We’re starting to feel about ready for Halloween now, which means time to dust off the collection of Scottish horror films! Ranging from the forties to present day, these are our Top 10 horror films – either filmed in Scotland, set in Scotland, or containing a large Scottish cast.
Who have we missed? Could you recommend another film for us?
This classic body horror featured both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, huge names in the realm of mid-century horrors. Set in Edinburgh, the story concerns the medical student Donald Fettes, who unwittingly becomes mixed up in the dealings of the Dr MacFarlane who is gathering bodies through…unconventional means…on which to perform scientific experiments.
Based on the short story by Scottish Robert Louis Stevenson, which was in turn based on the real-life story of the Edinburgh-based Burke & Hare, it was unfortunately still filmed in America.
9) Urban Ghost Story (1998)
A British-made film which takes place in a Glasgow housing estate, from a French director, there’s nothing straight forward about Urban Ghost Story. When a young girl narrowly survives an accident, she believes that she has brought something back with her from the afterlife – a malicious spirit.
Although a lot of filming took place in Ealing Studios, several location shots were filmed in Glasgow.
8) The Dead Outside (2008)
Ostensibly a zombie film but with an emphasis on psychological horror, two survivors of a zombie pandemic hide in an isolated farm in Scotland. Co-written and produced by the Scottish Kerry Anne Mullaney, the film was shot in Dumfries and Galloway over a period of 15 days.
7) The Unkindness of Ravens (2016)
This horror comes from Scottish director Lawrie Brewster, and primarily features Scottish actors. It concerns an army veteran who suffers horrible flashbacks in which the enemies become huge raven-like creatures. He travels to the Highlands to try and rid himself of his fears, but ends up coming face to face with the ravens.
Filming took place in Edinburgh, Fife and our very own Perthshire, and became the highest funded British film on Kickstarter, as well as the first Scottish crowdfunding campaign to raise so much money!
6) The Descent (2005)
This may be one of the most well-known recent films on the list. Six young women become lost in a cave system, and are hunted by cannibalistic troglodytes – cue claustrophobic horror. The film was unfortunately set in North America, although all filming was done in the UK, with most of the interior cave scenes filmed in a studio for safety concerns. However, several exterior shots were filmed in Scotland.
5) Wild Country (2005)
This low budget horror is set in the Scottish Highlands, concerning Glaswegian teenagers and was filmed in and around Glasgow. Professional footballer and Scottish actor Martin Compston took the lead along with Peter Capaldi, backed up by an exclusively Scottish cast. This is probably the most genuinely Scottish film on the list, and has received relatively positive reviews considering its miniscule £1 million budget.
4) Dog Soldiers (2002)
Although Neil Marshall’s film is more action than horror, any film containing werewolves has to be worthy of making the list – especially such a successful film. The story follows a squad of British Army soldiers sent to the Highlands who become the victims of a pack of werewolves. Described as “an action film with werewolves, not a werewolf film with action”, it follows in the vein of such great films as Aliens.
The story takes place in the Scottish Highlands, but was largely filmed in Luxembourg.
3) Under The Skin (2013)
Technically sci-fi but still horrific, Scarlett Johansson takes on the role of an alien seducing men in Scotland, for horrible ends. Despite having such a huge star as Johansson, most of the film was shot with secret cameras and contained non-actors. Based in Glasgow and filmed primarily throughout Scotland, it turns out to be a terrifying way to show off Scotland.
Alternately titled The Owlman, this independent horror follows the story of a Scottish school teacher who is visited by a haunting Owl Man apparition he first encountered in childhood. The entire film’s concept was based on research of Pagan Folklore in the Scottish Highlands – it turns out that Owlman is an actual myth, albeit a Cornish one. This film is from the same director as The Unkindness of Ravens (above), and one of the same actors.
All filming was done in the Scottish Highlands, and featured primarily Scottish actors.
1)The Wicker Man (1973)
Probably the most famous film on this list, The Wicker Man’s story takes place on the fictional Hebridean island of Summerisle, where Pagan beliefs have taken over from Christianity. Despite staying away from much gore, the suspense of the film and its eventual climax put it firmly in the realm of horror: it’s a British classic that everyone should see at least once.
Taking place in a fictional Scottish island, the film was actually shot in a number of small towns across the Highlands, as well as the Isle of Skye and Ayrshire.