The mums are blooming. Pumpkins adorn porches. The air is crisp. That can only mean one thing. Time to watch some teenagers get run down by a slasher on screen.
Slasher films are just one genre of horror movies which come calling in October. So how do you pick the best film when that urge to watch something scary boils up?
If you need some guidance to get your heart racing, here are five horror movie picks by reporters with The State.
Which of these horror movies top your list? Vote in The State’s poll below.
1980. Rated R. 1 hour 29 minutes.
By Reporter Chris Trainor
This is probably not the movie from director John Carpenter you thought you’d see mentioned here.
Many people, for obvious reasons, gravitate toward Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic “Halloween” as Oct. 31 approaches. Some 43 years later, it remains the gold standard of the slasher sub-genre, and it has inspired 11 sequels or remakes (including “Halloween Kills,” debuting Friday) and countless homages and ripoffs.
But, as years have gone by, I’ve found myself gravitating more and more toward “The Fog,” Carpenter’s 1980 tale of ghost pirates descending on a northern California town aided by an unearthly mist. It’s likely considered an old fashioned horror tale now, but it was old fashioned for its time, as well. While it’s got a few grisly moments, it’s not one of the slash ‘em up offerings that were the drive-in fodder of the era.
Instead, this one’s all about atmosphere. So many early Carpenter films were as much about what you didn’t see as they were about what you did see. The anticipation of what may be lurking around the corner is often scarier than the monster itself, essentially. “The Fog” also boasts a terrific ensemble cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook and Janet Leigh and a creepy, piano-and-synth heavy score from Carpenter himself. More than four decades later, the film also still looks amazing. Acclaimed cinematographer Dean Cundey was the director of photography on this one, and his work with shadows and lighting in “The Fog” is so adept it’s almost wielded like a weapon.
“The Fog” can be watched for free on Tubi, streamed through Amazon Prime and AMC+ and rented through various streaming services.
2018. Rated R. 2 hours and 17 minutes
By Reporter Andrew Caplan
Arguably the most cryptic and disturbing horror movie to be released in recent years comes from Ari Aster (Midsommar, 2019) in his full-length feature film debut. The movie is a cult-like sinister tale focused around a family who is grieving the recent loss of their mysterious grandmother. At the direction of the mother, the family looks for answers by flirting with the supernatural world but gets far more than they bargained for.
The psychological thriller is sure to make you tense up and to leave you feeling uncomfortable for hours after its ending.
“Hereditary” has a superb cast, led by Toni Collette, Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro.
If you liked other creepy films such as “Get Out,” “Sinister,” “The Conjuring,” “Midsommar” or “The Witch” then this movie is right up your alley. But be warned, this film is not for the faint of heart and should not be viewed by children, as it is a two-hour dark, twisted and emotional ride. There is brief drug use, non-sexual nudity, profanity and gore in several scenes throughout the film.
“Hereditary” can be watched for free on Kanopy, streamed through FuboTV, the Showtime app and DirectTV and rented through various streaming services.
1996. Rated R. 1 hour and 51 minutes
By Reporter Emily Bohatch
As someone who developed a love for horror movies at a young age, it makes sense that my favorite movie franchise is “Scream.”
Though slasher films aren’t always my cup of tea and can get predictable, the “Scream” movies are self aware with characters making their moves based on their own knowledge of scary movies. Like character Randy Meeks, I loved trying to pick apart who the psycho killer is before the movie comes to an end, and the “Scream” series always kept me on my toes. Plus, what other horror film franchise offers a franchise within a franchise.
“Scream” is a good starter movie for someone who wants to wade into slasher horror. It relies heavily on the mystery angle, and isn’t as gory as other horror classics like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or “Friday the 13th.” “Scream” has a lot of jump scares and will leave you wondering minute by minute who the next victim will be. And with a name like Ghostface, it’s unlikely that the villain in this series will haunt your nightmares.
“Scream” can be watched for free on PlutoTV, streamed through FuboTV, AMC+ and DirectTV and rented through various streaming services.
2012. Rated R. 1 hour and 50 minutes
By Reporter Lucas Daprile
“Sinister” checks all the boxes for a great horror film. Supernatural evil? Creepy kids? Couldn’t do without them. A murderer in a Slipknot mask? You got it.
While “Sinister” may not be as much a household name as “The Ring “or more recently, “Midsommar,” it weaves a deeply unsettling story around the normal tropes of the genre.
Ellison, the main character, is a true-crime writer who would fit well in 2021 where some of the most popular podcasts are those that seek the truth about salacious or high-profile crimes. Ellison moves his family into a new house and finds in his attic a box of seemingly innocent films that he quickly discovers are snuff films from previously unsolved murders. As he investigates, he finds the supernatural force behind the killings has its cross hairs set on him.
Often, horror movies are little more than products of their sub-genre. With slashers, ghost flicks or serial killer movies, you generally know what’s going to happen before you’ve even sat down. “Sinister” is different in that it uses horror movie tropes while also subverting them. It’s a nice balance of mystery and thriller. It has some of the more disturbing scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream horror movie.
I would recommend “Sinister” for fans of “Se7en” or “Shutter Island.” Compared to other films in the genre there isn’t a lot of violence, but I’d still keep the movie away from children. When there is violence, it will make your stomach turn.
“Sinister” can be streamed through FuboTV, the Showtime app, and DirectTV and rented through various streaming services.
2015. Rated R. 1 hour and 32 minutes. Originally titled The VVitch: A New England Folktale
By Reporter David Travis Bland
It was night. I was watching “The Witch” with the lights off. I had to stop. Daylight was needed to cleanse the room of whatever spirits this film was letting in.
“The Witch” is not full of gore, absurd slashing or cat scares though it has some. The film terrifies with its gray air, the woods that loom behind a family’s thatched hut, a goat named Black Phillip and the paranoia this atmosphere engenders. The film fills you with dread of the forces that might be silently surrounding you. In summation, “The Witch” is awesome.
Set in the mid-17th century with intense attention to detail by the filmmakers, the film begins with a Puritan family being cast out of a New England settlement. The family homesteads in a secluded area on the edge of a forest. When the youngest child goes missing, the family begins to turn on each other. More tragedies befall the family as members undergo paranormal experiences and become more unhinged. The father begins to suspect his daughter is practicing witchcraft and that this practice is the cause of the family’s despair.
Anya Taylor-Joy, who would later gain acclaim in “The Queen’s Gambit,” made her feature film debut in “The Witch” as the titular suspect. She puts in a stunning performance along with the rest of the cast.
The final act is a masterpiece in film making, bringing together the film’s themes of religious conviction and free will with terrifying subtly. One of the last lines still lurks in my mind.
“Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?”
“The Witch” can be watched for free on Kanopy, streamed through FuboTV, the Showtime app and DirectTV and rented through various streaming services.
This story was originally published October 13, 2021 2:38 PM.
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