Comic books have dabbled in the horror genre since the very beginning. Hollywood has adapted comics since the 40s. Put those two facts together and you get a proud history of comic book horror movies! Here’s our top five comic book horror movies that you should watch before Halloween passes (or any other time of year, really):
5) Tales from the Crypt (1972)
This British horror anthology is one of the earliest faithful screen adaptations of an American comic book! It adapts five stories from EC Comics’ various iconic horror anthologies. The Cryptkeeper regales five unwilling strangers with the stories of how they will die. This Cryptkeeper is a somber, monk-like individual haunting an elaborate old burial ground. He’s far removed from the cackling, modern ghoul of the TV series and all the more chilling for it.
Overall, the movie’s not quite as good as the show BUT has benefit of being a tight 92 minutes. It’s perfect for dipping your toes into the world of EC Comics and is sure to give you quite a fright.
4) Constantine (2005)
Keanu Reeves plays Los Angeles-based demonologist John Constantine in this 2005 blockbuster! John is caught up in the war between heaven and hell, humanity’s imperfect champion against the infernal and divine. He’s gotta get his act together to save all mankind from rogues that want to accelerate the end of the world. Eschewing sorcery in favor of pseudo-Christian ritual, the movie stays within a framework recognizable by most Americans.
As adaptations go, this one is relatively poor. John Constantine loses a lot of what endears him to comic fans – notably becoming a SoCal native rather than a working-class Brit. The flick is, however, kept afloat by the eminently likable Reeves and a clear, strong story. The flick’s a good action/horror hybrid in it’s own right, and now destined for a belated sequel.
3) Hellboy (2004)
Speaking of action/horror hybrids, 2004’s Hellboy is first movie adaption of Mike Mignola’s iconic paranormal investigator. Coming early in the modern CBM boom, it downplays the more comic book-y elements of its source material. That works because the Hellboy Universe isn’t exactly home to the Justice League, and you’re left with recognizable monster archetypes.
The result is a grounded tale of Lovecraftian “weird fiction”. Soulful “monsters” fight to stop cruel humans (chiefly Nazis) from ushering in the end of the world. It flips traditional horror tropes on their head to deliver a tale that’s equal parts cosmic horror and two-fisted pulp hero action. Hellboy is also a must see in Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro’s horror filmography. This flick is his third blockbuster and the one where his signature style stared reaching the general audience.
2) The Empty Man (2020)
Here’s one you may have missed, both as a comic and as a movie. Based on the Boom! Studio series of the same name by writer Cullen Bunn and artist Vanessa R. Del Rey, The Empty Man spins a dark tale of sinister cults and haunting spirits from other realms. It pits dogged investigators against a dark entity that drives people to murderous madness. How can a mortal stop something from beyond?
It’s a highly effective horror flick that was dumped into theaters on October 23, 2020. If you recall your recent history, most American movie theaters were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic at that time. The movie, predictably, bombed. It came and went with little fanfare but has proven a cult favorite on streaming. It was also a victim of the Disney/Fox merger, much like fellow pandemic era comic horror movie New Mutants. Both are worth a watch for comic fans and horror hounds alike.
1) Werewolf By Night (2022)
This is a well-earned up-to-the-minute recommendation. Streaming on Disney+, Werewolf By Night is a fantastic first entry into the horror side of the Marvel Universe. While Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness utilized horror imagery under the expert hand of Sam Raimi, this special goes full bore into gothic horror under composer/director Michael Giacchino. There’s not a superhero in sight, just werewolves and swamp monsters and ruthless monster hunters.
The film’s black-and-white nature allows it to get away with gruesome kills on a TV-14 rating. It’s a full-on horror story monster mash, albeit one with a similar perspective flip to Hellboy. It’s one of the freshest things added to the MCU in a long time, and it is definitely worth a watch. Keep your eyes peeled for a slightly surreal cameo from The Simpsons co-creator David Silverman and his flaming tuba, a mainstay of Burning Man.
Which Ones Did We Miss?
Those are the comic book movies/horror flicks we think you should be binging before spooky season ends, but that’s far from an exhaustive list. Which of your favorites did we miss? Which of our picks can’t you stand? Tell us in the comments, or on social media @b2pcollect! And if you’ve got a collection of horror comics, particularly 50s EC or 70s Marvel, don’t wait until October to sell ‘em! Back to the Past is here to help you bring them to market all year ‘round.