For me, and most horror junkies, October is horror movie month. I have fond memories of being a kid and heading to Blockbuster or Hollywood video with my father to pick out a few horror movies for a weekend viewing. We would sit in our living room, lights out, me hiding in the couch's cushions, and my old man braving the events taking place on-screen with white-knuckled resilience. Although I hardly ever made it through an entire film without having to leave the room for an extended "bathroom break," they are nostalgic memories for me.
Since 2020 has decided to throw out the playbook for normalcy, I foresee many us spending extended amounts of time inside this coming fall and winter (if we haven't already). So, to give you guys something to look forward to in the coming months, I've decided to curate a list of five horror films that I think are worthy of your viewership. Those who scoff at horror films-I believe you might be surprised by what the genre has to offer. And with that, let's begin.
1.) Grave Encounters
A buddy and I discovered this film in college, and it quickly became one of my favorite indie films to date. The film follows a group of paranormal activity investigators filming an episode for their show inside an old abandoned insane asylum. It's a blatant nod to the shows such as T.A.P.S. and Ghost Hunters. What is great about this film is it starts off as kind of a joke. The investigators know what they're doing is a sham. Naturally, they don't believe they're getting into
anything serious when they enter the asylum. Even during the filming, they try to make the show believable, despite their massive doubts. When chairs move, doors slam, and voices are heard down dark corridors, the film dives headlong into everything you expect from a found-footage ghost film, but thanks to the setup, it feels different. I've seen this movie a handful of times, and there are still parts that creep me out. What keeps me coming back to it is the behind the scenes footage of how I perceive actual ghost hunting shows to really play out. It should be mentioned that I'm a sucker for found-footage movies. It's the easiest (and some will say the cheapest) approach to get me invested in the film. To me, it's what V.R. is to video games. I don't care how corny or awful it is, I'm still going to watch it. Grave Encounters is an excellent watch for any group movie night.
2.) Event Horizon
I love it when horror crosses genres, especially when that genre is science fiction. Heck, I even went so far as to watch Jason X, which is Friday the 13th in space (no, it wasn't great, but what did you expect?). Event Horizon tactfully toes the line between the two genres without totally losing the suspension of disbelief along the way. It follows a rescue crew sent to an area around Neptune to see what has become of the once missing space ship Event Horizon. The film takes itself seriously, is filled with a star-studded cast, and is paced perfectly. I enjoyed that it didn't rely on gore or jump scares to keep you invested. It slowly built real terror. When a movie can do that, not just scare you, but illicit dread, you know you have something special on your hands. The closer each character gets to solving the Event Horizon's mystery, the closer they come to discover that death isn't the scariest thing a person can experience. I watched this one alone, and I think you should do the same. That way, you are not distracted and can truly immerse yourself in the world the film constructs.
3.) Tucker and Dale vs Evil
If there's one thing that horror does poorly, it's comedy. Remove the Scary Movie franchise from the table, and you're still left with slim pickings. What is it about horror and humor that doesn't mix well? And for the record, I'm talking about broad-reaching comedy, not the dark kind you find in Rob Zombie films. Enter Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The name alone evokes memories of The Evil Dead, one of the few horror-comedies worth discussing. I watched this movie with a couple of friends, both as far from horror fans as you could get, and we all ended up loving it. It's a spoof of the classic 1980s slashers where a group of college kids goes camping in the woods, only to believe they are being hunted by a couple of backwoods bumpkins. The story is told from the hillbilly point of view and takes the side of "it's all a misunderstanding." In my opinion, this makes for comedy gold. Although gruesome and gory at times, the movie exceeds the horror elements to the point of laughter. When the kids accidentally start killing themselves in retro-horror tropes, I instantly fell in love with Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The moral of the story is nothing to write home about. Still, the film, as a horror-comedy, should be watched at sleepovers across the country.
4.) Let the Right One In
Wow. What a film. I watched this one on a whim one afternoon after hearing about how it takes a slightly different approach to the whole romantic-vampire sub-genre. In the wake of the Twilight phenomenon, I can safely say I was wary of any more romantic horror films involving vampires. But, Let the Right One In is to adults what Twilight is to teenage girls. It tells the story of a bullied and outcast boy named Oskar, and his relationship with a girl who turns out is a vampire. They're both around the age of twelve (Oskar is. It's unclear how old Eli is in the film), making for a more innocent and believable relationship. This one safely sits in the horror genre but is more of a close up look at friendship, love, bullying, and sacrifice. I was glad I watched this one alone because I needed a while to process all that had happened when I finished it. Not that the film is confusing or convoluted by any means, but the themes it tackles and exercises throughout are heavy and pertinent to all ages. It's a lovely dark tale, and I think it is an excellent introduction to those on the fence about horror. It's not always blood, gore, demons, and ghosts. Humanity is at the core of these stories, and it's worth sussing out.
5.) Get Out
What hasn't already been said about Jordan Peele's horror debut? The man gets the genre to the point of an auteur. Get Out is simple in story, telling the tale about a bi-racial couple visiting the girl's parents for the weekend when things start to get a little strange. Peele's film packs so much into
its one hour and forty-four minute run time that it almost forces you to watch it twice. If it's any consolation, this is my wife's favorite horror film, and she barely watches anything in the genre. We actually went to the theater twice to see it and felt like we saw an entirely different movie the second time through. Part of the reason I love this film so much is that it's an entirely fresh idea while still using classic horror tropes. You've got the estranged family living in the woods (granted, it's more of an estate in this film), an outcast dropped into a society he doesn't understand, and growing panic and dread. Everything you can want in a horror film, but with a totally new edge. It's said that there's nothing new under the sun, and this is true to an extent, but I believe Get Out challenges that notion. The twist alone at the end is worth the watch. I think this one is best shared among friends, both horror lovers, and haters, because of all it has to offer. You and your buddies will be talking about it for days after, I promise.
I realize this isn't an exhaustive list, and even while I was writing it, I thought of many more films I wanted to include (honorable mentions: 28 Days Later, The Void, The Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead, Housebound). But, I tried to curate a list that had a little bit of everything while staying away from classics and gore-fest films. The horror genre gets a bad rep sometimes, and I know I will be on the front lines to defend it.