Halloween is finally here!
I am one of those who spends big part of the year waiting for October to arrive so I can decorate and wear my Halloween related stuff (because apparently, wearing your Ghostface earrings any other month is not socially acceptable).
With Halloween comes not only pumpkins, ghosts, witches, vampires, and many other fantastic and bloody creatures everywhere, but it’s also a feast for horror enthusiasts. Among the things that are apparently not socially acceptable any other month? Horror movies on TV. October is extra cool because it gives us TV specials with some classic horror films (say hello to Jason Voorhees!) and some new movies as well.
Yes, the genre has had some rough years lately with movies that rely heavily on jumpscares and lack in story, but it seems like we’re returning to the path of greatness, with movies like The Babadook and It Follows.
Of course, we can’t forget the classics. Some Wes Craven here, some Dario Argento there, and some Clive Barker over here to haunt our sleep.
That’s why I’m sharing with you my favourite horror movies, in case you don’t know what to watch on October 31st… or any other day, because Halloween lives forever in our hearts. Or at least it does in mine.
The list is in no particular order although you will notice right away which ones left a permanent psychological mark in me.
1- The Babadook
Released last year, The Babadook quickly became one of the scariest movies ever and gained a lot of praise for multiple reasons. Sadly, it was one of those cases where a really good movie is not released in my country (México), but Netflix is such a good friend that it gave me the chance to watch it.
After watching I thought “oh, wow… Ok, now what?”, but then I started processing what I saw, and I suddenly found myself thinking about it days after watching it. That’s how I realized it truly scared me, but not in a traditional way; it was a much deeper and psychological type of fear.
The Babadook follows a widow and her young son, when she discovers he is telling the truth about a monster that came out of a children’s book and is now haunting them.
The monster is not the scary thing,
The perfect use of light and darkness and the on-and-off dynamic add to the impact of this movie, which didn’t need jumpscares to get to our deepest fears.
I hate this movie for the same reason I love it: it left some deep psychological damage in me. No kidding. Everytime I see a light coming through my door, my brain immediately thinks Pinhead is waiting on the other side. And let’s not forget the countless nightmares with cenobites included.
The first Hellraiser movie I watched was Hellraiser: Inferno and that alone was enough to create a serious trauma. Then I made the oh, so smart decision of watching the very first movie and, of course, it didn’t help ease the fear.
And it’s not even the image of Pinhead that gives me nightmares (I’ve seen him countless times in various places since I was very little. I have no trouble with all those pins), but the whole context. Seriously, guys, I didn’t find the whole concept of hell and being trapped there for eternity terrifying until these movies happened to me.
Pinhead, you sick bastard.
The movies that made me realize I want to make horror movies. The movies that made me fall for Wes Craven’s craft and made him my biggest horror-inspiration.
I could write a whole post about the Scream saga, but I’ll try to keep it short and simple.
The premise of the four movies is so simple, yet everything is smart (except the fourth one where the timings are not that believable and a third killer would have been needed). What I love the most about them is that they make fun of the genre, of the director, the actors, and the context of the time, yet they remain faithful to their slasher nature.
You can’t help but laugh when they make references to other horror movies, but you still shriek when a violent death happens. They are real good study subjects. Seriously.
Also, and I will never get tired of saying this: I will forever mourn the death of Randy.
I will defend this movie with my very life. Yes, my life.
Sinister is one of the movies that started putting the genre back on track. There’s no way you can go wrong with a writer, mysterious murders, a pagan Babylonian deity, and creepy children.
Add a good story, excellent photography (the use of light and dark is a delight! I want some of those frames hanging on my wall, thank you very much), and Ethan Hawke, and you have a very well-made and ridiculously underestimated movie.
Here’s the thing: when true-crime writer Ellison Oswald is working on a new book, after not having a best-seller in more than 10 years, he discovers a box full of home-made videos on the attic of his new home. These videos not only contain unsettling footage but they also unleash a supernatural force, making Ellison realize that staying in the house may be fatal.
The symbology that surrounds these deity, the home-made videos (shot with a Super 8 camera for maximum creepy effect), the lighting, the story, and everything made it one of my favourites, not only of the genre but in general.
5- The Evil Dead
A true classic and inspiration of many, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead is a low-budget gem from which we can learn a lot. Although it has that one scene that is incredibly uncomfortable to watch and I truly wish could be cut from every copy in the world, this movie holds a special place in my heart.
What can I say, I’m a sucker for zombies (and just for the record, I do not like the Dawn of the Dead remake. Thank you) and Sam Raimi rules. That’s it.
A group of friends stay at a cabin in the woods for a fun night away. After they find an old book, strange and horrible things start happening. Turns out they inadvertently released a flood of evil and they must fight for their lives… or become one of the evil dead.
As it’s a low-budget movie, you can’t expect the effects to be superb, but it’s exactly that what makes them creepy and gross.
I’m not going to lie, it made me jump multiple times. More-so because it was raining and the wind was messing with the tree and my window, so, you know… my mind started making up stories.
6- A Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
This list wouldn’t be complete without one of my prime nightmares: Freddy Krueger.
I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I watched it when I was very little (around 6-7). Naturally, I spent many sleepless nights after that. but now that someone else took the throne of my nightmares (side-eyeing you, Pinhead), I can truly appreciate the greatness of A Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
There’s so much genius in a character that haunts you in your dreams, where no one can protect you, and when he kills you in dreamland, he also kills you in real life. It’s not just killing for the sake of it; it’s a revenge, but instead of going against those who did him wrong (erm, I mean… like, they killed him. So… yeah), he goes for the people they love the most: their children.
Plus, you can be anything in dreamland, which makes Krueger even scarier because he can do anything to get to you, as ridiculous as those things might be sometimes (but you won’t even notice that because you are dreaming and everything threatening your safety is scary).
As for New Nightmare, it basically broke the fourth wall and that is the most precious thing that can happen. And because it’s Wes Craven (RIP, Grandfather of Scares), he took the chance and mocked the genre. He also heavily referenced the original Nightmare, making it even more amazing.
Oh, and you might want to know that Freddy Krueger and I made amends and are good friends now (no, seriously. About a year ago I had a dream set in the factory from Nightmare and Freddy appeared and I ran to him and hugged him. That was it).
7- Who Can Kill a Child
Originals for the win.
Also known as Island of the Damned, I knew it existed thanks to Edgar Wright’s list of movies “you’ve never seen”. Thank you, Mr. Wright.
Basically, two English tourists arrive on an island where children have taken over and kill the adults.
That’s it. And it’s truly scary.
Honestly, I can’t even begin to explain, nor can I identify where the fear began, but I can tell you that after watching it, I take two steps back when coming across a child. They can be terrifying.
But the ending… guys. The ending. What a twist.
Watch it. Just do it! (But watch the original one, from 1976. Not the remake)
8- It Follows
“That’s it?! Why was I supposed to be scared?” – me, when it was over.
Fast forward, three days later: “Oh my God, like… seriously, what if?!”.
That’s how I know a movie impacted me heavily.
This is one of those movies that will sound absolutely ridiculous if someone else tells you what it is about, as fancy as their words might be, but it is really, really good. In short, after a girl has sex with her boyfriend, she learns she is the latest recipient of a curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Death will haunt her (or more like “stalk her”) either as a friend or stranger. The title says it all, really.
It Follows is open to many interpretations, from metaphors about AIDS, to a moral lesson about unprotected sex, to other much deeper stuff, truth is that there are many elements to make you paranoid. The main one, however, is definitely the mystery surrounding the curse.
Watch it and then tell me how you feel.
I could write an ode to Robert Rodriguez and another one specifically to Planet Terror (oh wait, I did the latter).
Zombies, gore, grindhouse style, and Robert Rodriguez. I shouldn’t say more but I will.
Planet Terror is part of a double-feature called Grindhouse (along with Death Proof), a Rodriguez-Tarantino gory baby. The point of it was to bring back the experience and vibe of grindhouse movies, characterized by exploitation movies which later gained cult following. And they sure as hell achieved that.
When a biochemical weapon in the form of a gas is released, most of the population start turning into deformed zombies. Those who are somehow not affected by it must find those who released it, a cure, and a way to survive.
It’s not just the zombies, the blood, the most epic weapon the world has seen (gun leg!), and the filters to make the film look damaged, but it’s oh so cleverly written. Every time I watch it, I find something new, whether it’s a dialogue that is later repeated by another character in a different situation, or small elements of foreshadow. It also explores many layers of fear, such as fear of losing your sentimental partner, losing your child, losing a limb, or fear of a biochemical disaster.
I just love Planet Terror.
If Ghostface called me and asked what my favourite scary movie is, my answer would be “the Saw franchise”. Hands down.
Surely, all the goriness of it makes up a big part of its success, but I truly, madly, deeply love the story. This man torturing and killing people who are not getting the best of life while he is dying and would love to do more but can’t? Just to give them a lesson?! Yes, please, I wish I would have come up with this idea!
Expanding it into seven movies (and I read somewhere that an eighth movie is in the works) was probably too much, but that last movie… Five years have passed and I still think about it a lot.
And yes, of course I watched it in glorious 3D! Guts flying all over the room, blood everywhere. Yes, of course I did.
The ending though. Honestly, I never saw it coming, but it was totally and completely badass, creepy, and it gave us the closure we deserved. Which is why I am confused as to why we are getting an eighth movie but ok, I’ll take it.
And isn’t Billy the cutest?! Bow tie!
PS. I swear to Iron Man I do not have psychopathic tendencies.
There are some movies I left out because I haven’t watched them in years although I remember loving them, like Poltergeist, and others I definitely won’t rewatch in years for mental health reasons (damn you, It!). Also, there are others that I know, I really do, that they suck, but I like them anyway. Shoutout to the remakes of House of Wax and Prom Night! Some others were left out due to space (hey, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, I love you) And a few others that I’m still not sure of they are horror or more like comedy-horror (The Lost Boys, I love you forever).
Before I go and just to make things clear: I do like The Exorcist, but it did absolutely nothing for me. But we can discuss that another time.
In the words of Ghostface (Billy and Stu forever): What’s your favourite scary movie?