What to Watch this Halloween: Sam’s Picks

I love horror movies. Fear is an intense, real emotion that is one of the greatest reminders that you are alive. Which is why every Halloween I make sure to sit down with a few friends and get my blanket ready to hide behind as I discover new horror films. This Halloween, I am going to recommend the five greatest horror films I have ever seen. Blankets at the ready…

  1. The Evil Dead (1981)

This film, directed by Sam Raimi, was ahead of its time when it was first released. The Evil Dead tells the story of a group of young adults trapped in a cabin in the woods while being chased by an evil presence. Cliché, right? Wrong! Although this idea has been done to death now, the cabin in the woods was not a common setting for horror movies of the time. Although the idea of an evil or possessed item was something that had been seen before, it was the execution which really brought this film to life. Sam Raimi’s disturbing use of make-up and practical special effects turn the actors into nightmarish creatures from hell. To create the white-eye effect the actors had to stick thick contact lenses on their eyes, which were taken out every 15 minutes to allow the eyes to breathe. This alone shows how everyone involved in the film was incredibly committed, and that commitment can also be seen in Bruce Campbell’s acting. He plays a character losing his mind incredibly convincingly, and makes a really entertaining performance.

  1. Evil Dead (2013)

No, I’m not making a mistake – Evil Dead is a remake of The Evil Dead, written and directed by Fede Alvarez. This film got Sam Raimi’s blessing, and rightly so. It’s got the same premise, but things play out very differently. The protagonist is replaced by Mia, portrayed by Jane Levy, who does an excellent job of playing a girl getting possessed by a demon and fighting against her own body, as Ash did in the original. Rife with gross-out, gore horror created with practical effects, Evil Dead brings a cringe at every moment. From slicing her tongue open to getting raped by a tree, this refreshing take on a cliché story is one of those films that are just hard to watch. Perhaps it takes a perspective from outside of Hollywood to create a unique look for a horror film; regardless, Evil Dead is a must-see for any horror fan.

  1. The Babadook (2014)

The best kind of horror film is one which gets under your skin and makes you scared, not only during but after watching the film. This film hit the nail on the head in that regard. A powerful performance by Australian actress Essie Davis brings life to the story of a mother trying to look after her troubled child while grieving for her late husband. Her mind starts to unravel over the course of the film as she becomes stalked by the Babadook, a monster from a children’s story. Though her son is convinced there is a monster following her, she remains sceptical and it takes its toll. While advertised as a creature feature, The Babadook was much more of a psychological film than its promotion would suggest. The repeated use of characters asking her if she’s okay and the subtle changes to her make-up and hair throughout the film build to a crescendo in the final act, which is a truly intense piece of filmmaking.

  1. 1408 (2007)

Perhaps it was the repeated use of Karen Carpenter’s haunting voice singing “We’ve only just begun”, perhaps it was the claustrophobia of being trapped in one room for most of the film, or perhaps it was John Cusack’s character turning from sceptic to suicidal which I could relate to as a horror enthusiast. Whatever it was, 1408 made me afraid of hotels. Based on a short story by Stephen King, it follows Mike Enslin, a writer trying to disprove the existence of haunted places, as he meets his match with a hotel room which tries to drive him to suicide. The sound design is incredibly immersive, so when John Cusack is experiencing all the things this room throws at him, you feel as though you’re going through it with him. Not only that we saw him in a real room which could tilt and freeze and was really set on fire to make the whole ordeal feel real.

  1. The Shining (1980)

Stephen King never disappoints, especially when he’s writing about hotels that make men go insane. However, The Shining is a bigger, better, scarier tale than 1408. Jack Nicholson plays Jack, a writer trying to earn some money by looking after a hotel during the winter. The hotel possesses the character, convincing him to kill his wife and child. Stanley Kubrick’s direction creates a haunting atmosphere by misleading the audience with cuts which suddenly change the situation, such as the bathroom scene where Jack believes he is kissing a beautiful young woman, until he realises she is a rotting corpse. These scenes are only made more effective by Jack Nicholson who gives his best ever performance, and the most convincing portrayal of a possessed maniac on this list (only just topping Essie Davis) – not to mention his iconic improvised line, “Here’s Johnny!” He is the perfect actor for the role, being directed by the perfect director, resulting in the perfect horror movie. Whether you love horror or hate it, The Shining is a film anyone should see just for the genius filmmaking. There is even a documentary on the many interpretations people have made about it called Room 237, which I would also recommend for an insight into this cult phenomenon.

So that’s my opinions on my favourite horror films ever. Please make sure to check out at least one of them this Halloween and let us know your favourite horror films in the comments!

Sam Packer

Editor’s Note: The Film Society will be playing The Shining TOMORROW (Thursday 29th October 2015) at 7.30pm in ELT2. Come and join us!

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