“What’s your favourite scary movie?”
That question isn’t just an iconic line from horror legend Wes Craven’s Scream franchise but something that many of us will be asking ourselves over the next week. Movie marathons are as much a part of Halloween as overpriced costumes and children hyped up on sugar demanding free sweets. If you’re thinking of turning the lights off and watching a few spooky movies but aren’t exactly sure what to watch then this guide is for you:
The New(ish) Ones
When it comes to the horror genre new most definitely doesn’t mean better, over the last several years the genre has become dominated by cheap found footage movies and countless reboots, however there have been a few movie released recently worthy of your attention.
Released early this year It Follows (2015) is a wonderfully slow building horror movies that relies on tension and atmosphere instead of large quantities of blood or disgusting creatures. The premise is simply an entity that once transferred onto you relentlessly follows and never gives up until it has claimed its target. The mainstream horror scene has been rather dire for years but on the indie circuit some gems are being crafted, The Babadook (2014) is one such movie about a mysterious popup book that becomes the obsession of a young boy. The star of the show is Essie Davis as a widower who struggles to deal with her son’s tempter and director Jennifer Kent manages to make the audience question if the demonic Mister Babadook is even real or merely the delusions of a mother under immense stress.
Sinister (2012) is one of the few horror movies that makes good use of the found footage format by using it sparingly, with a crime writer (compelling played by Ethan Hawke) discovering a box of tapes in his antic that depict horrific acts of violence and murder. Unsurprisingly spooky things start happening and as Ethan Hawke delves further into the mystery of Bughuul he realises his family may be in danger, a sharp and unique treat for genre fans. Nobody expected The Conjuring (2013) to be quite such a pleasant surprise but what we got was one of the most sophisticated and eerie horror films of the last five years. Focusing on historic paranormal investigators the Warrens, director James Wang doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares and instead crafts an old school feeling that is often genuinely frightening.
The Gory Ones
The aptly named “torture porn” genre has somewhat sullied the reputation of gore stuffed horror films, with films like Hostel (2005) and the SAW franchise being neither scary nor particularly enjoyable, however there are horror films that focus on blood and guts that are quality watches.
What better place to start than with Hellraiser (1987) a warped tale about hideous creatures from another dimension, known as Cenobites, with an obsession with chasing pleasure through pain. Clive Barker’s twisted mind is allowed to run wild, with some truly stomach turning scenes and horrific production design, the sequel is also worth a watch if you’re craving more of the Cenobites. John Carpenter’s classic The Thing (1982) was harshly judged on release but now has thankfully earned its spot in the horror hall of fame, there is perhaps nothing more scary than a creature that could look like anything or anyone, a grim sense of unease is present throughout with a few grizzly death thrown in for good measure it’s a film worthy of a spot in any Halloween movie marathon.
There’s little worse than unwanted romantic interest but The Loved Ones (2009) shows how turning down the wrong person can have nasty, bloody, consequences. High schooler Brent finds himself at the mercy of the scorned Lola in a film that is both playful in part and wincingly brutal in equal measure, this is an underrated flick that plays out at times like an almost satire of “teen horror”. Martyrs (2008) is quite the opposite being a cold reminder of the inhumanity some people are capable of inflicting on others, of all the films featured in this article this one will leave the most impact and is truly not for the faint of heart, perhaps it’s best described as a horrifically tragedy.
The Chilling Ones
There are many ways to measure the quality of a horror movie but when selecting the films worthy of viewing on Halloween what most people want more than anything is a film that will terrify them to their very core. The following films are the sort that will make you afraid to turn off the lights late at night.
If you’ve somehow managed to avoid Stanley Kubrick’s classic adaption of The Shining (1980) then please right that wrong quickly. What makes this film such a cut above most horror films is that the tension never lets up, the audience is never allowed a moment of relief as the horror within the Overlook hotel continues to build and Jack Torrance spirals further into insanity. There are many great slasher films, I’m quite fond of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) personally, but Halloween (1978) is the unquestionable Godfather of the genre, Michael Myers is still able to strike fear into the hearts of audiences all over the world even over thirty years later and this is required viewing for all horror fans.
Ridley Scott’s science fiction masterpiece Alien (1979) is so terrifying because it plays with the audiences’ imagination. The titular extra-terrestrial is only seen for fleeting moments creating a near petrifying sense of the unknown, being hunted is frightening enough but being pursued by a creature so unfamiliar is doubly so. Plus the whole film is freaking beautiful with some of the best set design in cinema period. It’s sort of an unwritten rule that remakes are worse than the original, which is why The Ring (2002) is such a remarkable achievement surpassing the Japanese film that inspired it. The story is well known, watch a certain creepy video tape and die a week later, but the use of surreal elements is refreshing and the haunting visuals help to distinguish the film from its contemporaries