For the month of October, my birth month, and the month of Halloween, I decided to watch a different horror movie every day for 31 days. Halloween is my favorite time of the year, and has now become synonymous with horror releases across the US. It’s only natural that a child of Devil’s Night would find herself at home in the haunts of that season.
This is an endeavor I have attempted years before, but things and people often got in the way. This year, I succeeded (sort of) and had promised to compile a list of my favorite horror movies of the past 100 years or so. Before I dig in, a little background about how I came to the genre and why I appreciate it so much.
As a kid, I had horrible, recurring nightmares. There was one that came once a year, on the same day, at the same time: June 17, at 7:20 pm. In the dream I was chased and mutilated by a group of clowns that had brought me in under the guise of being on a game show. When I won a game in the dream, I was given a prize that wasn’t a prize. Sometimes it was a clown’s nose, a noose, or—in my worst nightmares—a man’s genitals.
At some point in this nightmare, I would wake up, but I wouldn’t be able to move my body or open my eyes. Even so, I knew that all I had to do was open my eyes and I would be awake; safe from harm. More often than not I could open my eyes before death came. Other times I wasn’t so lucky.
One year, as the fateful day came creeping forth, I sat in my living room to watch movies with either my father or by myself. I came across a creepy movie about a man with blades for hands that haunted peoples dreams, and I thought I had found the answer to all of my problems.
It was him! Freddy Krueger! All I had to do was make it through the movie and figure out how the kids defeat him so I can too!
If you’ve watched Wes Kraven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare On Elm Street, you know it doesn’t end in a victory for the afflicted. Many unnecessary and less impactful sequels later and we all know Freddy didn’t die on the first go. Still, watching this movie began my excursion through the world of monsters, devils, and ghouls. My longing for a solution transformed into a longing to control my fears: a movie ended in under 2 hours but the real horrors of the world lasted years. I liked having an off button. In college, I studied Gothic literature and horror along with poetry, and it has had a massive effect on my writing today.
First, criteria: there are a few things that make a horror movie good for me:
diversity of characters: the more women and gays the better
suspense and surprise, I don’t want to see the ending coming 15 minutes in
number of frequency of kills
method of kills
a movie aware of its cultural and historical context
does it make me jump or scream? if I have to pause before I can continue watching, that’s a good sign!
a damn good score
for me, horror includes: ghosts/demons/hauntings in general, creature features, vampires, body horror and torture, and the occasional psychological thriller.
The List: (In no particular order but starting with my absolute favorite)
Nosferatu (1922): F.W. Murnau
Let The Right One In (2008): Tomas Alfredson (don’t watch the American version “Let Me In” it’s bad. Endure the subtitles and step outside of your comfort zone a little
Carrie (1976): Brian De Palma, I did not watch the remake because CGM is not Sissy Spacek
Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock
The Haunting (1963): Robert Wise, Claire Bloom as Obvious Dyke Theo is one of the best characters in a film, she really steals the show but maybe I’m just gay.
The Shining (1980): Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King. SHELLEY DUVALL
The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Jonathan Demme
Candyman (1992): Bernard Rose, one of the first horror movies I saw with black people represented.
28 Days Later (2002): Danny Boyle, fucking killer score, Naomie Harris, zombies like I’ve never seen them before. Horror movies featuring “the infected” often focus so much on making the living undead ugly and scary in a way that cheapens it. This movie really gets it right
The Girl With All the Gifts (2016): Colm McCarthy, Read the book. God Bless Melanie. Thinking of her brings tears to my eyes.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014): Ana Lily Amirpour, Again, killer score, vampire western. my brand of feminism.
Raw (2016): Julia Ducournau, an ending that sticks with you. I told every woman I went on a date with to watch this movie for weeks
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Wes Craven
It (1990): Tommy Lee Wallace
The Descent (2005): Neil Marshall
The Eyes of My Mother (2016): Nicolas Pesce. one of the spookiest opening scenes of all time. Ultimately a revenge flick in my opinion
The Hunger (1983): Tony Scott
House of 1000 Corpses (2003): Rob Zombie
In My Skin (2002) Marina de Van
The Babadook (2014): Jennifer Kent. really fucking sad. Had me BabaSHOOK
The Strangers (2008): Bryan Bertino. When I watched this again recently, I had to check all of my windows and doors five times before going to bed. Home invasion flicks really do it for me
The Witch (2015): Robert Eggers
Sleepaway Camp (1983): Robert Hiltzik. (It’s transphobic, I know. But some of the most memorable kills and strangely terrifying ending)
What Keeps You Alive (2018): The newest one on the list. What I love about this movie is it rewrites how lesbians have been portrayed in horror for years. Lesbianism isn’t the villain, the villain is.
The Exorcist (1973): William Friedkin
Dracula (1931): Tod Browning. Bela Lugosi’s glowing eyes, homosexual subtext galore
Ginger Snaps (2000): John Fawcett. That transformation scene. Woo.
HIgh Tension (2003): Alexandre Aja. A recent watch, I admit. It does all the things I said “What Keeps You Alive” doesn’t do, but this movie absolutely devastated me. It’s devastating.
Get Out (2017): Jordan Peele. This is a great movie to watch after you’ve left an abusive relationship with a white woman, trust me.
The Wicker Man (1973): watched this far too young.
Hereditary (2018): Ari Aster. I can not say enough about how much I fucking love this movie. If you’ve seen it, THAT SCENE left me stunned in front of my computer for what felt like 5 minutes. The Horror, the trauma, the grief, the deaths, I love everything about this.
That’s 31 for the 31 days of Halloween. I’m sure I missed many, I have many more to watch. If you make your way through this list please let me know what it does to your dreams.