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Despite what the popular Christmas song says, Halloween is the most beautiful time of the year and the spooky season is not limited to October 31st. Enjoying a good (or bad) horror film at any given point is a must. Whether you’re into classic or modern, trashy or arty, there’s plenty of choices out there but where do you start? Here are my recommendations for films to get you back into the Spooky spirit.
The Shining (1980)
Writer Jack Torrance takes the job of a caretaker in the winter at the closed Overlook Hotel. For Jack, the isolation is the perfect opportunity to nail the book he’s been working on, but the hotel has other ideas. The result: strange visions, ghosts, and a total blood bath. The film may be old, but it certainly hasn’t aged. This film is one of the only horror films that I find genuinely creepy. There is some excellent cinematography that conveys the sense of isolation and entrapment that is central to the film’s horror. Jack Nicholas offers an incredibly chilling performance with some meme-worthy moments (‘Here’s Johnny!’). Plus, being driven mad by writer’s block is something that’s extremely relatable. Shelley Duvall’s performance as Jack’s long-suffering wife is also compelling. She’s a girl that you will undoubtedly be rooting for because, let’s face it, her husband is terrible.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Three friends travel to the Black Hills in Maryland to film a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch. The film that we watch is supposedly the footage of their trip found a year after their disappearance. The Blair Witch Project epitomises the fear of the unknown. The film is all about anticipation and dread rather than explicit horror. In the interest of realism, there are no staged jump scares and there is no monster that we ever physically see. The plot isn’t massively exciting, but the atmosphere is wildly claustrophobic and disturbing. It’s a slow burner, but it’s worth watching if only to appreciate how much it has influenced later films in the found footage and digital horror genres.
Final Destination 2 (2003)
The Final Destination franchise is always a fun choice for a Halloween movie. Every film involves a group of people who narrowly avoid death after surviving an accident, only to have death aggressively pursue them for the rest of their lives until death finally wins. The repetitive plots and outrageously implausible deaths make the films so entertaining to watch, especially with friends. I’d recommend any movie in this series, but I’ve chosen Final Destination 2 because some of the death scenes are iconic.
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
This camp classic is the story of an ageing faded star who is desperate to revive her career and will go to murderous lengths to do so. Baby Jane Hudson was a famous child star in the vaudeville days but is now forced to care for the disabled sister she holds captive in their Hollywood mansion. Starring screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, the film is packed with bitchy one-liners and plenty of high camp drama. Bette Davis delivers some of the film’s most disturbing moments as Baby Jane. What’s creepier than a creepy child? A creepy old woman dressed as a creepy child.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
A hoard of aliens invade a small American town, dressed as clowns who go on a mindless killing spree, and no one quite knows why. As the name suggests, this a quintessential lousy movie that has achieved cult status. Don’t expect quality but do expect plenty of laughs.
A mysterious masked serial killer known as Ghostface terrorises High school student Sidney Prescott and her friends. This concept may sound like an ordinary slasher film, but Scream is so much more than that. It is a smart horror film that satirises the slasher genre through its self-conscious use of narrative conventions and meta moments. Its satire works because the slasher genre is so repetitive that it almost becomes a parody of itself. Scream draws attention to this and stands head and shoulders above other slasher films in both quality and originality.
The Babadook (2014)
A mysterious pop-up storybook called ‘Mister Babadook’ appears in the home of a struggling widow and her six-year-old son. The book’s titular character the Babadook possesses the house and is determined to torment its occupants. The Babadook is unique on many levels: it has a female director, its Australian, and its monster is child-like yet terrifying in a way that feels fresh and original. The film is very concerned with the psyche of its character and deals with some huge issues in a nuanced way, including grief, mental health, and the taboo of not loving your children.
A river contaminated with toxic waste produces a mutated swarm of zombie beavers that prey on a group of unsuspecting university students who are just trying to have a lovely holiday. The film plays on the classic horror conventions of a remote cabin setting and terrorised teenagers but adds a B-movie twist in the form of monstrous hybrid creatures. Zombeavers is the new Sharknado – the concept is crazy but very entertaining.
Get Out (2017)
Chris Washington, a young African American guy, meets the family of his white girlfriend for the first time but all is not as it seems. Get Out nuances a familiar concept by placing issues of race at the forefront of the domestic horror narrative, which is timely and relevant for the contemporary moment. Chris is lured into the clutches of something horrific by someone he trusts, which echoes domestic horror classics like The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby but places Chris in the position that is usually occupied by the white woman. As well as being an excellent psychological horror film, Get Out also has some smart comedy moments like mocking white wokeness.
A group of friends travel to a Swedish commune for a midsummer celebration that turns very ugly. Midsommar is the standout horror film of 2019 and has given the folk horror genre a new lease of life – it’s The Wicker Man for the Instagram generation. Most of the film unusually takes place in daylight, but this doesn’t diminish its horror factor. There’s plenty of disturbing scenes and some fleeting but shocking moments of explicit gore, which seems to be director Ari Aster’s thing if Heredity is any indication.