It’s that time of year again, when evil kids stick fireworks in pet’s arses and uninspired girls dress as a ‘sexy’ version of whatever comes to mind. If you want to avoid spewing green vomit into a pumpkin having drank too much, then let me recommend kicking back in the comfort of your own home with some of the most terrifying horror movies ever made. This is a bit of a subjective list and focuses more on creepy, ghost type stories so if you’re hoping for unnecessary gore porn, then I suggest you go watch Hostel, or failing that, some Isis beheadings, both have the same amount of artistic merit.
Paranormal Activity (2006)
Maybe it’s the gritty camcorder footage, the premise that it’s a document of real events, or the fact that there’re ghosts milling around the gaff not giving a fuck while you’re lying asleep at your most vulnerable, but this will put the absolute shits up you. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts or good acting, definitely will provide a scare. Don’t watch while on hungover paras or alone in the dark.
The People Under The Stairs (1991)
This should be filed under the more disturbing-yet-weirdly-funny films of recently deceased Wes Craven’s canon. Built on the premise that there’s always that weird house on your estate about which something’s not quite right (The Burbs, Joe Fritzl) and some local kids go investigating with predictable results. Weird and scary. Wes Craven has made better films, but this one always stuck in my mind as scary, probably from watching it alone while off school sick as an impressionable boy. Just IMDB Wes Craven for a gander at some other top horror titles, RIP a legend.
Many a childhood has been scarred by this Stephen King-adapted classic. Tim Curry’s performance as the malevolent clown Pennywise is one of the most unsettling things in horror, right up there with Leatherface and Teresa May. If you watched this as a kid, chances are it still freaks the fuck out of ya, even if you pretend you now find it funny while with your mates, but behind the facade you’re praying child-murdering Pennywise doesn’t suddenly appear in a drain on a rain-filled day promising that “they all float down here”.
The Omen (1976)
As with a lot of films in the horror genre, avoid remakes or sequels, and reach for the original. They’re invariably the best and The Omen is proof of that. A young boy may be the Antichrist in this religious horror classic. While recent movies rely on torture porn to get scares, classics like The Omen manage to make a cherubic little shitbags like Damien genuinely terrifying.
The Descent (2006)
This is in the list ’cause as well as being pretty fucking scary, it’s actually just a brilliantly made British film. As with a lot of horrors, a group of people go awandering in unfamiliar terrain only to come across somethings that are out to kill them. It’s a well worn staple but is done fantastically well in this modern horror classic.
The Shining (1980)
Much like my reason for including The Descent, I’ve picked The Shining as it’s a terrifyingly unsettling masterpiece of a film. Stephen King, on whose source material the film is made, was reportedly unhappy with Kubrick’s interpretation of the story of a father and son influenced by the malevolent spirits haunting the remote Overlook Hotel. Beautifully shot, with one of the first extensive uses of Steadi-Cam in a Hollywood film, The Shining is at times terrifying, disturbing and hilariously camp, in particular Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance. This is 100 per cent a film you should watch over Halloween weekend.
Being a bit of squeamish sort I tend to avoid horrors that rely solely on showing you some disgusting torture porn subgenre. But the first Saw film gets a pass for at least trying to build a semblance of a story around albeit shaky plot devices which pits characters against each other and forces them to contemplate horrific acts (eg. the saw of the title) to win freedom.
Blair Witch Project (1999)
Like Paranormal Activity, this ‘found-footage’ account of a group of investigators heading to the woods in the hopes of uncovering evidence of a legendary local witch absolutely put the fucking shits up me. A lot of people hated it and didn’t find it scary, but I absolutely did. Probably ’cause I watched it alone in the dark in my Granny’s creaky old house, i.e. the way all horror movies should be watched.