10 Small Town America Horror Movies RANKED - Because Quaint Can Often Be Deadly

10 Small Town America Horror Movies Cover

Welcome to Knockout Horror. Today we are going to be looking at 10 Small Town America Horror Movies. I was partly inspired to put this list together after a recent rewatch of a few of the movies on the list.

As a Welsh man, I am fairly detached from the whole “small town America” thing. My picture of small town America has been created by the movies. To me, and I am sure to a lot of non-Americans, the term conjures up images of friends, on a break from school, bored and getting into mischief in the summer months. Quaint little high streets full of small businesses, white picket fence homes and early 19th century bridges just begging to be crossed while pushing along your favourite bicycle.

Youths full of hope for what tomorrow might bring and oblivious to the troubles of the world. Midwest emo tracks by American Football and Mineral play out the background music. Love blossoms, friendships are made and the summer feels like it will never end. Small town America, when depicted in movies, is, without a doubt, a vibe. A vibe that I am entirely here for. I love this theme.

But what about when it goes wrong? What about when the friendships shatter and the bonds are broken? What happens when trouble finds the once whimsical kids and they are forced to face the harsh realities of life? Well, that’s what we are focusing on today. These 10 movies all feature that very specific Small Town America vibe but with a sadistic twist. Let’s take a look at 10 Small Town America Horror Movies Because Quaint Can Often Be Deadly – RANKED.

10

Pyewacket (2017)


Let’s get one thing clear before we start. There isn’t a bad movie on this list! They are all great. We are kicking things off with Pyewacket from 2017 which just so happens to be my least favourite movie on the list. I still awarded it 3/5 in my review so that’s a good sign for the rest of the movies on this list. Pyewacket follows the story of teenage girl (Nicole Munoz) who unwittingly summons something evil from the woods by her home in an attempt to kill her own mother.

Pyewacket (2017) Review

Whereas Pyewacket would fit nicely into the “Folk Horror” category. It’s the small town America and indie horror movie vibes we are here for. Pyewacket has this in buckets. It plays out as something of a coming of age horror centred around school, friendships, and Leah’s bitterness and general angst towards her mother. But the movie also manages some fairly effective scares and a decent amount of tension. There’s a few plot holes here and there but Pyewacket is, overall, a very watchable movie.

9

Excision (2012)


We have another small town America horror movie next that also focuses on a teenage girl in 2012’s Excision. Social outcast Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is desperate to become a surgeon. Despite having no friends, doing poorly at school and having a terrible relationship with her parents. Pauline believes she has the ability to save the life of her Cystic Fibrosis suffering sister. The only question is, what lengths will she go to to accomplish this?

Excision (2012) Horror Movie Review

Excision is quite different from most of the movies on this list. It definitely has that small town America vibe but places the focus on a much more socially inept character. Similar to movies like May in its depiction of a quirky young woman. It manages to be funny while also being legitimately disturbing in parts. All while having some strong American Beauty-esque “everything isn’t quite as it seems” vibes..

AnnaLynne McCord is fantastic, which is a shame as she turned out to be an absolute prick hole in later years. And the rest of the cast is perfectly up to the task, as well. Excision is a weird movie and won’t be for everybody but if you are looking for a bit of a warped take on the perfect middle American household then look no further. We awarded Excision 3.8/5 in our review.

8

Spontaneous (2020)


Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer) have to find a way to get on with life. Living every minute like it is their last, after their school friends begin spontaneously exploding in this weird coming of age horror by Brian Duffield. Spontaneous really has everything you could want from a small town America horror movie. We have friendship, blossoming love, high school drama, and even a few moments that are genuinely touching in this 2020 coming of age movie.

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Spontaneous leans fairly heavy into some of those retro, 80’s, high school comedy movie vibes and still manages to have a decent amount of heart to go along with it. Framing the usual issues of those transitional years between 15 and 20 as random acts of violence that tear the characters from their friends. There is a surprising amount of depth here and a message that many should be able to relate to. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, purely due to its approach to the genre but anyone looking for a small town America horror movie (yeah, I know it was filmed in Canada but whatever) with a little bit of emotion should check Spontaneous out.

7

Summer of 84 (2018)


The Small Town America vibes hit flawlessly here in Summer of 84 from 2018. Following the story of a group of friends spying on their neighbour cop after suspecting he may be a notorious serial killer. This movie absolutely nails that perfect sense of camaraderie and togetherness that seems oh so prevalent in small town America movies. Summer of 84 takes a few risks in that the almost Goonies like sense of fun and adventure takes a big turn later on. But where it may slip up as a regular movie it succeeds as a horror.

Summer of 84 (2018)

The blending of coming of age shenanigans with actual genuine horror elements definitely throws some people off. But it is worth remembering the genre the movie is aiming for. When all things are considered, it makes a lot of sense. It gets a lot of comparisons to Stranger Things but beyond a theme and an era specific soundtrack, it’s a completely different type of story. It does rely on being too 80s at times and could dial a lot of that stuff back a bit. But most movies that harken back to past decades are guilty of that. Legitimately enjoyable and honestly shocking in parts. Summer of 84 is a great option.

6

It Follows (2014)


This one always seems to inspire a bit of controversy but it most definitely qualifies as a Small Town America horror movie. It Follows sees 19 year old Jay being haunted by visions of someone, or something, following her after she engages in a sexual encounter. Determined to escape the stalker, Jay and her friends are forced to forgo their Autumn of fun, frolicking, and relaxation to formulate a plan to save Jay’s life.

This movie received a fair bit of hype for what is, essentially, a fairly low budget, independent, horror. I remember seeing a lot of buzz for it back when it released and a lot of people did not agree with some of the reviews declaring It Follows to be the best horror in years. I, personally, watched it in the cinema not long after release and really enjoyed it. It’s not going to be making too many “best horror movie” lists but it felt fresh for the time and quite unique.

It Follows (2014)

The small town America vibes are perfect, with the characters lounging around in a pool catching falling leaves perfectly encapsulating those lazy days of innocence. It is the “loss of innocence” that plays the metaphorical monster in this movie and that, for some people, takes away from the horror. Still, it has some suspenseful moments and is an, overall, satisfying movie. Especially if you are looking for some mid-west American horror that captures camaraderie and friendship perfectly.

5

The Clovehitch Killer (2018)


2018’s The Clovehitch Killer does a perfect job of capturing that small town America vibe that we are looking for in this list. It follows the story of Tyler (Charlie Plummer), a teenage boy who begins to suspect that a notorious serial killer that stalked his town is closer to home than he might think. This is another movie that blends thriller elements with coming of age themes set against the backdrop of a genuinely authentic, small American town.

The CloveHitch Killer Horror Movie Review

I absolutely loved this movie right up until the end. It does so much right with its engaging story, believable characters, and too good to be true family. The final 10 minutes, or so, are so poorly formulated and so disappointing that it almost causes the entire movie to unravel. This is a crying shame because, up until that point, The Clovehitch Killer is one of the most engaging and easy to enjoy movies I have watched in a long time. I originally watched this movie back when it released and had these specific strong feelings about it. Watching it again more recently I felt exactly the same.

That’s not to ignore just how perfectly this movie captures the small town America horror feeling, though. It is all here in bucket loads and, on top of that, Dylan McDermott’s performance as Tyler’s dad, Don, is entirely captivating from start to finish. The Clovehitch Killer is a brilliant movie that just lets itself down with a completely nonsensical ending. That shouldn’t stop you from watching it, though. We awarded it 3/5 in our review.

4

The Dirties (2013)


I am breaking the rules a little bit here as this one isn’t really, strictly speaking, a horror movie. But like I said in my list of 10 More Toxic Friendships in Horror Movies That Prove Your Enemies are Closer Than You Think – RANKED. Not enough people talk about this great movie so I am going to talk about it as much as I can. 2013’s The Dirties follows friends Matt and Owen as they attempt to cope with being unpopular at their high school. After the constant embarrassment and bullying becomes too much. Matt begins to fantasise about bringing his stories to life and taking care of The Dirties for good.

The Dirties (2014) - 10 More Toxic Friendships in Horror Movies

Full disclosure, this movie is Canadian but it fits the theme like a speedo. Taking a close look at the subject of school shootings and social rejection. The Dirties is a very powerful movie. The depiction of friendship, bullying and struggling through a hostile school environment is one of the most accurate put to film.

The Dirties can be both genuinely touching and legitimately harrowing all at the same time. Filmed in a found footage style, there are few movies that approach this subject so authentically. Matt and Owen’s relationship is completely believable and The Dirties presents us with characters that are nuanced rather than simply black and white. A brilliant movie and well worth checking out. More people need to go back and watch The Dirties.

3

I Am Not a Serial Killer (2016)


A controversial choice for so high in this list? Perhaps, but I feel like I Am Not a Serial Killer, from 2016, does such a good job of capturing so many of the elements that make a great Small Town America horror movie while also doing so much that is completely unexpected. Following the story of a young man with homicidal tendencies who is forced to hunt down a killer that is stalking his town. I Am Not a Serial Killer stars Max Records and the brilliant Christopher Lloyd.

This is a movie that doesn’t exactly capture the “fun in the sun” aspect of these types of movies. Instead choosing to take us through the seasons. And it doesn’t exactly hit too well on the whole camaraderie thing, either, as our protagonist is a complete outcast. But it does a perfect job of painting a picture of an idyllic small American town that just so happens to hide secrets that even the viewer might not expect.

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016) Review

Incredibly well acted, funny and engaging from start to finish. This is a fairly slow movie and the horror elements take a backseat for much of the movie’s run time but I think it is one of the more underrated horror movies of recent years. The characters are nuanced, the protagonist is extremely atypical and writer director Billy O’Brien goes out of his way to surprise you. Awesome stuff. I awarded I Am Not a Serial Killer 4/5 in my review.

2

Super Dark Times (2017)


The small town America vibes are immaculate in our next movie at number 2 – Super Dark Times from 2017. If you say Small Town America horror to me, this is one of the first movies that crops to mind. Much like The Dirties, Super Dark Times is a coming of age horror that focuses on themes of bullying and social rejection as well as fractured friendship. Following the story of a pair of lifelong best friends who experience a horrific accident that threatens to fracture their relationship forever. This is one of those movies that drags you into a postcard and holds you there.

Super Dark Times (2017) Review

Absolutely gorgeous to look at. Super Dark Times is set in the 90s and feels almost polaroid picture like with its visual style. It drags you into its world with its aesthetics and keeps you there with its authentic characters, believable relationships and harrowing situation. It is more of a thriller and drama than an outright horror but some of its scenes are genuinely shocking. I don’t think it sticks the landing. I find the ending to be a real let down and it makes the movie feel a little bit rushed. The story places a bit too much focus on one particular character, as well, while failing to expand on the tribulations of some of the others. Still, Super Dark Times is a brilliant movie that fits the theme perfectly. We awarded it 3.5/5 in our review.

1

It: Chapter One (2017)


This one obviously had to be on the list, right? Few movies fit this theme more perfectly. You can put It: Chapter One here or even the 90’s It television miniseries. They both fit so well and completely encapsulate that small town America innocence and feeling of summer adventures and camaraderie. Something that Stephen King could write perfectly as evidenced by this and another novel, turned movie, of his – Stand By Me.

Following the story of a group of outcast friends dubbed “The Loser’s Club” teaming up to uncover the mystery of a sinister entity that is haunting their town and murdering children. It is one of the first movie that comes to mind when you think of Small Town America. Everything you could possibly want is here. Friends having fun in the sun, school drama, adventures during lazy summer days and bike races through the town.

The Losers Club from It Chapter One (2017)

It is one of those movies that just captures that vibe so perfectly. It does it so well, in fact, that the Loser’s Club’s childish adventures in the first chapter make the adult’s adventures in the second chapter seem boring and insignificant. Bill Skarsgård is sinister and haunting as Pennywise, the kids are brilliant, the relationships feel genuine and the scares come thick and fast. Utterly enjoyable and way better than the second chapter. It is a perfect example of the theme here. We awarded It 4/5 in our review.

Thanks for Reading!

So that’s 10 Small Town America Horror Movies Ranked. Number 1 is fairly obvious and I went a little off track with the ranking order of these movies. Choosing to place some movies that I enjoyed less above others, purely because they capture the Small Town America theme a little better. But all of these movies are great, you can’t go wrong with any of them so enjoy. You may also like our friendship themed lists if you enjoyed this one so why not check them out?

10 Toxic Friendships in Horror Movies – Be Careful Who You Hang With – RANKED10 More Toxic Friendships in Horror Movies That Prove Your Enemies are Closer Than You Think – RANKED and 10 Best Friendships in Horror Movies Because it is Not Safe to Go Alone – RANKED

As always, thanks so much for spending your time at Knockout Horror. There are so many huge horror sites around but you chose to come to a tiny one which is something I appreciate so much. Why not stick around? You can always check out some horror reviews, some horror ending explained articles or some horror lists? Take care and I will, hopefully, see you again soon.