One of my favourite things to do on Halloween is to watch trippy horror movies while high on weed. Why weed and not something else? I find that cannabis has a calming effect and makes me a little more thick-skinned in general, which means it better equips me to deal with scares.
Having characters use drugs to compound the intensity of events is just one way a movie can be trippy. Some of the best horror flicks in the last decade have also used “trippy aesthetics” or incorporated intentionally non-linear and noncohesive ways of storytelling to instill a sense of unease and add a psychological and visual edge, making the audience feel as if they’re in an altered state even if they’re sober.
Horror has had a long tradition of using these techniques. As such, this list would be far too long if we were to consider all of the genre’s trippiest offerings. Today, we will be talking only about some of the last decade’s best trippy horror movies to watch while high.
The Lighthouse (2019)
The Pothead’s Preview: Two bros… Chillin’ in a lighthouse… Which is a metaphor for a giant penis.
Director Robert Eggers first shot to fame with his 2015 offering The Witch, which may well deserve its own spot in this list. I would contend, however, that The Lighthouse is the more trippy of the two overall, with its intentionally confusing and oftentimes misleading narrative, chock-full of subtle references to mythology and Freudian imagery. The film’s rich atmosphere and thematic boldness should be appreciated by open and questioning minds, and with the help of a good toke to keep you settled and patient as the story slowly unfolds to its mad crescendo.
Also check out A Field in England (2013): Historical, haunting, hallucinogenic. Set during the English Civil War, this period piece features mushroom ingestion, the horror of nature’s sublimity and man’s terrifyingly unknowable nature.
Colour Out of Space (2019)
The Pothead’s Preview: A regular family helmed by a shouty patriarch (Nicolas Cage) gets attacked by evil colours and more shouting ensues.
This list features two Nicolas Cage films. The first of the two is this Sci-Fi Lovecraftian piece playing on the best of cosmic and body horror. Colour Out of Space features one of the most grotesque scenes of body horror I have ever seen, but the glorious supernova-esque colours of the film more than make up for that nauseating sight. Eldritch horror is not something that should be communicated using words, and so you should expect a visual feast to enjoy during your smoked-out state.
Also check out Annihilation (2018): Another science fiction horror offering presenting wacky visuals, a truly terrifying monster that has forever changed how I view bears and existential questions about humanity and the universe that are best tackled when high.
The Pothead’s Preview: Taking revenge on a creepy cult that kidnapped your girlfriend but make it ~aesthetic~. Nicolas Cage does not shout much in this one.
Dubbed a “psychedelic horror adventure“, Mandy is a visual treat that fully embodies not only the aesthetic but the experience of tripping. One of the foundational staples of being high is the sense that you are entering a new world for the first time, and Mandy achieves this using its stunning visuals despite a rather straightforward story. Every scene in Mandy is coloured with a perspective-altering psychedelic filter, but not just in the literal sense that it looks like a trip—filmmaker Panos Cosmatos artfully weaves a story using very little dialogue, allowing atmosphere and inference to do the heavy lifting, not unlike a psychedelic trip itself wherein visual experiences do all the talking.
Also check out Under the Skin (2013): Sexy but scary, this film is a slow burn with a heady sense of gloom hanging over it throughout, with arresting yet unnerving visuals spliced in to keep your senses on edge.
The Pothead’s Preview: A devastated woman visits a rural Scandinavian commune where their flesh scarecrow and menstruation tea-making shenanigans help her realize how much of a dick her boyfriend is.
No list about trippy horror movies is complete without Midsommar, a folk horror future classic that features not one, but two tripping scenes. This film is unique in this list for its explicit inclusion of drugs as part of the plot and not just an aesthetic. The tripping is so well-executed and relatable, and the movie itself is so strikingly unnerving that I felt a genuine sense of alteredness while watching those scenes. The good news too is that the drugs are never treated as the reason for the protagonist’s horror. Rather, it is simply a thing that exists, which may or may not enhance an existing state, and can possibly lead to new emotional revelations. So, just like real life.
Also check out The Love Witch (2016): A unique and highly stylistic film with an unforgettable retro aesthetic, The Love Witch is gorgeously styled and filmed, with an almost whimsical premise. It is a fun and thrilling ride but also a serious meditation on contemporary social issues.
Most of these films are more disturbing and unnerving than they are downright scary. In fact, I count maybe four jump-scares among all of them. Indeed, horror films that can be appreciated high are not usually the scariest, but rather they tend to be more visually bombastic and thematically inventive.
Now that you have some solid suggestions for trippy horror movies to watch while high, you can get that movie night Halloween gathering to go. Make sure you’ve got your popcorn and other stoner-favourite late-night snacks ready for when the munchies hit!