Can’t be bothered to go out over Halloween? Grab a blanket and a teddy bear and watch Ophelia Lai’s suggestions instead
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Two Americans are backpacking across the Yorkshire moors when they are attacked by a werewolf –havoc and hilarity ensue. John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London is a classic of the horror-comedy genre and has since gained a cult following. While the special effects in this pre-CGI horror may appear dated to contemporary audiences, the ingenious use of prosthetics by Rick Baker, for which the film was awarded an Academy Award, makes this cult classic no less adept at delivering thrills. Fun fact: Director John Landis would go on to direct everyone’s favourite Halloween-themed music video, Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
An arty horror film from cinema’s perennial enfant terrible, Lars von Trier, Antichrist is controversial, shocking and very, very scary. It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as the unnamed couple who, after experiencing a painful loss, retreat to their creepy cabin in the woods called Eden in an attempt to recover and move on. Naturally, this plan is ruined as a series of increasingly bizarre events, including an encounter with a terrifying talking fox, take place. Make what you will of the film’s substance, but von Trier proves himself a master of style in this visually arresting and atmospheric film. The sense of dread and paranoia is so powerful even the sound of acorns pattering on the roof will make you break out in a cold sweat. Never have I been in such a constant state of fear for the entirety of a film.
Under the Skin (2013)
Jonathan Glazer’s first film in almost 10 years since 2004’s Birth is a science fiction thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien who arrives in Scotland and goes on the prowl for human prey. Not quite a jump-out-of-your-seat horror film, Under the Skin nonetheless appears on this list for the chilling sense of dislocation and unease that stays with you long after the popcorn is finished and lights turned back on. This film also boasts probably the creepiest film soundtrack after Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
A remake of the 1922 German Expressionist horror film, Nosferatu, by F. W. Murnau, Werner Herzog’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire story is probably one of the most tragic. The focus is shifted from the death and destruction caused by the Count to ruminations on time, existence and futility. Pestilence and death are presented in an almost banal and objective documentary style. The most powerful scenes are those in which Nosferatu converses rather than kills. Klaus Kinski is an incomparable Dracula, conveying in a single look the endless torment of his accursed and lonely existence, and Isabelle Adjani is compelling as a Cassandra-like Lucy. Yet the greatness of this film lies in Herzog’s ability to present emotional complexity without romanticism. Nosferatu remains a monster, and the combination of human emotion and desire with the inhumanity of his actions makes him all the more horrifying.
Eyes Without a Face (1960)
This French-Italian horror film is tame in comparison to modern-day horror films, but this is a beautifully poetic film and certainly worth watching. The corpse of a girl with a mutilated face turns up in the river Seine. Eventually we piece together the circumstances of her death and the significance of her face. This film confronts us with the horror of bad deeds done not out of innate perversion, as in the case of, say, psychotic serial killers, but misplaced love, obsession and pride, and challenges the standard horror-genre conception of what a monster looks like.
The American Horror Story series (2011-)
Finally, for the avid horror fans amongst you, tune in to American Horror Story for your weekly dose of horror. The anthology series has been disturbing the sleep of viewers since 2011, with the debut of American Horror Story: Murder House, set in a – you guessed it! – haunted house. The show has garnered considerable critical acclaim for its clever writing and stellar performances from recurring stars including Sarah Paulson and Jessica Lange. Series 4, set in a freakshow in 1950s Florida, is currently on air and features the most terrifying clown in the history of terrifying clowns (it’s the one at the top of the page). Series 2 is highly recommended as it has just about every horror trope you can think of – serial killers, aliens, zombies, a mad scientist and even a creepy nun.
Featured Image Credit: FX