At this time of year we all love to sit down in front of a good horror, whether it’s at the cinema or curled up on the sofa at home with the lights off. Some of you are no doubt horror genre fans that know your Argento from your Craven, while others might not have any experience beyond the latest Paranormal Activity sequel. Maybe you’re a complete scaredy cat and you’ll only get as far as Scary Movie or a Scooby Doo caper. There are many ways to enjoy Halloween and these are some of our favourite things to watch!
A slightly predictable choice perhaps, yet John Carpenter’s 1978 classic holds up as one of the best slasher movies in history. While it didn’t kick-start the sub genre as many believe, Halloween certainly terrified audiences around the world on release and has continued to do so for decades. Michael Myers is still one of the most iconic killers in the horror genre alongside Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, and that recognisable theme remains threatening to this day.
Now released in a 35th-anniversary Blu-ray steelbook, Halloween looks better than ever and can be recommended to new and old fans alike. Jamie Lee Curtis’ turn as Laurie Strode is a masterclass in how to be a believable heroine that audiences will root for – something that many horror movies fail to do these days. Forget the numerous sequels that came after it – Halloween is an iconic horror movie that never loses its appeal.
[REC] (chosen by Diego Sanchez)
[REC] is a Spanish movie that premiered at Sitges Film Festival in 2007. It won five awards, including best actress, best direction, the critics award and the audience award. Video cameras equipped with night vision were installed throughout the theater during a screening of this horror flick at the festival; the resulting footage on the video speaks for itself.
[REC] started a worldwide phenomenon that inspired two sequels, a prequel, a graphic novel and also an American remake. The movie tells the story of a TV reporter and her cameraman. Both follow emergency workers into a dark apartment building and are quickly locked inside with something terrifying.
Why is it my favorite movie? [REC] scared me as few movies ever did; it was filmed in Spain and started the Golden Age of Spanish horror cinema. It also brought back the found footage style after The Blair Witch Project or Cannibal Holocaust and has been one of the few movies that managed to use a hand-held, realistic visual style with great composition, fantastic photography and great narrative skills. The directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza made a thrilling roller coaster for horror fans that builds to one of the most terrifying climaxes of the past decade. [REC] is a love letter to the genre, a horror masterpiece that goes beyond the usual narrative and immerses the viewer into a nightmare of shadows, blood and madness.
Having grown tired of the Hollywood horror remakes and sequels, I went searching for a wider range of terror around the world. At the time, original horrors from Europe such as France and Sweden were dominating the reviews online. Martyrs is one of those movies that really stood out for me as unique and pushing the boundaries as part of the New French Extremity movement. This movement included movies such as Alexandre Aja’s High Tension and Xavier Gens’ Frontiere(s), both of which also come highly recommended.
Martyrs is one of the few horror movies that have stuck with me for many years after viewing them. Over the years I’ve almost become numb to the genre, finding very few movies shocking or scary, yet Martyrs leaves a feeling in my stomach to this day that I just cannot shake. It has an unprecedented level of violence, not like a Hostel or torture porn, but instead an uncomfortable realism that relates to the themes of the movie – discovering secrets of the afterlife by bringing people close to death. It’s a truly difficult movie to sit through but rewarding in a strange sense. You’ll certainly feel empty by the end of it.
A Warning To The Curious (chosen by Mark Searby)
Whilst not a film, the BBC short story ‘A Warning To The Curious’ is one of the most atmospheric horrors I have seen in many years. The BBC used to make short Ghost Stories for Christmas broadcasting, most of them based on M.R. James novels (like this one), and they all enjoyed positive reactions. In A Warning To The Curious, a man named Paxton unearths the lost crown of Anglia and takes it home. From then on he is stalked by the guardian of the crown. Beautifully shot on the coast of Suffolk, it’s the scenes with the guardian in the distance that are spooky and very unnerving, along with an ending that that will haunt your thoughts for a long time. It’s a bleak and tension-filled 50 minutes.
Going back even further than Halloween, Hitchcock’s Psycho is a suspenseful and shocking movie that stands the test of time and is still influential to this day, evidenced by Bates Motel currently airing on the Universal Channel. The character of Norman Bates is one that continues to intrigue audiences as his relationship with his mother (alive or otherwise!) is a strange and peculiar one. I remember being familiar with the ‘shower scene’ through clips online and then eventually watching the whole movie one night and being blown away by the storytelling. From that day forward I was hooked by the works of Alfred Hitchcock, especially The Birds and Rear Window.
If you can, pick up the Blu-ray release of Psycho which is by far one of the most beautifully restored movies out there, alongside the Universal Horror collection. The clarity does wonders for Hitchcock’s direction and it has never looked better. There is a masterful mix of irony and horror in Psycho that very few movies could ever pull off, and if you delve deeper into the history of the movie it’s a fascinating and triumphant success at a very different time in Hollywood. Yet even in 2013, Psycho works on a number of levels and continues to be one of the most influential horrors in movie history.