By Sara Haywood
With Halloween fast approaching, there is no better time to curl up with a good horror film. Don’t know where to start? Let me guide you on the path to high terror, tension and beyond…
Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
No horror movie list would be complete without John Carpenter’s slasher classic. Cementing Jamie Lee Curtis’ status as a ‘scream queen’, Halloween explores horror in American suburbia and the reality of what happens when the trick or treater in the mask (or in this case, a blown-up William Shatner mask) turns out to be a cold-blooded killer on the loose. The slow way that Michael Myers stalks his victims with a kitchen knife in hand is truly terrifying, and John Carpenter’s chilling piano theme is unforgettable.
Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
If Halloween showed us what a suburban serial killer on the streets looks like, Alien goes one step further and shows audiences what it’s like to be stalked by a killer a million miles away from home, with nobody around to help you. Alien shocked and scared audiences in 1979 and still has this effect today, from the famous ‘ chestburster’ scene to the claustrophobic hunt for the alien in the vents. The film also gave us our first action heroine in Ellen Ripley, who manages to keep it together despite being the only survivor left alive on the Nostromo.
Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
Jonathan Demme’s award winning film focuses on the idea of the ‘human monster’ and the evil that men can do. Clarice Starling is assigned to find a serial killer and gets help from an unlikely source: the intelligent and charismatic cannibal Hannibal Lecter. While Anthony Hopkins’ performance of the flesh-consuming psychiatrist is indeed fantastic, it is Ted Levine’s disturbing portrayal of the unhinged Buffalo Bill that keeps up the suspense and danger right until the end.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
While most horror films falsely claim to be ‘based on a true story’ for a more frightening effect, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really was based on real events, namely the horrific acts committed by serial killer Ed Gein. The film explores the possibility of road trips and southern hospitality gone wrong as we meet the hideous Leatherface and his insane family. Leatherface’s relentless pursuit of Sally through the cornfields and the agonizing death of Pam on the butcher’s hook still remains terrifying and shocking today.
The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez, 1999)
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that The Blair Witch Project paved the way for the popular ‘found footage’ subgenre of films we have today. While the film may not appeal to some due to the shaky camera work and the lack of appearance from the Blair Witch herself, the real horror lies in your own imagination of what could be out there in the woods. The video camera aesthetic of the film feels like you yourself are being stalked by an unknown presence, which makes for a terrifying and rewarding viewer experience.
The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)
While many enjoyed the recent remake, Sam Raimi’s original version still packs a punch today. The film was subsequently banned in the UK in the 1980’s and labelled as a ‘video nasty’, and it is not hard to see why. With the controversial ‘tree rape’ scene and the ghastly transformations of Ash Williams’ friends as they become possessed, The Evil Dead is every bit as disturbing as the 2013 remake. The unpolished creativity of the make-up and stop-motion animation still carries a horrifying charm. If there’s one thing we could learn from this film, it’s that demons should stay put in the cellar.
Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998)
While the film may be slightly dated now due to today’s upgrades in technology, Hideo Nakata’s Ring is still a spine-chilling masterpiece. The film stands out from other horrors because of the unforgiving way it plunges its viewers into terror and suspense from start to finish, and how it turns an everyday household item into something we should fear and dread. Ring also questions how far we would go to protect our loved ones and sheds a sympathetic light on antagonist Sadako Yamamura, and why she decided to exact revenge on the world through a cursed videotape. If you look closely at every moment the tape is played, you can see Sadako slowly start to emerge from her well.
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
An extreme film not for the faint-hearted, Martyrs begins as a revenge story when a disturbed young woman, Lucie Jurin, along with her friend Anna, seek to find and kill the people who abducted and tortured Lucie as a child. After the violence and chaos ensues, the story swiftly and unexpectedly turns into a psychological gore filled drama that tests the limits of the human body and all the pain it can handle as we learn the true meaning of martyrdom. Many actresses backed out of Laugier’s film because of the gory and brutal content, but Mylene Jampanoi and Morjana Alaoui show an amazing range of emotion throughout.
Saw (James Wan, 2004)
What initially started out as a short film became one of the most well-known horror franchises of the decade. In the first and arguably the best film, two men wake up in a dilapidated bathroom chained to pipes and have a limited amount of time to figure out how to escape. Saw is more than just a horror film, blending crime and psychological elements together as we learn more about the mysterious ‘Jigsaw Killer’, the motives behind his crimes and the reasons why his latest victims are a part of his game. Full of unravelling plot twists, Saw is a film not to be missed this Halloween.
The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
This controversial film is still as disturbing and shocking today as it was in 1973, exploring ideas of religion, demonic possession and questioning how you would react if a loved one became dangerous and unstable. Exorcism films may be quite popular now, but The Exorcist was the most groundbreaking film of its time. No other film touched upon the idea of a child being possessed by a demon, much less a possessed child performing sexual acts with a crucifix and using blasphemous language. Greatly unsettling, if it weren’t for The Exorcist, other exorcism films may not exist today.
Sara Haywood is a second year English and Creative Writing student. She blogs at verbalvitriol.wordpress.com