No Tricks, just Treats

Posted: October 31, 2015 in Film reviews, horror
Tags: ,

It’s Halloween, one of my favourite times of the year, and a great time to watch scary movies, so in case you’re struggling to decide what to watch, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions culled from my list of all-time favourite horror films. Whether you want something creepy and cerebral, something gory to make you jump, or something to just make you giggle, hopefully you can find something on this list to appeal…

The Haunted House film


The Haunting (1963)
“Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there… walked alone.”

Robert Wise’s cinematic version of Shirley Jackson’s famous novel sees paranormal investigators stay at Hill House, a house that was “born bad”. Featuring a stunning central performance by Julie Harris as the increasingly unhinged Nell, this is a film that relies on performance and atmosphere to create its scares. We never actually see anything, and the film is all the scarier for it. Strange knocks in the night, way the light catches the wallpaper as ghostly voices whisper, skewed camera angles and an iconic scene involving someone’s hand…arguably one of the best horror films ever made, and one of my absolute favourite films. The quintessential haunted house movie.
Under no circumstances watch the 1999 remake starring Catherine Zeta Jones!

The Slasher flick


Halloween (1978)
“I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes… the devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”

It’s arguable whether John Carpenter invented the slasher genre, after all you could argue Psycho is a slasher movie, but whether or not it’s the inaugural slasher flick, Carpenter’s low budget film remains a true classic. There’s barely any blood but the stalking of a group of teenagers by escaped lunatic Michael Myers is truly terrifying. This isn’t some haunted house or remote hotel, this was happening in an ordinary American town to an ordinary bunch of teenagers. With his white mask and boilers suit Myers it eternally creepy, especially when you just catch a glimpse of his face in the shadows. Donald Pleasance is superb as Dr Loomis, selling Myers as a demonic presence, not so much a madman as the living embodiment of the Bogeyman, and in a nice bit of synchronicity with Psycho Janet Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis gives a wonderful debut performance as Laurie.

The Zombie film


Dawn of the Dead (1978)

“When there’s no more room in Hell the dead will walk the Earth.”

George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is the seminal zombie film, the low budget tale of the dead coming back to live arguably kick-started a subgenre that continues to this day to spawn children, zombie books have never been more popular, and The Walking Dead continues to be one of the best shows in telly. But I’m not here to talk about Night of the Living Dead, because Dawn is that rarest of beasts, a sequel superior to the original.

What made Romero’s films so great was the fact that they were about more than just gore, more than just scares. Night was about racism but Dawn, with its characters taking over an abandoned shopping mall is a wonderful meditation on consumerism. After you see the dead shambling round a shopping centre in a parody of their former lives Christmas shopping will never quite look the same again, and what initially seems like the perfect bolthole, with everything they could ever want, quickly becomes hollow, little more than a prison, few films have as much to say as this.

AND it’s a great zombie film full of action and gore to boot.

Science Fiction Horror


The Thing (1982)

“Somebody in this camp ain’t what he appears to be. Right now that may be one or two of us. By spring, it could be all of us.”

1982 was the year an extra-terrestrial visitor came to Earth and stole our hearts, but enough about ET, it was also the year that John Carpenter gave us an alien who didn’t want to go home, an alien who didn’t want to be our friend, no, he gave us an alien who wanted to take us over.

Overshadowed by ET The Thing was originally a flop, thankfully the initial critical assessment was soon revealed for the ridiculous imposter that it was. Not since Invasion of the Body snatchers has a sci-fi film traded in so much paranoia. Theoretically a remake of 1951’s The Thing from Another World, Carpenter’s film is much closer in tone to John Campbell’s original story “Who Goes There”.

The all male cast are fully three dimensional, a catty bunch, bored and getting on each other’s nerves, and probably disliking each other even before there’s the possibility that some of them aren’t them any more, but it’s the effects by Rob Bottin that elevate this. The Thing is a creature that, as the film tells us, could have imitated a thousand creatures on a thousand worlds and might be able to turn into one of them at any time, it is a truly alien foe, and Bottin and Carpenter play with this concept: torsos split open to reveal giant mouths, heads detach and sprout legs before scuttling away and when a character says “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he really is speaking for the audience.

Throw in a great Antarctic setting and Kurt Russell at his world weary, laconic best and you have one of the best, and most fucked up, monster movies of all time.

And finally, something silly


Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

“In space no one can eat Ice Cream…”
Not particularly scary, and arguably one of the craziest ideas for a movie ever, there’s no denying that this is fun and schlocky horror at its best as a spaceship that looks exactly like a big top lands outside of a small American town and the next thing you know a group of homicidal clowns are terrorising the locals. It’s stupid but so much fun!

Happy Halloween folks!

  1. Hehehe, good choices there. Halloween and The Thing, fab films.

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