October 26, 2019
13 Horror Films to Check Out This Halloween by Aaron Radcliff
Horror film graphic by Aaron RadcliffSource: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
**Note: The use of stills throughout this article are for entertainment and commentary purposes only, which falls under the Fair Use doctrine (Section 107 of The Copyright Act).
Many people want to fill their nights during this time with thrills and chills, but what horror films should they chose?
Well, after a recent trip to the tattoo shop that proved I actually “bleed Halloween,” I figured I should share what I’ll be watching on the march to All Hallows’ Eve.
From zombies to possessions, serial killers and witches, aliens and more, you can find something to scratch your spooky itch.
1. “The Last Exorcism”
Still from “The Last Exorcism”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Found footage films are very hit or miss. For every “Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield,” there’s a dozen like “The Gallows.”
Fortunately, “The Last Exorcism” manages to be the former, thanks to a mostly restrained and compelling story. A film crew follows faithless and cynical reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) as he performs one of his routine exorcisms, which turn out to only be smoke and mirrors. But, when his latest case proves to be more real than he realized, Marcus and the crew must find a way to save the soul of teenager, Nell (Ashley Bell).
While its story is pretty straightforward, “The Last Exorcism” manages to pack a variety of unique scares and tension with a story that leaves you guessing until the very end.
Still from “Raw”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Wild Bunch / Focus World
Perhaps my favorite horror film of the 2010’s, “Raw” is a French-language film whose reputation preceded its release, thanks to alleged walkouts and fainting spells.
While the content of the film may not be as intense as those claims might allege, that doesn’t mean the film lacks disturbing imagery and plenty of terror.
Harkening back to the splatter and extreme violence of New French Extreme films, Julia Ducournau pens and directs a film that’s deliberately paced and decidedly feminine in its viewpoint. Ducournau relishes in making the viewer squirm with anticipation by ratcheting up the tension to a maddening degree, but she never lets you overindulge in the blood and gore, making it all the sweeter and more effective when it finally comes.
Racked with anticipation and graphic imagery, “Raw” is required viewing for fans of modern horror, but not for the squeamish among us.
3. “You’re Next”
Still from “You’re Next”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
Fans of this black comedy-horror have been pining for a sequel for years and it’s easy to see why. “You’re Next” takes the typical aspects of a home invasion film and ratchets them up to insane levels.
Adam Wingard (“The Guest,” “Blair Witch,” “Godzilla v. Kong”) weaves intense violence, dark humor, and a level of fun into a tightly-knit breath of fresh air in the home invasion genre.
Add in a stellar turn by Shami Vinson as one of the best “final girls” in recent memory, and “You’re Next” finds itself as the blueprint that films like “Ready or Not” have followed to recent success.
4. “Train to Busan”
Still from “Train to Busan”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Next Entertainment World
Many people look to Japan when it comes to Asian horror, but South Korea certainly knows how to bring the scares – especially in recent years.
Yeon Sang-ho’s, “Train to Busan,” manages to cut through the clutter of the oversaturated zombie market and present a genuinely thrilling and emotionally compelling experience.
The majority of the film is set inside the titular train to Busan as a workaholic father (Gong Yoo) struggles to connect with his daughter (Kim Su-an) while protecting her from the hoard of zombies that have invaded Korea and the confines of the train.
The heart-pounding action is enough to keep even the most calm person on the edge of their seat. Add in a dash of social commentary, emotional stakes, and a charming performance from Ma Dong-seok (who wider audiences will get to see in the upcoming MCU film The Eternals), and you’ve got a recipe for a fun, action-packed zombie horror.
5. “The Descent”
Still from “The Descent”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Pathé Distribution
How could I make a list of horror recommendations and not include my all-time favorite film in the genre? The second film from “Hellboy” director Neil Marshall is an absolute masterclass in all forms of horror.
The film’s tragic opening leaves us with a clearly broken protagonist, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), who is haunted by her grief. When her friends decide to go spelunking in a previously unexplored cave, the group of friends soon find themselves lost.
The paranoia and emotional anguish is enough keep you on pins and needles. Then the second half happens. I don’t want to risk spoiling it for people who haven’t seen it, but the film’s second half turns up the anxiety and fear tenfold while bringing in even more hidden horrors.
The humanity of our characters juxtaposed with the hellish, inhuman situation they find themselves in is compelling. “The Descent” plays with the viewer’s mind just as much as our characters.
A quick warning before watching: Make sure you watch the original British version. The couple minutes that were cut from the American version completely change the emotional impact of the story. Don’t rob yourself of that experience.
Still from MartyrsSource: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Wild Bunch / The Weinstein Company
“Martyrs” is definitely one of the most divisive films on the list. An example of New French Extremity, “Martyrs” is heavy on graphic imagery, violence, and misery, but is deeply compelling.
It’s easy to watch a film like this and only see the intense acts of torture, gore, and violence and view it only as torture porn. While that’s not inaccurate, “Martyrs” feels more distressing on an emotional level with its depictions of guilt and PTSD, and how the two follow you wherever you go.
Writer-director Pascal Laugier also takes a healthy skewering of religious doctrine, the treatment of women, the afterlife, and nihilism in a way that gives the film just as many layers as it does violent scenes.
“Martyrs” is not for the faint of heart. If you can make it through, you’ll feel dirty and broken, but ultimately better for it. A staple of the New French Extremity movement, “Martyrs” is required viewing for fans of foreign-language horror.
Still from “REC”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo Courtesy of Filmax International / Magnet Releasing
Horror fans in the States might know of the American version of this movie, titled “Quarantine.” If you’ve seen that, “REC” is the same thing, but in Spanish – and WAY better.
“REC” manages to combine a claustrophobic setting and found-footage presentation to maximum effect. “REC” doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to found footage or zombies, but it does make you feel trapped, alone, and in danger. It’s engrossing and keeps your heart firmly in your throat until the very end.
Bonus points for watching the equally-good sequel, “REC 2.”
8. “Wolf Creek”
Still from “Wolf Creek”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Roadshow Entertainment
Before becoming the focus of a TV show, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) was the uneasy, malevolent force in 2005’s “Wolf Creek.” Coming off the heels of hysteria drummed up by “Saw” and “Hostel,” Greg McLean’s look at true crime in the Australian Outback is uniquely gripping, thanks to its cheap budget and basis in real crimes.
The film’s slower, atmospheric first half draws you in before Taylor violently drags you back to brutal reality. Due to a found footage-esque cinematography, you immediately feel like you’re a part of the story without control over what happens next.
While admittedly sensationalized at times, “Wolf Creek’s” attempt to stay rooted in a true crime fashion leads to a subversion of your expectations on multiple occasions and a deeply disturbing view on violence.
Some might view the first half as boring or the second half as shameless exploitation. Maybe that’s true, but it’s hard to deny the tragic reality the film attempts to portray. It’s the cruel, unforgiving nature of the world (and the crimes that inspired the film) that make it so poignant.
Still from “Audition”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Omega Project / American Cinematheque
Takashi Miike’s 1999 Japanese classic is a film that belongs on every horror fan’s list. “Audition” balances grisly torture and psychological drama to deliver an endlessly uncomfortable experience.
Miike, of course, was not content with a simple torture film. He instead leads us into taking a side between our lead and villain, which plays with your desires of what you want to see. Do you side with our protagonist simply because he’s a lonely man looking for love (yet went through an incredibly hurtful way to do it), or do you side with the (admittedly bad) villain for getting revenge on her abusers and those who mistreat her?
There’s been debate in the subsequent years about whether this is a feminist or misogynistic film, and it can really be interpreted either way. One thing that isn’t up for debate is its deeply unsettling nature thanks to its unflinching violence yet haunting beauty.
10. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
Still from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Bryanston Distributing Company
If I told you to pick a classic horror film to appear on a Halloween list, it’s safe to assume most of you would pick one with a different masked killer. Not this time. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a grimy slice 70’s exploitation horror that still manages to evoke plenty of scares 45 years after its release.
A true titan in the horror genre, Tobe Hooper’s tale of torture and cannibals is enough to keep you on edge all night.
11. “Paranormal Activity”
Still from “Paranormal Activity”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures
When the “Paranormal Activity” franchise is mentioned nowadays, it’s met with laughs and eye rolls. Nobody takes the name seriously anymore, but don’t let the sequels fool you.
The first film in the franchise was a cultural phenomenon upon its release and still stands as a great ghost movie. Made on a mere $15,000 budget, it relies on trick lighting and a more static approach to found footage films, taking on a voyeuristic perspective of the lives of our characters, Katie and Micah (Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat).
It’s a tragic story of a woman who has been seemingly followed her whole life by an evil force and the hubris of her well-meaning but arrogant husband. Early on, you’re left wondering if things really are amiss. Yet, as the film progresses and the activity gets worse, your left watching a tragedy of errors build, leaving you helpless to do anything.
It’s far from a groundbreaking horror film, but for such a cheap budget and starring unknown actors, it’s an engaging watch that’s far better than the sequels would have you believe.
Still from “Alien”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox
The second film in director Ridley Scott’s legendary filmography proves just how horrifying the unknowns of deep space can be. Long before the iconic Xenomorph appears, there’s a thick layer of isolation and unease that gets you on the edge of your seat. Once the terrible beasty finally emerges, Alien kicks into high gear and never lets you go. Even in the safety of your own home, you’re left constantly looking over your shoulder just to be safe.
Once the terrible beasty finally emerges, “Alien” kicks into high gear and never lets you go. Even in the safety of your own home, you’re left constantly looking over your shoulder just to be safe.
“Alien’s” deliberate pace, suffocating atmosphere, and star-making performance from Sigourney Weaver sets it a step above the rest as an all-time great horror film.
Who says Halloween has to stay on Earth?
13. “Trick r’ Treat”
Still from “Trick r’ Treat”Source: 13 Horror Films to Checkout This Halloween | The Radcliff Reviews
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Of course we can’t have a Halloween movie list without a movie about Halloween. It might not be the film you were expecting, but Michael Dougherty’s horror anthology is quintessentially Halloween.
The film, written and directed by Dougherty, follows the interwoven lives of small-town residents on Halloween night as the malevolent spirit, Sam, comes to town. To go into any more detail on the plot would ruin some spectacular twists and scares.
Dougherty wrote and directed this cult film which absolutely oozes with atmosphere, delightful humor, and genuine scares. As Dougherty’s name has grown (having recently directed “Krampus and “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”), so too has the legend of this underappreciated gem in holiday horror.
“Trick r’ Treat” deserves all the recognition and love it can get. Sam deserves a spot alongside Michael Myers on your watchlist and in your nightmares this Halloween.
What horror movies are you planning on watching to get in the mood for spooks and scares? Let me know, and happy viewing.
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