The nights are drawing in – all of your friends are either picking out sexy kitten outfit or hiring a fully functional Iron Man costume for roughly the retail value of a 64-gig iPad Air. Don’t allow them to ensnare you in the Halloween cosplay circus – It’s all about the movies anyway. Kick back with a frosty bottle of Hobgoblin, a tub of popcorn and appreciate what the holiday is really all about: lots of people getting terrified, in lots of different ways.
Clearly. The film that not only introduced the world to Jamie Lee Curtis but pretty much cemented the rules that the horror genre has abided by for the past 30 years. No sex + No Drugs = Relative safety. Elegant in it’s execution and imitated on countless occasions – Michael Myers is the Don Corleone of horror personalities: relentless, hugely intimidating and never equalled. John Carpenter’s score is the most instantly recognisable horror theme next to Jaws. Iconic.
Oft-referred to as the ‘haunted house in space’ flick. This is one of the first films made to treat being an astronaut as a job; which in itself would be an exceptionally boring way to spend the duration of a film. It’s a good job then that the crew of the Nostromo decide to embark on the least successful Easter egg hunt on any planet, ever. The film retains the ability to shock even four decades on – which may go some way to proving that a sizeable phallus, filled with incisors, exploding out of a chest cavity will never not be petrifying.
If you’re looking for a genuinely harrowing experience; look no further. This BBC produced, socio-realistic dramatization of nuclear holocaust will replace your heart with a chunk of granite, such is its atmosphere of despair. Following various groups before, during and after the bomb has been dropped on Sheffield; its unrelenting 2-hour running time will leave you gasping. Most soul-destroying scene? It’s a toss up between the immediate bloody aftermath, as the city burns, or the final, muted, scream of desperation that the film ends on. Bring tissues and a copy of Frozen to watch on repeat immediately after.
4. Monster Squad
After all that abject terror you’ll need some respite – Monster Squad is basically Goonies slathered with a generous helping of Creature Feature on top and, for horror aficionados of a certain age, it’s the filmic equivalent of your mothers chicken soup served up on a day when you have a bad case of sniffles. SPOILERS – Frankenstein getting sucked into the vortex at the end is one of the most harrowing scenes you’ll witness this side of Shindlers List. Also step forward, Horace. Hero to every rotund child of the 80’s, and studied practitioner of death via shotgun. RIP.
5. Rec/Rec 2
Technically two films, yes, but allowed on the basis that the sequel follows on directly after the first film creating one continuously harrowing experience.. Ostensibly it’s a zombie found-footage film, with a decidedly religious undercurrent pulsing through it. The Rec saga took a minor misstep with the third in the series, Rec: Genesis. But, these films taken together represent the very apex of what can be achieved in contemporary horror.
6. The Shining
Jack Nicholson tears the screen in half as the irrepressibly homicidal Jack Torrance. Kubrick masterfully adapts Stephen King’s novel into a sublime meditation on isolation, insanity and the evil that dwells at the hearts of all men. Some (King himself dislikes the film) consider the movie to be a cold, inhospitable picture – but they’re missing the point. Technically brilliant and staged to within an inch of its life, it’s rare a horror film is lavished with this much attention to detail and reverence.
From Laika, the studio responsible for Corraline and the recently released Boxtrolls comes this overlooked stop-motion gem. Taking influences from all over the horror genre, ParaNorman is essentially a tale teaching acceptance of others, be they ghoul, zombie or nerd. Those who watched Nightmare Before Christmas and have since only given time to Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie, need to re-evaluate their lives if they haven’t already made this a priority purchase on Blu Ray.
8. Dawn of the Dead
Everyone’s sick of zombies now, right? Video games, toys, TV shows as far as the eye can see. Do yourself a favour and go back to the source. Dawn of the Dead is the daddy of them all. Yes, the effects have aged and yes, the production budget could probably only pay for Norman Reedus’ PA for a week. However, what DOTD lacks in looks it makes up for in smarts. Holding a mirror up to consumer culture and greed it has more to say in two hours than The Walking Dead has managed in its four (and counting) seasons.
9. Let the Right One In
Heart-warming coming of age tales don’t usually begin with someone being strung up and bled out like a slaughtered pig; but that’s what makes director Tomas Alfredson’s breakthrough such an interesting piece. Released at a time when vampires were starting to look more and more like Lady Gaga’s backing dancers (thanks, Twilight), This tale of a bullied school boy befriending a vampire who has: ‘been twelve fore a very long time’, is unique in that it’s equally as tender as it is terrifying.
10. The Blair Witch Project
Like them or loathe them this is the film directly responsible for all those found footage films you’ll find clogging up Netflix. Though not the first (Cannibal Holocaust claims that title), Blair Witch put found-footage features on the map. It transformed the way horror films are marketed and created. It made making a film suddenly very attainable to thousands of directors struggling to find an outlet for their movie. The trend still shows no sign at all of slowing down, just moving focus to encompass different genres, such as the cop movie (End of Watch) and Sci-Fi (Europa Report). Without Blair Witch there’d be no Paranormal Activity, V/H/S or Trollhunter.
Words: Neil Hudson