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Top Ten Horror Films for Halloween

It's the witching hour... or two!

by Steve Withers Oct 28, 2017 at 7:53 AM


  • Although 2017 hasn't exactly been a vintage year for horror films, it has been a surprisingly successful one at the box office.
    The remake of Stephen King's It has passed The Exorcist as the most successful horror film of all time, although William Friedkin's masterpiece remains on top when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. At the same time the success of Annabelle: Creation, the latest entry in The Conjuring universe, helped make that film series the most successful horror franchise of all time with over $1.2 billion at the global box office.

    However it wasn't all about box office and we also saw some really interesting additions to the horror genre such as Get Out and Split, along with some more left field offerings like It Comes at Night and I am Not a Serial Killer. The success of It partly tapped into the same 80s nostalgia that made Stranger Things such a success, and with the Netflix sensation borrowing heavily from the plot of It and that film using one of the Stranger Things cast members, it all got rather incestuous.

    Finally there have been some excellent restorations of horror classics, with Arrow Video pulling out all the stops on their new Blu-ray release of The Thing and Network delivering a lovely restoration of the classic Hammer House of Horror TV series. So let's take a look at our top ten horror films for Halloween and hopefully whether you fancy a trip to the cinema, putting on a Blu-ray or binging a show, there should be something for everyone.
    Annabelle: Creation
    Annabelle: Creation is the latest entry in The Conjuring universe – a series of movies that have, incredibly, become the most successful horror franchise in film history. The four films that have been made to date – The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2, Annabelle and Annabelle: Creation – have pulled in over $1.2 billion worldwide and needless to say there are more on the way. The latest addition covers the backstory to the creepy Annabelle doll that appeared at the start of The Conjuring and then headlined the film Annabelle. The new film is superior to Annabelle, with a solid cast, plenty of decent scares and a simple but effective storyline. It's an easy but fun watch and the film flows directly into Annabelle whilst at the same time tying the two films and The Conjuring universe together, as well as ending on a nice nod to the 'true' story on which the film was allegedly based.

    Annabelle: Creation is released on Blu-ray on the 4th of December, it will include a brand new Dolby Atmos soundtrack and you can pre-order it here.

    Get Out
    This racially charged horror film was a huge hit in the States, where it tapped into the prevailing mood at the time. British actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a black man who starts to notice strange things about his white girlfriend's family. Playing against audience preconceptions, and injecting pointed social commentary under the surface, Get Out defies expectations at every turn. The result is an exceedingly tense and unpredictable but ultimately compelling mystery which keeps you on edge despite the seemingly innocuous events, and despite barely a drop of blood on display for a surprisingly long amount of the runtime. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, with a nice set of extras but the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release is the preferred option with effective use of High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) and a fantastic DTS:X soundtrack.

    Get Out is available now and you can order the Blu-ray here and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray here.
    Hammer House of Horror
    Hammer moved to the small screen for this 1980 anthology series which was originally shown on ITV and ran for 13 episodes, each with a running time of approximately 50 minutes. These episodes were self-contained and featured plot twists which usually saw the protagonists fall foul of a particular horror at the end. The series featured a different kind of horror each week, including witches, werewolves, ghosts, devil worship and voodoo, but also included non-supernatural horror themes such as cannibalism, confinement and serial killers. All the stories were set in contemporary England and featured an excellent cast of British talent that included Peter Cushing and a young Brian Cox. Network have done a great job of restoring the original 35mm camera negative and the result is a three disc Blu-ray set that looks superb, with lovely high definition images framed in the original 1.33:1 broadcast aspect ratio. There is a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, along with a few extras that makes this a great Halloween set for fans of the series.

    Hammer House of Horror is available now and you can order the Blu-ray here.

    I Am Not a Serial Killer
    Blending We Need to Talk About Kevin with The Babadook, by way of Donnie Darko, with maybe even a bit of Under the Skin thrown in for good measure, I Am Not a Serial Killer benefits from a very interesting premise, and from two compelling primary performances. Max Records is great in the lead role, whilst his Rear Window-esque obsession with his neighbour is made all the more intriguing by a superb performance from Christopher Lloyd, like you've never seen him before. Ultimately its journey is arguably greater than its destination, but it is still an impressive no-budget sophomore effort from horror director Billy O'Brien. Shot in 16mm, the film looks pretty poor, technically, but the style arguably suits the piece, and certainly camouflages - at least until the final act - the limited budget. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also rather limited but there is an interesting selection of extras on the disc and the visual and aural limitations shouldn't put you off checking out what remains a compelling little gem.

    I Am Not a Serial Killer is available now and you can order the Blu-ray here.
    It
    This film version of Stephen King's novel 'It' was a huge hit this autumn, ultimately becoming the most successful horror movie of all time. The story shifts the action from the 1950s to the 1980s but otherwise its a reasonably faithful adaptation of the first half of King's novel, which is why the film is actually titled It: Chapter One. The success of the film means that Warner Brothers have already put Chapter Two into production and, as in the book, this will take place thirty years later and feature the members of the Losers Club as adults. The complete novel was adapted as a TV mini-series in 1990 but this new version ups the scares and gore and allows the kids to swear, making it feel less safe and ultimately more enjoyable. The kids are all excellent, especially Finn Wolfhard who is also in Stranger Things, and Bill Skarsgård is suitably scary as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The film is an excellent adaptation of King's novel and it's refreshing to see a horror film these days that isn't afraid to be adult in tone but remain undeniably fun.

    It is currently still playing at the cinema.

    It Comes at Night
    The film stars Joel Edgerton as Paul who, following the outbreak of an unknown illness, tries to create some form of normal existence for him, his wife and their son. Away from the devastating effects of the epidemic, the family is holed up in a large and secluded house, deep in the woods. Here they live by routine and organisation in order to ensure their survival but the illness isn’t necessarily the 'it' of the title - that presents itself in different ways throughout the film both from inside and outside the house. Although not a conventional horror film It Comes at Night is an effective slow burner that never really reaches it’s climax, although that is the point, and because of that it's much more realistic and believable. The film has the courage not to strive to answer every question and leaves things unanswered and open which for some might be frustrating but ultimately works to the film's benefit. The tense and paranoid atmosphere comes through extremely well, steadily building the suspense and results in a film that isn’t afraid to be minimalistic and leave fear to be created internally.

    It Comes at Night is released on Blu-ray on the 30th of October and you can pre-order it here.
    Life
    In a year that saw Ridley Scott return to the Alien universe with the awful Alien: Covenant, it's rather ironic that the Alien rip-off Life was the more enjoyable film. Set aboard the International Space Station, the film deals with man's first contact with an alien life form that promptly starts killing its way through the crew as it tries to get down to Earth. Whilst there is very little original about Life, it's almost literally Alien meets Gravity, a surprisingly starry cast and some impressive visual effects deliver a film that is enjoyable, has some decent scares and looks good. This is perfectly captured on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release which takes advantage of the film's near 4K resolution production to deliver all the detail in the sets and effects shots, whilst the use of HDR is particularly effective with the white pressure suits against the blackness of space. An immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack adds to the fun, whilst a decent set of extras explains how they achieved many of the effects including the cast pretending they're in zero gravity for the entire film.

    Life is available now and you can order the Blu-ray here and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray here.

    Split
    This horror film was a surprise sleeper hit at the start of the year, taking the box office by storm, revitalising M. Night Shyamalan's career and possibly starting a new franchise. After a series of big budget disasters Shyamalan began to make smaller budget and independently financed features of which Split was the latest. The film proved that Shyamalan could still scare an audience and tell a decent story without the need for a gimmicky twist ending – although there is a surprise at the end that makes you completely re-evaluate what had gone before. The film centres on a young man with multiple personalities, played brilliantly by James McAvoy, who kidnaps three young girls on behalf of The Beast, another of his personalities. The film is very entertaining and at times quite scary, with solid direction from Shyamalan and good support from Anya Taylor-Joy. The Ultra HD Blu-ray is a great looking disc that takes full advantage of both HDR and WCG, whilst the soundtrack is good even if it isn't an immersive audio mix. A decent selection of extras round out a set that's worth checking out.

    Split is available now and you can order the Blu-ray here and the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray here.
    Stranger Things 2
    Stranger Things was one of the surprise hits of last year, combining 80s nostalgia with a strong storyline that was part monster film and part government conspiracy. The plot centred around the disappearance of a young boy and the efforts of his friends to find out what happened to him. The influence of Stephen King's 'It' is obvious but there were also elements of The Goonies, ET and Poltergeist to name just a few of the films that Stranger Things creators The Duffer Brothers referenced in the series. The sequel, Stranger Things 2, has just arrived on Netflix in time for Halloween and expands the universe whilst retaining the charm of the first series, resulting in a story that will excite, entertain and scare in equal measures. Like the first series, the second one is available in 4K Ultra HD and you can also watch it in HDR10 or Dolby Vision, depending on your display. The soundtrack is only Dolby Digital 5.1 but it remains excellent with a great synth score, plenty of surround effects and really deep bass.

    Stranger Things and Stranger Things 2 are available to stream now on Netflix.

    The Thing
    The Thing may have bombed on its initial release during the summer of ET back in 1982 but it has gone on to achieve classic status as one of the greatest horror films ever made. The ground-breaking visual effects remain impressive to this day, whilst a brilliantly paranoid script is brought to life by a talented cast of character actors headed up by Kurt Russell. The attention to detail is amazing and The Thing is one of those films where you can almost feel the cold, making the horror all the more visceral. It's easily John Carpenter's best film but it's also a near-perfect horror film right down to its deliberately ambiguous ending. The new Blu-ray release from Arrow uses a gorgeous 4K restoration and the results are superb, whilst the various soundtracks are sure to please. There's a huge selection of extras as well that cover every aspect of the film's production, making this a new Blu-ray release a 'must-have' for fans of the film.

    The Thing is released on Blu-ray on the 20th of November and you can pre-order it here.

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