Favorite Horror Films – 3 out of 5 Skulls
3 OUT OF 5 SKULLS – a good scare
Check back throughout the month because we will be updating it weekly with a ton more great films for your October.
Please don’t watch this movie while you’re eating. Swallow is portrayed through the lens of the perfect housewife, Hunter. A young, beautiful woman who is married to a successful business man and spends her days cleaning the house and cooking dinner for her husband. As she reluctantly becomes integrated into her husband’s life and family, her sense of self begins to dwindle. Once she finds out she is pregnant, Hunter begins to swallow small objects around the house. With each one, a sense of arousal and satisfaction appears on Hunter’s face. Once these objects start to interfere with Hunter’s pregnancy, her life of servitude turns to a life of monitored decision making. Swallow is an excellent critique on a “perfect” life. Seeing how a lack of individuality and sense of purpose can push people to put their own lives at risk to find a sense of belonging within themselves.
The Invisible Man (2009)
The Invisible Man is literally about an invisible man. Well, it’s more complex than that. Cecilia, played by Elizabeth Moss, escapes her controlling and abusive ex-boyfriend and ends up living with her sister. When she finds out that her ex is dead, Cecilia begins to sense his presence around her. Remembering him saying that he will find her, even when she thinks she doesn’t see him. A series of encounters including taking photos of her while she’s asleep, finding her in the shower, and pulling a knife on her, make Cecilia believe that her ex has found a way to be invisible and kill her. The way the film shows how women are not believed in such situations is brilliant. Everyone around Cecilia doubts her and tries to get her to believe that she is mentally ill. Many victims of abuse do not report their incidents due to the simple fear of not being believed. The Invisible Man shows this through the simple invisibility of the perpetrator. The figure that is there and tormenting the victim, yet is not visible by anyone else. Which poses a question to the other people in the film, how can we believe something to be real based on words alone?
Fright Night (1985)
Fright Night is the perfect 80’s vampire movie despite feeling significantly less 80’s than its companion film The Lost Boys. Both have perfect amounts of silliness, sexiness, and respect for the horror classics. Fright Night follows sexually frustrated and horror obsessed weirdo, Charley Brewster, and his girlfriend, Amy, as they notice that their new neighbor may be a vampire. Out of their element, the crew consult the 2 best vampire fighters they know of: Evil Ed (a creepy lunatic kid from school), and Peter Vincent (a horror tv host that only a teenager would believe in). To be honest, it goes better than you might expect.
Fright Night is a haunted rollercoaster of a film that is just so much fun from start to finish. The seductive vampire, the brutal familiar, the damsel in distress, this is one of the last “classic” vampire movies that is a true success, and it should be a mainstay in any horror fans catalogue, especially for the top notch practical effects.
Horror movies are able to tell stories that other movies can’t (or won’t) tell, usually because those stories are difficult or less marketable. This is why it’s so nice to see horror films now more than ever broaching upon race, gender, and sexual orientation issues within our society. Spirals is one of those films in that it is the story of an interracial gay couple, Aaron and Malik, that move into an isolated suburban town with their daughter to get away from the stresses of the city. However, their new neighbors are not as nice as they appear.
What initially seems like a safe place, turns out to be homophobic, dangerous, and downright evil. When Malik notice their neighbors performing a strange cult ritual, he becomes suspicious, but Aaron feels he is just imagining the bigotry and danger he senses. Of course, things only get worse from there. The film is held together by strong performances of the actors, especially Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman (Malik) and Jennifer Laporte who plays his daughter. There is a very limited use of gore and special effects, but sometimes it’s the emotional trauma that is the scariest part.
The Platform (2019)
The Platform showcases one of the many true horrors of the human experience:
capitalism, hunger. The film opens up with chefs cooking a gigantic meal packed with all different assortments of food and arranged on a large table. When Goreng enters a “vertical self-management center” and wakes up in a cell on level 48 with an older cell-mate, his confusion, regret and disdain for his choices bubble up. He soon finds out that a platform of food drops down once a day with the leftovers from the 48 previous levels. He and his cell-mate have a limited amount of time to eat the food until it drops down to the next level. You cannot hoard food or else there will be severe consequences, some resulting in mortality. The film showcases what hunger does to one’s psyche, and the ways in which those with more forget those who have less, which are realities more horrifying than any creature in a movie can portray. – Sarah
It Follows (2014)
In another decade It Follows would’ve been a wreck. A film about a supernatural curse passed along through sex, this movie could be a schlocky excuse for gratuitous nudity and gore. Instead, it’s the patient and charming story of a group of teenagers trying anything they can to survive. There is in fact no nudity, little gore, and, shockingly, a lot of depth to each character. It reminds me at times of a slightly more mature take on Stranger Things – a group of kids are thrown into a terrifying situation but never lose the opportunity to just be kids. – Zac
A classic by Ridley Scott, Alien, follows a crew of astronauts as they answer a distress call on their journey in space. As they explore the planet that they land on they investigate eggs of an unknown creature. One crew member gets exposed to one of the creatures as it latches onto their face. What follows is a series of fear-based decisions, lies, and deception. As the alien creature grows in size, the crew are left to fight back for their survival on the ship. This film launched the careers of Ridley Scott and Sigourney Weaver, as well as a series of sequels. It was groundbreaking in the Sci-Fi/Horror genre, and remains in my opinion required viewing for any fan of cinema. – Sarah
Adapted by the book of the same name by Steven King, Carrie follows teenager Carrie White as she goes through her days in high school. She is tormented and bullied by her fellow students as well as her overprotective religious mother. The movie explores femininity and the ways in which women are often demeaned. One of the many plot points of the film involving Carrie getting her period for the first time. The students bully her for it, and her mother deems it as a sin. In revenge for receiving detention for bullying Carrie, the students plan a prank on Carrie on prom night. In response Carrie reveals a kept ability of hers resulting in a supernatural disaster. Now analyzed for its portrayal of feminism, Carrie is an absolute stand-out film in the horror genre. – Sarah
Hell House LLC (2016)
Horror is a film genre where low budget projects can thrive, (Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project, etc.). Especially with the development of cheaper cameras, productions have been able to succeed and even craft convincing scares without a Hollywood budget. That’s not to say that every cheap horror movie is a success, far from it, but sometimes it works, and Hell House LLC is one of those.
Hell House LLC is movie about a bunch of friends putting together a haunted house, except the house they are building it in, happens to already be haunted. First you see the footage of their disastrous opening night, but then you are led back through the history of their haunted house adventure and see how things went so wrong. Yes its DIY, and not the best acted film, but it has its scary moments and feels just believable enough to stick a thought in your head next time you’re on line for a haunted house. – Henderson
The Lodge (2019)
The Lodge is a film about being a step parent, children dealing with the suicide of their mother, and the isolation of winter. If that doesn’t sound grim enough for you, there is also a mass cult suicide involved. So I will just lead off with that, but intertwined with all that is the story of a step mother that cant tell if she is losing her mind, and two kids who can’t tell if their step mother is a maniac. When the three of them are left behind in a winter cabin together for a week, good things do not ensue.
This movie is more of a slow burner in the style of Hereditary or House of the Devil, but it got far less notice than those films. Give it a watch next time you are looking for a real upper. Okay, not really, but its a phycological thriller that you might not be able to completely predict. – Henderson
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The title may fool you, but Evil Dead 2 is really more of a remake than a sequel. Sam Raimi burst on to the horror scene with his classic splatter fest Evil Dead in 1981 on a shoestring budget. A few years later, he set out to remake the same film again but big, better, and bloodier. It’s evidence of his directing chops that he was able to succeed and make something so special on it own merits.
Evil Dead 2 is a absolute blast, with stunning practical effects, zany acting, and a screenplay that exemplifies the best of the horror/comedy genre. Bruce Campbell plays the lead and carries this film even more than the first. This performance is what really cemented him as horror’s wacky protagonist, and led to him appearing in dozens of similar roles and spin offs. The film takes place in a remote cabin when a few people stumble upon a book of dark spells and accidentally summon demons, which they then have to fight in a battle to the death. There are demons outside in the woods, demons possessing them, and even demons in the basement. “Someone’s in my fruit cellar! Someone with a fresh soul!”. More silly than scary but a good amount of both, Evil Dead 2 is the kind of film that unites the easily frightened and horror diehards, its indisputably good. – Henderson
The Innkeepers (2011)
I absolutely love a good ghost story. There’s something about it, that you don’t get in a slasher, or demon movie. Innkeepers is one of those traditional ghost stories and it is executed to perfection. Luke and Claire are 2 bored hotel employees and amateur ghost hunters. With their hotel closing down, they decide to take one last look around for any ghosts. Expecting to just have one last good time on the way out, this ghost hunt turns out to be far more successful than the past. Unfortunately, it’s also a little too much for them to handle.
Director Ti West (The Roost, The House of the Devil) is a master of slowly building tension. This movie starts out with some fun introductions the characters, but due to the great acting and thoughtful writing, you actually care about them. Then it starts to ramp up with the ghosts. There is a scene with a piano that scares the shit out of me even after seeing it multiple times. All along the way, a dash of comedy and well placed scares keep you on the edge of your seat. – Henderson
This film is essentially a French 28 Days Later, aka your standard gritty 2000’s zombie movie, but its well executed and original enough to be worth your time, especially if you’ve already seen all the English language classics. Well shot on a low budget with a small cast, this film builds tension and creates a story without a huge set or massive special effects scenes. Don’t worry, there is constant action. You are just sort of dropped right into the fray, watching 4 survivors racing away from the mutants and searching for a supposedly safe military base. Soon 4 becomes 3, and then 2. There is hope for a cure! But can they live long enough? Doubtful.
This film mostly sticks to the traditional fast zombie mythology. Rabid biters just flinging themselves around at people. It’s all made a little more hectic and scary because this film never really explains what is going on. It is left to the viewer to figure out, what the character’s are up to, and what might be the next step in their plan. It’s an intelligent way to make films, and it’s refreshing in the zombie genre where most films are mind numbingly simple. – Henderson
Krampus is a holiday horror film about a giant evil Santa and his demented elves who will come murder you if you aren’t nice to your family on Christmas. Not exactly a plot that puts your mind to the test, but Krampus is a good time. Not a good time for its characters particularly, they are forced to fight off a horde of “demented fairy tale horseshit”, but this is one of those fun films where you can grab your popcorn, and make predictions on who you think will survive the onslaught.
What makes this film work is the constant action and engaging comedic performances from Adam Scott (Parks and Rec) and his shithead brother in law David Koechner (Anchorman). By 20 minutes in there are monsters already attacking, and the back half of the film is pure mayhem. It also features some really interesting creature designs and even some practical effects. Its one Christmas horror that is still worth your time in October. – Henderson
When I initially saw the trailer for Frozen, I was unexcited by the idea. Kids stuck in a ski lift try to get down. That’s it? Perhaps you feel the same. Being stuck on the lift sucks, but in the same way waiting at the DMV does, it’s not exciting. What could possibly happen? Well, a lot of really horrible things happen, and because the characters are relatable, you’re actively rooting for them to survive throughout.
The movie provides the feeling that this could happen to anyone, and it’s that realism that makes this movie so terrifying (especially for someone like me that fears heights and large dogs). This movie has only a few splashes of gore, but it’s the things you can’t see that are the most haunting. Watching this film is an ordeal in itself, and when things go wrong for the characters you can almost feel their pain. This film took it’s simple plot to the absolute limit and succeeded. I hate ski lifts now. – Henderson
In 1408, John Cusack (yes, John Cusack!) is a depressed C rate horror writer who goes to scary places and writes about them. Haunted as he is, he has never even seen a ghost. Creepy bed and breakfasts beg him to stay to increase their sales, but one New York City high rise hotel does everything they can to persuade him from staying. The hotel’s room #1408 is a ghostly deathtrap where there have been 56 deaths. It’s sort of like The Shining but contained to a single small room. As Samuel Jackson says, “It’s an evil fucking room.” Despite all that, the author demands they let him stay in the room, and eventually they relent.
What he finds in 1408 is much more than meets the eye. Initially he is talking shit, but once he starts getting spooked (radio playing, baby crying), he takes it as a challenge. What he doesn’t realize, is that the room is a place that is truly haunted, and not just haunted. The room itself is a psychological trap that lures in anyone who stays there and never lets them leave. Cusack nails the role, and he carries almost the entire film by himself in the hotel room. Samuel Jackson plays the hotel manager and aside from a Tony Shaloub (Monk) cameo that’s pretty much the entire cast. The solid special effects combined with the tricky writing, makes for a movie that is scarier than you’d expect, and sticks in your head for your next hotel stay. – Henderson
Pontypool is a thoughtful mindbender of a movie about talk radio and zombies, so it had me hooked from the start. It opens with an isolated rural radio host (Stephen McHattie) and his small staff chatting conspiracy theories on the airwaves, but they begin to notice that strange things are happening in their small backwater community during a frozen Canadian winter.
The film stays almost entirely in the radio studio and among the staff, and it’s a unique way to watch a zombie apocalypse take place, but that isn’t the only thing that is unique. These are also not your traditional zombies. Sure, they try to eat you alive, but they spread in an unusual and intriguing way. There aren’t many truly new things in horror, but Pontypool found at least one truly new idea in this script. You don’t even notice that this was a low budget film, and you have to give props for that level of DIY expertise. – Henderson
Scream has become one of my favorite horror movies and might be Wes Craven’s masterpiece. It’s one part meta criticism of the horror genre, and one part murder mystery, all caked in a sense of dark humor, suspense, and classic horror movie tropes. I found myself questioning my trust in the characters for the entire movie, and it still kept me guessing until the film’s climax. It is perfectly 90’s. The music, clothing, and slang are all so of their time and place, that it added another level of relevance as the film ages.
The first twenty minutes are completely unexpected, and there is really no set up. The suspense begins right in the very first moments of the movie and ends in shock. At a very basic level, it is about a masked killer, who targets a group of teens for an unknown reason, but it unfolds into a much larger conspiracy. The plot left so much room for variation that even after 3 sweet sequels and 3 surprisingly decent seasons of a TV series later, a new Scream film is in production and horror fans are stoked. That said, nothing beats the original, and Scream is the perfect movie to start your Halloween season without completely sacrificing your ability to sleep, but maybe your ability to answer your phone. – Ryan B
Ari Aster (Hereditary) both wrote and directed Midsommar, however, his sophomore film is little like his debut. The plot of the film follows a young couple, Dani and Christian as they are struggling to keep their relationship together. After Dani goes through a great tragedy, they decide to embark on a trip to the Midsommar festival in a small town in Sweden. As they experience the festival, the distance between Dani and Christian grows stronger. Aster in multiple interviews doesn’t label this film as horror, but as “a break-up film.”, which I agree with, and I think is really the most haunting part of the film.
The way communication operates in romantic relationships is, in my opinion, the key to success. The way that Dani and Christian communicate throughout the film is heart wrenching. Having very little to no communication with each other, and at many points, Christian complaining to his friends of the burden that Dani’s trauma and anxiety puts on him. As Dani finds family and community throughout the festival, Christian steers further and further away from her. Then, things start to get even scarier and more brutal.
Removing the gore and other horror elements scattered throughout the film, Aster does really make a movie about a break-up and all of the stages that a break-up goes through. He tells it in a very gruesome setting, but between the visuals, dialogue and soundtrack, Aster conveys a contemporary break-up classic. Something that makes you reflect upon your own relationships, past or present. – Sarah
The Ritual (2016)
The Ritual is a scary film about a bunch of British dudes who decide to go hiking in Sweden “its like the Appalachian Trail but more history than hillbillies”. Unfortunately, they decide to take a shortcut through an old forest, and it turns out the history they find there is not so fun. Like Blair Witch Project and other similar films, this movie is made scary right off the jump because getting lost in the woods is a terrifying experience. You don’t know which way to turn and there’s no one to help you. This is made even more scary when you are being hunted by some unknown creature, and once you learn what that creature is, then things get maximum scary. Well acted, violent, and not overly long, this is definitely one of the better and most intense horror films Netflix has released so far. – Henderson
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
An instant worldwide success in the horror community, this Austrian, psychological fright follows the perspective of twin boys, Elias and Lukas, who come home to their mother having her entire face wrapped up in bandages, which acts as an unsettling visual element for the majority of the movie. As their mother recovers from her cosmetic surgery, things around the house and the behavior exhibited by her turns dark. This enacts Elias to believe it isn’t really their mother underneath the mask but something impersonating her.
Goodnight Mommy is mostly quiet in dialogue and score, making any loud noise or raised voice even more effective, and its prolonged run-time gives the audience even more time to be lulled into a disturbing case of paranoia. The entire last half of the flick is momentous and rises to insane heights, coming to an end that’ll have you scratching your head for a while after. – Hope
Kill List (2011)
As someone who has seen their fair share of horror, from all varieties, nothing could’ve prepared me for the dread that the Kill List gave me and continues to give me each time I remember it. British-made, the film’s budget of only $800,000 didn’t hinder it’s overall impact, something that is much darker and more unexpected than you are led to believe throughout the film.
The film follows the journey of Jay, a former soldier and now hitman, the first-half of Kill List is basic in it’s premise. Him and his best friend, Gal, are sent on this assignment to kill three men who have done irreputable things, ranging from pedophilia, sexual assault, and other violent crimes. The standout scene from the first half of the film is the grimly execution of the pedophile, something that shouldn’t feel as satisfactory as it does. But, it is in the Kill List’s second act where the damn bursts and everything comes to a heart-pounding climax. Revealing elements that no one would’ve guessed beforehand, the visuals and psychological trauma portrayed is as disturbing as it gets, something that should be applauded for by the way it is filmed. At the end of the movie, you’ll want to go back, immediately, and hunt out clues while the fading of the last scene will have you saying “What the Fuck” over and over again. – Hope
V/H/S is a film that terrifies me, because it feels like something dark and real that anyone could stumble onto in a video collection or a strange blog. The movie is an anthology of different P.O.V. or home-video style videos containing the supernatural, the possessed, and anything in between. The low quality of the film itself is what makes the film so scary and realistic. It’s “found footage” style is what makes it feel as if it could happen to you or anyone for that matter.
Watching it for the first time, I had serious doubts, but as each sequence continued, I realized this is not your typical B movie anthology. It scares you when you least expect it and has such a wide range of creatures and monsters that there’s definitely something you will be afraid of. The stories are loosely tied together, but mostly you can just tune in for the roller coaster of frights. If one doesn’t get to you, the next one will. – Sarah
In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter’s best movie. That’s right. I said it. I know what you’re thinking. “What about The Thing? Or Halloween? Or Big Trouble in Little China? Or Escape From New York? And to you I say “Ok, In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenters fifth best movie”. But John Carpenters fifth best movie still puts Mouth of Madness in the hall of fame for any cinema fan.
In the Mouth of Madness is set in a town that doesn’t exist, Hobb’s End, New Hampshire. But we soon discover that Hobb’s End is far from fiction. Madness follows Sam Neil (Jurassic Park) as a private investigator who’s hired to track down a man named Sutter Kane, a best selling horror author and this universe’s Steven King (although canonically, King also exists in the universe). There are strange reports of Sutter Kane’s new novel causing insanity in its readers and the author himself has gone missing. What follows is too spoiler-ridden to discuss here but suffice to say In the Mouth of Madness is home to an uncommon brand of horror. A creeping feeling of dread more akin to Lovecraft than Blumhouse, and rarely captured on film. On that alone I’d recommend this movie, but thankfully there’s a lot more that makes In the Mouth of Madness worth the watch. – Ryan Manns
Get Out (2017)
The culprit in a horror film is typically out of one’s control and difficult for some to perceive as legitimate. Racism checks those boxes, making it suitable for the genre. In Get Out, Chris is understandably uneasy about meeting his white girlfriend’s family, as interracial dating can be a point of contention, but still strives for open-mindedness when Rose assures him he’ll be welcomed. That glimmer of hope is eroded when he becomes yet another victim in the family’s tradition of hypnotizing and manipulating people of color. Soon, Chris finds himself defenseless and panicked.
Horror films often fabricate something fantastical to incite terror, like a demon clown or a ghost, but Get Out demonstrates that preexisting aspects of day-to-day life can be horrifying, too. It still employs exaggeration, which is on-par for the genre, but it’s heavily rooted in our horrific reality. Get Out is a case study in the excellent work that members of marginalized groups can produce when they’re given a chance to flourish as creators, and the truly unique stories they are able to tell. – Bineet
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