You can make war movies about anything; you can get films like Apocalypse Now and All Quiet on the Western Front that explore the depths of war. On the flip side, you can also get movies like In the Army Now and Three Kings. Somewhere in there, we can get a small subgenre of military horror movies.
With Halloween right around the corner, I figured it would be a good time to bring up some of the best military horror movies out there.
Military horror can be tough to nail because the movies’ scary bad guys aren’t facing babysitters; they’re facing heavily armed, well-trained soldiers. That means the writers have to be fairly creative. And in these five movies, they succeeded.
1) Dog Soldiers
Dog Soldiers is a 2002 film that centers on a squad of British soldiers on a training exercise in Scotland. It’s a fast-paced flick that quickly goes from soldiers griping about missing a soccer match to fighting an otherwordly enemy that has already ripped their way through a heavily armed SAS unit.
Surprise, the enemy turns out to be a small pack of werewolves who hunt and pursue our heroes through the Scottish wilderness and eventually to where they are holed up in a rural home.
The soldiers are lightly armed but smart and resourceful.
Dog Soldiers is a bit of an action horror movie. This is a fast movie film that was made with lots and lots of love. The practical effects and gore are fantastic and fun. The acting is rock solid, and it launched more than a career or two. It’s one of few military horror films in which war isn’t present, but the men are engaged in a battle.
Overlord begins the day before D-Day. A paratrooper unit is deployed to take out a German radio tower… and things go wrong, real wrong. Overlord starts with most of the unit being lost in combat when their plane goes down. Only a small team of soldiers is left to take down the tower.
The men are led by the very determined Corporal Ford, who will not deviate from his mission. The mission quickly changes when the men encounter an evil that gives the Nazis a challenge.
Dead soldiers come back as not just zombies but strong and vicious creatures that can rip a man to pieces.
This is a military horror film that puts soldiers against the reanimated dead. It also forces them to make a choice in whether or not they should reveal the source of the serum that makes super soldiers even to their own forces. It’s loud and more physical than psychological, but it’s a fun flick.
I was torn if I should include Predator on this list. It’s not a traditional horror movie, but it might be the most military horror movie out there. Let me explain. The film starts with a team of muscle-bound, heavily armed soldiers infiltrating Central America and killing some Russian-sponsored bad guys. They are instantly successful in this task, but then they face an enemy they can’t kill.
The Predator begins stalking them through the jungle. All their muscles, skill, and guns turn out to be completely useless against this threat. Regardless of what they do and all their experience, they can barely even harm this thing. That’s why it’s a military horror film!
All the skills they have, all the weapons, and all the training mean absolutely nothing. That’s a soldier’s dread, and it’s on full display here.
4) Jacob’s Ladder
Do you ever want to watch a movie and feel a mixture of depression, confusion, and despair? Of course, you do, and Jacob’s Ladder gives you just that. It’s a movie that is constantly fighting the viewer, not allowing them to ever find some form of peace or comfort in what’s happening. The movie follows Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer as he attempts to figure out why his life after Vietnam is unraveling.
The film touches on the displacement of veterans after coming home and the pain and feelings they may encounter along the way. Jacob is pursued by literal faceless demons that are an easy stand-in for the struggles faced by Vietnam veterans back in the States.
This isn’t your jump-scare-filled military horror film but a tense psychological film.
The ending isn’t exactly happy, but you’re glad it’s over, and you’re glad our hero’s struggle is complete. It’s about the closest you can get to going insane without actually going insane.
South Korean horror movies have had a fairly major uptick in popularity recently, but in 2004 they weren’t so popular outside of horror circles. It wasn’t until 2006 that I finally saw the 2004 film R-Point. R-Point is a military horror film that follows a South Korean Army squad in Vietnam in 1972. The film starts with a radio transmission from a platoon of Korean soldiers who were presumed dead.
A squad is dispatched to meet the missing soldiers at Romeo, or R-Point, in one week. Along the way, the troops encounter various odd events, including a transmission from a French Army unit, and later screams over the radio. The radio tends to be the source of their horror, and the movie itself is fairly trippy.
The source of the horror isn’t outwardly revealed, and as a viewer, you’re often left feeling as confused as the soldiers who are experiencing the events. The movie is a bit more psychological than the other picks on the list.
Military horror and you
Military horror is an interesting but fairly small genre. Sometimes it’s physical, and you get what you see. Other times it is an amplification of the real horror of life. Sometimes it’s neither. Either way, there is always a good deal of creativity involved, and that’s what makes this subgenre stand out.
Do you have a favorite military horror film? If so, share below. I’d love something new to watch!