By Jessica Durston
Now that spooky season is upon us, I feel it is the perfect opportunity to collate a top ten list of some excellent horror film recommendations this week.
I love horror films. There’s just something about the genre that I find so deliciously addictive. Whether it is a cheap jump-scare thrill ride, or a slow, brooding, psychological ordeal, I’m signing myself up. There’s something almost comforting about watching a scary film, in a way. You experience twists and turns and an elevated heart rate…if you’re doing it right. It’s akin to the feeling you get when going on a rollercoaster or doing some other activity to induce an adrenaline rush - but all from the comfort of the cinema, or your own home.
Moreover, the main characters of horror films are normally battling their own internal demons or issues and there is often a meaningful emotional or psychological subtext explored within the film’s narrative.
A few titles from the 1970s are likely to appear in the below list as, personally, it is one of my particular favourite decades for horror films. Furthermore, there may be a lack of gory features as I’m slightly squeamish - put it this way, you’re not going to see the Saw back catalogue appearing within this top ten.
So without further ado, let’s get into this Tremendous Top Ten: Horror Movie Edition…
Dario Argento’s classic film Suspiria is like nothing else I have ever seen before. I happened to see it for the first time this year, and have been thinking about it ever since.
The story follows Suzy Bannion, a professional dancer who moves to Berlin to audition for a widely renowned dance company. She soon becomes highly regarded within the school and becomes a lead dancer. Suzy witnesses some strange goings-on while she stays within the dance school building. There are rumours of witchcraft floating around, and the female directors of the dance company seem to be hiding something. Suzy, a fellow dancer, and a psychotherapist work to explore the truth in these murmurings, and investigate the sinister secrets of the Helena Markos Dance Company.
It is a film about witchcraft I suppose you could say - but the plot is not straightforward and feels very dreamlike. Dario’s use of colour and gore, and the eerie and hypnotic soundtrack from Italian band Goblin, make for a truly unforgettable work of art.
This chilling film was based on a story from Joe Hill (the son of horror legend Stephen King), so you know it’s probably going to be good, right?
The plot revolves around 13-year-old Finney Shaw and his sister Gwen. The pair are average children leading a normal life, and attending school in the late 1970s. They look out for each other and live with their father, who is an alcoholic with an abusive streak.
Children start to go missing within the Denver suburbs and the abductor has been nicknamed ‘The Grabber’. Finney eventually gets captured by the town’s infamous, sadistic, masked madman and his chances of survival look slim. A disconnected phone in the basement where he is being held starts to ring and he realises he is hearing the voices of The Grabber’s previous victims. With the help of these ghostly children - and his sister, who possesses her own special talents - Finney decides he is going to do everything he can to not end up like the others that were trapped and killed before him.
Ethan Hawke gives a fantastic performance as the nightmarish antagonist, ‘The Grabber’, and I was also very impressed with the two leading child actors in the film (Mason Thames and Madeleine McGraw). Check this film out if you dare.
This horror flick is not for the faint-hearted, it’s an unsettling one. I would say It Follows is one of those game-changing movies to be released after Scream in the 1990s - and they are few and far between.
The narrative follows Jay, a teenage girl who is excited by the thrills of new love, with her recent boyfriend Hugh. The pair get hot and heavy in a car and sleep with each other for the first time right at the start of the film. Jay is then told post coitus that she is now cursed. This curse is passed to each victim through sexual intercourse.
Jay will now have a malevolent force following her, stalking her, until it gets close enough to kill her. She will never know when or where it is at any one time, but understands that it will never stop following her, and that it can take the form of someone she knows or a complete stranger. Her friends do not believe her fantastical story at first, until they also start seeing the strange figures following Jay day and night. They band together and try to form a plan to either fight it, or flee.
What makes this film so terrifying is the idea that our heroine can never truly be safe from the thing that is out to get her. Even if she passes the curse on to another, if anything happens to that individual, the curse will just roll back to the previous victim in a chain format.
This Stephen King vampire classic (based on his 1975 novel) is not one to be missed!
Our main character David, returns back to his hometown of Salem. What was once a friendly, welcoming community, now feels odd and sinister to him. As he spends more time in the town, he suspects that reports of strange behaviour from his old neighbours and friends, is linked to an eccentric antiques dealer who has recently moved into Salem.
This film has some of the most iconically terrifying scenes in horror film history, and I would urge those brave enough to check it out if they haven’t already! Stephen King’s reputation speaks for itself.
Ben Wheatley has created something so interesting with his film In The Earth. Shot during the pandemic, the film takes inspiration from something scary that affected the whole world, but then leans into a unique pastoral horror concept.
The plot follows a scientist and a park scout, who are helping to search for the cure to a widespread virus that they believe may lie in the middle of the woods. During their hike deeper into the trees, they come across some mysterious characters, and the forest itself seems to take on a sinister life of its own around them.
British horror veteran Reece Shearsmith delivers a wonderful performance in this movie. Would definitely recommend this feature if you’re looking for something a little different.
This campy, vampy film is a must for those who enjoyed the original 1922 classic, Nosferatu or its 1979 version.
Shadow of the Vampire sees Willem Dafoe cast as Max Schreck (the man who played Count Orlok in the original Nosferatu) and John Malkovich as the 1922 silent movie’s director, F.W. Murnau. The only difference is that Dafoe’s Max Schreck is actually a vampire. In this feature, Murnau is so dedicated to creating the most realistic vampire film, that he actually employs a real one. The director realises he may have bitten off more than he can chew (get it?) as Schreck starts to cause problems with his appetising cast members behind the scenes.
This creepy horror movie is based on a short story by Stephen King of the same name (yep – he’s made the list again). It appears in King’s collection ‘Night Shift’, which was published in 1978, and makes for a terrifying read. In my opinion, it’s definitely one of the best tales within the sizeable tome.
I really enjoyed watching this new scary flick earlier this month, and it is perfect to get you into the Halloween spirit. The plot follows Sadie Harper, a high schooler who lives with her father, and her younger sister Sawyer. The three are still processing the recent passing of the matriarch of their little family. Sadie and Sawyer’s father is a therapist who is not very good at facing his own traumas, which seems to allow the family to fall prey to a supernatural entity that feeds on the suffering and pain of its victims.
A chilling tale about things that go bump in the night…and especially in your closet!
I mean, it’s just a classic isn’t it? The original Wicker Man had to make this list.
I’m sure by this point most people will have seen or heard of this iconic horror film, but for those that have not, I will summarise the story…
A police officer (Sergeant Howie) travels to Summerisle (a small Scottish island), while on a case concerning a missing child. Howie, a Christian, no-nonsense, type of character is disturbed by the islanders’ strange pagan rituals, traditions, and sexual and frivolous behaviour. Whilst learning more about the island’s strange folklore and its inhabitants (particularly Lord Summerisle and his daughter Willow), Sergeant Howie finds himself getting closer to solving the mystery of the missing child. But will he discover the truth too late?
This kooky, spooky feature was released in 2016, but feels like it hearkens back to the 1960s/70s with its cinematography, costume and use of psychedelic colour. However, the film’s dialogue is punchy and modern and it feels like a feminist classic for the modern woman.
The Love Witch follows the protagonal witchy woman Elaine, a young lady determined to find a man and make him fall in love with her. She works away in her decadent Victorian abode, making all kinds of spells and potions to use when she finds unsuspecting men to seduce. If anything her magic is a little too potent, and she starts to leave a trail of tragic male victims in her wake. Elaine eventually finds a man she believes to be her Prince Charming, but will her desperation and love-drunkenness cause deadly problems and ruin her chance for a ‘happily ever after’ scenario?
I’m sure there are not many people on this planet now that have not heard of, or seen Michael Myers at least once on their television screens. John Carpenter’s late seventies classic horror film will always be one of my absolute favourites. The franchise has continued for years now, but I think the first instalment in the movie series will always be the best.
This film sees Jamie Lee Curtis first step into her career-defining role of Laurie Strode. It’s an absolute horror classic following the psychopath slasher Michael Myers, or ‘The Shape’ as he is also known. In the fictional town of Haddonfield, six-year-old Michael kills his older sister, and is subsequently sent away to a mental facility. On a rainy night in October, 15 years later, he breaks out of the institution and is set on wreaking havoc upon his old haunts - including the streets where Laurie Strode, her friends, and her babysitting charges reside.
This masterpiece within the slasher sub-genre is unbeatable and has one of the most iconic soundtracks in horror movie history.
Now that I have finished detailing my ‘Tremendous Top Ten’, I feel that I have listed enough films to get budding horror movie fanatics started but in addition to the above list, checking any horror/thriller film from Jordan Peele is also a good idea.
So this Halloween, if you’re stuck for what scary flick to pop on the telly, feel free to choose one of these features from my list. Turn down the lights, grab a blanket, and immerse yourself in the realms of the horror genre.