There are many blogs in which people select their favourite 5 or 10 horror movies, but I’d find that an impossible task – surely it depends what sort of mood you’re in as to what film takes your fancy on any particular day? I’ve therefore selected five movies for what I think would constitute a perfect Halloween Night in. All these films are entertaining, scary and very different from one another. I’ve also provided alternatives (which are just as good) for those who have already seen, or don’t fancy, my first choices.
THE SERIAL KILLER MOVIE: PSYCHO
I’m sure the majority of people reading this have seen Psycho. If you haven’t, go and watch it now! It’s sublime, and is always my automatic go-to choice when I’m asked to name my favourite horror film of all time. The story is simple and clear and beautifully paced; Anthony Perkins gives a career-best performance as creepy but vulnerable Norman Bates; and it features the scariest-looking and most iconic house in cinema history. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it’s absolutely note perfect, and contains not a single wasted shot. When I did Film Studies at school, we studied Psycho, and were encouraged to note how many knife-shaped objects Hitchcock includes in the film before the famous shower scene (the intention, of course, being to unsettle the audience by foreshadowing what’s to come). There’s the line of bunting in the used car lot, the beaks of the stuffed birds, and many more. If you’ve seen it before, why not watch it again just to see how many you can spot?
Alternative Choice: HALLOWEEN (of course)
THE AMICUS PORTMANTEAU MOVIE: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE
I’ve never stopped adoring these films, and even today I often think there’s nothing better than a great portmanteau movie – which for the uninitiated is a film containing several stories with a framing device that links them together. In the framing device in From Beyond the Grave, Peter Cushing gives a delightfully mischievous performance as the owner of an antiques shop, Temptations Ltd, whose customers – the unscrupulous ones, that is – invariably meet with terrible ends. The standout story, all of which were penned by the great Ron Chetwynd-Hayes, is the second of four, An Act of Kindness, which stars Ian Bannen as a weak-willed businessman, Diana Dors as his domineering wife and Donald and Angela Pleasance as surely the creepiest father-daughter duo in horror film history. The story is both queasily unsettling and blackly humorous, as indeed is the rest of the film. All four stories are strong – the first, The Gate Crasher starring David Warner, and the last, The Door starring Ian Ogilvy, are also excellent – and even the weakest, The Elemental starring Ian Carmichael, which is the obligatory light-relief story, is great fun.
Alternative Choice: ASYLUM
THE HAMMER MOVIE: THE REPTILE
The Reptile scared the bejesus out of me when I first saw it at the age of twelve, and even today I think it packs a mighty powerful punch. The set-up is a nightmarish one – a newly wed couple move into an isolated cottage in a remote Cornish village, only to discover ‘something’ is stalking the night, which leaves its victims dying in agony, their eyes bulging, their faces black, foam spewing from their mouths. The film is imbued with a sense of claustrophobic dread and graced with a sinuously captivating performance by a young Jacqueline Pearce. For Hammer The Reptile was unusual, in that it featured a brand new monster and starred neither Peter Cushing nor Christopher Lee, and yet despite that it’s still, and always will be, my favourite Hammer film.
Alternative Choice: THE DEVIL RIDES OUT
THE QUIRKY HORROR MOVIE: SIGHTSEERS
Directed by Ben Wheatley (Kill List, A Field in England, High Rise) Sightseers is a hilarious, pitch-black, comedy-horror road movie about a socially awkward but initially endearing couple whose lives start to unravel during a caravan trip through the British Isles. Populated by eccentric characters, packed with bizarre situations and interspersed with moments of savage violence, Sightseers manages to be both shocking and an absolute hoot.
Alternative Choice: O LUCKY MAN!
THE NEW HORROR MOVIE: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
A young woman splits up from her boyfriend, drives away from her broken relationship, has a car crash, and wakes up in the basement of a survivalist (played brilliantly by John Goodman as a simmering man-mountain of paranoia and potentially explosive fury), who claims that he’s saved her from an apocalyptic attack that has made the world uninhabitable. It’s an irresistible set-up, and during the edgy, tension-filled, sometimes terrifying events that unfold, the viewer and his captive are left to work out what the survivalist’s true motives are and what is really happening in the outside world. Though the action is largely confined to one relatively small bunker, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a feverishly compulsive movie that is full of twists and turns, shocks and surprises. It’s one of the best horror movies of recent years, and a great way to end a Halloween Night of cinematic scares.
Alternative Choice: IT FOLLOWS