Greetings my good folks of the interweb,
Since it is already Halloween and everyone is recovering from post-Diwali blues, so I thought of sharing a couple of my absolute all-time favorite flicks from the horror genre which you can watch with your friends and family or alone like me with a tub of homemade popcorn. There is already quite a number of very well-researched must watch before you die horror movie lists out there in the internet world and I would like to add my twopence to it. I have of course restricted my list to Hollywood releases and excluded some of the more popular recent releases which are not to my liking but may have made to the list of others. So go hit the download button on Torrent folks, (Just kidding, rent out a DVD or subscribe to a video on demand service, because we are on a crusade against piracy 😉 😉 ) or if you have already watched any of these, feel free to start a discussion on this page in the comments section below. Here goes a list of 5 of my much-loved horror films I swear by:
1. The Woman in Black (2012)
Director: James Watkins
Duration: 1h 35min
Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel of the same name, this is a period film about a good old-fashioned haunting, in which a young lawyer travels to a remote English village where he comes upon the malevolent ghost of a scorned woman causing the death of local children.
Setting aside the horror movie clichés like dilapidated mansions, appearances of a veiled face in windows, demonic-looking dolls, jump scares and such horror tropes, I can honestly say that I have never been more terrified. This coming from a person who isn’t easily scared, I found it refreshingly different from most stereotypical horror movies. (Yes, The Conjuring did NOT scare me, people!)
Certain horror movies are scarier because they work around the philosophy what you don’t see is what scares you the most. The idea is to draw the audience closer to the fear that manifests itself in the thick foggy surrounding which is executed brilliantly by the swampy location and gloomy Edwardian setting until we are completely enveloped in atmospheric dread and it is too late to turn away. We are already a part of the palpable unease, darting our eyes all over the expansive frame, searching uneasily for a glimpse of something horrifying.
2. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Director: Scott Derrickson
Duration: 1h 59min
This film is an interesting juxtaposition of courtroom drama and the horror-film genre in which an ambitious lawyer takes on a case involving a priest who is on trial for an exorcism gone wrong on a young girl he believes is possessed by demons.
The plot is based on true events of the reported possession of Anneliese Michel in 1970s Germany. The fact that the story takes place after the exorcism and in the courtroom where a priest is tried for negligent homicide is what makes this film stand out from a horde of stereotypical demonic possession movie (notably The Exorcist, also based on the possession and exorcism of a young girl).
The film is about perspectives, where the thin line between faith and doubt leaves you contemplating the possibilities and questioning modern perspectives and scientific rationales; for things such as exorcism can easily be brushed aside as quackery for it cannot be adequately explained through scientific or rational means.
This film has proved itself an extremely well-made, thought-provoking legal drama despite its unsettling subject matter; no wonder Bollywood horror flicks feel the need to draw upon this exemplary movie time and again (1920, Raaz Reboot, etc.).
3. The Omen (1976)
Director: Richard Donner
Duration: 1h 51min
A classic horror movie about an American ambassador who believes that his young son to be the Antichrist when he is surrounded by a number of ominous deaths.
This film truly stands out in the supernatural thriller genre with its superb cast, a good versus evil theme artfully portrayed on screen, well-choreographed scenes of violence and, each one being more frightening and compelling than the last (the nanny who professes absolute love before jumping to her death to a reporter being decapitated by a pane of glass), a brilliant nerve-wracking score with explosive religious chants scattered throughout the scenes, all building up to the climactic finale and a sinister, ambiguous ending.
I found this to be more entertaining and extremely creepy in terms of its context and shocks compared to other 70s Satanic-themed horror flicks (namely The Exorcist and the slightly earlier release Rosemary’s Baby). Above all, what can be more horrifying and disturbing than a child, adopted into the world of politics whose destiny is to destroy the world when he comes to power, in the last scene is seen holding the hand of the president of the United States at his father’s funeral, turning around to smile ominously at the viewers.
What is most disturbing about this particular movie, I feel, is Harvey Stephens’ portrayal of an innocent-looking child Damien who turns out to be the epitome of evil (well, he definitely looked the part and till date his direct gaze and smile in the last scene makes me almost spoil my underwear every time I watch this!). Also worthy of mention is Billie Whitelaw as Damien’s overly polite yet sinister nanny who seems scarier than the devil child. This movie genuinely stands the test of time; three sequels and a modern remake couldn’t do justice to the original which is a horror classic.
4. The Skeleton Key (2005)
Director: Iain Softley
Duration: 1h 44min
A hospice nurse who secures a job of a caretaker at a spooky New Orleans plantation home finds herself entangled in a mystery involving the house’s inhabitants and its dark past of Hoodoo rituals.
This one is a well written haunted house thriller with strong performances from a number of skilled actors, macabre backdrop and a completely unexpected ending that stands as one of the best I’ve ever seen in this genre, and that’s really all I can say about the movie without giving away major spoilers.
The movie is set in the swampy region of New Orleans, in a decrepit colonial mansion with vintage furniture, surrounded by swamps and trees draped in Spanish moss which lends it a very compelling Southern-Gothic mystery feel. The heroine in distress manages to be smarter than the average dumb heroines of stereotypical horror flicks. She wants to explore the surroundings, question everything, and exact answers despite her ignorance of something sinister at work in that house.
The movie picks up pace after a slightly slow start, then it’s slow again it reaches a climactic conclusion. The also features the practice of Hoodoo, which is a more spiritual version of Voodoo, which lends a truly morbid tone to the overall atmosphere. The record featured in the film, The Conjure of Sacrifice is very creepy, listening to it sends massive chills down the spine, though none compared to the absolutely fantastic and unpredictable twist ending.
5. The Shining (1980)
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Duration: 2h 26min
The film is about a recovering alcoholic and his family moves into an isolated, haunted hotel in Colorado as winter where he resorts to violence and his psychic son suffers from horrifying visions from the past and of the future.
The storyline is loosely based on Stephen King’s original novel, and has developed into somewhat of a cult of its own, though it surprisingly lacks in terms of ghostly presences or violence; fear is more implied than manifest.
The director’s effective use of long and convex lens shots create feelings of isolation and surrealism in the long desolate hallways and the huge, always empty rooms of the hotel, and along with the incredibly scary background score, lends the film a cold and atmospheric feel, thus creating an unbearable sense of paranoia in minds that oscillates between the sane and the insane.
The film plays with the idea that an idle mind is a devils workshop suggesting that evil and violence lie dormant in our mind so long it is suppressed by reason and work. The isolation seems to be is a character in itself, and becomes an overbearing entity when secluded from human presence; we watch in sheer horror as idleness slowly begins to sow the seeds of derangement in Jack Torrance’s weak mind, turning his own imagination against himself.
The only drawback of the film is that it is a tad too long but I will not attempt to question the directorial art of one of the greatest filmmakers in the world.
Do you enjoy watching horror films as much as me? I would love to hear about it. Please let me know if you enjoyed reading this article. Also, if you have any thoughts regarding my post or whether you would love to continue reading them in the future feel free to comment below.
Have a Spooktacular time this Halloween.