It’s Hallowe’en once again and everyone starts to knock through horrors to get them in the frightened spirit. Netflix‘s member base is growing and growing and as the member base expands, so does the list of titles. It can be difficult to decide on what to finally watch, before you know it, that three hour slot you booked for a film has now evaporated into a 35 minute window in which to try and cram an episode of something in as you kick yourself for not deciding sooner. Worry not, here at Cinema Chords we have tried to narrow the list down so the decision should only take an hour, or maybe two, at best. We’ve set aside the endless cheap imitations and countless awful sequels such as Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (yes, that’s on the US Netflix) and Surf Nazis Must Die as well as all the exploitive horror filled with nudity like Girls Gone Dead, Strippers vs Werewolves and 1313: Cougar Cult (yes, again, these films exist and most are on US Netflix if you feel like punishing yourself). Regardless, below are the recommendations split into two categories, the first which is “Highly Recommended” which should be read as “If You Haven’t Seen it Then Correct That Now”.
The Awakening (US)
Yeah, this British horror is unfortunately only on the US Netflix but is definitely something that’s worth a watch. It seems quite typical period horror where a paranormal debunker goes into a haunted orphanage to disprove the existence of a boy with a twisted face. It is atmospheric, having the colouring reflect the gothic nature with darkness and candlelight for the majority of the sequences at night. It’s well crafted by the director, the performance from Rebecca Hall is genuine and of course it’s scary.
The remake is out soon in the UK and already is in America so why not familiarise yourself with Brian De Palma’s adaptation? Sissy Spacek plays the shy, suppressed girl who snaps after having her idyllic moment ruined by bullies. This film still is a classic horror because you care about Carrie, you feel for her and it’s horrible to see it all go wrong.
The Evil Dead (US)
Sam Raimi’s low-budget indie classic is available if you feel like catching up with the world of stop-motion gore and the Necronomicon’s ritualistic horror that birthed the cult favourite Bruce Campbell.
Evil Dead 2 (US)
This is, pretty much, a remake of The Evil Dead but still starring Bruce Campbell as Ash. It’s a reboot with more money but it has 2 in the title so it’s technically a sequel but it ignores what happens in the first really. Regardless, this is funny, gory fun that will tickle you then scare you.
The House of the Devil (US)
One of the best indie horrors to come out in recent years. This is Ti West’s best film so far in his career. It is an homage to all of the B-movies of yesteryears while feeling modern, rejuvenating and not at all stagnant. Never does it feel like a cheap rip off but a film of its own that tips its hats to the genre. Jocelin Donahue’s performance as the housesitter is greatly unnerving and it’s a true slow-burner in horror, using sound and silence to get that chill up your spine that will stay with you for weeks after the credits roll. Lights will remain on when walking around your house.
This is different to normal horrors and to normal paranoid thrillers that play on one person in a group in an isolated location being a murderer. James Mangold has created a horror film with an ending that many will roll their eyes at when in fact it’s a brilliant one. It stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John C. McGinley, John Hawkes, Amanda Peet and Clea DuVall who all don’t do it for the wage nor believe the film is beneath them, there’s an admiration for the work and it is achieved.
Let the Right One In (US)
Remade with Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in 2010, this original one is a much more intimate take on it, not adding the police investigator that seems to be a standardised addition to the story. Tomas Alfredson focuses on the touching relationship between neighbours Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), creating a haunting experience that is tragically beautiful and sometimes horrifying. It should be watched for the cinematography alone by Hoyte Van Hoytema – Christopher Nolan’s new DP for his next film Interstellar.
Released in the UK in January uncut (surprisingly), Franck Khalfoun’s remake surpasses the original because it makes Frank’s (Elijah Wood) character completely sympathetic. Instead of the usual distant monster that terrifies because of its inhumanity, this one is harrowing because of its humanity. His constant struggle with his life and himself leads to one the year’s scariest and goriest.
The Mist (UK)
Frank Darabont’s classic horror here focuses more on the horror of humanity than the horror of what’s outside. This film destroys souls. Created with a cynical view from the mind of Stephen King then adapted for the screen with an even more depressing view of life by Frank Darabont. Prepare to have a heavy heart, a heavy chest and a heavy hatred of humanity for a while after. This film causes side effects.
Pulse (Kairo) (US)
This Japanese horror is one of the more muted experiences that shows a slow inevitability and a supernatural epidemic that’s impossible to stop. Fear is achieved by having everything slow, inescapable, because curiosity really can kill. Kiyoshi Kurosawa has created something so atmospheric that even a walk is terrifying.
Scream Quadrilogy (US/First available in the UK too)
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s postmodern deconstruction of the horror genre is an obvious classic and the sequels aren’t bad either though many would disagree. The first is obviously the best and managed to be funny, witty, tell us the rules outright then completely subvert them. Scream 2 has one of the most tense films ever and adds to it with the rules of sequels and so on for the other two. You cannot go wrong with any of them, including the underrated fourth which is the weakest but still worth a watch.
Putting in a performance that cements the authenticity of the piece, Ethan Hawke manages to terrify us by playing a character that we like getting involved with. Not only that but it’s a character that reacts genuinely to the horror going on around him, reluctantly looking around an empty house at night and playing his fear with a credibility that makes everything more horrifying.
The Snowtown Murders (US)
Want to watch one of the most disturbing films ever? Go to this. The less you know about it the better.
The Strangers (UK)
A great home invasion horror that manages to get a real performance out of Liv Tyler – that should not go unnoticed. The cinematography is beautiful, the masks petrifying, the tension tangible. With the final shot of the film ruining a lot of its hard work, The Strangers is a work of creepy brilliance that plays with the couple as much as it does with the audience.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (US/UK)
Another good deconstruction horror, this focuses more on the comedy side of things rather than the horror. Tucker and Dale are mistaken as monsters who are about to go on a slashing spree on the teenagers who are staying up in the woods. They think – because of their horror knowledge – that if they get them first then there’s nothing to worry about it. What ensues is brilliant comedy which is directed really well by Eli Craig but the film’s funniest moments comes from the duo of Alan Tudyuk and Tyler Labine that really make this a necessary watch.
Found footage anthology directed by a lot of upcoming filmmakers of horror makes this a bit muddled because of its anthology nature but really is a scary piece of cinema too. The shorts are well-constructed and are all vastly different meaning you’ll have several different nightmares that night. It can, for some, start off weak but the two final segments are especially effective.
They heard the criticisms of the first and completely understood by making this a sequel that builds up on the strengths of the predecessor. The Safe Haven segment directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto is the best in it and stretches out to roughly 30 minutes but it’s an insane 30 minutes of everything going everywhere for the most chaotic and scary minutes of your life.
The Bay (US/UK)
Barry Levin. Yes, Barry Levin. Yes, the guy that did Rain Man. Barry Levin was in charge of this found-footage and environmental horror that tells the story of a town which undergoes a huge problem. Told in a reconstruction of all of the footage that could be found from various different outlets – news crew, biological researchers, police car, CCTV – to create a scarily realistic problem but not one that’s necessarily scary-scary like others on this list.
The Cabin in the Woods (US/UK)
It’s not that huge of a subversion, it’s not really that gigantic of a game-changer, it’s not really anything that great but it’s worth a watch. Many disagree and it is adored so the addition comes more from its status rather than anything else.
This horror film written by M. Night Shyamalan and Brian Nelson is underrated in all honesty. Pitting people against other in a lift is a pretty great idea and director John Erick Dowdle has fun playing around with the audience. When it goes black, there’s such dread of what will happen next. Tightly paced terror in a compact space and the characters are still interesting, creating full arcs in a few feet.
Drag Me to Hell (UK)
Throwback horror at its finest with a lot of people dismissing it for the most ludicrous of reasons. People who believe that plausibility in horror should only stretch too far have a hard time dealing with a single moment near the end of the film that lasts maybe 15 seconds but don’t let that detract you. There’s a great performance by Alison Lohman and, of course, plenty of horror to stop you from sleeping or trusting any old woman you see walking down the street.
The Faculty (US/UK)
Good fun with a sharp script, it channels and pays homage to plenty of great sci-fi beforehand – especially Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is spoken about here many times. There’s a great cast of famous people before they’re famous that makes this a good nostalgic film as well as thrilling one.
Grave Encounters (US)
Get past the first 20-30 minutes of annoying mockumentary presentation and you’ll find yourself involved in one of the more terrifying ideas of recent years by the Vicious Brothers. It’s a shame that the performances sully moments of a great idea that would improve to one of the best horror films of the past decade had it been performed well. Otherwise a great horror film.
Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (US)
It’s based around the real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and Michael Rooker puts in an unsettling yet thoughtful performance that can lead to tender moments before they’re ruined by his bloodlust.
A Horrible Way to Die (US/UK)
Not exactly the all out horror film that will terrify but more one that will instantly dampen your mood and prove how horrifying addiction is.
The Host (US)
A Korean film about a monster that appears from the river one day that makes a lot of comments on political, societal and environmental problems but it’s confused atmosphere ruins a lot of its hardwork. It loses a lot of it through poor music choices, a running time that’s too lengthy and a lack of suspense in a lot of the scenes that loses the audience.
The Innkeepers (US)
Empty hotel with a past of hauntings and two characters that have a great repertoire make this good fun but scary when it wants to be too. When it is empty around the frame, enveloped in darkness or lack of characters, there’s true terror looming over it but when it goes for it, it goes too far. Otherwise a fantastic film.
The Pact (US)
Our lead suffers from the problem of trying to be a strong female character when really that makes her insufferable to be around. There’s one fantastically tense scene but its status in the horror community was one that was hard to ignore.
Resident Evil (US)
Paul W.S. Anderson started strong and that is in no way a sarcastic statement about the man. This series started well but it fell apart in different ways in different films. Definitely worth a visit, it pays a few good enough tributes to the games while remaining an entertaining film.
Resident Evil: Extinction (UK)
The only worthwhile sequel in the tired franchise that shouldn’t have been, this actually makes the social and political commentary that games made for the first time in the franchise… and the last. Not only that, it’s scary again, creating something that isn’t awful but instead entertaining thankfully.
Stake Land (US)
Vampires are worn out if they’re not sparkling or sexualised but in this they’ve returned to them being carnivorous bastards that will destroy you. Jim Mickle pays more attention to the characters within the story but never fails to land the horror beats he aims for either. Thoughtful, clever work rather than an all out attack to the senses.
Don’t say we don’t care for making your Halloween an ever better time of year. Whilst this is a pretty extensive list please feel free to let us know some hidden treasures you’ll be watching. We’d love to hear from you.