Six of the scariest Scottish films ever made

THESE homegrown Scottish horror movies are guaranteed to spook you silly, writes Alex Watson

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin
Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

Arguably Scotland’s most famous horror film, The Wicker Man has one of the genre’s cruellest plot twists. Filmed on location in Scotland, much of Robin Hardy’s blood curdling mystery was shot in Dumfries and Galloway, with extra footage from Ayrshire and the Isle of Skye. Despite being made on an extremely low budget, The Wicker Man has stood the test of time and is the epitome of a creepy cult classic.

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Filmed in Dumfries and Galloway in just 15 days, independent horror The Dead Outside is set on an isolated Scottish farm during a devastating neurological pandemic. Soon after protagonists April and Daniel meet, it becomes clear that April is somehow immune to the quickly spreading disease that has struck down the rest of the world. Things become tense when Kate, a nurse, finds her way to the farm and attempts to kidnap April for testing in the hope of finding a cure. This 2008 BAFTA nominated and award winning thriller focuses on the psychology of its expertly-drawn characters.

The most commercially successful British film of 1995 and director Danny Boyle’s breakthrough, Shallow Grave was set in Edinburgh but predominantly filmed in Glasgow. This black comedy crime thriller stars some well known Scottish acting talent, including Ken Stott and a baby-faced 23-year-old Ewan McGregor. There are a few laughs early on, but Shallow Grave’s suspenseful plot, which hones in on a pact made between friends after the death of a flatmate, will have you looking over your shoulder, and possibly reconsidering your living arrangements.

It’s not a traditional horror story, but the plot of late nineties thriller The Debt Collector will make the hairs on your neck stand to attention. The film stars a long list of revered Scottish actors, including Billy Connolly, Ken Stott and Ford Kiernan, and explores dark and violent themes. A lifelong feud between Edinburgh criminal Nicky Dryden (Connolly) and local policeman Gary Keltie (Stott) culminates in a dramatic trail of murder and destruction. Much like Shallow Grave, The Debt Collector was set in Edinburgh but mostly filmed in Glasgow, aside from key scenes featuring recognisable landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle.

Jonathan Glazer’s recent adaptation of Michael Faber’s novel Under the Skin is a unique sci-fi horror set in Scotland. Scarlett Johansson stars as a mysterious woman who trawls the country in search of men to harvest. Both hauntingly beautiful and just downright haunting, Under the Skin is a one-of-kind movie that is equal parts terrifying and mesmeric. Filming took place in Glasgow, Glencoe and across the west coast of Scotland. Johansson is a conspicuous A-list presence at the film’s gritty centre, but, like the human she impersonates, she blends right in.

Disturbing murder mystery drama Young Adam was shot on location in multiple Scottish towns, including East Lothian, Clydebank and Grangemouth. A roster of big names are tied to the project, from stars Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton to David Byrne, who helmed the soundtrack. McGregor plays troubled anti-hero Joe Taylor, who lives and works on a barge travelling between Glasgow and Edinburgh while attempting to escape the dramatic past that is quickly catching up on him. The slow-burn tale comes to a dramatic and spine-chilling end that is deftly foreshadowed throughout the film.