couples make an effort to get the hell out of Dodge. The cult, as you might expect, follows.
The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Rob Zombie’s over-the-top tribute to extreme horror was a little too much for some. The violence is nasty and relentless, and an absolute trial for anybody who is even the least bit squeamish. (I have no desire to ever see this thing again, and I’m not so convinced it was a great idea the first time.) But the movie, which follows the psychopathic Firefly family on a rampage through middle-of-nowhere Texas and their pursuit by an equally deranged sheriff, is certainly something. Bonus points for excellent use of the song “Freebird.”