30 Great Back to School Horror Movies

The Expelled
The Expelled movie poster. © Screen Media

Going back to school is scary as it is, but these horror/suspense movies mine school settings for an added level of terror.

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Urban Legend (1998)

Urban Legend
© Tri Star

College students are stalked by a killer with a unique modus operandi: murders are modeled after popular urban legends. Luckily, the would-be victims happen to be taking a class on urban legends, so they're more or less prepared. "Will this be on the test?" Dumb, but fun.

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Prom Night (1980)

Prom Night movie poster
© Avco Embasy

One of the most well-known slasher movies of the sub-genre's '80s Golden Age, this Canadian entry takes place on the night of a high school prom. It's also the sixth anniversary of the death of 10-year-old Robin, and a masked killer who knows that four current high school seniors were responsible for her demise decides that the time is right to wreak vengeance. But first: let's disco!

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Massacre at Central High (1976)

Massacre at Central High
© Brian Distributing Corp.

As much a drama as horror/suspense, this film plays like the darkest After School Special ever, with a high school transfer student getting bloody revenge on the bullies who crippled him. But rather than go down the route of your average eye-for-an-eye exploitation fare, it ends up playing like an allegory of the corruption of power and the cycle of violence, as the meek inherit the school and then end up becoming as sadistic as the original bullies.

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Fortress (1985)


In this Australian thriller, masked men kidnap a young schoolteacher and her class from a remote one-room schoolhouse. An initially PG-rated vibe takes a dark turn when the kids decide to fight back, devolving into Home Alone meets Lord of the Flies by way of of First Blood.

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The Craft (1996)

The Craft
© Columbia Pictures

A transfer student to a private school falls in with a trio of outcast girls who dabble in witchcraft. The social rejects hone their "craft" by using spells to gain revenge on the bullies who've tormented them because, well, that's what happens in 30% of high school horror movies.

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After Midnight (1989)

In this overlooked horror anthology, a psychology professor teaching a class on fear offers his students an opportunity to "experience real fear" at his home one night. They tell each other scary stories and eventually become involved in their own personal nightmare.

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The Expelled (2013)

This tense, deconstructive horror film from Great Britain takes a character typically marginalized in slashers and other teen-centric films, a high school teacher, and makes him the central heroic figure. It plays a bit like the Samuel Jackson film 187—a traumatized teacher having to face his fears—with a horror angle, as a gang of faceless killers stalks the halls of a high school after hours.

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The House on Sorority Row (1982)

This '80s slasher features a mystery figure stalking a group of sorority sisters who accidentally killed their house mother the day before. It feels like there's something missing near the end (like unmasking the killer perhaps?), but is still a must-see for the decapitated head-in-the-toilet scene alone.

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The Substitute (2008)

Like a junior high version of The Faculty, this Danish sci fi horror fare from the director of Nightwatch and finds a class of 6th graders becoming convinced their new substitute teacher is in fact an alien.

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Hell Night (1981)

Linda Blair stars as a sorority pledge who's challenged to spend the night with other pledges in a mansion that's rumored to be stalked by a deformed psychotic killer—because it is.

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Death Bell (2008)

Saw meets I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Ring in this Korean hit about a group of top students in a high school who are gathered to take a special college preparatory class during a school break when they find themselves trapped by an unseen killer who kidnaps them one by one and forces the others to solve a puzzle in order to save the victim's life.

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The Awakening (2012)

In this attractive and dramatic period British ghost story, a professional skeptic is hired to go to a boys boarding school and debunk the students' belief that it's haunted by the spirit of a boy who died in the building years ago.

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The Faculty (1998)

It's Invasion of the Body Snatchers set in a high school, as a group of students discover that aliens have taken over the bodies of the teachers in this fun romp from director Robert Rodriguez and writer Kevin Williamson.

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Suicide Club (2002)

When a group of 50 schoolgirls jumps willingly in front of a subway train, it sparks a rash of unexplainable suicides around the country in this bloody, off-the-wall Japanese cult fave.

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Dorm (2006)

Part ghost story, part coming-of-age drama, this Thai film is a heartfelt, touching tale of a young boy sent to a boarding school rumored to be haunted by ghosts.

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The Final (2010)

Once again, vengeance is the name of the game in this high school horror flick, as a group of bullied outcasts hatches a plan to throw an anonymous party in which they drug, chain, and torture their tormentors. It delivers genre thrills but also raises thoughtful social issues without feeling exploitive.

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Ring of Curse (2011)

Despite the generic title, this isn't just another Japanese Ring retread with a long-haired female ghost killing people right and left. No, the long-haired female villain—a morose teen outcast—is very much alive, and she's found a way to take revenge on the schoolmates who've wronged her by using her gift of writing. Words hurt, people!

Ring of Curse plays like a prequel to a Ring/Grudge-like film, detailing what would lead to such a supernatural curse, and it does so in a remarkably reserved, introspective, downright dramatic manner, topping it off with a shrewd twist that you can't help but applaud.

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Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

Arguably better than the first film, this action-packed sequel revolves around a high school basketball team (and cheerleading squad) returning from a tournament who fall prey to the winged Creeper—one of the best horror villains of the 21st century.

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Hiruko the Goblin (1991)

Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto followed up the gritty cyberpunk film Tetsuo: The Iron Man with this more conventional but no less odd horror-comedy that channels Evil Dead and The Thing in the story of an archeologist who investigates a tomb discovered under a rural high school that turns out to be a monster-spewing gateway to Hell. Great fun with old school, borderline cheesy special effects.

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Dance of the Dead (2008)

Like an adolescent Shaun of the Dead, this genuinely funny and surprisingly sweet zombie comedy concerns a teen slacker who battles through a zombie outbreak on prom night in order to rescue the girlfriend who just dumped him.

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Battle Royale (2000)

Before The Hunger Games, there was Battle Royale. This controversial cult classic likewise features teenagers (in this case, a very unlucky class of high school students) in a dystopian future thrown into the wild and forced to fight to the death, but this Japanese film is grittier, gorier and more violent than The Hunger Games—although with a morbid sense of humor led by a deadpan performance from the great "Beat" Takeshi Kitano.

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Carrie (1976)

It's a bit dated, but this Stephen King adaptation set the standard for high school vengeance flicks, and the powerful performances by Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie still resonate today.

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Suspiria (1977)

Oodles of atmosphere—from the striking use of color to the nightmarish sound effects and score—propel this Italian classic from Dario Argento about an American ballet student who discovers her new German dance academy is home to a coven of witches, making up for the over-the-top acting.

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Let the Right One In (2008) / Let Me In (2010)

The emotionally resonant Swedish original and its equally mesmerizing American remake follow the friendship that a 12-year-old boy who's bullied at school forms with a new neighbor, a young girl who turns out to be a vampire. Let's just say the bullies get what's coming to them.

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Detention (2012)

A smart, uproariously funny, almost indescribably original ball of energy, this horror-comedy-sci fi hybrid finds a serial killer stalking high school students and a principal coming up with the bright idea of locking the student culprits in detention during prom until someone confesses. With killers, time travel, aliens, mutants, and teen social drama, it's like Scream meets The Breakfast Club meets Close Encounters meets Juno meets Back to the Future meets The Fly.

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Ginger Snaps (2000)

A dark sense of humor colors this clever exploration of high school social dynamics and female empowerment, as a pair of teen sisters with a morbid fascination with death are pulled apart when one of them is bitten and slowly transforms into a werewolf.

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Night of the Creeps (1986)

A couple of geeks hoping to join a snobby college fraternity in order to impress a girl are forced to pull a prank that unwittingly unleashes an invasion of alien slugs that take over and reanimate dead bodies. This is a relentlessly fun, fresh and lighthearted homage to campy monster movies of yore.

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Diabolique (1955)

Unlike most of the movies on this list, this twisty, Hitchcockian French thriller focuses on faculty, not students, of a boarding school, in which a pair of teachers—one married to the man who runs the school, one having an affair with the man who runs the school—decide to team up to kill the man in their lives. 

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Scream (1996)

Singlehandedly reinventing the slasher sub-genre, this scary, cleverly self-referential trendsetter revolves around a group of high school students who are targeted by a masked serial killer—with some of the attacks even occurring inside the school itself.

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Black Christmas (1974)

Ah, the sorority house: a horror movie's wet dream locale. In this Canadian classic, a sorority house is plagued by menacing phone calls and a deranged killer who secretly stalks the residents. Ahead of its time as both a slasher and a "calls coming from inside the house" stalker pic,

Black Christmas is every bit as terrifying and disturbing as it was when it was first released.