Well, my favourite season is coming to a close- of course Halloween would fall on a Saturday during the year of a world-wide pandemic.
No matter, I'm trying to stay.. positive. Or distracted, at least. A great way to do that during October is with some terrific horror, so here are my faves.
Not everything on this list counts as 'conventional' horror, but all of them are at least spooky. So give me a holler if you also love the stuff I included.
(Horror, Classic, Haunted House.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
This is probably my favourite movie ever, but I'm not big into picking favourites.
I mean, if you haven't seen The Shining, you're probably not reading this list in the first place. But just in case I can convince someone who's never seen it to check it out- for the love of god, just watch this movie. This is the foundation of the haunted house genre, and a movie that has and will stand the test of time. Not only is it a spooky ghost story, but a fantastically terrifying portrayal of domestic abuse. It's based on the Stephen King novel, which you should also read.
If anyone needs a quick description- Jack Torrance takes a live-in caretaking job at a ski-lodge/hotel during the harsh winter months. His wife Wendy and son Danny join him in the getaway, but as time progresses, the family begin experiencing paranormal activity, and the spirits begin affecting Jack's state of mind for the worse.
(Horror, Classic, Serial Killer.)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Another classic, "Psycho" is one of the most iconic thrillers ever made.
Marion Crane hits the road after stealing thousand of dollars from her boss, and decides to spend the night at the vacant Bates Motel. After she goes missing, her sister and boyfriend begin inspecting the motel and it's creepy, momma's boy owner Norman Bates. Another movie that needs to be seen, no excuses.
(Horror, Witch, Curse.)
Director: Robert Eggers
I'm so obsessed with this movie.
"The Witch" (or "The VVitch", but you're just a dumbass if you call it that) is dark, gorgeous, and incredibly well done. The story takes place in 17th century England around a family of Puritans who build a house on the outskirts of a deep forest after being banished from their community. They start experiencing a supernatural presence, and things basically go ape-shit from there.
This was Anya Taylor-Joy's scream queen debut, she's an actress to keep your eyes on.
(Horror, Haunting, Monster.)
Director: Jennifer Kent
This sounds like it should've been total shit, but it isn't.
Recently widowed Amelia is struggling to cope with the loss of her husband, while her six year-old erratic son Sam begins obsessed with a seemingly imaginary monster called Mister Babadook. As Amelia's state of mind begins deteriorating and she becomes increasingly violent, we discover that Mister Babadook may be attempting to take control of the mother's mind.
Any horror that includes storybooks and monsters with pet names tend to put me off, but "The Babadook" is a good one.
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show"
(Sci-Fi, Comedy, Musical.)
Director: Jim Sharman
If you don't like Rocky, you're wrong.
Stuffy engaged couple Janet and Brad become stranded when their car breaks down in the middle of a storm. They approach a dark, creepy mansion in search of help, and walk right into the clutches of the sensual mad-scientist and transgender Doctor Frank-N-Furter, and his lingerie-clad misfit minions.
Rocky isn't very scary, but god, is it fun. Equal parts sexy and campy, this cult classic is so delightfully weird. Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.
(Horror, Haunting, Satanic.)
Director: Ari Aster
Yeah.. if you don't want to get spooked, don't watch this. There's a reason why everyone was talking about how fucked up this is.
Basically- Annie Graham grieves the loss of her controlling mother, and through the unravelling of family secrets and a sinister presence beginning to haunt Annie and her children, her family begins to discover the terrifying fate they've inherited. This is the only way I can describe it without spoiling anything.
It's been said a million times at this point, but you're gonna want to keep an eye on Ari Aster, he's spectacular.
"The Haunting of Hill House"
(Horror, Haunted House, TV Series.)
Director: Mike Flanagan
I was a little late to HOHH, but don't let that discourage you.
I've heard some criticism that this show isn't as scary as some audiences hoped for. While I disagree, if you're looking for a Blumhouse style jump-scare bonanza, you're not getting that here.
As children, the Crane family spent a summer in Hill House- an old but decadent mansion that the Crane parents scheduled to flip in order to turn a profit to build their dream home. Unfortunately, they didn't sign up for the seemingly vengeful spirits that would take the lives of multiple members. As the children age into adulthood, they're followed by their past, and find themselves still haunted by the ghosts they dealt with as children. Equally sad and scary, "The Haunting of Hill House" truly is haunting, and is a must for any horror fan.
(Thriller, Escape Room, Crime.)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
"Green Room" is definitely more of a thriller than a horror, but the terrifying situation and amount of cringe-worthy (in a good way) gore is enough to consider this a scary watch.
A young punk band regrettably secures a gig at a scummy skinhead bar, where they accidentally witness a murder. The Nazis aren't about to let them walk away, so they lock the band inside the green room while they decide how to do away with them.
Jeez, this is a good thriller. Watch out if you're squeamish though, it's pretty gnarly.
"I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore"
(Thriller, Dark Comedy, Crime.)
Director: Macon Blair
Okay.. this isn't a horror movie. This is a dark comedy- but it's so good.
Ruth is dissatisfied. The world is shitty, people are shitty, and her house just got broken into. Instead of pushing her anger aside like usual, she decides to do something about it. With the help of her eccentric neighbour (Elijah Wood) she attempts to track down and exact vigilante justice on her burglars, but winds up in a lot more trouble than she bargained for.
I was so pleasantly surprised when I found this on Netflix one day- this is one of those feel-good movies for me. Quirky, funny, and bloody, I love this thing.
"The Silence of The Lambs"
(Thriller, Crime, Serial Killer.)
Director: Jonathan Demme
I know I've said this about a few movies now, but if you haven't seen "The Silence of The Lambs", then who even are you?
Clarice Starling is one of the only female FBI agents in 1980s America. Besides having to deal with creepy stares and condescending co-workers, her boss assigns her to interview former psychologist and convicted serial killing cannibal Hannibal Lector- in order to apprehend a loose killer who's been kidnapping and murdering young women.
This is a primarily performance-led piece, and it's brilliant.
"A Clockwork Orange"
(Thriller, Classic, Crime.)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Not trying to be a Kubrick nerd or anything, but yeah, this should be here too.
I don't really know how to describe "A Clockwork Orange". It's a group of psychopaths lead by the most charming of the four, as they participate in escalating violence for fun and gags. It's not so fun for the people they act out against, however.
It's based on the black comedy book by Anthony Burgess, which takes place in a dystopian near-future society. Written partially in "Nadsat", which is a Russian-influenced argot (made-up language created to prevent outsiders from understanding the conversation) made up of a mix of modified Slavic words and rhyming slang- so it might take you a couple tries to fully understand the speech, but it's worth it.
Although they tamed the violence for the movie, some stuff in here is rough- a lot of violence against women. So a word of warning.
"Super Dark Times"
(Thriller, Teen, Murder.)
Director: Kevin Phillips
God, I hate this title. It's so difficult to remember, and I kept waiting for the characters to say it at some point, to have it make sense in some way- but it doesn't. It's just dumb.
Teenage boys Zach and Josh are lifetime buddies, but after a gruesome accident aids in the death of one of their friends, the boys spiral into a hole of paranoia and escalating violence that tears their relationship apart.
Anyways. Dumb title, good movie.
(Horror, International, Curse.)
Director: Joko Anwar
Ha- this one's fun. I missed a good old bloody horror movie. I don't mean bloody in the English sense, I mean blood.
"Impetigore" follows Maya, an orphaned woman working as a parking lot ticket taker. After a stalker attacks her with a machete, she learns that she was a target due to her mysterious heritage. Her and her best friend travel to Maya's home village to investigate the house she inherited from her parents, unaware that the members of the community have been hunting her down for years.
I found this on Shudder, the horror movie specific streaming service- it's a super cool trial for anyone who has a passion for spook.
"Night of the Living Dead"
(Horror, Classic, Zombies.)
Director: George A. Romero
One of the first zombie movies to go mainstream, "Night of the Living Dead" was extremely unique at the time of it's release, and paved the way for every zombie story since. Plus- seeing a Black man on screen as the heroic protagonist in 1968 was basically a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I love watching old horror. The majority of the 'scary' scenes in here haven't aged very well, and end up being funnier than they're supposed to be- which is totally awesome.
(Thriller, Mystery, True Crime.)
Director: David Fincher
This movie makes my true-crime heart flutter.
"Zodiac" is a fictionalized portrayal of the hunt for The Zodiac Killer. Of course, we already know the ending- the serial killer was never found, but this movie is fantastic. If you're interested in serial killer history, this is a must.
(Thriller, True Crime, TV Series.)
Director: Joe Penhall
Speaking of David Fincher- "MINDHUNTER" is produced by the Finch himself, who just knows how to create true crime gold.
FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench team up in 70s America to interview and study convicted "multiple murderers" in order to build a profile to hunt and catch future predators. This is the fictionalized history of how a small section of the FBI coined the term "serial killer", and pioneered the art of profiling.
The show has two brilliant seasons on Netflix, but sadly, may never come back. With COVID-19, the team behind the production said the show is on an indefinite hiatus. This show had SO MUCH potential to be one of the greats, but that doesn't mean these two seasons aren't worth watching on their own.
"The Killing of a Sacred Deer"
(Thriller, Artsy, Curse.)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
This is one of the weirdest horror movies I've seen in a while, and I love it.
I don't want to give too much away, but basically- Dr. Steven Murphy is a cardiovascular surgeon who strikes up fatherly bond with the fatherless Martin, the son of a man who Murphy failed to save during an operation. Martin becomes increasingly obsessive, and soon Murphy's children begin experiencing a mysterious illness.
"The Killing of a Sacred Deer" is so strange, and creepy, and cool. If you like artsy horror, check this one out.
"BLACK MIRROR: Bandersnatch"
(Thriller, Sci-Fi, Interactive.)
Director: David Slade
So- I'm not a huge fan of "BLACK MIRROR". I think some episodes are great, but the majority are just meh. "Bandersnatch" is the show's stand-alone movie, and it's soooo cool.
The 'choose your own adventure' style of interactive film is an awesome idea, although it's only compatible on smart devices, or laptops. It doesn't have an Oscar worthy plot or anything, but it's interesting enough to keep you engaged. The major pull of "Bandersnatch" is it's interactive ability, and it's worth taking a day off to explore each route.
(Thriller, Crime, Unnerving.)
Director: Dan Gilroy
Man, Jake Gyllenhaal is good when he's creepy. "Nightcrawler" is more of a thriller, but god damn- Gyllenhaal acts the shit out of this thing.
Petty thief Louis Bloom is on the hunt for a career when he discovers that by taping live footage of crime scenes and selling them to TV news stations, he can earn great money, fast. Soon, the greasy-haired weasel finds that the more bloody the shot, the more money he makes, and we watch as the true sociopathic Bloom emerges. Journalists are scary, aren't they?
(Animation, Children's Movie, Creepy.)
Director: Henry Selick
Don't fight me on this. It's a Halloween classic.
Based on the children's book by horror enthusiast Neil Gaiman, Coraline Jones moves into a new townhouse with her distant, work-obsessed parents and wacky neighbours, and becomes increasingly agitated as she searches for something to do. While home alone one afternoon, she unlocks a secret door that leads her to a reimagined version of her current life- but one full of delicious food, magical neighbours, and attentive parents. The only catch is, her mother in this realm asks her to sew buttons into her eyes- only then is Coraline allowed to stay forever.
The fact that this is a children's movie doesn't in any way hinder it's unnerving storyline. This is a beautifully animated movie, an important 'stranger danger' tale, and a movie I'll always come back to.