With Halloween just around the corner, I thought that I’d take a look back on some of my favourite scary films. From the desolate arctic, to the abandoned streets of London, horror can be found everywhere, and within this list I’ve reflected back on what makes these films so thrilling.
5. 28 Days Later
First of all, it’s a Danny Boyle film, so what isn’t there to love? ’28 Days Later’ is arguably one of the greatest zombie films of all time, and with incredible performances from Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston and Naomie Harris, to name a few, this story is perhaps the most thrilling descent into the apocalypse put to the big screen. The third act of this film is unbelievably intense, and only increased by the stylistic choice of pathetic fallacy, as the rain hammers down and the story begins to conclude. Personally, I love Boyle’s use of the soundtrack in this film, as songs such as Grandaddy’s ‘A.M 180’ accompanies the true ‘highs’ of the film, contrasted by an edited version of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘East Hastings’ – one of the bleakest songs I know – embodying the hopelessness of our protagonists. ‘28 Days Later,’ is a contemporary classic of the horror genre, and is a must-see around Halloween time.
4. The Shining
I don’t think that any horror list would be complete without this film. Written by the twisted mind of Stephen King and put to screen by the complex imagination of Stanley Kubrick, ‘The Shining,’ is a true landmark in the horror genre. As with many of Kubrick’s works, fans have poured over the minute details of this film to read further into the story’s subtext, and from an allegory of the American Civil War to a modern twist on the Labyrinth of Greek mythology, there is so much conversation surrounding this film that any horror-buff, or film fan in general cannot miss it. Of course, Jack Nicholson receives his deserved praise for his performance in this film, but I think that perhaps the best acting comes from Shelley Duvall. Never have I seen terror portrayed in such a real and hysterical way as Duvall does in this film. Overall, there are so many elements of storytelling that come together brilliantly in ‘The Shining,’ that it should be seen not only by fans of the horror genre, but anyone at all interested in film.
3. The Thing (1982)
Honoured for his contributions to horror at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, there’s a reason why John Carpenter is hailed as the ‘master of horror.’ Perhaps his most famous work, ‘The Thing’ features some of the most suspenseful scenes put to cinema. The story of a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of any creatures around it, we watch as a team of researchers in Antarctica are plagued by this being. What makes this film truly special (and terrifying) is the brilliant visual effects used, that still hold up to this day. The entirely isolated setting adds to the hopelessness of the film, and it is through this fear that the audience is able to experience the same terror that is felt by the stories protagonists, as they remain entirely clueless as to who – or what – the creature has embodied.
Perhaps the most human film on this list, Gasper Noe’s 2018 release tells the story of a group of dancers in an isolated hall in France, who drink from a punch that has been spiked with LSD. From there, it is the slow descent into madness over the course of the night which portrays such a real horror. Noe uses long, unbroken takes that float from one characters nightmare to the next, all whilst the lighting flares and the music blasts from the speakers. Known for his cruel violence, the director makes no exception for ‘Climax,’ and leaves the viewer feeling sickened by what they have seen, made worse only by the knowledge that the story is based on true events
There are so many elements of Ari Aster’s filmmaking style that I love, all of which are showcased brilliantly in his feature debut, ‘Hereditary.’ I believe that the best way to experience this film is to go in knowing as little as possible about the story, and so I will only provide the description from iMDB; ‘a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences.’
When looking into what makes this film special, I believe that Aster’s ability to draw out truly haunting performances from his cast is perhaps top of this list. Toni Collette gives an incredibly powerful performance, which can only really by appreciated by watching the film for yourself and becoming enthralled by her character. As well as this, the utilisation of cinematography for suspense and terror is another element that allows ‘Hereditary’ to sit at the top of this list. The art of framing and pacing in this film immerses the viewer brilliantly, whilst also highlighting the smaller, more minute details of the setting that ultimately accumulate into some of the most essential elements of the story. ‘Hereditary’ is not only my favourite horror film, but also the most terrifying that I have seen. It’s the first film that I would recommend to any fan of the genre, and the first that I would want to discuss with anyone who has a passion for horror.