Oh baby it’s the blessed spooky day, the big ya-hoo, Halloween fatherfuckers! It’s snuck up on us again like a Xenomorph in a medium to large ventilation system, but do not despair, I have prepared for this day since the last. I’ve asked site contributors and friends alike to recommend their favourite ever horror films in an attempt to guide you through your halloween horror evening, and let me tell you there are some gosh darn doozies in this list. So kick back, grab a… halloween themed drink and a wee fun size bag of malteasers and enjoy this compendium of trepidation. Let’s rock.
Liam Menzies (Site creator, wee guy): The Fly
From the impressive visual effects to Jeff Goldblum’s obsessive, deteriorating (ay-oh!) performance, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is the film you’ll always bring up whenever the topic of remakes is brought up. It can serve as a haunting demonstration of the attitude towards terminal illnesses (including AIDS which is often brought up in analysis) but even on a surface level viewing, The Fly is a chilling, often traumatic flick that is equal parts tragedy as it is horror.
Ethan Woodford (Staff writer, shagger): What We Do in the Shadows
Maybe not a horror film per se but a spooky film nonetheless, What We Do In The Shadows is essentially The Office but with vampires, Taika Watiti directs this hilarious film while also starring. Combining dark humour with the occasional gory moment, this film is something unique and one I always think of when it comes to important comedies of the last few years.
Charlie Leech (Staff writer, legend): Martyrs (2008)
Not many would describe the 2008 French film Martyrs as their “favourite”, but it is a film that is truly horrific. The first five or so minutes of the film suggest a run of the mill horror film is about to unfold, but that is disposed immediately with a gruesome home invasion. From there, the true monster of this film becomes apparent, and the film devolves into depths not many others would venture into. After a truly affecting first half, the film lurches further into territory that is some of the most despairing ever put onto film, and is approached with a heavy word of caution. A film that demands attention, Martyrs is a horror film that is truly that, horrifying.
Josh Adams (Staff writer, twink): The Shining
Arguably the legendary Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “The Shining” is the type of horror film that doesn’t make you jump out of your seat but chills you to your bones as you watch Jack Torrance’s descent into murderous madness. Everything about the film is stunningly, obsessively detailed – from the twisted score to the eerily still camera work, every working part seems designed to alienate the viewer and give them some sort of anxiety disorder in the process. And the acclaimed results of its hard labour are shown in the ubiquity of its impact on popular culture: you can’t axe down a door without someone yelling “HERE’S JOHNNY!”, or an elevator full of blood spilling its contents over a hotel lobby. Some people argue that Kubrick’s films have no soul, that they are purely cerebral works intended for the intellectual and the pretentious; but I can guarantee you that no other film like “The Shining” has left me so shaken to my core.
Olivia Armstrong (Site editor, host of Plastic Showreel Podcast): Inland Empire
My favourite kind of films are the ones that leave me in a strange state of mind. They swirl around my subconscious and usually appeal to extreme emotional thinking. This is one of the many reasons I love David Lynch so much: dreams are a huge fascination to both him and I and many of his films operate on the emotional logic of dreams. While much of his work has creepy elements and dark fears lurking in the subconscious, Inland Empire is over three hours of pure, high-octane nightmare fuel. Both Lynch fans and critics regard it as Lynch’s most intense and disturbing film and the extent in which it invaded my mind and got under my skin solidifies it as my favourite horror film in terms of impact.
There are many horror films I love, some for their artistic merit (such as Suspiria, It Follows and this year’s Hereditary), some for their pure fun (such as Halloween, the Elm Street films or Hocus Pocus). But in terms of what truly horrifies me? No one does it like Lynch and Inland Empire is his incomprehensible opus and the scariest film I’ve ever seen.
Kelvin Johnston (Writer, lover, friend) Hereditary:
My favourite horror film of all time is, unfortunately, an unanswerable question. Much like asking a parent which child is their favourite? However, at this very moment in time my favourite horror to watch is A24’s ‘Hereditary’.
I can’t remember the last time I went into the cinema, as giddy as I was, to see a horror film and left completely satisfied. Hereditary is strikingly beautiful, it is sublimely edited and down-right fucking terrifying. It toys with cultism and demonic possession, often attempted and usually failed, but in this instance the two go together smoothly hand in hand, in the 2 hours 7 minutes that Hereditary offers.
I look forward to finding the next horror film that makes me feel the way that Hereditary does, but in the mean time I am happy to go back to Ari Aster’s horrifying gift to us all.
Evan Forman (Author, graphic designer, fighter): A Field in England
My hot take is that A Field in England is a Gothic Marxist masterpiece about the occult origins of capitalism, but that’s another article.
I don’t actually like horror films, I don’t think they’re scary. I think they’re boring. I think the jump-scares are cheap. The plots are predictable, and the characters are clichéd little puppets whose purpose is to die. And then the alchemist O’Neil – played by Michael Smiley, who arrives into this film by accident, when the other characters pull him out of a faeirie ring, then strings them along searching the field for buried gold – stops trying to shove stones into the mouth of his colleague Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) and instead leads him into his tent. And then the other characters cover their ears as Whitehead starts screaming. But it doesn’t come from the tent, the sound is non-diegetic: it is coming from outside the film, and then it suddenly isn’t.
The tent’s opening parts slowly, and Whitehead emerges. He’s grinning and his eyes have retreated into the back of their sockets. His face isn’t mangled, there’s no visible special effect. By sheer force of Acting(TM), his face is just wrong. The film’s folksy soundtrack is gone, its historical verisimilitude shattered by this holy electronic drone from the future being birthed here. And then he fully trudges out of the tent and he’s seizing and jittering like a puppet – one of many images in this film that would later show up in Bowie’s Blackstar video… and there’s a rope around his neck that leads back into the tent. And then O’Neil walks out holding the end of it. Outside the protective bubble of the field (played by Sara Dee, apparently, who plays a field, because this film is mental) there is a civil war, and men are being used as tools for their masters: serfs, soldiers, cannon fodder. But right now Whitehead is being used as a sniffer dog. This is maybe the third or fourth wildest thing that I will see watching this film, and it’s fucking terrifying.
Oliver Butler (Site editor, mighty one): Coraline
Might be a bit of an out there choice, but Coraline is an expertly done horror. No, it’s not MEANT to be a true blue horror, but Gaiman’s fairytale was brilliantly translated into an on-screen scarefest.
Let’s be honest, the Other World is straight up horrifying, and is enough to give you nightmares for the rest of your days. It’s a masterfully produced piece of cinema, and only serves to chill your spine.
Catherine McNie (Uni student, my girlfriend (her finest and most prestigious accolade)): Coherence
One film which, although maybe not my favourite ever (I’m far too fickle to answer definitively anything like that!), has stuck with me recently is Coherence (2013, dir. James Ward Byrkit). I was recommended this mind-bender by none other than Mr. Cordiner, and was far from disappointed with its low-budget take on a dinner-party-gone-wrong scenario, a chilling premise even before it might force you to reminisce slightly of Higher Physics (I think the mention of the word ‘Schrödinger’ still managed to set off my fight or flight response). All in all, I really enjoyed this film, and have caught myself still pondering it many times since my first watch – and the fact I was more confused after processing it than I was during is definitely no bad thing.
Jake Cordiner (Site editor, Retail Worker, Catherine McNie’s boyfriend): Mandy
Mandy is one of the hardest films to pin down I have ever seen. The first hour is a meandering, plodding, almost fantasy-like fable about a couple who live in the forest. Then a mad cultist gets chucked in, then it becomes a surrealist revenge film, then it becomes body horror, then it becomes about 15 other things at once. It excels in each and every one of the genres it touches on, with Nicolas Cage giving a career best performance and Panos Cosmatos cementing himself as one of the most exciting directors around after just 2 films, it is quite simply put, remarkable.
I can tell that Mandy, if and when it gets a more widespread release (to be fair the DVD was just released and i’m not sure how much more widespread you can get in this day and age). To rephrase, when Mandy enters the stream of popularity and chainsaws its way into the cultural zeitgeist, it may end up being the single most polarising film of the century. And it is all the better for it.
Mitch Bain (Band boy, Host of Strong Language and Violent Scenes Podcast): May
Having got into horror a lot later than a lot of my friends, it took me a while to pull away from the mainstream and start to develop a real horror taste of my own. Lucky McKee’s 2002 film ‘May’ was absolutely crucial for that. Having come across it in an article about the best horror films since the turn of the millennium, the story sounded considerably more subtle and nuanced than a lot of what I’d watched up to that point, so I decided to take a chance on it. It’s an INCREDIBLE film that made me realise the kind of horror film that I love the most: films that start out functioning as straight-up character drama and casually introduce a horror element. May is, over and above anything else, an intense study of its titular character. Played with unbelievable poise and relatability by Angela Bettis, it’s effectively the story of an extremely socially awkward woman, the product of a damaging childhood, and the difficulty she experiences forming meaningful relationships, both platonically and romantically, in her adult life. This is portrayed in a balanced and sympathetic way until the film builds to a shattering, emotional climax. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, May’s more adventurous and blunt-force third act would have descended into farce, but by the time the film reaches its devastating final scene, it’s laid such a convincing groundwork that nothing about this ever feels anything other than deliberate, moving and beautifully executed. This film changed what I thought horror was and could be in a way very few films have since.
Seán Donohoe (Site writer, cool name haver): Suspiria (1977)
I vividly remember the first time I watched Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The vibrant colours, the pounding score, the feeling of dread that hung over me as I made my way upstairs afterwards. It was my first date with Italian horror cinema and I was absolutely smitten. What had me so unsettled was how Argento managed to target the senses so well, instead of aiming to make the audience jump he sought to get under their skin. From the visceral death sequences, to Claudio Simonetti’s whispering chants on the score, both sound and vision fall victim to Argento’s wicked mind. It all feels like another world entirely, a psychedelic fever dream of magic and murder. Even after all these years and all these watches I’m still mesmerised by Suspiria and I don’t think any other film has since had such an effect on me.
Rory McArthur (Site writer, honorary Australian): Green Room
It’s more of a thriller/horror blend, but Green Room must be one of the scariest films of recent years. Nothing supernatural here, just a horrifying spiral of violence that’ll have you shaken to your very core. A punk band witness a murder at a Nazi-owned venue in the middle of the woods, and things get just as crazy as that premise promises. Over 90 tightly-wound minutes, you’ll breathe approximately 4 times, at most. The Nazis, led by Patrick Stewart of all people, are absolutely relentless in their brutality, but as the body count rises you just get drawn deeper and deeper into this twisted nightmare, wanting to look away but finding yourself totally unable. Maybe one to avoid for the faint of heart though, there’s one scene involving Imogen Poots’ character using a box cutter and just…you’ll know it when you see it. It also features one of Anton Yelchin’s final roles, and arguably his best, so what are you waiting for? Go watch Nazis vs. Punks this Halloween!
Kathryn Smith (Master of English, soon to be Spaniard): The Others
Ye canna beat an old fashioned ghosty story, can ye? And that’s exactly what you get from Alejandro Amenábar’s 2001 film, The Others. Its packed with all the classic Gothic tropes; the secluded location, the creaky Victorian mansion, the atmospheric fog, the ‘what the hell is going on here?’ feeling. The Others made me realise as a 12 year old that horror didn’t always have to rely on gore to be frightening. Instead the film employs two distinctive attributes; pace and tension, in order to create terror. The truth is slowly revealed through a careful peeling back of the layers, and the audience is often left peering behind a clenched pillow. Who can forget the puppet scene? It still makes me uneasy to this day.
Andrew Barr (Site writer, Uni student, Hopeless): Insidious
I’m probably the furthest you could get from an authority on horror so my choice is probably embarrassingly mainstream. I’m gonna talk about Insidious. I’ll show my age here because me and my pals were shit-scared by even the trailer but nowhere near old enough to see it in the cinema. As such, it built a cult reputation amongst us with folk talking about older siblings and cousins who had to leave the cinema out of sheer horror, while none of us could get a hold of it ourselves. Anyway, a few months after it’s release and long before the DVD became available I went on a family holiday to Turkey and found a bootleg DVD in a market. Needless to say I was the coolest kid in school after this, and for the next few months any sleepovers would consist of me bringing my insidious DVD. I must have seen the film about 8 times in a year at that point, and while I was far younger then and haven’t revisited it at all recently, I can’t forget how on edge I would find myself even after a tedious amount of repeat viewings, and even now I find the quote “it’s not the house that’s haunted, it’s your son” etched in some dark corner of my brain.
There you have it then my beautiful ghouls and ghoulettes, a pantheon of spooks to last you through the wee hours of halloween night. On a rather personal note, i’d like to thank each and every person who has read, shared or liked these past few halloween pieces from the bottom of my heart. I wasn’t sure if i’d ever be able to write journalistically again after the shite my brain’s thrown at me over the past few months but here we are, and i’m here to stay. Special thanks to Site runner and good pal Liam Menzies for having faith in me and giving me the time and space I needed to get back into the writing headspace. All love brother. Have an incredible Halloween, I’ll be hearing from you all very soon. Love you.