I love horror, most of what I watch these days is horror. Ever since I was a kid, long before I was allowed to watch anything more horror-aligned than The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice, I have longed to surround myself with the genre. Movies like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Exorcist became things I longed to watch, worlds I wanted to surround myself with. I was a weird kid, prone to watching ghost hunting shows and discussing them with anyone who listened, I wanted to be a ghost hunter when I was younger, back when I still fully believed in ghosts. Is it any wonder that the esoteric became such a huge point of interest for me? All the signs, all the steps pointing towards that interest are there if you look.
Halloween (2018),dir. David Gordon Green, United States
(CW: Halloween (2018) contains gore)
Halloween (2018) is easily the best Halloween movie since the original, which isn’t saying much. Aside from being a good sequel, Halloween is a well-crafted horror movie with some genuinely tense and terrifying moments and some interesting parallels to the original, with Michael’s doctor, Dr. Sartain acting as a foil to Loomis. The original film is one of my all-time favourites, it’s got the best final twenty minutes in any horror movie ever (do not @ me about that). It’s also the first “real” horror movie I ever watched. I have a soft spot for it and I probably always will, despite what other people say about it. So when the 2018 sequel not only met my expectations but exceeded them it came as both a surprise and a treat.
The Blair Witch Project (1999) dir. Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick, United States
(CW: The Blair Witch Project contains references to violence against children.)
Much like Halloween, The Blair Witch Project solidified a genre. Like with Halloween, the pieces were already there, Cannibal Holocaust, for example, could very easily be called the first found footage film. Despite that though, Blair Witch made it stick, it became a phenomenon. People thought it was real, which was the point. It’s the kind of thing that could never happen today, with the internet in our pocket.
Found footage (and the framing it uses) tends to remind me of when I was a child and I would hear playground rumors about how a family of cannibals with chainsaws lived two towns over, or how just a street away a bunch of babysitters and their boyfriends were murdered by a madman in a mask, or even how my summer camp had a murderer living in a trailer down by the lake. It’s fun to lose yourself in the legend, to pretend for a moment that there are things going bump in the night. Found footage makes that just a tiny bit easier.
Things (1989), dir. Andrew Jordan, Canada
(CW: Things is bad)
Things is not a good movie. It just isn’t. It’s incoherent with no clear plot, the actors are all obviously drunk out of their minds, and in terms of technical craft, the film has very little to offer. Oh, and the score sounds like a failed attempt at replicating John Carpenter’s work using a Casio keyboard. That being said, Things is one of my favorite movies. It shouldn’t be, I should hate this, and yet I don’t. I’ve seen Things about four times now and even though I have no idea what it’s even about, I have fun each time. Things is in no way the best that Canadian horror has to offer, if you want that, look instead to the works of David Cronenberg or movies like Ginger Snaps. But if you want to have a good time with some friends, Things is absolutely the way to go.
Black Christmas (1974), dir. Bob Clark, Canada
(CW: Black Christmas contains gore)
Bob Clark’s 1974 movie Black Christmas is simultaneously one of the most overlooked and one of the most influential horror movies ever. It did, after all, influence Halloween (1978) which itself influenced Friday the 13th (1980). While some would consider it a slasher film that definition feels wrong, it feels off. Black Christmas is more a Giallo than it is a slasher, evoking films like Dario Argento’s Deep Red in its style. It’s well-made with style to spare, something that more North American horror could do well to emulate. It’s easily the best Black Christmas.
Crimson Peak (2015), dir. Guillermo del Toro, United States
(CW: Crimson Peak is a gothic romance and as such, contains themes and conventions common to the genre that, if detailed here, would act as a major spoiler. If you are concerned about potential triggers, feel free to reach out to me personally over on Twitter (@rhymeswpicard) for clarification)
Crimson Peak changed my life. I first saw it in theatres when I was fifteen; I went in blind, hadn’t even seen any of the trailers. All I knew was that Tom Hiddleston was in it and at that point, I was in love with him. I was not prepared for Crimson Peak. I was not prepared for any part of it, let alone for the reveal and I was not prepared for Jessica Chastain to make me feel the things I felt.
Aside from that, Crimson Peak is Guillermo Del Toro indulging himself in building a world and engrossing the viewer in that world. The movie is filmed in a three-story set, the production included details that would never be seen on camera, and the costumes are phenomenal. It’s a fantastic movie, well-made and made with care for the story. And the cast included Doug Jones, something that we always love to see.
Funny Games (1992), dir. Michael Haneke, Austria
(CW: Funny Games contains gore, a home invasion, and violence against animals and children)
I talk about Funny Games (and the remake, which is good actually)a lot. So much so in fact that when I was discussing my list for this month with Ethan he said, and I quote, “you? Talking about Funny Games? No.” It’s my favorite movie; it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I’m asked what my favorite movie is, and beyond that, it’s a good movie, it’s both well-crafted and intensely uncomfortable. Funny Games is a home invasion movie that questions why we enjoy home invasion movies, confronting the audience with the horrors of what is happening by lingering on them for significant stretches of time. It’s a difficult watch but, in my opinion, it’s worth it. Funny Games was the movie that made me realize how much I love movies that distress me and it was also the movie that made me hate that about myself.
Scream (1996), dir. Wes Craven, United States
(CW: Scream contains gore)
Hot take I know but Scream is good. Long before meta-horror became exhausting and exhausted, Scream burst onto the scene and gave horror a much-needed jolt into action. Following the boom and subsequent bust of slasher films due to oversaturation of the market, Scream saw what came before (some of it from Craven himself) and said “ok, but what if we poked fun at it.” And it worked. Scream became one of, if not the, best horror movies of the 90s, it launched one of the better franchises and one of the few that kept the final girl as the protagonist, with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) appearing in all five of the movies so far. It’s also worth noting that Scream is one of the few horror franchises to have gone four films in a row with the original director, with Wes Craven directing Scream through to Scream 4.
Scream is one of my favorite horror movies along with the original Halloween. A funny coincidence considering that Halloween plays on tv in Scream.