Tag Archives: Halloween

2020 Spooky Film Recommendations — Part I

As I’ve said before, if you crave 500 jump scares per film, you will be disappointed by my recommendations. For more context on this, check out Chris Stuckmann’s YouTube video, The Problem with Horror Movies Today.

This year we begin with CLASSIC HORROR, and I arbitrarily decided this would include films from the 70s and earlier. Let me tell you, one of the fantastic things about watching films of this vintage was the total (and to me blessed) absence of computer-generated imagery. Directors and cinematographers had to be clever in suggesting a horror they did not have the means to show. All the more creepy!
(All synopses from imdb.com)

Enthusiastically Recommended!


The Wicker Man (1973) — Rated R
A puritan Police Sergeant arrives in a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl who the locals claim never existed.
I’ve had a crush on the late, great Edward Woodward ever since the TV series The Equalizer, but I’d never seen this movie until a month ago. The story starts as a rather ordinary noir-ish police procedural, turns trippy, and then really gets down to the business of horror, all in a very “early 70s” manner that I found rather charming.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 87


The Omen (1976) — Rated R
Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil’s own son?
I have a vague memory of catching a bit of this as a child when my parents were watching. Back then I probably lasted about two minutes before I ran screaming. It’s a much better story and film than I expected. The female characters are either evil or useless, but aside from that it’s a darn good watch–well-paced with some very shocking scenes.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 62


Carrie (1976) — Rated R
Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.
Despite the strong dose of male gaze in the opening sequence (a shower scene, which arguably is an integral part of the plot), I found this a compelling film. The strong performances from Betty Buckley, Sissy Spacek, and others (you’ll find many familiar faces) give this twisted tale a heartbreaking authenticity. It also features the WEIRDEST “cute boy” hairdo I’ve ever seen.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 85


Rosemary’s Baby (1968) — Rated R
A young couple trying for a baby move into a fancy apartment surrounded by peculiar neighbors.
This film starts quietly and meanders toward a horrific finale, requiring a certain investment of time and patience. I thought I knew what was going on, then I questioned everything, and then the finale pretty much blew my mind. There’s a great 2018 Vanity Fair essay by Laura Jacobs that fans of the film should read: The Devil Inside: Watching Rosemary’s Baby in the Age of #MeToo.
Watch the excellent fan-made Trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 96


The Exorcist (1973) — Rated R
When a 12-year-old girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her.
I have avoided this movie all my life…until this past Sunday. 45 minutes into it, I told my husband I had to walk away. I COULD NOT WATCH IT AT NIGHT. Reader, we DID return to it the next afternoon. We finished the movie, and it was brilliantly harrowing. For me, the most disturbing parts weren’t necessarily the paranormal bits. I mean, the hospital scenes! Poor Father Karras, carrying the burden of his guilt and grief, hit me the hardest. I really loved this film, but it’s no picnic.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 81

Finished, not sure I recommend
The Haunting of Julia (1977)
After her daughter’s death, wealthy American homemaker Julia Lofting moves to London to restart her life. All seems well until she is haunted by the ghosts of other children while mourning for her own.
This premise appealed to me, and I do think waifish, vulnerable Mia Farrow is quite good in the role. The film meanders quite a bit, however, and I’m not sure the conclusion is earned. (Or maybe I was just being a lazy viewer?) You can watch on Prime or Youtube.

Watched at least 20 minutes and lost interest
Amityville Horror (1979) — obviously this is a horror classic, but I just didn’t care about the characters. James Brolin, in particular, seemed to be sleepwalking through his performance.
Halloween (1978) — I love Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance, but this did not grab me. (Feel free to convince me to try again!)

Stay tuned for more spooky film recommendations. I’d love to know your thoughts about these films, and feel free to share your favorite horror movies from the 60s and 70s in the comments!

Spooky Reads 2020 and a GIVEAWAY

Hey! Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the end of this post.

When the Covid lockdown began, I craved comfort books. (See my recommendations here.) Lately, however, that old familiar yearning for Gothic horror has me in its grip. What a gluttony of horror fiction I’ve been enjoying! And I have this blog post to thank: ALL THE HORROR BOOKS WE’RE EXCITED ABOUT IN 2020 from Tornightfire.com.

I have offered spooky film recommendations for several years now. This year I’m adding recs for new (and newish) spooky novels. (Descriptions in bold are from the publisher.)


Follow Me to Ground (Simon & Schuster, 2020)
A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal—one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.
This quick read has the feel of a Southern Gothic, and it is so unique and enthralling. I devoured it in an afternoon.


You Let Me In (Tor, 2020)
A stunning tale from debut author Camilla Bruce, combining the sinister domestic atmosphere of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects with the otherworldly thrills of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.*
I have never read a spooky fairy story like this one. I could NOT put it down.


In the Night Wood (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018)
In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject.
This is not a new release, but it kept popping up during my research. The cover and pitch are tantalizing, yes? It may be my favorite read of the bunch.


Mexican Gothic (Del Rey Books/Penguin Random House, 2020)
From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird” (The Guardian).
This is a very buzzy book, and now I know why! The story features familiar elements, but I’ve never read anything quite like it. If you crave stories about creepy Gothic houses and their even creepier inhabitants, you MUST read it.

Also consider:


Home Before Dark (Penguin Random House, 2020)
In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?
This will seem like familiar territory (particularly to fans of The Haunting of Hill House Netflix series), but the story is nonetheless absorbing and entertaining. Great setting, fast pace.


Out of Body (Tor, 2020)
A small-town librarian witnesses a murder at his local deli, and what had been routine sleep paralysis begins to transform into something far more disturbing.
I am fascinated by the notion of astral projection, and this story took the concept to a new level. What starts as a quiet and unassuming story turns darker and weirder. Another quick read.

Other spooky reading recommendations on my blog:
The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
Geeked on Gothic

AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

COMING SOON…

__________
Featured image credit: Photo 144820404 © Dreamstime.com

Part III: Ghost-free SPOOKY Films

Today I conclude my 2019 spooky film recs with some Ghost-free viewing options!

All film synopses are from imdb.com.


Cold Skin (2017) — Unrated
In 1914, a young man arrives at a remote island near the Antarctic Circle to take the post of weather observer only to find himself trapped in a watchtower besieged by deadly creatures which live in hiding on the island. If there’s a historical film that is spooky AND co-stars Ray Stevenson, I’m going to watch it. David Oakes is great as the newly stationed weather attendant who soon learns that he and the eccentric lighthouse keeper (Stevenson) aren’t the only sentient creatures in the neighborhood. Physical and ethical clashes ensue. The pace is a little pokey at times, but it’s a gorgeous film.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / No Metascore


Us (2019) — Rated R
A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them.
I love Jordan Peele and am a fan of Get Out, but for some reason I resisted watching this film for a time. It is quite good, but it’s also the sort of film one wants to discuss afterwards and my usual film-watching buddies were unavailable. I love how Peele adds humor to the horror, and Lupita Nyong’o is a standout in a very strong cast.
Watch the trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 81 (tied with REVENGE for highest metascore of my 2019 recs)


Revenge (2017) — Rated R
Never take your mistress on an annual guys’ getaway, especially one devoted to hunting – a violent lesson for three wealthy married men. This one consistently shows up at or near the top of “best horror films,” but I avoided it for a couple of years because of the content. I’m glad I finally watched. It’s not fun, but it’s deeply satisfying. It DOES NOT eroticize violence against women. In fact, according to one reviewer, it “gouges the male gaze out of our eyeballs.” Keep in mind there is a high level of gore in this film.
Watch the trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 81


Midsommar (2019) — Rated R
A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult. This film is LONG and WEIRD. Like Hereditary it deals with the consequences of unrelenting grief and depression, but with an entirely different outcome. (So different that you almost forget about the grief–but maybe that’s the point?) I do think Ari Aster drags out the film with those long ritualistic sequences, but unlike some reviewers, I feel mostly satisfied with the ending. It made a certain sort of sense to me as a deliberate contrast to Hereditary‘s conclusion.
Watch the trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 72


Upgrade (2018) — Rated R
Set in the near-future, technology controls nearly all aspects of life. But when Grey, a self-identified technophobe, has his world turned upside down, his only hope for revenge is an experimental computer chip implant called Stem. This is my favorite horror film of this year’s offerings. I would call Upgrade a “Tech Noir” in the vein of Blade Runner and other “near future” scifi horror. It stars Logan Marshall-Green (whom I loved in The Invitation) as a vengeful widower and Simon Maiden as the voice of Stem. Oh, how darkly fun this film is! I won’t say more — just watch it.
Watch the trailer / Options for Viewing / Metascore: 67

That’s all from me for 2019–Hope you find something fun to watch. Do let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations. Happy Horror Viewing!

Part I: Family Friendly SPOOKY Films

I’m launching this year’s festivities with a few movies the whole family might enjoy. Please check the Parental Guide for each title. If you’re new to the blog and have younger children, you might check my 2016 post that includes solidly PG films, and don’t forget last year’s family viewing options. If you have tweens and teens interested in watching horror, the following options might appeal. Of course, you are the best judge of what your kids can or can’t handle in a scary film.

PLEASE NOTE: if you crave 500 jump scares per film, you may be disappointed by my recommendations. For more context on this, check out Chris Stuckmann’s youtube video, The Problem with Horror Movies Today–he makes a great point.

As usual, all film synopses are from imdb.com.


The Hole in the Ground (2019) — Rated R (not sure why?)
A young mother living in the Irish countryside with her son suspects his increasingly disturbing behavior is linked to a mysterious sinkhole in the forest, and fears he may not be her son at all. This is a bit slow to start, perhaps, but your patience will be rewarded. You’ll also be pleased to see the ubiquitous and always delightful James Cosmo. This film is both familiar and unique, and I loved the setting.
Watch the trailer / Options for viewing / IMDB Parental Guide /
Metascore: 63


Wait Till Helen Comes (2016) — Rated TV-14
When a reconstructed family moves to a converted church in the country, 14-year-old Molly, must save her new troubled step-sister from a dangerous relationship with the desperate ghost of a young girl. Raise your hand if you loved this book by Mary Downing Hahn! I’ve read it twice, and I thought this adaptation was pretty strong–spooky and tense without being gruesome, vulgar, or gratuitously violent. Great family fare, but not recommended for the little ones.
Watch the trailer / Options for Viewing / IMDB Parental Guide / No metascore


The Witch in the Window (2018) — Not rated
When Simon brings his twelve year-old son, Finn, to rural Vermont to help flip an old farmhouse, they encounter the malicious spirit of Lydia, a previous owner. And now with every repair they make – she’s getting stronger. This is my favorite of the family viewing options, and it’s one of my favorite spooky movies viewed this year. It’s so wonderfully character-driven and felt like I was getting a view into the world of a real family–a family I cared deeply about. Speaking of jump scares, there’s a well-earned one that made me squeak!
Watch the trailer / Options for viewing / IMDB Parental Guide / No Metascore

Perhaps best for 14-up due to language & violence:


The Dark (2005) — Rated R
In mourning over the tragic drowning of their daughter Sarah, James and Adèle are visited by Ebrill, a young girl who claims she died 60 years ago – and bears a startling resemblance to Sarah. Maria Bello and Sean Bean (!) star in this dark and creepy mystery set on the Welsh coast (but shot in Ireland, of course). It’s a good-looking film with lots of cool Gothic trappings, and yet a bit darker than the options listed above. Based on the novel Sheep, by Simon Maginn.
Watch the Trailer / Options for viewing / IMDB Parental Guide / No Metascore


Summer of ’84 — Not Rated
After suspecting that their police officer neighbor is a serial killer, a group of teenage friends spend their summer spying on him and gathering evidence, but as they get closer to discovering the truth, things get dangerous. Very reminiscent of Stranger Things, this film offers mystery and thrills without the paranormal content. Fair warning: crude language and teen boy humor abound, and the finale is grim.
Watch the Trailer / Options for Viewing / IMDB Parental Guide / Metascore: 57

Stay tuned for ghostly film recommendations!

2018 Spooky Film Recs, Part IV: Family Viewing

For my final “Spooky Films” post, I’m offering some suggestions for family viewing. If you’re new to the blog and have younger children, you might check my 2016 post that includes solidly PG films. If you have tweens and teens interested in watching horror, the following PG/PG-13 options might appeal. Of course, you are the best judge of what your kids can or can’t handle in a scary film.

As usual, all film synopses are from imdb.com.


Spirited Away (2001) — Rated PG
During her family’s move to the suburbs, a sullen 10-year-old girl wanders into a world ruled by gods, witches, and spirits, and where humans are changed into beasts.
You’re all probably way ahead of me on this one. I’d heard about it for years but didn’t think it was my sort of thing. Then I watched with a friend and her kiddos. Gosh! Such a lovely, haunting, and spooky film. “No Face” (seen above in the middle) now numbers among my very favorite film characters. Those in the know — are there any other spooky anime films I should track down?
Watch the trailer / available on DVD only (from various retailers) / Metascore: 96
(the highest IMDB metascore of any film I’ve recommended!)
Goth-o-Meter: medium-ish?


Down a Dark Hall (2018) — PG-13
A troubled teen named Kit Gordy is forced to join the exclusive Blackwood Boarding School, just to find herself trapped by dark forces around its mysterious headmistress, Madame Duret.
This one had me at “all-female boarding school.” Fans of Lois Duncan should get a kick out of it — the setting is properly Gothic and the cast (featuring Uma Thurman with a believable French accent) is strong. The atmosphere oozes with old-fashioned menace, but the students bring a modern edge to the “haunted boarding school” narrative. Lots of drama and even a little romance.
Watch the trailer / options for viewing / Metascore: 56
Goth-o-Meter: high


Our House (2018) — PG-13
A young genius accidentally invents a device that amplifies the paranormal activity within his family’s house, possibly bringing back the spirits of loved ones, and unleashing things far worse.
I like a little technology with my ghosts, especially when accidental contact occurs. The pacing in this one isn’t without its problems, but I found the family very appealing and right away I cared about their safety. You might call this a “modern domestic ghost story,” and I like that it offers mystery and chills without going too far with jump scares or violence.
Watch the trailer / options for viewing / Metascore: 45
(the lowest metascore of all my recs, but I really did think this was worth watching!)
Goth-o-Meter: medium to high


Beautiful Creatures (2013) — PG-13
Ethan longs to escape his small Southern town. He meets a mysterious new girl, Lena. Together, they uncover dark secrets about their respective families, their history and their town.
I read this book when it first came out and quite enjoyed it, but the trailers for the film turned me off. It all just looked waaaay over-the-top. But when I was searching for films to watch this year, this one came up again and again as a strong option. After all, it does have an incredible cast–Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Eileen Atkins and Emma Thompson–but it’s Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert who make this movie work. If you can get past Ehrenreich’s Forrest Gump-voiceover at the beginning, you’ll see what I mean. They are both sympathetic and have great chemistry together. Yes, there are outrageous moments in this film, but overall I found it intriguing and satisfying — including the (somewhat abrupt) ending.
Watch the trailer / options for viewing / Metascore: 52
Goth-o-Meter: high


Happy Death Day (2017) — PG-13
A college student must relive the day of her murder over and over again, in a loop that will end only when she discovers her killer’s identity.
As I’ve said before, I don’t enjoy slasher films unless they are quirky and/or funny. This horror spin on Groundhog Day was exactly what I was looking for. I’ve seen it characterized as “relentlessly violent,” but I assure you that there’s not much blood/gore at all, and though the film does get the pulse racing, the tone is playful. It’s along the lines of the SCREAM movies, but with much less blood.
Watch the trailer / options for viewing / Metascore: 57
Goth-o-Meter: low

Here’s a list of other PG-13 Horror options, though I’m kind of horrified that The Ring is included. That one really got to me–I enjoyed it, but it’s more at the “disturbing” end of the spooky continuum. There are moments in that film I wish I could unsee.

Also keep in mind that two of the films mentioned earlier in my 2018 recs are PG-13 — A Quiet Place and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The Endless is unrated, but I think it would be appropriate for teens and mature tweens.

That’s it for 2018, folks! Happy Horror Viewing and REMEMBER, if at any point you wish to browse previous spooky film recs (going all the way back to 2012), click the tag “spooky film recs” in the list below–or in the sidebar–and scroll to your heart’s content.