What is Halloween but the best excuse to binge watch horror movies? In a year where this so worn out genre seem to be on the rise with the releases of movies such as The House that Jack Built, Hereditary, Suspiria, A Quiet Place, Climax and TV shows like Castle Rock, Sharp Objects and Stranger Things, I’ve decided to create Papiro and Mint’s most extensive list to date: 20 horror movies to watch or revisit during this Halloween season, with a curatorship of my favourite scary films without trying to bring up the most obvious ones like The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, Psycho, etc. Here they are:
Frankenstein (1931) by James Whale
We may look at the Universal Monsters Classics as B films, but once you watch Frankenstein for the first time you’ll realize the film is not only incredibly good and beautiful, but it also contains something we lack in horror movies that are made nowadays. Beginning with a doctor digging a corpse out of a grave in an incredible gothic cemetery, Frankenstein carries the clichés that made the horror genre what is it without being cliché for being the first one to do it. Of course it’s not scary at all, but you never take the film less serious because of it. James Whale made a movie as important as Mary Shelley’s novel, resulting in a true must-watch horror classic that helped to shape the elements of this genre we love. A marvelous film.
Diabolique (1955) by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Being probably one of my favorite films ever, Diabolique is a Hitchcockian French thriller about the assassination scheme of two women against a man who both have been romantically involved with. After dumping his body at a school’s swimming pool, the women wait for the body to be discovered until it mysteriously disappears. The tension Henri-Georges Clouzot builds here could be used as examples of directing and editing techniques through Film School around the world. The result is such a work of genius that you will finish the film with your mouth wide open as you discover its secrets towards the end.
Night of the Demon (1957) by Jacques Tourneur
Playing with fantastic elements, Night of the Demon is a B film that is so brilliant that ended up being a masterpiece of the horror genre. The film plays with two possible explanations towards a murder case: was it a person or was it a demon from a curse as a satanic cult claims? The skeptical John Holden goes to London to investigate and hopefully, reveals a fraud. However, the more he looks into the case, the more divided between reality and mysticism he becomes, resulting in a thrilling film about the supernatural.
Eyes Without a Face (1960) by Georges Franju
Being a major influence on Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In, Eyes Without a Face is a French horror classic by Georges Franju. Known for being a director of very unique visuals, the film tells the story of a doctor who kills women to steal their faces in order to fix his daughter’s face as she is disfigured because of an accident. With a plot way more simple than Almodovar’s film, Franju’s movie is remarkable for its dark and poetic visuals, resulting in a beautiful and twisted tale of love, murder, and insanity in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde way.
Peeping Tom (1960) by Michael Powel
More than an expression used to describe voyeurs, Peeping Tom plays with the name in a plot idea about a young filmmaker who is shooting a documentary about fear, using his camera to capture women’s reaction right before they are murdered by him. More than that, the brilliance of Peeping Tom is the usage of metalinguistics in its plot and the exploration of themes such as child abuse, sadomasochism, and voyeurism, making the image of the film way more important and complex than the story itself. No wonder it was extremely bad received when it came out, but thankfully it has been rediscovered through time and is now considered a masterpiece, which I couldn’t agree more. Try to watch this film thinking in semiotic terms!
Night Tide (1961) by Curtis Harrington
Probably one of my favorite films from the list and a title that has been recently rediscovered, Night Tide is another horror film that plays with magical elements where you don’t know if what you see can be explained by natural laws or is it part of the supernatural. Dennis Hooper plays a sailor that falls in love for a woman who works as a mermaid in an amusement park. However, the woman also believes she is a mermaid herself and that she is destined to murder men on the night of the full moon. With that, the sailor starts to look for answers and her past, resulting in a beautiful, poetic and mysterious tale where the magic of the film lives in the absence of all questions answered.
The Haunting (1963) by Robert Wise
There are a lot of movies about haunted houses but no other will freak you out more than The Haunting. From the same director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music, this film tells the story of several people who decides to submit themselves into an experiment in a house that is supposedly hunted. This may sound like the plot of a thousand movies that have been done before, but the way Robert Wise builds his film creates an incredible atmosphere of suspense, making you become suspicious of every little noise around you. If you can’t imagine being afraid of noises, The Haunting will put this statement at test with an incredible sound design and cinematography.
Hour of the Wolf (1968) by Ingmar Bergman
When it comes to Ingmar Bergman, everybody likes to talk about The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, etc. It’s not everybody who talks about Hour of the Wolf though, which I believe it’s one of his best movies, if not the best! If you feel disoriented with a regular Bergman film, imagine him with horror! I’m not sure if we can even call it horror, but it’s very close to the genre as the film tells the story of a painter who decides to isolate himself with his wife in a remote island. Out of nowhere, people start to appear and create psychological conflicts between them two, making the couple ask themselves if what they are seeing is even real. More than that, Hour of the Wolf is an existential movie about desperation and how we give in to our madness and fears.
A Quiet Place in the Country (1968) by Elio Petri
Recently commented on Franco Fero in 5 films, A Quiet Place in the Country is a beautiful and surreal giallo-like tale about a painter who decides to rent an old mansion in order to work. There, he starts to dream about the ghost of a woman who was killed in the house in the past while reality starts to fade away as he becomes interested in the woman, starting a dream-like relationship that will have severe consequences for his family, friends, and reputation. The surrealistic elements in the story and the Elio Petri’s mise en scene, makes A Quiet Place in the Country a beautiful movie to let yourself loose in its secrets.
Diabel (1972) by Andrzej Zulawski
Diabel is a hard movie to watch. Not only because it’s crazy, absurd and violent but also because there is so much more than meets the eye in its imagery that you will finish the film wondering if you really understood it all – which doesn’t mean you won’t think it’s great. The story, which is not very important, is about a mysterious figure who frees a man charged of conspiration in a sanitorium moments before the Prussian army arrives and kills everybody. Their way home ends up being a metaphor for the state of desperation when the Prussian army invaded Poland in 1770s, resulting in a frenetic, crazy and shocking film where all characters are bound to give themselves into madness in order to save themselves. The way Zulawski uses his camera it’s the real horror of the film, making you feel both sick and impressed – maybe a little crazy as well. Simply hypnotic.
The Wicker Man (1973) by Robin Hardy
I’ve been wanting to re-watch The Wicker Man for a while now, and since Halloween is coming, I can’t imagine a better time to do it. The film tells the story of a detective who travels to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. However, the more he meets the population, the more suspicious he becomes with their religion and lifestyle, resulting in a surprising and transgressive conclusion. What I like the most about this film its the folklore that surrounds it and the mystic imagery that reminds us movies like The Holy Mountain. If you haven’t watched, do it for yesterday!
Possession (1980) by Andrzej Zulawski
Probably Andrzej Zulawski’s most famous film and one of the most hypnotic horror movies ever made, Possession is a strange, crazy and mysterious film about a woman who decides to leave her husband. Surprised by her attitude and awkward behavior, the man hires a detective to follow her and what they both discover will shock not only them but the audience itself. With an amazing performance by Isabelle Adjani, Possession pushes the boundaries of the horror genre in every possible way by creating a film whose mysteries will haunt you down for hours after the movie is finished. A must watch.
The Entity (1982) by Sidney J. Furie
Based on a disturbing true story, The Entity is a crossover between the sci-fi genre with horror that serves as a great recommendation for lovers of films like Poltergeist and Insidious with a little bit of David Cronenberg. The film tells the story of a woman who is constantly raped by a supernatural force. Despite her psychiatrist who says this is all in her head, the woman searches two paranormal scientists in order to stop the attacks, resulting in a disturbing film about sexual assault and the portray of trauma.
Tenebre (1982) by Dario Argento
Dario Argento is mostly known for his film Suspiria, which just got a remake by the incredible Luca Guadagnino. After seeing many of Argento’s films I believe I can say Tenebre is my favorite film from the director. With an incredible mise en scene, Tenebre tells the story of a writer who goes to Rome to talk about his new book called “Tenebre”, a novel about the murder of several women. Upon his arrival, he discovers there are several murders taking place in the city just like happens in his book. What happens from that moment is a beautiful, strange and hypnotic plot where nothing is what is seems, resulting in a film full of layers of interpretations that will play with your emotions in ways that almost no other Argento film has ever done before. Not mentioning the incredible soundtrack which was used as a sample by the band Justice.
A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) by Wes Craven
I’ve promised I wouldn’t talk about the most obvious choices when it comes to horror films, but somehow I barely hear people talking about Nightmare On Elm Street. Maybe it’s because people don’t take this franchise too seriously thanks to the thousand sequels made afterward, but we can’t forget the importance of Wes Craven’s film and the several bloody sequences that are surprising until today. As most of you know, the story follows the lives of several teenagers who are hunted in their dreams by a horribly disfigured man with knives on his fingers known as Freddie Krueger. When they discover this man can actually kill them while they sleep, the teenagers start to fight for their lives, resulting in a must watch horror classic that deserves to be revisited every year.
In a Glass Cage (1986) by Agustí Villaronga
Being the latest best horror film I’ve watched, In a Glass Cage is a hidden pearl who Pier Paolo Pasolini would have been proud to have watched. The film tells the strange and violent story of a murder and pedophile who becomes paralyzed from neck to feet and needs to stay inside of a machine in order to survive. When a young handsome man offers himself to take care of him, the sick man accepts him for recognizing him as a boy who witnessed one of his crimes in the past. The boy, however, is now a big man and is planning to use him as a teacher and lover, with plans to keep murdering children, resulting in a twisted, dark, and beautiful portrait or madness.
Opera (1987) by Dario Argento
Probably my favorite Dario Argento film after Tenebre, Opera is a disturbing and beautiful film about an actress who is trapped by a murderous figure to make her watch him killing people with these horrible needle tapes. Just like most Argento’s movies, Opera is a film where things like murder and torture are exposed in the most beautiful way, being even more special on this one for being set on an opera where the characters are playing Macbeth. Mixing fantasy with reality, Opera is without a doubt one of Argento’s most brilliant films.
Thesis (1996) by Alejandro Amenabar
Another movie that dialogues with metalinguistics, Thesis in an extremely interesting film by telling the story of a film student who decides to make a thesis on snuff films. This research makes her look for these kinds of films, which shows real people being murder. When she gets access to those videos, she does not only discovers there is a hidden library on her school of those tapes, but they can also be made by one of the students from her school. The film also plays with interesting concepts of the obsession with images we watch and the lines between pleasure and pain, beautiful and obscene.
Trouble Every Day (2001) by Claire Denis
During the 90s, France released several violent and transgressive films with a political fist, being known later as the new French extremity. Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day is not only part of this “movement” but it’s also one of the best films of the movement itself. Shot in digital, something new at the time, the film follows the trip of an American couple to France during a holiday, whose husband is secretly searching for a woman who he has met in the past and is currently being held as a prisoner in a house due to her condition. This condition, who is also shared with the American man, is a sexual behavior that makes them perform acts of self decapitation and cannibalism.
Probably the most dubious film of the list, V/H/S is a modern horror film shot in the so worn out style of found footage. Differently from most movies out there, V/H/S holds a special place in my heart when it comes to horror movies for not taking itself too seriously and presenting something strange, bizarre and original at the same time. Directed by several people, the film is supposed to be what is inside of a macabre V/H/S containing several scary footages of events that happened randomly with different people. With that, the film ends up being different short-films with insane situations that don’t necessarily answer all the questions or explain what we’ve just watched. The situations, however, are extremely creative, scary and fun, making V/H/S the best film to watch among friends.