Well boys and ghouls, it’s once again that time of the year! The annual Culture War Reporters Halloween Recommendations! As always, details will be kept light to avoid spoilers and to maximize your viewing pleasure- that’s just how thoughtful we are.
Let’s dig in.
If I could give someone an example of what I think the standard should be for horror movies, it’d probably be Jacob’s Ladder.
In spite of having hit theaters a quarter century ago, Jacob’s Ladder is an absolutely chilling story that’ll unnerve even the most jaded audience of today. This is one of those all-too-rare horror movies- the kind that remember their goal is to horrify the audience, rather than create an iconic monster or lay the groundwork for a franchise. Unassuming, intelligent, and artistic, Jacob’s Ladder provides a relentless march straight through the heart of darkness, and will drag you along (kicking and screaming if need be).
In an age when footage of films are leaked on a daily basis, where the internet churns out speculation 24/7, where whole scripts can be accidentally (or “accidentally”) uncovered by the ravenous denizens of cyberspace, it can be hard to keep a film surprising.
And against all odds, Honeymoon does just that.
Forgoing jump-scares for haunting character development and unsettling atmosphere, this exquisitely acted movie manages to remain truly frightening even after its whole hideous design has been laid bare. Definitely one worth watching.
In The Mouth of Madness
How this one managed to slip by me for so many years, I will never know. In The Mouth of Madness is a film heavily borrowing from the style and lore of Lovecraft, as we witness a man slowly crack open the door between this world and cosmic evil too vast to comprehend. Fans of either the Cthulu mythos or The Mist are sure to get a kick out of this one.
The Wicker Man (1973)
No, not the hilariously bad Nicholas Cage remake rife with manic shouting and bees. The original The Wicker Man is probably as sinister as its remake is silly, and while the modern viewer might not be completely surprised by the plot twist, this movie still manages to be eerie on its own merits, with the contrasting forces of austerity, repression, debauchery, and paganism all playing out in a hideous pantomime.
Now personally, I wouldn’t classify 1977’s Eraserhead a horror movie. But seeing as how you can’t find a list on the internet that doesn’t (and how it’s really, really good), we’re going to be including it anyways.
In true David-Lynch style we’re plunged into a surreal dreamscape of dark shadows and industrial decay as we follow Henry Spencer on his way to dinner with his girlfriend’s family. What follows can only be described as a Kafkaesque journey- as maddening as it is mesmerizing.
The Babadook is a tough one. Many critics are hailing the Austrian flick as being on par with the greatest classics the horror genre’s ever produced, and if its score on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication, the general public agrees.
While I don’t think that The Babadook is the second coming of Hitchcock (I’ll tell you what is in a second), it’s still a fantastic movie, with the horror drawn less from any jump scares than its artfully frightening blurring of reality and fiction. It would be remiss of us not to commend the story’s focus on a female protagonist and her relationship with her son for bringing in a much-needed breath of fresh air to the genre.
This is what a horror movie should be, people. Well-funded, superbly acted, beautifully shot, and with a chilling story that’ll haunt you long after the credits finish rolling.
It Follows is equal part Hitchcock’s The Birds and 2013 masterpiece Stoker– with some terrifying urban legend mixed in for seasoning.
Most truly scary horror movies make their mark by “hiding the shark”- that is, keeping the grisly blood and gore off screen and left to the imagination of the viewer.
Contracted isn’t one of these movies.
For the first time on this blog, we’re going to be recommending a flick from sub-genre of “body horror”, designed to strike terror as we watch a human devolve and transform into something unrecognizable. We’re forced to watch in agony as each and every detail is portrayed in graphic detail, with the horror not coming from the mutations, but from their inevitability and the shocking fact that this is only the beginning.
And with that, dear readers, we’ll call it for 2015 (I wanted to review Crimson Peak, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that). As always, grab one of these movies, barricade yourself in your room, and settle in.
It’s gonna be a long night.