This past week marked the beginning of October, and with Halloween growing ever nigh, the time doth come wherein many a young’un gather for spooky movies to seeketh and see. But be you unsure which grim movie is right? Well this list of seven will keep you up through the night.
But first, two disclaimers:
1. This is not a “Top X” list of films. Whilst some are certainly better than others, they are not organized as such. Rather, each film represents its own little subset of horror, and it would therefore be both difficult and disingenuous to compare them numerically to each other. Along the same lines, these aren’t the best horror movies, they’re just seven little films that you really ought to have seen.
2. In keeping with the Halloween motif of this article, I have chosen to focus primarily on the occultist flavor of horror, as that is most in line with the season. So, whilst I love films like "Alien" (1979), and "Get Out" (2017), they don’t—in my mind—have as much to do with the Halloween mood.
Now enough disclaimin’; let’s get to film namin’:
1. "Hereditary" (2018)
One of the primary reasons I decided not to do this as a “Top X” list is that, if I had, I would have needed to put "Hereditary" further down on the list, and I really wanted to talk about it first. This recent spooky tail chronicles Annie (Tony Collette), a stressed parent coping with the death of her mother, whilst trying to handle her own troubled children. Though things are hard enough for Annie, shit really hits the fan when an entity that appears to be her mother’s ghost starts interfering with the family's life.
This film works so well as a solid mix of effective horror, and strong mystery, as Annie searches for answers to help understand and combat her family’s paranormal tormentor.
2. "Monster House" (2006)
You may remember this inconsequential little children’s horror film that came out so long ago. What you may not remember is that this movie was co-written by Dan Harmon, the genius mind behind the immensely popular cartoon "Rick & Morty." “Whaaat’s that?” I hear you say. “I’ve gotta watch that again!” And you should. Though it stands out as being pretty different from just about everything else in Harmon’s filmography, it can be quite fun to watch out for the little bits where Harmon’s ethos comes out.
Even if you’re not a big Dan Harmon fan, there’s still plenty in this movie to be enjoyed. No, it’s not the best children’s spook, but if you are a fan of youngster-horror, this is one you should see.
3. "The VVitch" (2015)
"The VVitch" may just be the most impressively thorough period piece I’ve ever seen. Not only are the costumes and sets on point, but the dialogue is such a meticulous reconstruction of early 17th-century English, that at points it almost warrants translation subtitles. Don’t be *affeered* though, I say “almost” because you should, if you pay attention, be able to understand the story behind their American blather.
And what a story it is. Set in a small, young New England Colony, "The VVitch" explores the tale of a family exiled from Plymouth, who set up a new home on the edge of a forest occupied by, you guessed it, a witch. This film utilizes old Christian folklore with such a level of authenticity that it really feels like a low-budget indie-film made by 1630s Puritans in the woods behind their house.
4. "Crimson Peak" (2015)
Now we’ve all seen films that could be considered Gothic horror, but "Crimson Peak" is the most Gothic horror. In director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to the genre that took the Victorian era by storm, del Toro brings his meticulous visual precision to the perfect setting: a haunted house. It’s incredible to see just how the world comes to life, as the details of the house all talk to each other in the most spectacular ways.
Whilst it may not be as scary as other films on this list, "Crimson Peak" is still a beautiful piece of visual art. Something special, something magical, something…spooooky.
5. "Dead of Night" (1945)
Often when we watch old horror movies, it’s less to be frightened, and more to laugh at the corny over-dramatization. And we’re right to do so. Most of these old movies are corny as Iowa. But "Dead of Night" escapes this characterization and ends up being a much more modern experience than you usually find in pictures from this era.
Utilizing the familiar story setup of friends telling spooky stories in an old house at night, "Dead of Night" portrays a series of exponentially surreal, bone-chilling vignettes. It begins subtly enough, but as the intensity of the stories builds up, so does the tension betwixt the characters, finally exploding into a glorious finale, just as effective now as it was 73 years ago.
6. "American Horror Story: Asylum" (2012)
Now I know what you’re thinking, “That’s not a movie, that’s a TV season!” Well here’s my counter argument: it’s really, really good, and I want to write about it. Like most seasons of the show, "Asylum" presents a grab-bag of seemingly random horror tropes, thrown together with an odd mix of deep appreciation and shocking disregard for what makes these tropes work. But more so than any other season, in "Asylum" they all just fit.
This season has got everything: demonic possession, slasher serial killers, flesh-monsters, evil priests, evil racists, evil Santa, aliens, Adam Levine, Nazis, a song and dance number, the angel of death… And though it’s not fully perfect—the ending only answers about 95 percent of the questions—it’s about as good as something this messy can get. This season has a two-part episode in the middle of a show that’s already serialized. So… why are you not watching this right now?!
7. "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" (1992)
Alright, let’s get weird. What if I said that Francis Ford Coppola (the man behind The Godfather) made a Dracula movie. You on board? Now what if I told you that that movie starred Gary Oldman as the master vampire? Exciting, right? "Bram Stoker’s Dracula" takes the base framework of the timeless book, and builds a story of unrequited love, imbuing the vampire’s powerful energy with a strange sexuality, breathing new life into the characters.
It may not all work—Keanu Reeves’s performance as Jonathan Harker stands out as particularly uncomfortable—but this is still a really bizarre and interesting film that absolutely deserves a watch.