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Truth is stranger than fiction. The truth is scary. With that simple premise we’d like to help program your Scaretober with some of our favorite scary documentaries. These are real documentaries, not found footage masquerading as docs. Come back for next Thursday for some of our other favorite scary movies to watch this October. Next week is funny scary and the week after that is the new canon.

The Nightmare (2015)

I’m going to start this out by saying The Nightmare is the scariest movie I watched in 2015. Not the scariest documentary. The scariest movie. Period. Yes, I saw The Babadook and It Follows and The Visit and every other good horror film that’s come out thus far in 2015. And yes, I know the year is far from over. I’m calling it anyways. The Nightmare is the scariest movie of 2015, it was just put on Netflix, and you need to watch it right now. Rodney Ascher’s (the director of Room 237, which is further down on this list) second documentary dwells on the horrors of sleep paralysis. Having once had a problem with it himself, Ascher interviews a handful of people who have severely suffered with the sleeping disorder, and gleefully brings their nightmares to life. Not since Nightmare on Elm Street (RIP Wes) has your very own mind become the monster, and what sets it apart from the Freddy universe is that everything in The Nightmare is real. It has happened, and it could very easily start happening to you. -Kaylee Dugan

Welcome to Leith (2015)

NIMBYism is an annoying trend in urban policy, yet it is wholly deserved in Welcome to Leith, an intense portrait of American hatred. Leith is a small town in North Dakota, one with less than one hundred residents, but it is still incorporated. Some sleazy neo-Nazis take notice, and infiltrate the town in order to take over its institutions. What follows is a battle of wills between the mild-mannered townsfolk and bigoted trolls who want nothing more than to antagonize their haters. Welcome to Leith unfolds like a thriller, with an ever-escalated contest between the two sides. The good guys may end up victorious, yet no documentary has offered a better, more uncompromising view of the ugliest Americans. Forget the things that go bump in the night – this film is full of real monsters. -Alan Zilberman

Citizenfour (2014)

Laura Poitra’s chilling film Citizenfour won the Best Documentary Oscar and rightly so. It’s an excellent documentary that just happens to be genuinely terrifying. Although it would be a bit of a stretch to describe it a “horror” film, Citizenfour definitely contains plenty of horror, horror made all the more horrific by the fact that it’s real. If the hero of the piece is former NSA analyst/everyone’s favorite whistleblower, Edward Snowden, then the movie’s villain is an unseen, Orwellian entity known as “the government”. Famous horror villain Freddy Kruger had the power to infiltrate dreams, but the government can infiltrate computers! And that’s way scarier, especially if you’re a male twentysomething. The film doesn’t have to try particularly hard to get us to sympathize with Snowden. The sense of paranoia is as obvious as it is justified, and there are several spine-tingling moments in the film, like as Snowden unplugging the phone in his Hong Kong hotel room, fearing it might be bugged. -Norm Quarrinton

The Act of Killing (2012)

I have so many feelings about The Act of Killing that I’m honestly surprised I still have feelings left over for anything else. I’ve written about how angry and upset and awed it’s made me more than once. If you’re in the mood to stare at the wall, ceiling, whatever, for hours in silence then this is definitely the film for you. If you’re interested in not sleeping comfortably for the next couple of days, this is also the movie for you. If you want to laugh and then get mad at yourself for laughing and then get sad at yourself for being mad… then this is the movie for you. I’ve never watched something to utterly soul sucking. It’s the kind of film that makes you feel like a shell of a person when you’re done. Hopefully you’re into that. -Kaylee Dugan

The Impostor (2012)

I saw The Imposter in the theaters when it came out in 2012 and it is still one of the most perplexing documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s also, weirdly, one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve ever seen. There is a cinematic quality about the reenactments that almost makes you feel like you’re watching a very strange piece of fiction. Of course, that doesn’t make the reality of the story any less horrifying. In 1994 a 13 year-old boy from Texas named Nicholas Barclay completely disappeared. Three years later, he was discovered in Spain. Unfortunately, it was not Nicholas in Spain, but a homeless man who had made a living impersonating young men in order to stay in youth centers. Against all odds, he is shipped to the United States to live with Nicholas’s family, many of whom take him in with open arms. What unfolds is a bizarre story featuring the military, a private detective, a possible murder cover up, and Michael Jackson. I swear to god, you cannot make this shit up, unless you’re not not Nicholas. -Kaylee Dugan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67cMet52mL4

Room 237 (2012)

The scariest thing about The Shining is that, if you allow yourself to become totally immersed as a viewer, you’ll inevitably be dragged into the same confusion and madness that overcomes Jack Torrance. The scariest thing about Room 237 is that each of its five subjects, who each have their own, unique theory about the hidden (and/or overt) meanings behind The Shining, have also gone irretrievably, and to varying degrees, insane. Rodney Ascher’s 2012 documentary lays audio from interviews with his five subjects on top of both a brilliantly eerie and original synth soundtrack and seamlessly edited footage of The Shining. One subject, Jay Weidner, believes that The Shining is a vehicle for Stanley Kubrick to explain how he helped the United States government fake the Apollo 11 moon landing. The Shining is absolutely not about a faked moon landing. But Ascher nonetheless hands the reins over to Weidner and lets him explain, in excruciating detail and supported wherever possible by diagrammatic footage, each and every piece of evidence that has led him to this very sincere belief. The single, most unsettling moment in Room 237 is when one of its subjects is explaining that Stanley Kubrick’s bearded face can be seen in the clouds of the opening credit sequence. Ascher shows us the sequence, slows it down, and gives the viewer every opportunity to agree or disagree. It is one of many times when you may find yourself doubting everything and wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. -Tony Beasley

Cropsey (2009)

At its most basic level, Cropsey is a documentary about an urban legend told to kids around campfires in order to scare them into obeying curfew. What makes it so great, is that it isn’t the only thing Cropsey about. It’s also a movie about how horrible the rest of New York is to Staten Island (and about how horrible New York is general because IT IS). It’s also a movie about our countries upsetting past when it comes to the treatment of the mentally ill. Through the lens of urban myths and story tellings, Cropsey explores some of the darkest corners of our not so far away past and it does an amazing job. -Kaylee Dugan

Deliver Us from Evil (2006)

Deliver Us From Evil is horrifying for pretty much exactly the same reason as Capturing the Friedmans. The moral of the story is that everyone in your community that you may consider trusting, don’t. This one is extra scary because the Catholic Church protects Father O’Grady despite CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT HE IS A CHILD MOLESTER. -Tam Sackman

Jesus Camp (2006)

On a scale of one to ten, how creepy do you think children are? A ten? Good. Multiply that by two and then have the children speaking in tongues. That is basically Jesus Camp. It’s terrifying and great and honest to god creepy. There is a scene with a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush and that’s all I’m going to tell you because you need to go watch it now. -Kaylee Dugan

Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Capturing the Friedmans is so fucking terrifying because YOU LITERALLY NEVER KNOW WHICH OF YOUR SEEMINGLY NORMAL NEIGHBORS IS RUNNING AN UNDERGROUND KIDDIE PORN RING. Yes, the crimes are awful, obviously the most ghastly thing about this film, but the reason it makes you shudder is that they seem like such a normal family, which begs the question– which of your neighbors/teachers/uncles etc. is actually a horrible person doing horrible things? -Tam Sackman

Touching the Void (2003)

Thanks to its star power, the drama Everest was a modest box office success. Still, it pales in comparison to Touching the Void, a documentary about two mountain climbers whose trip goes horribly, horribly awry. The story would be impossible to believe if it weren’t true: after a successful ascent in the Andes, one climber falls and shatters his knee cap with his shin bone. The same climber is later dangling off a crevasse, and without any alternative, his companion cuts the rope that tethers them together. Both climbers survive, and director Kevin MacDonald deftly combines clear-eyed interviews with horrific, intense recreations of what they both endured. There is room for humor, too, and without any of the hubris that peppers Everest, Touching the Void is the ultimate mountain climbing story. Viewers should proceed with caution. -Alan Zilberman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mcdw79l5fQ

Hell House (2001)

One summer I went through a religious documentary kick that started off with Hell House. It was awesome. For the unaware, hell houses are a riff on traditional haunted houses, but with a religious kick. Instead of being chased by people with chainsaws or zombie teens, hell houses include scenes of women getting abortions and gay people getting punished for being well… gay. Hell House focuses on the planning and implementation of one of these houses in Cedar Hill, Texas. There is a scene where a teen girl jumps for joy because she gets cast as the abortion girl. It’s difficult to watch and equally as difficult to look away. -Kaylee Dugan

Roger & Me (1989)

My unfunny joke that has never gotten a laugh but is very true is Roger & Me is my favorite scary movie. Michael Moore’s first film is about Flint, Michigan, his hometown and former thriving small city. The film has a simple premise, Michael wants to interview General Motors CEO Roger Smith about downsizing and how it affected Flint. It’s heartbreaking and hilarious. It’s important to laugh at pain and there is no greater pain than poverty with no way out. All of Moore’s staples are in the film and sadly, you know how it ends. Zombies don’t exist, downsizing does. The aftermath of downsizing looks like zombies ran through the town. -Brandon Wetherbee

Grey Gardens (1975)

Grey Gardens is not supposed to be scary per se, but it freaks the shit out of me. There’s something about the women (who are the definition of real-life characters) not realizing that the world around them is literally crumbling that both breaks my heart and runs a chill down my spine. The women’s delusions of the life they have created still hold up as equal parts disturbing, fun and fascinating. A lot of creepy shit went down in the 70s. -Tam Sackman

Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922, 1968)

This is not really the kind of doc you just sit down watch. This the kind of doc you project onto the wall of your basement in order to take your Halloween party to the next level. It was the most expensive Scandinavian silent film ever made. The director, Benjamin Christensen, plays the part of the devil. William S. Burroughs narrates the 1968 release. It’s deeply weird and deeply fun, but you don’t really need to pay too much attention. -Kaylee Dugan

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