Get ready to try something very new this Halloween - the holiday home of horror movies just got a whole lot broader.
We’re all about expanding horizons here at Walloh, both yours and our own. So when I sat down to write up yet another exhaustive guide of all the ‘essential horror movies’ to catch this Halloween, it seemed silly to just regurgitate the same old usual suspects. Just to be clear: The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, Friday the 13th and yes, John Carpenter’s original Halloween all still come heartily recommended. But just in case, like us, you’re ready for something a little bit more fresh, here’s an excruciatingly detailed list of other must-see movies, from the fun, to the freaky, to the downright unhinged, to help everyone celebrate Halloween, no matter your tastes.
Arguably some of the greatest horror movies ever made have actually been comedies. Evil Dead II, Scream, even this year’s genre fave Get Out, all heavily-relied on proper belly-laughs to keep them going. So although Halloween is often thought of as being mostly spooktacular, it definitely has a funny side too.
From the last year alone, there’s been TV comedy hero Alice Lowe’s ultra-dark psycho-killer comedy Prevenge, Anna Biller’s seriously-saucy 60s-throwback The Love Witch, and just a few weeks back, Danny Morgan and Benjamin Barfoot’s genuinely warm and hilarious Double Date opened to rave reviews all over London too. Looking back just beyond them, there’s NZ heavy-metal occult horror Deathgasm, as well as the similarly silly, similarly kiwi Housebound, and self-aware Elijah Wood-starrer Cooties (about zombie schoolchildren no less) from the directing pair who brought us Bushwick a few months back.
But if modern laughs aren’t really your thing, give Dan (writer of Alien) O’Bannon’s 1980s cult classic Return of the Living Dead a look, for a totally warped, and very, very funny take on classic zombie myth. Aside from that there’s also Shane Black and Fred Dekker’s hugely fun The Monster Squad (which is heading to the PCC soon) and even further afield, a whole bunch of ludicrously fun Jaws rip-offs from the 1970s. Like the Italian produced Orca (where the shark is swapped with a killer whale), Joe Dante’s Piranha (where the shark is swapped with man-eating piranha) or the even campier The Car (where the shark is swapped with a friggin’ land-based automobile).
Then and again, if more traditional horror scares are more your bag, stick with us through the following. For more contemporary-flavoured nightmares, check out skillful ghost haunter The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Corin Hardy’s frightening folk-tale The Hallow and especially last year’s BAFTA-winning foreign-language hit Under the Shadow (I’m still not sleeping right after that last one). Also the Spanish found-footage pair [Rec] and [Rec] 2 more than earn their place on this list (maybe stay away from the other two sequels though).
Further back in time, anything by the Italian master of the ethereal Dario Argento is worth a stab, but Deep Red and Suspiria remain his most famous for a reason. The same goes for 70s cult favourite Phantasm, and the creepy dwarf double bill in-the-making Don’t Look Now and The Brood. Freakiest of all though, to me at least, are the oldest of the bunch: the original British, 1960 Village of the Damned (featuring yet more scary-eyed schoolchildren) and the even more ancient The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – a silent German expressionist chiller from 1919 which does more with a single image than most recent horrors do with their entire runtime.
And then there’s those select few movies that rely just the tiniest bit more on buckets of goo and dismembered body-parts. For the sickest of the sick, look no further than the following gore-fests.
Long before he was firing raccoons and tree monsters through space in Marvel’s mega-blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn was cranking up the blood effects in brain-slug actioner Slither, and for fans of the disgusting, it’s a definite must-see. The same goes for 80s cult hit Re-Animator and its sequel Bride of Re-Animator, a pair of super-practical Lovecraft-inspired horrors, that get creative with their use of mutilation. Much like Troma hits from the same decade, The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (or just about every other Troma-produced movie ever made). Or even Fede Alvarez’s recent, crudely underappreciated Evil Dead remake too, which on-top of featuring one of the most disgusting arm amputation scenes ever filmed, quite literally makes it rain blood too.
Not forgetting the very Godfather of Gore himself though, Herschell Gordon Lewis, whose 60s and 70s “splatter” horrors pretty much wrote the book on excessive movie gore. Give Blood Feast or The Wizard of Gore a go if you don’t mind things looking a little more dated.
Then there’s the zombie movies. Countless, countless zombie movies. Most of which will likely feel a little too familiar, but for something different give Lucio Fulci’s 70s masterpiece Zombie Flesh Eaters a watch. Also known as Zombie or Zombi 2, it’s the Italian answer to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, with significantly more blood and guts. Just make sure you hunt down the uncut version (like the Arrow Video blu-ray).
For the hardcore horror fan though, blood, brains and basic jump-scares just won’t cut it. If for whatever reason you’re looking for something truly depraved this Halloween, look no further than the likes of Nico Mastorakis’s Island of Death – a Greek-set Natural Born Killers-on-the-cheap-esque mess of an exploitation treat, featuring almost every single kind of grotesque sexual deviancy in the book. A similar movement brought along the much more well-known I Spit On Your Grave which is equally grimy, but for a more modern twist, check out James Watkins’ jet black British chiller Eden Lake. Starring a pre-everything Michael Fassbender and Jack O’Connell, it’s a genuinely upsetting watch, especially for the fellow Brits among us. The same can be said of Ben Wheatley’s break-out hit Kill List too. You’ll quite literally want to shower straight after both.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more far-out and less sensical, Japanese auteur Takashi Miike has a just-about endless bag of tricks that he’s shoved into the hefty majority of his 100 (yes, a full one hundred) films over the last 30 years. His most loved films, like Ichi the Killer and Audition, are as much about on-screen gore as they are general nastiness, but one under-seen gem of Miike’s from the early 00s is the truly uncomfortable Visitor Q which, aside from looking like it was shot on a potato, is an absolute barrel of absurdities.
Most recently of all though, Emiliano Rocha Minter’s Spanish-language fever-dream We Are The Flesh tussles with all sorts of nastiness, and has a whole cacophony of insane, trippy visuals to go along with it too, making it well worth a watch. If you don’t mind a bit of truly plotless madness that is.
So however weird and wonderful your tastes may be, always remember that there’s countless new and under-appreciated genre movies out there somewhere.
And be sure to check in with Walloh for all the latest London-bound screenings of all of the above!
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