Being the first major celebration after the main brunt of the pandemic for many of us, Halloween 2021 is going to be massive: people dressed as ghouls, demons and more will flood the streets and the clubs alike, excited to be able to properly celebrate Halloween this year. For those of us who still don’t feel too comfortable going to large events yet, a spooky night in or a smaller gathering turned movie night might be a more realistic plan. From a long-time fan of all things spooky, who is particularly spooked by the idea of the proximity of masses of people in a club, here are some movie recommendations for you to enjoy at home.
1. For a tame but chilling family-friendly movie, watch Coraline (2009)
For a lot of us, our childhood familiarity with the wicked and wonderful started with cartoons. From the expertly crafted and genuinely chilling works of Tim Burton, to the movies of Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Coraline), Halloween season is not complete without a scary but heartfelt animated feature. Perhaps the scariest of these is Coraline, based on the Neil Gaiman book of the same name. In the movie, eleven-year-old Coraline is flung into a universe that is like hers, but more magical and, as she discovers, very wrong.
Any child watching knows the fears that come with the dependence on your family: what if they left suddenly? Or worse, what if they weren’t quite themselves? Coraline is visually gorgeous and the meticulous stop-motion animation creates a unique visual experience that only adds to the spooky feeling of the movie. Coraline has become a cult classic for fans young and old, making it perfect for a Halloween watching.
2. For childhood nostalgia and Halloween costume inspiration, watch Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Perhaps the most memorable part of the live action Scooby Doo movies are the all-star cast, who are themselves no strangers to the horror genre. As well as featuring the wonderful Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, who won hearts in 1996’s Scream, Linda Cardellini, who plays Velma, recently starred in 2018’s The Curse of La Llorona. Sarah Michelle Geller, the live adaptation’s Daphne, was in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Scream 2, The Grudge and I Know What You Did Last Summer, among others. So, although Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed probably wouldn’t be considered a horror and is definitely more of a nostalgic pick for us young adults, the horror repertoire of the fantastic cast offers a vast array of spooky classics beyond this family-friendly feature should you look to delve deeper into the careers of the actors behind these beloved characters.
3. For a deliciously strange masterpiece, watch House (1977)
In the way that Coraline appeals the the fears of its younger audience, Japanese cult horror movie House does much of the same in order to create terror. With themes of unease envisioned through the perspective of a group of teenage girlfriends, House is unapologetically strange, favouring dream-like surrealist elements over meta-philosophical horror concepts. It is a highly unique film, yet its weirdness pays off immensely, with many deeming it one of the greatest horror films ever made. If you’re looking for something different that is eccentric in the best possible way whilst still being truly chilling, a movie like House may be exactly what you’re looking for this Halloween.
4. For an epic black comedy from one of the directorial greats, watch Thirst (2009)
Park Chan-wook is perhaps best known in the English-speaking world for directing 2016’s The Handmaiden. However, Park Chan-wook has been in the game of the unhinged and disturbing for almost three decades now. His films carry dark comedy, which often masks the brutally disturbing subject matter of his movies, but this by no means makes them any less horrifying. Thirst is the film closest to what would be deemed horror that Park has made; an odyssey of love, desire and above all, the thirst for what is bad. Far from your typical vampire movie, Thirst offers interesting and complex characters, performed beautifully by Kim Ok-bin and the legendary Song Kang-ho, whilst maintaining an engaging story, which is equal parts humorous as it is dark. As a personal favourite and a truly unforgettable watch, watching Thirst is a perfect way to get a fix for something horrifying from an auteur who is a master of his craft.
5. For a recent movie that’s worth the hype, watch Saint Maud (2019)
As a directorial debut from the visionary Rose Glass, religious themed horror movie Saint Maud is a slow burner that (successfully) relies on tone and the unsaid to build tension. Shots are frequently gloomy and ominous, and what starts as a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere progresses into a nightmarish downward spiral. Our protagonist Maud is a devoutly religious nurse who opens herself up to the Lord only, giving the audience mere inklings of her, making guessing her next move often impossible, which in turn only further racks up the looming sense of dread.
Saint Maud also comes from A24, the studio that brought us modern horror greats such as Hereditary and The Lighthouse. Given this, the film is definitely on the artier side, providing space for the viewer to come to their own conclusions and grapple with their unease with minimal guidance. It is horror of this type that A24 does best, with Saint Maud hailing as a gripping and frightening look at devotion and womanhood that will leave even the most versed horror fanatics trembling by the end credits. If you’re looking for something beautifully disturbing this Halloween, Saint Maud is a soon to be classic, rammed with tremendous talent that is perfect for those looking for an edge-of-your-seat triumph.
Image courtesy of David Menidrey