I love Hallowe’en. I have loved it ever since I was a little kid and I will continue to love it until I die and come back as a spooky ghost, and then I’ll love it even more ’cause I’ll get to haunt people. One of my earliest experiences with the macabre is insisting we rent The Nightmare Before Christmas every time I was taken to the video store, which as an only child, was a lot. But my love of horror films really took off when I was ten years old and I first saw The Ring. This film changed me. I mean, yeah, so I had to sleep with a coat over my TV for a couple of weeks (it didn’t ever cross my mind that if it was that easy to stop Samara, the film would have ended within about ten minutes), but so what? It also first introduced me to the idea that being scared is super fun, and more than that, corrupting all of my fellow ten year old friends by rewinding the scene where they find the first girl’s mangled corpse over and over again is also really freaking hilarious. So in the eleven years following this event, I have a seen a lot of horror films. And these are my favourites, for your viewing pleasure this wonderful Hallowe’en.
10- Hostel (2005):
Hostel is one of those films that I bonded with my dad over in my early teenage years. I don’t exactly find Hostel scary, but sometimes you don’t want to watch a horror to be scared– sometimes you just wanna see a lot of blood. And this film definitely provides. The scene with the eyeball still resonates with me to this day. It’s definitely one of those (albeit slightly exaggerated) THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU films. Admittedly, I have stayed in many hostels in various European countries and have yet to be abducted and tortured, but hey, it could happen. And that’s why I like it. Some people plan for the zombie apocalypse, I plan for my inevitable venture into being used as a blood shower for naked rich ladies.
9- The Woman in Black (2012):
I am definitely one of those people who endlessly complain about how predictable and terrible modern horror films are. But, something about The Woman in Black got to me and I’m not sure why. Was it the opening scene with the creepy little girls? Maybe. Was it because it is set in Yorkshire? Quite possibly. Or was it that terrifying scene with the rocking chair where Daniel Radcliffe’s face changes from unadulterated determination to utter terror in a microsecond? YES. YES IT WAS. For that one absolutely horrifying scene alone, this film gets on the list. It’s one of those rare films where cheap boo-made-you-jump tricks actually work because the rest of the film’s atmosphere is so bone-chilling you can just about forgive it.
8- Saw II (2005):
Yes, Saw II. Sometimes the sequels can beat the original, and this is one of those films. I love the Saw films because yes, Jigsaw is technically abducting a bunch of people and putting them in traps, but he is giving them the chance to escape. Films where the human is the monster are sometimes the most woaaaah-worthy. I know I could be describing any of the Saw films here, but I like the second one specifically for the needle pit scene– which still makes me squirm whenever I watch or think about it. And the wrists. Oh god, the caught nail wrist things. It’s the most gruesome of the Saw series, and it reminds you to never trust people ever. NO ONE. Everyone is gonna jump out at you in a pig mask and lock you in a house. Also the end. The end might have one of the most NOOOOOO STOP YOU CAN’T DO THAT moments in horror movie history.
7- Dawn of the Dead (2004):
First a sequel, now a remake? Before you obsessively click the back button, just give me a chance to explain. I saw this version first, so I like it for nostalgic reasons. But also, have you seen the zombies in the original version? They do not look scary. They look like they are made of clay. Zombies are one of the only horror movie creatures that work better in more modern films, since they actually, y’know… look real? As real as a zombie can be anyway. I like the blood and the suspense and the perfect balance between violence and funny dialogue. And the sequels. The sequels are strangely good. This was my gateway film into the world of zombie. Something that has now lead to my dad and I reacting to deaths in The Walking Dead as if they were our real friends. Which is fine, but maybe not something to do in the middle of Costa.
6- [REC] (2007):
One of my biggest regrets about this film is that I saw Quarantine first, because [REC] is so much better. Whereas Quarantine has the typical blockbuster horror movie trope of shooting everything in near darkness, [REC] is a lot more of a well lit film. This actually adds to the fear, because not every time you’re running from weird diseased creatures is it gonna be in pitch black. I also thought that reading subtitles might take me out of the horror of the film, but it doesn’t even affect your viewing. Since seeing [REC], I’ve watched a bunch of Spanish horror and I’ve learnt that they make them really, really well. I love how, uh, realistic this film is. It’s so claustrophobic, the POV shooting works really well, and the ending is just… well, it makes you wonder what it is under your bed at night. If you’ve seen Quarantine but not the original, definitely give it a chance because the explanation for the thing just works so much better and is about ten times more creepy. I haven’t even seen any of the sequels yet because I’m scared it’ll ruin how much I love this film for me.
5- The Exorcist (1973):
Where you starting to get worried by all the recent horror films I was mentioning? Don’t worry, now we’re getting to the good stuff. The Exorcist is one of those films that is just inherently creepy. The general idea that the devil is possessing a little girl is creepy, yes, but just some of the things that Regan comes out with are equal measures hilarious and eerie. Following your mother around like a spider? Spinning your head the entire way round? Her, uh, infamous explicits about Jesus and a crucifix? Regan is the Queen of Creep. That been said, whilst some people are more unsettled by the presence of the devil in the film, it’s the spinal surgery bit that gets me. Just no. And the vomit. Also you’ve just got to appreciate horror where spooky things happen on set. Regan’s bedroom was the only room not damaged by a fire in the McNeil house set, the girl playing Regan was repeatedly hurt by her harness in the bed scenes, and they had to get a priest in to bless the set. WEIRD STUFF.
4- 28 Days Later (2002):
I know, I know, we’re back to the recent stuff. But it’s Danny Boyle so we’ll make an exception. This film used to get me in so many arguments, because I would refuse to stay silent whenever anyone called it a zombie film. They are not zombies, that is what makes it so creepy. These people aren’t dead, they’re just the result of scientific experimentation gone too far. Also they run. Zombies never seem to run, which just makes these creatures seem so much more sinister. This movie has the perfect balance between super suspenseful scenes (where the car breaks down, noooo), really adorable scenes where you forget you’re watching a horror (the supermarket :3 :3), and absolutely heartbreaking scenes (the part with the crow, you know what I’m talking about). It’s pretty much just perfect. Also during the end the bad guy kinda switches a little bit, and I love films that show how much humanity can be dicks– even when they’re not infected by a Rage Virus.
3- The Amityville Horror (1979):
Admittedly, I saw the 2005 sequel of this movie first when I was about thirteen. And I really, really liked it. I got obsessed with reading everything about the murders, and the hauntings, and the Warrens, and it was definitely one of the films that tipped me onto the occult. I even remember spending ages on Google Maps trying to find the actual house (they changed the address and front of the house because of tourists). But then I saw the original, and despite still being a little wary of old horror films back then, I was impressed. No… I was a convert. The movie is just creepier, and that’s the simple answer. The dad is creepy, the little girl is creepy, the house is creepy, even the freaking giant pig is kinda creepy. And if that doesn’t sell you, it has the creepiest film score ever known to man. It makes up for the giant pig, I promise.
2- Poltergeist (1982):
This is where I began to struggle, because these last two films are both equally my favourite horror movies. But as much as I love this film, and even though I think it might be one of the best horror films ever made, it had to come second because of how much I hate the last ten minutes. This movie starts off so well. The opening scene is creepy, the dog staring at the wall is creepy, the little girl is super freaking creepy. Then there’s the scene in the kitchen. And the wife’s reaction to this is just so brilliant. In most horror films if something supernatural happens, the protagonist screams and runs away. But this women likes it, and even begins to interact with the presence. When the dad comes home and she excitedly shows him their daughter being pushed about by ghosts, it is just such a refreshing change from usual horror film motifs. And then the film just continues being great, and I remember watching it for the first time and thinking ‘wow, this might become my new favourite film’, but then the last ten minutes happens. And you’re reminded once again how few directors can manage horror. The end is not scary, and it really lets it down. But the rest of the film is so refreshing that I can kinda let it slide, and also all the legends surrounding the Poltergeist film series definitely increase the spooky factor a little. Four characters in the film series ended up dying during their run– including Carol Anne, the little girl who attracts the Poltergeist in the first place. It definitely makes watching the film a lot more sinister. There’s gonna be a remake in 2014, which I am not looking forward to, so you should probably watch the original this Hallowe’en before Hollywood ruin it.
1- The Haunting (1963):
Yeah, so zombie films, slasher films, vampire films, and all the rest are great and everything– but nothing can beat a good ghost story. They were the first things I remember being scared off, so they’re always gonna have a special place in my heart. Although not technically a proper ghost story, The Haunting uses the idea that the house itself is haunted– that it’s a sentient being that is always watching you. Which personally, I find a whole lot creepier than sharing my house with a ghost. What can a ghost do? Throw a chopping board at my head? Pffft, been there, survived it (seriously). What can a house do? Oh, I don’t know… COLLAPSE ON ME? Lock the doors? Create never-ending corridors? The idea is terrifying. I remember seeing the 1999 remake of this film when I was younger and absolutely hating it, so when I watched the original I was a little apprehensive. But I was so so so so so wrong. As well as the plot being completely different, and this time, actually good, the film just had other elements that creep you in the most extreme ways. The house actually looks alive, and a lot of shots are taken from the ceiling in this sort of omnipresent, claustrophobic way that makes you feel uneasy. It also really plays with the idea of insanity and the supernatural and is pretty much just the best example of a haunted house film I can think of. Watch it in the dark on Hallowe’en with a stash of candy… but remember, your house might be watching it too. Insert maniacal laughter here.
I hope you enjoyed my list of favourite horror films. This was very hard for me, because I wanted to do a mix of both older (read as: better) horror films and more recent ones as to not alienate anybody. I would like to give some honourable mentions to: The Mist (2007), Scream (1996), From Dusk till Dawn (1996), Halloween (1978), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and The Strangers (2008) for either being great satires of my favourite film genre or just genuinely creeping me out a little bit (or having really morbid endings– I’m talking to you, Stephen King). Horror is a very subjective genre, so if you have any other suggestions or disagree with me or think I’m stupid for being scared by The Women In Black, then please leave a comment and tell me.
Happy (almost) Hallowe’en, I’m gonna go eat some souls.