So, I have a confession to make: I love being scared.
While other women watch rom-coms and eat ice cream when they have a bad day, I can be found watching some slasher/ supernatural/ demonic/ zombie movie… but, also probably with ice cream. I usually watch a horror movie once a week; come Saturday or Sunday morning I queue up a pulse-pounding flick while sipping my coffee. You may be wondering why I get my horror fix in the AM, instead of at night like other normal people. Well, I’m easily affected, and though I love to be scared I also love to sleep. There’s been many a time where I’ve stayed awake at night mistaking my boyfriend’s bass guitar for Samara from The Ring or the demon nun in the Conjuring 2. So I sacrifice the eerie atmosphere of nighttime for the ability to sleep.
As a horror movie aficionado, I thought I’d share a list of my favorite scary movies in time for Halloween/ Samhain. If you’re looking for something scary for this season, take a gander at the unordered list below.
- The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin) – the movie that’s sure to be on 99% of horror lists, and for good reason. William Peter Blatty’s script and novel were apparently based on the “last known Catholic-ordained exorcism in the United States,” per Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s about the possession of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) and her mother’s (Ellen Burstyn) struggle to find help. The movie is a slow burner, so fans of extreme gore might be bored. But for those of you who stick around, you’ll be rewarded with cutaway scenes of a demonic face, Regan stabbing herself with a cross, and the infamous crab walk down the stairs.
- The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan) – Shyamalan’s film-making career has been spotty at best, but I personally think The Sixth Sense is his masterpiece. The film about a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) and the therapist (Bruce Willis) that attempts to treat him has its fair share of creepy moments. But it’s the chemistry between the actors and the twist ending that make this film great; well, that and the impeccable makeup and soundtrack. The line “I see dead people” became a pop culture phenomenon of the early aughts.
- Woman in Black (2012, James Watkins) – this movie is based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name. It follows widowed lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) while he attempts to orchestrate the same of Eel Marsh home, in the town of Crythin Gifford. While there, Arthur witnesses the death of several children. While searching Eel Marsh for legal documents, Arthur realizes he’s not alone. I won’t lie to you, this movie still freaks me out a lot. Like… even if I watch it in the daytime, I’ll probably still want to sleep with the lights on.
- Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, Wes Kraven)– this is one of the classic horror films. This supernatural slasher flick is about a group of teens being stalked and killed by Freddy Kruger, the iconic villain with a red and green sweater and a knife glove. Part of why this film is so creepy is because it’s so relatable; we’ve all have nightmares that feel a little too real. The thought of having all those ghoulish things come to fruition scares the hell out of me. Don’t forget the rhyme: “one, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door…”
- Ju-On (2000, Takashi Shimizu)– the Japanese version of The Grudge is much scarier than the American version. The film about a man who murders his wife and child, turning them into Onryo (vengeful spirits) is told through six different segments. Each person who enters the home becomes affected by the curse the murder formed. This film features a gnarly scene of the spirit Kayako crawling down the stairs. This is the film that made my college roommate scream so loud we had neighbors come by and ask if we were okay.
- The Orphanage (2007, J.A. Bayona)-this Spanish-language film is always in my top ten list of films. It’s about Laura (Belen Rueda) a woman who buys the orphanage she lived in briefly as a child. When her son Simon tells her he’s got a new friend named Tomas, Laura brushes this aside. Simon goes missing, and the rest of the film is dedicated to finding him. For me, the best scene features a childhood game similar to tag, simply titled “Un, dos, tres, toca la pared (one two three, knock on the wall).” This film is both haunting and heartbreaking. Fans of paranormal horror will enjoy this.
- The Shining (1980, Stanley Kubrick) – this is based on Stephen King’s 1977 bestseller of the same name. Though King wasn’t a big fan of the film, The Shining is a cult classic. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny to The Overlook, and weird start to happen immediately. Danny is gifted with telepathy, or “the shining.” This is another slow burner, but well worth the watch. The scene of Danny rolling around the hotel on his big wheel and encountering the Grady twins will give you chills.
- Hellraiser (1987, Clive Barker)– Clive Barker’s film is a masterpiece of body horror. This is the film that introduces us to the Cenobites, and their leader, Pinhead. I’m not a huge fan of body horror, but this film is well worth the watch. I mean, it’s the stuff nightmares are made of, but it’s deliciously gory. For anyone looking for something disturbing to watch, give this one a look.
- The Witch (2015, Robert Eggers)– this was my favorite film of last year. Atmospheric, gritty, and historically accurate, The Witch will satisfy your horror fix. Set in 17th century America, the film follows a family as its banished from their Puritan village. They find a place in a clearing near the woods and begin building a home. What starts with the disappearance of baby Samuel turns into terror for the family. Part of why this film is scary is because it emphasizes the Puritans obsession with sin and witchcraft. There’s also an intense scene involving the family goat, named Black Phillip.
- Insidious (2010, James Wan)– James Wan has made a name for himself in the horror film world. He directed Saw, Dead Silence, the Conjuring films and Insidious 2 and 3. When their son Dalton goes into a coma, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) experience terrifying occurrences in their home. They seek help from demonologists, who tell them Dalton is on an astral plane called The Further. There’s a scene that features a red-faced creature that definitely scared the hell out of me the first time. I seriously cannot listen to “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” by Tiny Tim without shivering because of this film.
- Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)– the definitive zombie cult classic. Romero’s first foray into the zombieverse is wonderful and rife with tension. When Barbra is attached by a strange man at a cemetery, she flees to a rural farmhouse. There she meets a handful of other people who are taking refuge from the living dead amassing outside. People get eaten, others turn into zombies; ultimately, no one survives the night. For anyone who’s a huge fan (and also terrified) of the zombie apocalypse, this movie is essential.
- The Conjuring (2013, James Wan)– Wan has a great eye for horror, and that’s why he’s on here twice. The Conjuring is a film supposedly based off the real-life haunting of the Peron family. This is the first film to explore the case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous demonologists. While you may not believe the story of the original haunting or in the Warrens, this film is worth the watch of you enjoy ghost stories, a haunting with a history, and 1970’s nostalgia. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga have great chemistry as Ed and Lorraine. Special effects and plenty of creaky doors add to the creep factor.
- The Others (2001, Alejandro Amenabar)– this and the Sixth Sense were the films that terrified me as a child. I saw it in theaters with my father and tried to pretend like I wasn’t terrified of the dead people photographs or the seance scene. Nicole Kidman plays a mother hanging on by a thread at the end of WWII. Her house is isolated, and she’s taking care of her children who are supposedly photosensitive. When a trio of hired hands show up at the house, Kidman begins to question her reality and is ultimately confronted with an unsettling truth.
Some honorable mentions: Paranormal Activity, Saw, Dead Silence, Jeepers Creepers, Child’s Play, Alien, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. I suggest spending the next few days giving at least a few of these a look – and be sure to keep the lights on.