With Halloween just around the corner, now is the time of year when the leaves begin to fall, a chill sets in the air and we can all gather around with our pumpkin spice lattes and candy corn to enjoy a good spooky movie or two. With the recent untethered success of the new remake of Stephen King's “It” and TV series’ like Stranger Things and American Horror Story we seem to be in the midst of a horror revival. However around this time of year theaters are mired with half-assed jump scare fests such as the seemingly never ending Paranormal Activity and Saw series’ as well as one-off’s that have somehow spun out into multiple films like Annabelle and The Conjuring. This Halloween experience something truly terrifying, experiencing some films that aren’t predictable cash-grabs devoid of any true film making like those that are no doubt playing in theaters right now (here's looking at you, Happy Death Day) and instead, stay home, turn off the lights and settle in with a nice pumpkin beer or goblet of human blood and enjoy some films that amazingly are actually decent. Below I will be giving my recommendations for six horror films to enjoy this Halloween, keep in mind that there may be spoilers in some of them, so fair warning. Lets begin:
1. It Follows
Who should watch it: Fans of 80’s slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street or more modern series like Stranger Things.
It Follows is the 2014 directorial debut of David Mitchell and represents an immense triumph in atmospheric horror. The film rejects the traditional tropes of the horror genre while also bearing a vast amount of influence from the slasher flicks of the 1980’s. The film revolves around a demonic entity that follows its victims endlessly before disemboweling and killing them. The demon can take the form of any person and is only recognizable by the fact that it constantly follows its victim. The only way to protect yourself from it is to pass it along by having sex, clearly an homage to both an 80’s horror cliche as well as a common theme in urban legends. The film is incredibly atmospheric and layers on an absolutely fantastic 80’s synth soundtrack a’la Stranger Things that adds marvelously to the eeriness.
2. The Void
Who should watch it: Fans of H.P. Lovecraft, and body horror movies like John Carpenter's The Thing.
The Void is a 2016 existential / body horror film directed by Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie. The movie is a classic take on the themes of existential dread found in the writing of H.P. Lovecraft and draws an immense amount of influence from his work, from masked cultists to tentacle monsters. It follows a series of people as they are kidnapped by triangular faced cultists awaiting the arrival of their god. Horror ensues as one of the women is forced to conceive the tentacled deity and in a scene straight out of alien, delivers the creature via c-section. Overall the movie is gory, dark and certainly pleasing to anyone who likes both of those covered with a never ending feeling of dread.
3. The Witch
Who should watch it: Fans of traditional Gothic horror, as well as historical fiction.
The Witch has been hailed by critics as one of the best horror films in decades. This 2015 historically set tale directed by Roger Eggers defied all expectations by being both a compelling drama about a family struggling to survive outside their community in colonial America and a truly frightening film. Its story involves a family a puritans banished from their community for the father's infidelity, who have to make due on their own in the vast wilderness of the American frontier. They face both the outside threats of the weather, lack of food and wild animals as well as the inner fragility of their own sanity. As their misfortune mounts they begin to grow suspicious of one another and eventually accuse their daughter Thomasin of witchcraft. The movie paints a bleak picture of life under the repressive religious ideology of the period and just how adversely it, combined with paranoia affected the lives of people cast as outsiders.
4. Train to Busan
Who should watch it: Fans of zombie / disaster horror like The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later.
Train to Busan is a 2016 South Korean film directed by Yeon Sang-ho. It tells the story of a divorced father taking his young daughter from Seoul to Busan to visit her mother. All seems normal as they board the train until shortly after departing when they begin to hear news broadcasts of zombie outbreaks throughout the country. From there the film spirals into the surviving travelers battling for their lives against the approaching horde. What makes the film remarkable is its realistic portrayal of people reacting to a dangerous situation and the panic that ensues. A great watch for anyone interested in a non-traditional approach to the relatively overplayed zombie sub-genre.
Who should watch it: Anyone who enjoys horror anthologies or short stories like Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone.
V/H/S is the first entry in a now (admittedly mediocre) franchise. It was the 2012 creation of Brad Miska and contains five independent short films all shot by different directors. The first and arguably the best is presented as a found footage film of three young men going out to the bars in order to pick up women, yet the one they return with is not what she seems. V/H/S presents a mix of everything for horror fans from alien abductions to cults and demonic exorcisms, it also exhibits some very creative and talented film-making at the hands of its 5 directors, if you find yourself unable to choose what to watch this Halloween this movie might just have something for you.