Halloween is great a time for watching horror movies. It feels better suited to films that try to scare audiences, rather than the gorier horrors that try to gross them out. Ideally, you want to watch a film that lets you get scared and then laugh at yourself for getting so scared – but that will still keep you awake later. Here are five films that are good and scary and make perfect viewing on a dark Halloween night.
It might be an obvious choice, but few films have come close to John Carpenter’s original slasher movie for scares. The fashions may be late 1970s, but the synthesizer music feels timeless. The scares certainly do, as crazy Michael Myers escapes from the asylum and starts to carve his way through various babysitters and their amorous boyfriends. Its best tricks have been ripped off so much they’ve become clichéd, but it still works extremely well. Jamie Lee Curtis became the best scream queen of the early 1980s, and the implacable killer who never stops coming for you is an authentically nightmarish creation. Forget the sequels and remakes; the original is still the best.
‘The Haunting’ (1963)
An older, less bloody horror, ‘The Haunting’ generates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere without resorting to gore or violence. Four people go to investigate a supposedly haunted mansion for a weekend. Soon they are beset by strange and scary phenomena, focused around repressed psychic Eleanor. The loud knocking noises late at night are enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies, and there’s an amazingly intense scene where something sinister appears in the wallpaper. It might feel old-fashioned at first, but once it has its hooks in you, ‘The Haunting’ doesn’t let go. Just stay away from the 1999 remake, which is dreadful.
‘Ring’ (1998 and 2002)
The Japanese version is slightly better than the American remake, but only slightly, and either version will do the job. This features a classic urban myth plot in which anyone who views a mysterious video tape will die a week later, unless they can pass the curse on to someone else. This builds its sense of dread slowly, but with enough good shock moments to stop it getting boring. It culminates in one of the most intense scenes of sheer, terrifying horror ever put on screen, as we finally find out what happens to the victims of the tape. If this doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead.
‘The Descent’ (2005)
An excellent horror flick from British director Neil Marshall. A group of women go caving. They’re trapped underground after a cave-in, but that turns out to be the least of their problems, as there’s something else down there with them… The sense of claustrophobia in the first part of the film, as the characters try to squeeze through horribly small gaps in the rock, are so oppressive that it’s almost a relief when the monsters appear. But this is very scary indeed, and by the end of the film, the desperation of the characters is matched by that of the viewer.
This Spanish film is the best of the ‘found footage’ horrors that have been popular since ‘The Blair Witch Project’. A TV film crew follow some fire fighters into an apartment block. They soon find themselves sealed in as the city tries to contain an outbreak of zombies. The ferocious, gibbering creatures are really nasty, and the film builds to such an amazing pitch of sheer terror that it is almost too much for some viewers. The sequel was disappointing, as was the American remake (‘Quarantine’), but the original stands as perhaps the scariest horror movie of the last ten years.
Of course, it’s more fun if you are watching these with someone else, whether in a packed movie theater or huddled together on a couch with the lights down low. But even by yourself, these films are fun to watch, and are guaranteed to scare your socks off.