Hate is a strong word, but in general, I hate horror movies. However, I can’t avoid them since it IS my job to review films. I’ve come to realize that just like pretty much any other genre, there are several variants within the “horror” category, from camp to slasher to thriller to zombie to supernatural, and a 100 other niches in between. I’ve also learned that I can’t be snobby about horror movies, because many of them are truly excellent films overall.
Here are 5 that pass my test for sincerely great horror movies to watch if you want the living daylights scared out of you on Halloween:
Crawl – This movie is a perfect example of the kind of film I would’ve rolled my eyes at and made assumptions about had I not been required to watch it. Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that I was actually into it, and in no small part thanks to endearing performances by Barry Pepper and Kaya Scodelario, who play a father and daughter trapped in their home during a Category 5 hurricane who must fend off gigantic, hangry gators.
Midsommar – This is one of those movies where there’s a sense of dread from the very beginning when a group of friends goes to Sweden to attend a festival that only happens once every 90 years … and let’s just say it’s not what they were expecting. The film earned director Ari Aster and female lead Florence Pugh critical acclaim, so if you’re down for being highly disturbed in addition to being scared, this is the pick for you.
The Shining – This 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling horror novel still gets my vote for scariest movie of all time. It follows a family, played by Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall and Danny Lloyd, who take up in the Overlook Hotel for the dad’s new gig, despite the fact that lots of not‐right stuff has happened there before. Don’t even get me started on those freaky twin girls. Here’s another reason to watch this classic: to refresh your memory for the long‐awaited sequel, Doctor Sleep, which comes out next month!
The Ring – While I think The Shining is the #1 scariest movie, The Ring is on this list because it has one of the most terrifying scenes I’ve ever witnessed on film. It’s just a matter of seconds long — if that — but it is burned into my memory. If you’re unfamiliar with the movie’s premise, it’s about a supposed cursed videotape that appears to kill anyone who watches it within 7 days. It stars Naomi Watts as a journalist trying to get to the bottom of the mystery, and in 2002 it kicked off a long trend of English‐language remakes of popular Asian horror films.
The Exorcist – How could I not include the first‐ever horror film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (on top of 9 other nominations)? Director William Friedkin’s 1973 masterpiece about the demonic possession of a 12‐year‐old girl is widely considered the best horror film of all time. If you’ve never seen it, Halloween is certainly a perfect excuse to remedy that situation.
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