Looking for something fun and spooky to watch this Halloween? These are my picks—and my reasons why they’re so awesome—for some of the most thrilling horror movies out there. Perfect for staying in on the night when the border between our world and the other side is at its thinnest. Here they are, in no particular order…
#1 – The Omen
This one is a classic, a suspense-filled masterpiece of 70’s cinema. It’s also one of the best examples of the Creepy Kid genre of horror films. The darkness that surrounds little Damien is palpable throughout the entire movie, from the moment his nanny commits suicide, all the way to the terrifying revelation in the graveyard. The movie also boasts one of the best decapitations in movie history. (You know… if you’re into that sort of thing…)
#2 – The Blair Witch Project
The film that singlehandedly popularized the “found footage” movie genre, The Blair Witch Project remains one of the best films of its kind. It’s low-budget, devoid of color, with few actors and a somewhat-vague mythology, but it remains effective. Much of the tension comes from watching the characters slowly start to panic as they realize the terrifying truth about their situation. Good luck walking in the woods alone right after watching this.
#3 – Tremors
This list wouldn’t be complete without a good old-fashioned monster movie. Tremors is unique because most monster movies rely on darkness to instill the fear of the unknown in the viewer, but since the lethal sandworms attack from under the ground, it’s not necessary. Most of the movie takes place in broad daylight, and it’s still frightening. The danger is balanced with a healthy dose of comedy, making the movie great fun.
#4 – Kairo
Ghosts are invading our world through the Internet. Japanese cinema has plenty of great horror films, but this one is my personal favorite, partly because of the philosophical undertones and themes of human connectedness in a world where so many of our relationships are online, and partly because of the brilliant slow unfolding of what is actually happening to the world at large. The threat seems undefinable at first, but as the number of characters in the background dwindles with each passing scene, it comes into frightening focus.
#5 – Poltergeist
What is it with ghosts trying to reach us through our technology? This time they are talking to a little girl (resident Creepy Kid Carol Anne) through her television set. Like Tremors (and the next film on this list), the movie strikes the balance between terror and comedy. The family being haunted by these spirits is likable, so you actually care to see them survive. Even so, there are some truly iconic horror scenes here: the spooky tree, Carol Anne trapped in the TV, that horrible clown doll… moments that will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
#6 – John Dies at the End
Extradimensional beings are trying to invade our reality, and only a pair of slackers that have been exposed to an alien drug called Soy Sauce can stop them. This film is based on the book by David Wong, one of my all-time favorite Fictioneers. Want to see someone attacked by a flying mustache? How about a drug trip that rewrites the past? A young woman open a door with the ghost of the hand she lost in an accident years ago? This movie has it all (and still manages to leave out over half of the things that happen in the book). It’s funny. It’s frightening. It’s awesome.
#7 – Event Horizon
At its heart, Event Horizon is a story about a Ghost Ship. Only this one is in space. Lovecraftian Horror meets science fiction and Sam Neill gives a chilling performance as the architect of the damned vessel, Doctor Weir. Very Bad Things happened to the crew of the Event Horizon, and our crew of unfortunate souls are looking for answers. Rumor has it there’s an unedited copy of the massacre scene floating around somewhere on the Internet, but you can also just read the novelization of the film if you are morbidly curious. It’s suitably awful. But it’s Weir’s character arc and the way the ship messes with the minds of the crew that provide the real thrills here. Even in a distant future in which humankind is exploring the universe, the scariest place is still inside our own heads.