It is Halloween today. While the air abounds with the trilling laughter of children and the turn-the-lights-off silence of homeowners who pretend they're not in at trick or treat hour, and whilst thousands and thousands of people debate whether you can just dress up as anything for a Halloween party or if you have to be a scary thing (and if so: just add fake blood), we are talking films. And what better films for Halloween than scary ones, horrific, horrible and weird committals to celluloid that have haunted you ever since your innocent eyes were opened to this dark side of cinema.
We are not just talking to ourselves about films. We've asked some of our friends to join the coven, sit in the dark, hold a torch 'neath their chins and chatter about freaky films. The result is a sizeable and nicely varied buffet of fear for your Halloween indulgences – from psychological thriller to pure claustrophobic horror and mind-melting weirdness, I'm not quite sure I could stomach even one of these, let alone all of them in succession. But with that said, read on and see whether you'll be nodding in frightened agreement or shaking your head and chuckling to yourself because you're actually a gore-loving monster who loves to watch unbelievably terrifying things.
The Craft (1996)
I love The Craft. It's about a cute group of misfit girls who manage to harness this massive power through witchcraft. They get into a lot of trouble, it gets pretty dark, but everything works out in the end. A good metaphor for life, and great styling.
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The Ring (2002)
When I first saw this movie I was probably around 11. I was with my sister and her friend in North Wales, staying at my grandparents. Whenever I tried to sleep I kept picturing Samara with her hair over her face walking through the computer that was in my bedroom there. It's a pretty quiet place so all I could hear outside was the sound of the wind. Now I'm older it doesn't scare me at all; truth is scarier than fiction. However I appreciate the atmospheric cinematography; it's very blue and grey, which makes it feel cold and bleak. The soundtrack is also good, subtle, emotional and creepy at the right points. The cursed video tape is and the scene of Samara crawling out of the TV is nothing short of iconic and that cheap analogue TV "aesthetic" inspires my record a lot. I like that it never really succumbs to showing shit loads of gore like many horror movies do. I've been told the original Japanese version is even better but I've never got round to watching it.
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I should probably start by saying that I loathe horror films and try to avoid them like the plague. Basically I am a massive wuss and get really fucking scared very easily - but the type of scared that means I can't go to the bathroom at night for about a month. A major inconvenience as I'm sure you can imagine. I have picked the first film that I can remember really freaking me out. When I watch it now I realise it's not so much scary but more really, really odd, that said, my 6-year-old self is still trembling behind the sofa. From what I can remember, Legend is about unicorns, the devil, Tom Cruise and some bat shit crazy goblin called Blix*. There's also a pretty intense opening scene involving a bear and a mid-80s amount of dry ice (a lot). Happy halloween err'body.
*My granny had a similar hairstyle to Blix at the time, which made family get-togethers a god damn nightmare.
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The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
I think this was one of the first scary movies I remember watching. I saw it with a group of my mates at a sleepover once. My friends parents thought we were watching the Lion King or something like that, but as soon as they left the room one of the girls brought out The Hills Have Eyes. We definitely weren't actually old enough to watch it. But within 10 minutes her parents heard a lot of screaming and came running back in to see what was going on! They let us watch it all anyway and I have to say it may have put me off scary movies for good. In fact come to think of it, it may be the only scary movie I have ever watched!
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Centered around a circus in which people with physical deformities were paraded as sideshow 'freaks', this is a film that often makes for very difficult, complicated viewing. This is in part because of the directors' treatment of his subjects. What's disappointing is that the circus performers are treated in a straight-forward, unsentimental fashion and depicted as 'real' 'ordinary' people for almost all of the film, but then in the latter stages, Browning (the director) deploys the very cliché of the performers as 'freaks' that his film has tried so hard to subvert until that point. Moral failings aside, it's a completely compelling film with poetic moments, cultish chants and incredible lighting. I've always been fascinated by circuses - their pure strangeness and surreal romanticism.
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The Shining (1980)
The Shining is one of my absolute favourite horror films. It has got so many iconic scenes, creepy kids, an empty haunted hotel and Jack Nicholson, who is just pretty scary in general. The mysterious ending gets me every time. It's a film which I'll happily re-watch year after year without it feeling dated.