Noah Wiseman and Essie Davis in 'The Babadook' (IFC Midnight) Favourite horror movies for Halloween


What are your favourite horror movies for Halloween (or indeed any other time)?

Here’s my very idiosyncratic list of those you may have fond (or less fond) memories of – or maybe not yet met.

If you like being horrified, have fun. If you like writing horror, then study these to learn from the very best at the top of their game.

In no particular order:

1. Get Out (2017)

The debut movie by writer-director Jordan Peele, Get Out established Peele’s reputation, winning an Oscar for best original screenplay.

This disturbing and nail-biting horror story starts simply, with a young black man whose white girlfriend takes him to meet her well-off parents in up-state New York. What unfolds is a spooky take on racism with a strong Freudian twist, that will keep you hooked to the very end. Don’t expect to sleep well afterwards.

2. Poltergeist (1982)

If you haven’t seen Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, don’t hesitate. Adapted from a story by Steven Spielberg and written by him, Michael Grais and Mark Victor, it set a new standard for supernatural horror.

A family’s television becomes the source of increasingly sinister events and the children are soon in grave danger. This movie almost single-handedly lifted the genre from the B-feature low-budget dungeons to the highest levels of studio production. And psychological scariness.

3. The Babadook (2014)

From Australia, The Babadook is another directorial debut, by writer-director Jennifer Kent, based on her own short story Monster. A psychological horror, it centres on a single mother who is trying to cope with her traumatised and over-imaginative son, when her sanity is threatened by a children’s book. A very different kind of psychological horror movie.

4. Cat People (1942)

Dodge the 1982 Paul Shrader remake (please) and luxuriate in this beautifully shot black and white masterpiece by the great Jacques Tourneur. A newly-married woman becomes obsessed with the idea that she is descended from an ancient tribe who become man-hunting panthers when aroused.

Simone Simon plays her with feline grace and the movie has one of the best jump-out-of-your-seat moments in the history of cinema. So effective that producer Val Lewton copied it and gave it a name of its own. (I won’t say, so as not to spoil it). Watch with the lights and the phone turned off.

5. Under the Shadow (2016)

A Persian-language psychological horror film written and directed by Babak Anvari (yet another debut). Under the Shadow shows that you don’t need money to scare people – a mysterious cloak and clever writing will do the job just as well. A mother and daughter are haunted by a mysterious evil that somehow channels the stress of the war in 1980s Tehran. Intelligent and resonant.

6. Ils (Them) (2006)

If you believe the title card at the start, Ils (Them) is based on real events. Written and directed by David Moreau and Xavier Palud, this French-Romanian horror film has one of the scariest openings I’ve seen. When a young teacher from France moves with her lover to a remote but idyllic country house near Bucharest, they find themselves fighting for their lives against mysterious intruders.

7. The Birds (1963)

If you haven’t seen Hitchcock’s classic, where have you been all your life? If you haven’t re-seen it at least three times, why have you been wasting your time watching anything else? Hitch based it very loosely on a Daphne du Maurier short story, and moved the location from Cornwall to California, where it seems that something is going very wrong in the avian kingdom. Not recommended for cat people.

8. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

No list could be complete without Edgar Wright’s horror comedy for the slacker generation. I’m not a great zombie fan, I admit, but this had me laughing like a drain. Shaun’s life is going nowhere until he has to face a zombie apocalypse (as you do) and he has to face his inner…. well, watch the movie.

Plus a bonus chiller:

9. The Vanishing (1988)

Once more, seek out the Dutch original by George Sluizer, and not the awful American remake by (er) George Sluizer, or indeed a more recent British film with the same name. Although this is not strictly a horror as the monster is human and not supernatural, it is the only movie I have ever watched which gave me a genuinely sleepless night afterwards. Ideal for Halloween, I’d say. And you’ll need the relief of All Saints Day, the morning after.

So, do you agree? And if not, what’s your favourite horror?

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