These creepy tales will send chills up your spine on warm summer nights.
Southern Gothic is a very American version of the Gothic literary genre, transposing tropes of ancestral secrets, families with disturbing pasts, and crumbling homes that symbolize a bygone era into the south. In a Southern Gothic horror, ghost creep through antebellum mansions, murderous families continue their butchering trade amidst the relics of industry, and traveling preachers conceal a vicious streak under their false piety.
Here are some of our favorite southern gothic horror stories, with notes by Bloody Disgusting.
The Night of the Hunter – Prime Video, Tubi
Probably one of the great Film Noir suspense films of all time, 'The Night of the Hunter' stars Robert Mitchum as Reverend Harry Powell, a criminal who hides behind the identity of a pious traveling preacher. After his cellmate confides to him that he'd hidden the loot from his robbery in his daughter's doll, the Reverend relentlessly pursues the children, disarming those adults around him with his charm and false devotion. It's a weird and dark little film with a shocking mean streak.
Stoker – HBO Max
I first saw this movie at the IFC cinema in New York, having heard nothing about it other than it was an American suspense film directed by 'Oldboy' director Park Chan-wook. The film turned out to be a sumptuous and occasionally brutal story of an orphaned young woman named India Stoker is left alone with her unstable mother and creepy uncle after her loving father is killed in an auto accident. As her uncle starts creeping into her life, she discovers a new and frightening capacity for violence.
From a Whisper to a Scream – Prime Video
I was recently on an anthology kick where I was trying to catch up on all the campy old anthologies and this one caught me by surprise. It's nastier than most, with stories of cannibal children who had been orphaned by the Civil War, a child birthed from a necromantic encounter, a doomed love between a circus glass eater and a sweet small town girl, and con man trying to steal the secret of immortality from an old man in the bayou. The tales are narrated by Vincent Price in another campy turn as a man sharing the dark secrets of a sinister town in Tennessee.
Frailty – Plex, Prime Video, Roku, Tubi, Vudu
A Is-He-Crazy-Or-Is-It-Real tale about a loving father who sees demons in the skins of human beings, 'Frailty' is one of the most harrowing dramas I've ever seen. Bill Paxton’s Texas-set feature is told from the point of view of a pair of young boys whose otherwise normal and kind father is going around killing people and claiming that they are demons in disguise. One of his children believes him, but the other thinks he's a delusional madman. It's a phenomenal psychological horror film (or is it) as the question becomes whether or not his kids will turn him in or continue his work.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Shudder
This one is kinda obvious but you can't do Southern Gothic without TCM. The story of a cannibalistic family who continue to practice their butcher's trade on innocent victims after the local slaughterhouses have all closed down, the original film is one of the most important, anarchistic, and horrifying films of all time. The rest of the series is mostly hit and miss, but there's nothing quite like the relentless terror of the first film, where people aren't even safe in daylight.
Eve’s Bayou – AMC+, Shudder, Tubi
(Haven't seen this one, so I'm going to defer to BD)
Kasi Lemmons’ feature directorial debut uses Southern mysticism and curses to expose insidious family secrets slowly. It follows young Eve Batiste (Jurnee Smollett). The ten-year-old discovers her father’s serial infidelity, prompting her to dabble with Hoodoo and driving conflict between her and her family. Memories can be a fickle, unreliable thing, leading to catastrophe for the Batiste family and heartbreaking truths. Eve’s Bayou is expertly crafted and stacked with powerful performances, but perhaps none as impressive as young Smollett.