Seeing trick-or-treaters on Halloween always bums me out. Halloween is my favorite holiday, but I’m way too old to go door to door asking for candy. Even costume parties have lost some of their novelty. Luckily, there’s a limitless supply of entertainment at my fingertips that can recapture the thrill of being scared into paralysis on a cold October night. Here’s a list of some of the best horror movies, across a variety of sub-genres, to watch with a bit of a buzz.
There’s really no intelligible way to sell the plot of this 1977 Japanese cult classic, so here is a short list of the psychedelic horrors on display in House: a painting of a cat that vomits blood, a head pulled out of a well, cannibalism, and a piano that chops off fingers. Although loosely built around the story of a girl who invites her classmates to vacation at her spinster aunt’s haunted house, House (or Hausu in Japanese) is so much more than that. Experimental director Nobuhiko Obayashi sought out to create a movie that would defy horror cliches and asked his young daughter for input on particularly scary themes or images. Obayashi also worked extensively directing mainstream Japanese TV commercials, and it shows in the frenetic, fever-dream pace of Hausu. Scenes and ideas jump back and forth with no clear cuts or transitions, making this an especially good viewing experience with a heavy cerebral sativa like Green Crack or Sour Diesel.
Something like a cross between The Strangers and The Family Stone, You’re Next is a terrifying spin on the home invasion genre. It starts out as a tense family drama — several siblings and their significant others show up for a reunion at their uber-wealthy parents’ secluded home. Just as we start to understand their twisted family dynamics, masked killers enter the picture and start slaughtering the brood in increasingly inventive and gruesome ways.
There’s a mumblecore realism and humor to the dialogue that — especially when you’re stoned
— gets you invested in the characters, making the whole grisly manhunt almost unbearably suspenseful. It’s directed by indie favorite Adam Wingard, who has a new sequel in the Blair Witch franchise slated for release in September.
David Lynch is a master of contemporary horror and Blue Velvet marks his career breakthrough. Kyle MacLachlan (who would go on to play quirky Special Agent Dale Cooper in Lynch’s Twin Peaks) stars as Jeffrey Beaumont, a clean-cut smalltown boy who finds a severed ear in a field on his walk home one day. The investigation that follows is a surreal trip through the dark underbelly of suburbia, bouncing between comedy and nightmare. The film’s disturbing content led at least one contemporary reviewer to describe David Lynch as “someone best not encountered in a dark alley.” Even if you start to lose track of the plot, the visual shifts between slapstick and deeply unsettling horror are so trippy that you’re sure to stay glued to the screen.
House of the Devil
Hooked on the creepiness and 80s nostalgia of Stranger Things and can’t wait for season two? House of the Devil is an even darker blast from the past. The setup is a classic: a pretty young girl needs some extra cash and takes a job babysitting in a creepy old Victorian mansion. Predictably, things start to go wrong — but director Ti West delivers some great jump scares and a genuine sense of dread that save the movie from feeling like a slasher cliche. As fun to watch as it is scary,
House of the Devil tosses in some perfect musical and wardrobe period details that call to mind the moody horror movies of the era like Halloween and The Amityville Horror.
Pack a bowl of Trainwreck and take a hit around an hour in — you’ll peak just as the movie reaches its terrifying climax.
Natasha Lyonne — Nicki from Orange is the New Black — is a pro at playing flawed but likable heroines. In Antibirth, due for release in September, she takes that same energy into some dark territory. Lyonne and real-life friend Chloe Sevigny play hard-partying stoner chicks on the verge of burning out. Things take a turn when Lyonne’s character Lou starts showing signs of being pregnant… despite not having had sex for months. Mixing grotesque body horror with horrific drug-fueled hallucinations, Antibirth may hit home on a few different levels. If you’re too couchlocked to make it out to the theater, check out David Cronenberg’s 1979 movie The Brood on Hulu instead, which also depicts the miracle of birth as an unimaginable form of torture.
Ok, yes, it’s subtitled, but give Mario Bava’s 1963 giallo thriller Black Sabbath a shot if only for its eerie and shocking visuals. Black Sabbath is an anthology film that tells three different ghost stories in dramatic and elaborate settings. Bava pays extremely close attention to tiny details in the movie’s sets and special effects which are all the more impressive considering its age. The action can be a little campy and over the top for today’s audiences, but it’s never boring and there’s always something incredible to look at. If you’re blazed enough to suspend your disbelief — or if you’re a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s similarly gory and visual Crimson Peak — brace yourself for a solid scare, especially in the movie’s final segment, “The Drop of Water.”
If you like your slasher flicks balanced out by some black comedy, 2014’s The Voices combines camp and gore in a way that’s reminiscent of Sam Raimi horror hybrids like Drag Me to Hell. In The Voices, Ryan Reynolds plays mild-mannered and slightly unhinged factory employee Jerry, whose managed schizophrenia bubbles over into murder after a series of unfortunate coincidences. The always-affable Reynolds succeeds in portraying a sympathetic murderer, forcing you to see the horrors through his own bumbling eyes. For a more traditionally terrifying take on the “murderer’s P.O.V.” genre, check out the 2012 Son of Sam-inspired remake Maniac, starring Elijah Wood as a deranged serial killer.