Every year around this time I like to recap the past year’s spooky movie viewing. Perhaps you’ll find something here to enjoy during your Halloween weekend festivities? Please share your own recommendations in the comments!
[All plot blurbs and metacritic scores are from imdb.com.]
It Follows (2014)
A young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force after getting involved in a sexual encounter.
This indie film seemed to be the darling of many critics — Entertainment Weekly reminded me of it over and over in the months following its release. I don’t think I had unreasonably high expectations, but I was let down. Perhaps I just didn’t appreciate the concept of a sexually transmitted ghost/demon. I didn’t connect to the characters, so the horror wasn’t as effective it could have been. But I have to give it credit for being different. (Available for purchase/rental from various vendors)
Watch the trailer. (Metascore: 83/100)
Crimson Peak (2015)
In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
A gorgeous film dripping with Gothic iconography, Crimson Peak is disturbing, certainly, but a bit too “on the nose” to be scary. I wish del Torro had focused less on ghostly special effects and more on the horror of what we can’t see. Still, it’s quite a spectacle and, in my opinion, deserves a second viewing. (In theaters now.)
Watch the trailer. (Metascore: 67/100)
Kylie Bucknell is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. However, when she too becomes privy to unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, she begins to wonder whether she’s inherited her overactive imagination, or if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit who’s less than happy about the new living arrangement.
This film from New Zealand is quirky and character-driven, with plenty of humor to balance the horror. It takes risks, and perhaps not all of them pay off, but I appreciate the attempt. (Netflix streaming, also available for purchase/rental from various vendors]
Watch the trailer. (Metascore: 76/100)
The Ring (2002)
A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone in a week of viewing it.
People have recommended this film to me for years, and now I see why. It’s not without its flaws, but the performances are strong (I love Naomi Watts!), and the horror lingers long after the film is over. I particularly enjoyed the film-within-a-film component — I love stories that involve the close study of clues in a film strip, photograph, or sound clip. STRONG warning for animal horror/violence. (Available for purchase/rental from various vendors.)
Watch the trailer. (Metascore: 57/100 — surprising since this is considered a horror classic?)
The Babadook (2014)
A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.
Anyone wishing to study tension in film should take a look at this Australian/Canadian offering — at times the tension and dread are almost unbearable. Essie Davis (Miss Fisher!) is brilliant as a single mom struggling with grief and her son’s seemingly overactive imagination. One of the best horror films I’ve seen. [Netflix streaming, also available for purchase/rental from various vendors)
Watch the trailer. (Metascore: 86/100)