By Julian Tack
October is the perfect time of the year to get your frights and scares on. With the lack of haunted houses, corn mazes, and an up in the air celebration of Halloween I thought it would be fitting to share some of the horror films you need to watch. These five films are in no particular order but I made sure to limit one film per franchise (if applicable), make sure I’ve seen all of the movies on this list, and include a variety of horror films from different sub-genres over the years. Here’s my list for the five must watch horror films:
Director Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining is considered to be a classic by many in the film industry. Despite not exactly following Stephen King’s novel of the same name, the acting performances, beautiful cinematography, chilling score, and disturbing ghosts around the hotel are enough to unsettle anybody. Jack Nicholson in particular steals the spotlight. His turn to a crazed murdering lunatic throughout the runtime is absolutely brilliant. Iconic quotes like “Here’s Johnny” and “redrum” have been parodied and paid homage to countless times. Although it’s ending is a bit ambiguous, The Shining has left a lasting impression on not just the horror genre but cinema as a whole.
Scream managed to stand out during a time when slasher movies felt oversaturated. Iconic killers like Chucky, Leatherface, Jason, Freddy, and company had already established franchises with varying results. While Ghostface isn’t the most memorable killer of the bunch, it’s the storytelling and inclusion of dark humor that makes Scream so memorable. The movie manages to be self aware of all the tropes seen in other slasher films without breaking the fourth wall constantly. Everything is on full display; the final girl trope, that one extremely cautious character, dumb decision-making and more. Funny enough, it uses that self awareness to it’s benefit. For example, the extremely cautious friend used his knowledge to inform his friends on what not to do if they ever came across Ghostface. He also talked about the successes and failures of characters in classic horror films while the Ghostface killer quizzes his victims on scary movies before murdering them. Despite the familiar ground Scream treads, the characters bring new things to the table, there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, and the mix of dark humor and violence is absolute gold. So good in fact that the Scary Movie franchise was inspired and conceived just four years later.
Considered to be the scariest movie of all time, The Exorcist caused many moviegoers to have nightmares and sleep with the lights on after release. After watching the film I can understand why. It’s depiction of demonic possession is absolutely terrifying. The possessed child, Reagan, levitates in the air, her voice becomes demonic, her body contorts in hellish ways, and those are just a few unquestionably disturbing things that happen in The Exorcist. All of these are done with practical effects that still hold up in modern day. The ominous characters, dark vibe, and simple premise also help build the tension even before we get a glimpse of the possession. That is something that normally lacks in many modern possession films.
Consensus among many moviegoers is that the Saw franchise has somewhat overstayed its welcome. While you can get enjoyment out of watching any of them simply for all the gore and violence, the original film is a downright classic. Similar to Scream, it has been parodied numerous times and even has multiple skits in the Scary Movie franchise. This was director James Wan’s first major hit at the box office. For those who may not know Wan by name he’s the director behind films like Insidious, The Conjuring, and most recently Aquaman. Saw laid the foundation for violence in horror films outside of the slasher and possession sub-genres. Even with a lower budget than the majority of movies on this list, the movie manages to keep people engaged with the Jigsaw killer’s insane traps, schemes, and shocking twists throughout. Fair warning: if you can’t handle seeing blood or dismemberment then this may not be the movie for you.
Most people know Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kreuger but more people need to talk about Michael Myers. Legendary filmmakers John Carpenter and Deborah Hill made this timeless masterpiece in 1978, years before Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact, Halloween set the standard for all slasher films that came after it. Jamie Lee Curtis’s performance as Laurie Strode dubbed her the “Scream Queen” by fans. Her final girl role pushed boundaries for female actors and is just an absolute joy to watch. Michael Myers himself is the embodiment of pure evil, you don’t know why he’s killing people or how he’s able to do the things he does. This makes him an absolute menace since you will never know what’s going to happen next. The Halloween theme is worth the watch alone but combine it with the fear of the unknown figure that is Michael Myers, terrific performances by characters like Laurie Strode as well as Michael’s doctor, and entertaining kills, then you have the perfect horror film to watch for Halloween.
These are my top 5 must watch horror films of all time. There are plenty of other ones worth watching but these particular movies are timeless, horrific, and set the bar for others in the genre. If you are a horror movie enthusiast or are just trying to find something to watch in October, then look no further until you’ve seen all of the movies listed here.