As a massive fan of horror movies, Halloween should be my favourite time of year to stick the movie channels on. However between generic slashers, found footage films and tragic attempts at psychological horror like It Follows, there are very little scary films about. Whilst the classics like Psycho and The Amityville Horror are great, their scare factor has decreased over time.
So if you’re like me and want to be scared by something that isn’t commitment or social interaction this Halloween, then here are four films that might just do that.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Here’s a fun fact, just watching the trailer for this film made a twelve year old me sleep with the light on, and I’m pretty sure my reaction to the full film is a repressed memory. The film follows (watches) a couple set up cameras around their house in order to catch suspicious activity, instead of doing what normal people would do and moving out. Paranormal has a lot of the cliches found in found footage horror but that’s because, along with The Blair Witch Project, it invented them. It did jump scares before they became a cheap scaring tactic. One thing Paranormal Activity also did that sets it apart from most found footage films is it’s use of stable cameras, meaning no shaky footage or focusing on whatever’s going to try to scare us. Instead we feel just as helpless as the characters or helpless for someone when we spot something they haven’t with a chilling scene involving a chanderlier coming to mind. It was the first film since A Nightmare On Elm Street to genuinely make people scared of being asleep, but not because of what could happen in your dreams, but becuase what could happen to you whilst your sleeping.
It’s very rare we see a well established actor dip into the horror genre, usually because it very rarely does good things for their career (See Case 39 and whatever that movie Jenifer Lawrence was in) but Ethan Hawke will not regret appearing in Sinister.
Hawke plays a struggling writer who moves to a house where a family have just been murdered, because that always works out well. In the loft he discovers footage of the previous inhabitents being murdered, and several other unsolved murders. The use of found footage is perfect in this film, with the grainy footage adding to the plot and not being overdone. Outside of the found footage, the cinematography and editing makes every jump scare that much scarier, and each second in the dark that much more painful. This is a well made horror movie, something we don’t get enough of these days and you can see why Hawke wanted to get on board.
The Witch (2015)
A family are banished the middle of the woods and find themselves tormented by a witch and it gets to the point when they start accusing eachother of being followers of the supernatural.When I watched this low budget horror with my friends, most of us laughed at the Middle English being spoken and the influence of goats in The Witch and regretted buying the Blu-Ray. Yet over the next few days I could’t get this film out of my head, it replaced stupid things I did during my teens as what I used to think about in bed for a while. Even now I can’t figure The Witch out, but what I can say is that it is incredibly disturbing. This film is eerie, the music is unpleasant and the scarcely used gore is sickening. Maybe I should watch The Witch again to come to a conclusion as to what freaks me out about this movie, but the mood and dread created is so transgressive that I feel like I shouldn’t be allowed to watch it again.
The Last Exorcism (2010)
This is a truly terrifying film that lead me to creating my own method of avoiding looking at the screen without closing my eyes. Leaning back on my chair, I crossed my legs and put my large knee (Im big boned) in a position where it blocked the TV.
So yes, The Last Exorcism is pretty scary. We follow a priest who has lost his faith fraud his way through exorcisms, until one particular case in a backwoods Louisiana household makes him question everything. We as an audience question everything too as it’s not revealed until the final act as to whether the girl is genuinely possessed, although she looks pretty possessed in that picture… There is great acting all round which makes us fear for these characters when everything goes to hell (Or does it?) whilst the documentary footage style makes the terror feel a lot more direct and may even force you to hide behind your knee .
If these films don’t leave you frightened, just find a Melissa McCarthy film and watch it knowing that people find her genuinely funny. That will not only scare you, but also have you question life itself.