Don’t Turn Out the Lights
In the past, we have shared book and movie recommendations for the last few weeks of October. However, this year, we are focusing on our vast collection of horror films. To make things a little easier, we have divided the broad genre of horror further into Slasher Films, Monster Films, and Paranormal/ Supernatural Films. Each movie recommendation is accompanied by a trailer or clip. Please note that many of these movies are Rated R and the trailers often reflect that with depictions of violence and profanity.
The trademark of a slasher film is a masked killer harassing groups of people (typically women or teenagers).
This film was released in theaters December 1996. However, it remains a classic for a reason. The plot and characters in this movie make it feel more like a satire of the thriller genre. However, the horror and gore are in direct opposition to the satirical nature of the writing. Before release, the Motion Picture Association of America rated Scream as NC-17 (restricted to audiences over 17, even when with an adult). However, the director and filmmakers made several cuts which allowed the film to sneak by with a commercial R-rating. After failing in the box office for the first week, Scream went on to become the highest grossing slasher film until Halloween in 2018.
The 1978 classic Halloween was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The main antagonist in the series (Michael Myers) is a sanitarium escapee who stalks and murders the people of fictional Haddonfield, Illinois. The babysitter Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her debut role) is the protagonist.
Although there were several follow-ups to the1978 film, none of them fit neatly into the timeline of the original. The 2018 film Halloween (yes, titled the same) takes place 40 years after the original. Jamie Lee Curtis was brought back to play an older (and more prepared) Laurie Strode.
Killer Movie (2008)
One reviewer on IMDB said, “None of the cast are likable, the editing and narrative are awful, and the last five minutes of the film literally has more shots of the sidekick dog than anyone else.” In contrast to that, another reviewer says, “Here’s a slasher film that adheres to all of the conventions of the genre without pandering to the lowest common denominator. Horror fans will love this.” So, a wide variety of reviews. This film uses satire to poke fun at reality TV, horror, and itself. To be honest, I included it in this list because it was filmed predominately in Minnesota.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Since this movie’s release, there have been several sequels, graphic novel adaptations, and spin offs. This film is written by horror movie writer, Wes Craven and features Johnny Depp in his debut role. Perhaps the most impressive thing about A Nightmare on Elm Street is that in 2021 it was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry since it is “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
If you guessed that the trademark of monster films is typically a struggle between human protagonists and some sort of creature/ alien/ non-human entity, then you would be correct.
Not Rated (due to age of the film)
A silent film that is an unauthorized and unofficial adaptation of the 1897 novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Although several names and places were changed, the film was eventually found of copyright infringement and supposed to be destroyed in it’s entirety. However, a few copies survived. Now, this film is known as a masterpiece of the horror genre.
Exactly as the title would suggest. Based on the Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice, but set in a post-apocalyptic England. Although this film is considered a “commercial failure” in box office terms (the budget was $28 million and the film only made $16 million), I think one IMDB reviewer summed it up perfectly : “It’s a romance. It’s horror. It’s comedy. Go for the fun of it and don’t take it seriously.”
The Mist (2007)
Based on the Stephen King novella by the same name, The Mist has elements of science-fiction integrated with the horror and suspense. Director Frank Darabont says this about the film, “The story is less about the monsters outside than about the monsters inside, the people you’re stuck with, your friends and neighbors breaking under the strain.” (Kent, Alexandyr (March 23, 2007). “A bad day at the market”. The Times).
Not Rated (due to age of the film) and PG-13
Originally released in 1932 and staring Boris Karloff (star of the 1931 hit Frankenstein), The Mummy wasn’t considered as impactful as previous Karloff films, but still spawned several sequels and spin-offs. Perhaps more well known the original now, is the remake staring Brendan Fraser, (although it could just be well known among my friends and I since the female lead is a librarian). If you are looking for something with horror elements, but not too horrifying, both versions of The Mummy are something you don’t want to miss this October.
Paranormal/ Supernatural Films
The trademark of a paranormal/ supernatural film is the presence of a ghost, apparition, spirit, god, goddess, or any other extraordinary unexplainable phenomenon.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
This is one of the first found footage horror films to get the recognition it did. It spawned a host of other found-footage concept films such as Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, and The Last Exorcism. There have been sequel to The Blair Witch Project, however it was poorly received by most critics. Regardless, the original remains one of the most watched horror films to this day.
The Conjuring (2013)
When I was asking students for suggestions to put in this blog post, nearly every single one of them mentioned this film, and they aren’t alone. The budget for this film was $20 million and it grossed over $319 million worldwide and critics have praised it for the performances, screenplay, atmosphere, and musical score. However, not everyone has been an advocate of this film. The owners of the house on which the film was based sued Warners Bros and the producers in 2015. Their property was trespassed upon frequently and they kept finding objects affiliated with satanic cults in their yard after the release of the film.
This horror film was written and produced (in part) by Steven Spielberg. At the time, Spielberg was contractually unable to direct another film while working E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This is why he isn’t listed as a director of Poltergeist even though he was heavily involved in the creative process. To the point where some consider him a co-director or primary director of the film. Poltergeist was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and 6 Saturn Awards in 1983.