Let's get ready for the scare!
Halloween as a festival is big business, some say invented to keep back the encroachment of Christmas, although, more seriously to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve, traced back to Celtic times in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. The lighting of fires to ward off evil spirits has morphed due to commercialism to ‘trick or treat’, dressing up and drunken parties. It is also the perfect time to dust of some horror films, pop them into your player and scare yourself silly. Below we’ve put together a selection of candidates to do just that, which can be found either on 4K UHD or streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime. So, dim the lights, turn up the volume and prepare to scream!
10 The Shining
When Stanley Kubrick turned to horror, he interpreted Stephen King’s, The Shining, and turned it into a must-see picture. Like all best interpretations, Kubrick filleted the novel down to its bare essentials and gave the audience an exercise in horror. Hated by the author who felt the casting was wrong and that the film missed the point he was trying to get across, and lambasted upon its initial release, The Shining quickly became recognised for what it is – a masterpiece. Psychological terror that simply never lets up, puts the audience through the wringer and leaves them wasted and drawn. Boasting career-defining roles for both the leads of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, Kubrick’s relentless pursuit for perfection led to some of the most sympathetic acting ever put to film. And that perfection seeps into every facet; be that the sound design, the set design, or the very words in the script – nothing is left to chance and the whole is magnificent and unrivalled.
The Shining can be found on 4K UHD and is currently on Amazon Prime.
Want more psychological horror? Why not look at Misery? Another Stephen King adaptation which sees writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan) tortured mentally and physically by deranged ex-nurse Annie (a simply incredible Kathy Bates) because she is his number one fan and upset by his decision to kill off her favourite character; a true edge of the seat, nail biting horror with more than a few infamous scenes!
Misery is currently screening on Netflix.
Want even more psychological horror? Check out Compliance. A little-known film based on the true events of a perpetrator using a mobile phone to call a fast-food restaurant and managing to persuade a young female waitress’ work colleagues into inflicting the grossest indecencies on her. Made all the worse by the film not actually going as far as what actually happened in real life!
Compliance is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Probably the film that Hitchcock is most well-known for, was made in response to the 1955 French film Les Diaboliques, and he emulated it very closely - black and white photography, small budget, shock twist ending etc. Whilst it might have been made to a budget, it was made with verve too and it is so frightening because the monster is so human. A softly spoken, ‘want to cuddle him’ mummy’s boy whose devotion and rage shocked the cinematic world; it is little wonder it made an icon of Norman Bates and forever coloured Perkins’ career. Still as shocking today as it was in 1960, it is now available, for the first time, in its original theatrical release form – amazing how just a few seconds can amp up the shock value!
Psycho is available on 4K UHD.
Want more Psycho? Why not look up its sequel, Psycho II? A newly released Norman moves back to his motel, only to start hearing his mother again, so maybe he isn’t as rehabilitated as everyone thinks, or maybe someone has it in for him? More of a mystery than the original, Psycho II, still manages to keep the scare factor up, and whilst it takes a few liberties with the previous film’s ideas, manages to keep you squirming throughout.
Psycho II is currently on Netflix.
Alan Parker masterfully adapted William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel, layering rich allegory whenever there is a chance, makes a character of the locations and forever damned the titular character of Harry Angel. As the bodies mount up and the circle gets tighter, the audience ends up being as restricted and devastated when the inevitability of it all becomes clear. A stunning film that you cannot escape.
Angel Heart can be found on 4K UHD.
Want more entrapment horror? Check out Triangle. More of an ever decreasing circle, Triangle twists and turns as it follows a group of twenty somethings that find themselves trapped in a ‘cause and effect’ type scenario, whereby all actions lead to an already occurred event, in a mind-bending horror that will have you lost, there and back again!
Triangle can currently be found Amazon Prime.
Want even more weirdness? You need to see Dellamorte Dellamore, sometimes referred to as The Cemetery Man. A young man (Rupert Everett) wants nothing more than a bit of romance, but has to defend himself from hoards zombies and weirdness; directed by Michele Soavi, this horror/comedy is really out there with an ending that is properly bonkers!
The Cemetery Man is currently available on Amazon Prime.
Ok, technically a Christmas film, but taken on Halloween, Gremlins is actually a pioneer of sorts, a horror/comedy that was aimed at a family audience - all the trappings of a Grimm fairy tale including the darkest of streaks; not only were Gremlins extremely mischievous, they were also quite deadly. Directed by Joe Dante, but with executive producer Stephen Spielberg clearly pulling the strings, these two stalwarts combined their talents and melded the film into a terrific whole. Dante’s horror roots are clearly on show while Spielberg’s whimsy filters through and yet combined, they produce a story that is both scary and family orientated.
Gremlins is available in 4K UHD.
Want more Christmassy horror/comedy? Then Krampus is definitely for you. Krampus as a film should not exist: a large budgeted studio financed PG-13 horror for kids that harks back to an early time - such films simply do not get made like this anymore; and yet, director, Michael Dougherty, has proved that taking a simple, yet effective story, playing it straight and being bold with design and story choices, particularly with character fates and a sour ending, a terrific film can be made. Indeed, it is a near perfect film; a good story, well told, whose character choices are unquestionable and whose tone is matched perfectly with the execution.
Krampus is currently available on Netflix.
Not exactly re-inventing the wheel, but giving it a damn good run for its money, Joss Whedon injects the stalk/slasher genre with healthy dose of monster mayhem and world apocalyptic events, in a horror/comedy that runs thick with blood and the director's typical wit and charm. What is fun about the whole is how it intertwines two horror tropes to bring about something fresh, all the while being accessible and scary!
Cabin in the Woods can currently be found on 4K UHD, Amazon Prime and Netflix.
Want another apocalyptic monster movie? Check out Life Force. Tobe Hooper lends his hand to this space vampire movie that is a total blast and typically 80’s in nature; probably best known for its naked female lead, Life Force has some genuinely scary and touching moments, terrific effects, a great score and a sour note!
Life Force is currently to be found on Netflix.
John Krasinski might have been a relatively new director, but he had clearly done his homework, honing some subversive traits and socio-political commentary, while channelling clear love and respect for Jaws, all focused through the prism of a terrified parent's eyes, results in a striking piece that works as a horror both literally and figuratively - playing out as a taut creature feature as well as a symbol for the waking nightmare that almost every parent endures at one time.
A Quiet Place is on 4K UHD and is currently on Netflix.
Want more taut horror? Then 30 Days of Night might be for you. David Slade directs this vampire piece based on the comic book series of the same name. Townspeople are trapped in a small Alaskan town during the month long polar night while it is besieged by a hoard of vampires. It's claustrophobic, energetic and frightening, and plays on your fears that your worst nightmare might not actually be the monsters outside!
30 Days of Night is currently on Amazon Prime.
4 Get Out
Get Out is writer/director Jordan Peele's debut feature; a mystery horror thriller that keeps you gripped throughout by playing against audience preconceptions, injecting pointed social commentary and wildly defying expectations, immediately putting you on a certain path with his prologue, and continuing to throw curveballs at you every time you try and figure out what is actually going on. The result is an exceedingly tense and unpredictable experience that keeps you on edge, despite the seemingly innocuous events, and with barely a drop of blood on display for a surprisingly long amount of the runtime.
Get Out is on 4K UHD.
Want another directorial debut with a genre defining film? Paranormal Activity is just the ticket. Kicking off the cheaply made jump scare horror film, director Oren Peli’s franchise in the making actually had a hard time getting off the ground; based in ‘found footage’ with not much happening, except when it does, the film, once picked up, became a global phenomenon and kicked off a slew of copycats that are still around today!
Paranormal Activity is currently on Amazon Prime.
Want yet another amazing directorial debut? Then check out Hereditary. Director Ari Aster shows that he is a force to be reckoned with. Throwing his net far and wide for stylistic choices, but keeping a steady camera, this is akin to a 70’s horror film – heavy on style, narrative and dread – setting it well apart from the trend of shaky-jump-scare dross. The story of a family being pulled apart by grief before descending into cringing horror does not let up, nor wimp out on its unconventional ending.
Hereditary is on US 4K UHD and currently on Netflix.
Yet another Stephen King adaptation makes the list, and what’s not to be scared about – a psychopathic clown that draws strength from your fears and dragging children into the sewers to devour them? King’s book is wild and full of ideas, but this chapter is wisely distilled down to just the children’s portion. Director Andy Muschietti keeps the tension high, the scares even higher and his horrific vision of Pennywise turned up to eleven. Full of nostalgia and scares, It had you chomping at the bit for Chapter Two, shame it turned out to be a pale imitation.
It is on 4K UHD.
Want more 80’s horror? Then it has to be The Stuff. The film is little more than a cheap looking splatter flick, but what gives is more credence is a satirical edge that runs through out. Unfortunately, its cheap nature can’t be hidden, from some poor effects, to bad acting, choppy editing and an overall feeling that the film screams budget exploitation, just without the boobs and gore to back it up. However, it is directed with a furious pace, keeps up the tension, comedy and splatter, all the while taking a swipe at the country that was, in essence, doing exactly the same thing with banking.
The Stuff is currently on Amazon Prime.
Showing the world how to combine horror and comedy, Shaun of the Dead, become an instant critical and commercial success. The plot is the basis for any number of zombie horror films; it is also played perfectly straight, takes its subject matter and characters very seriously, but squeezes every drop from its comedic elements while draping the whole in homages, references and straight lifts from titans of the horror genre. It is packed with wit, charm and biting (!) satire, while remaining focused on its horror roots. The climactic shoot out stands alongside any of the zombie horror greats in terms of tension and resolve. It also ends well and whilst the door is open for a sequel, the writers took the high road and went with an anthology trilogy, making the stand-alone Shaun of the Dead a one of a kind.
Shaun of the Dead is on 4K UHD and currently on Amazon Prime.
Fancy another zombie film, but without the comedy? Check out The Beyond. Helmed by Italian master of gore Lucio Fulci, The Beyond is perhaps slightly lesser known than the delightful Zombie Flesh Eaters, but is no less gory or engaging; taking pages from both Dario Argento and H P Lovecraft’s books, Fulci goes full on supernatural, skewed logic and bleak endings topped off with lashing of gore as his imagination runs riot. What’s not to love?
The Beyond is currently on Amazon Prime.
Of course, the quintessential. Forty years. That’s how long Halloween has been scaring us. And it’s little wonder why; the construction of the film wrote the textbook. It builds the tension with layers of fright, ramping up the scares, turning the screw so that once the climax begins you are at fever pitch. The slew of copycats has never come close to the original, and modern horror film-making is all about the rush to the gore, in this regard Halloween stands alone and unmatched.
Halloween is available on 4K UHD.
Need even more Halloween? What about Halloween? Halloween was so successful it was sequelled and re-made ad nauseum; 2018 Halloween ignores everything that has come before, to be a standalone sequel to the 1978 original. The film reinvents Michael as a deranged and brutal killer, while Laurie’s quest for revenge has driven away her family and her sanity. A cleverly put together film with plenty of references to the original, awesome music with only a couple of missteps that can be forgiven in the grand scheme of things. Halloween 2018 is available on 4K UHD and currently on Netflix.
There we are: something for everyone to be scared about.
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