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If you like intelligent horror and aren’t afraid to embrace fear, these lesser-known collegiate horrors are overachievers in the genre.

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There are many outstanding films that take place on a college campus — from the campy to the thrilling, the fun to the truly frightening. It’s a wildly popular setting due to the relatability of the characters and the appeal of putting young, beautiful co-eds in peril. And though many college horror films, especially in the slasher subgenre, are quite popular, well-known, and even classics of the genre (i.e., Black Christmas), there are some A-plus films that get far less love but deserve to have a place at the head of the class.

Our favorite collegiate horror films are the ones that creatively incorporate key aspects of academia outside of just the setting and socialization. Sorority house slashers are a blast, but there are some great films that truly explore what it means to be a student, diving into deeper themes that resonate with curious minds.

We’ve curated a great triple-feature horror movie night of films focused on academic settings and young minds forced to study and confront the effects of fear. While there is much evidence to show that engaging with horror can have numerous psychological benefits, these films effectively explore the darker side of terror.

You don’t have to be a student to appreciate these films, but those who are currently in college should connect on a much deeper level with these investing stories. And if the real-life horror of school stress and competing demands on your time is taking a toll, websites like can assist you with your essays, allowing you to focus on more adeptly balancing your leisure time and studies.

1. The Fear of Human Nature — Thesis (1996)

A stunning directorial debut from Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar, this psychological crime thriller/horror film revolves around a film student writing a thesis about violence in film when she comes across a snuff film. Co-written with Mateo Gil, Amenábar wrote part of the film when he himself was at university.

Thesis (titled Tesis in its native Spain) is a gripping, beautifully made film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. As a film made by a film student about film students, it offers an intelligent meta-commentary on the voyeuristic nature of horror and “forbidden” content, as well as the human fascination with death. Its protagonist, Angela, is strangely drawn to depictions of violence, although she claims to have an aversion to them.

The film won seven Goya Awards (often referred to as the Academy Awards of Spain), including Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Director.

Sophisticated, edgy, and quite memorable, this stylish and suspenseful film is essential for students, horror fans, and those with a fascination for human psychology and behavior. 

Rent it on VOD.

2. The Psychology of Fear — After Midnight (1989)

Not to be confused with the 2019 indie horror gem of the same name, 1989’s After Midnight is an anthology horror film written and directed by Ken and Jim Wheat (The Fly II, Nightmare on Elm Street 4). It features three segments and a wraparound story.

It begins with students attending a college class called Psychology of Fear, where the teacher believes that you need to feel fear to understand it. After being censored by the university for his controversial lesson plan, he invites his students to his home for a private lesson. There, the students share three tales centered around fear.

Well-acted and well-shot, it boasts strong characters and natural, investing dialogue. The segments are all effective to varying degrees, and it’s compelling how the overall theme of fear plays into each story, tying it all together.  However, this hidden 80’s treat is best known for its clever wraparound and satisfying twist ending.

It’s not groundbreaking, but it is quite fun and full of 80’s charm, with a great blend of believability and camp. 

Watch it free on Tubi.

3. What Are You Afraid Of? — Dread (2009)

Dread is an outstanding 2009 British horror film directed and written by Anthony DiBlasi (Last Shift, Malum), based on the short story of the same name by Clive Barker. The story was originally published in 1984 in volume two of Barker’s Books of Blood short story collections.

Three college students set out to document what other people dread the most. However, one of the three turns out to secretly be a sadistic psychopath who uses this knowledge to gruesomely torture the subjects.

True to its name, it is tense and dread-inducing. DiBlasi, brilliantly and sadistically, knows how to make you truly care about what happens to the victims. Be prepared to be tested with an intense and gruesome film that hooks you with compelling, multi-dimensional characters and a methodical (but never dull) reveal that evolves into a horrifically unforgettable final act.

As intelligent as it is terrifying, this exquisite descent into madness and obsession is guaranteed to stay with you long after the credits roll. 

Watch it free on Tubi.

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