Films To Fully Frighten You This Halloween
Horror films are a strange world. They inhabit a realm where by and large most of them aren’t very good at their main selling point, to be scary. Most either substitute scary for gore, or simply fall down at the many, many hurdles of trying to make people genuinely frightened – and often the good ones are spoiled anyway. In my experience, everyone I come across seems to know what happens at the end of The Wicker Man, they all know what that girl does with the crucifix in The Exorcist, we’ve all heard Jack Nicholson’s catchphrase from The Shining, and we all seem to know that dramatic, blood curdling music from Psycho. But people don’t take the time to watch the films themselves, and their terrifying parts are dulled when everyone and your mother has told you about them.
So with this in mind, and if you are the type to stay in on that spooky night, rather than hit the club, or hit the neighbours’ houses for sweets (is it still okay to do that?), or the type to turn all their lights on blindingly bright and play ABBA at full volume and just pretend that it’s a normal night, then I’ve composed a list of a few more recent horror films, whose scares aren’t common knowledge yet. If it’s your cup of tea, then I will do my best to show you some unearthed treasures.
(Brief note before we begin, horror films really, more than most rely really heavily on sound. Pay attention and watch them in a quiet space, otherwise a lot of the horror will be lost. After all, film’s only an illusion, and to be genuinely scared is by far the most difficult reaction to pull out of an audience. All prices correct at time of writing.)
1. It Follows (2014)
Starting off with a relatively simple film (things are going to get a whole lot weirder), I’ll do my best to try to tell you as much about it without ruining it. A big indie hit when it made the tour of film festivals last year (Quentin Tarantino was a big fan), it’s a tale of creepy, dread inducing paranoia and it follows (ha) the old horror classic, horny American teens. What it really nails is a constant state of being unsettled and unnerved, and more importantly its central concept is so weirdly simple, that when you’re walking down the street late at night, you might think twice as they walk towards you. An excellent scare.
Fear style: Creepy, Dread inducing
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, Amazon for £5.
2. The Babadook (2014)
Getting a little stranger now, this film charts the slow descent into a nightmare between a mother and her at first seemingly problem child, who is obsessed with a character in a book called The Babadook. Honestly, this film draws on such primordial fears, fears which manifest and have consequences internally and externally. Ultimately though, this film will at least leave you less paranoid than the above. A slow burn, but one which delivers, you just have to be invested in it. More importantly, it makes you realise what some people have to live with to keep going, and how to cherish it.
Fear style: Helplessness, Mental Instability, Child Nightmares
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime, £2.91 used on Amazon
3. Videodrome (1984)
Taking a blast into the past here, we’re coming now to the precipice of a strange horror cliff. Here we’re getting into a more abstract sort of terror. Videodrome is a cult film in the purest sense, one which was banned on its initial release in the UK. James Woods plays Max Renn, a seedy TV exec who discovers a pirate radio signal which leads to all kinds of reality-warping happenings. Honestly, this works as both as satire on a culture obsessed with sex and violence, and a horror film. Not just that, but its director, David Cronenberg, is a pioneer of a specific film genre called “Body Horror”, and some of the visceral and viscous imagery in this film makes you understand why it was banned. Ahead of its time, and full of sights you just won’t forget, this one is a special cocktail of Canadian sensibilities, seedy issues and madness.
Fear style: Body Horror, Visceral
Where to watch: From behind the sofa, £6.25 used on Amazon
4. Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Videodrome was the edge of a cliff. Berberian Sound Studio jumps straight off, and is what lands at the bottom. Not for those who might easily get pissed off with “artsy films”. A foley artist (bluntly, the sound effects guys) turns up at a scuzzy Italian studio, where he begins to work on a giallo (Italian sub-genre of horror cinema). Pretty soon, things deteriorate into the depths of the absurd and the fear inducing. As the work begins to take its toll, so too does the mind begin to fall apart on its main character, the brilliant Toby Jones (voice of Dobby in the Harry Potter Series, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). The magic of this film lies in its ability to showcase all of the elements we take for granted in all those other films we just saw. A meta horror about horror, this one doesn’t so much scare as induce a state of distanced and quiet terror. Only for the very experimental, but it works.
Fear style: Undefinable
Where to watch: Netflix, Amazon Prime, £3.40 used on Amazon
And there you go, that’s at least 4 films to be getting on with this Halloween, and if you aren’t spooked by them, then I really don’t know what else is left. Perhaps you are just impervious to fear? If so, well done, give yourself a sweetie, perhaps one you stole from your neighbour’s pumpkin she left outside her house for the kids. I saw you do it.