Horror recommendations for the easily frightened
If you tend to scare quick but are looking to dip your toes, search no further
October is universally known as the time of pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween. As Halloween draws closer, more and more people are watching horror movies. Horror movies are coming out in theatres. For those who aren’t big fans of horror, it can be hard to know where to start during scary movie season. I only became interested in the horror genre a few years ago and the filmography is intimidating. Here are some horror movies that I recommend during the Halloween season if you’re new to horror and don’t know where to start, or if you want to go back for some of the classics and some of the best.
Starting us off on this chronological list is a true classic: Psycho. Psycho is one of those movies that once you’ve seen it, you see pieces of it everywhere, especially in horror. It changed horror from monster movies like Dracula or Creature from the Black Lagoon to slashers with very human characters behind the knife. It stripped away the safety shield that most protagonists in movies have by killing off the main heroine halfway through the movie. The monster was just a man who killed a woman in the shower in a scene that lives in infamy. Alfred Hitchcock did things that no one else had ever done in horror. His use of blood and violence let other films use it in new and different ways. There would be no slashers without Psycho, and you’ll see its influence in every other slasher on this list.
The next movie, Black Christmas, came out 14 years after Psycho and is another slasher movie that made leaps and bounds for the genre. When it was released, the media wasn’t a big fan of Black Christmas, and criticized it for being unnecessarily violent and too slow-paced. It was a huge inspiration for the incredibly popular Halloween movie. It introduced classic tropes like the killer’s POV and the killer calling their victims over the phone. Black Christmas doesn’t often get the credit it deserves for its work in the horror genre.
John Carpenter’s Halloween was released in 1978 and created the infamous horror killer Michael Myers. One of the biggest aspects of Halloween was the music. Carpenter made the score himself and it creates the perfect horror atmosphere. Not every Halloween movie after the first one was great, but the first one is significant in horror culture. It also introduces Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, the final girl, in her first feature film. Curtis does an incredible job with the role and the movie wouldn’t be the same without her.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie the Shining is an iconic horror movie. Since its release, horror movies and general pop culture have often paid homage to scenes from the movie. The famous “Here’s Johnny!” is everywhere in the media and parodied often in horror, like in the Child’s Play franchise. This is an iconic movie without any reboots either, just the sequel Doctor Sleep by Mike Flanagan, which Stephen King (author of the Shining novel) liked more than Kubrick’s film. Mike Flanagan’s Netflix shows aren’t on my list because this is about movies, but I highly recommend all of them.
A new slasher villain entered the ring in 1984 with Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. Freddy Krueger follows a lot of tropes introduced in early slashers like Halloween and Black Christmas. It was wildly successful upon release and it pushed horror villains more into the supernatural that audiences would see later on with resurrections of characters like Jason Voorhees. Craven took the slasher genre away from a killer being in your home and moved it to a killer being in your head.
Doll haters look away, the next movie is 1988’s Child’s Play. It was directed by Tom Holland, but most of the credit goes to Don Mancini who came up with the story and is still creating media with the character in the current TV show Chucky (which is great). Child’s Play is so great because of the amazing child acting from Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay, and the team of puppeteers behind Chucky. Despite the horror and murder in this movie, Child’s Play is fun and Chucky likes to crack jokes. The series gets a bit more silly and leans towards comedy as it goes on, but the first movie is mostly a slasher, and entirely a great movie.
Returning to Wes Craven, 1996’s Scream was a genre changer at the time of its release. By 1996, a lot of slashers were sequels of earlier franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th, but Scream did things differently. The characters had seen horror movies and made fun of common slasher tropes. It left behind the silent stalkers like Michael and Jason and instead went for a more funny killer in Ghostface. Our final girl, Sidney Prescott, knows about horror and how to use the resources around her. After Scream, the historical accounting of horror movies changed to before Scream and after Scream. Its importance for the genre landed it on my recommendation list.
Let’s have some fun with our next movie, shall we? 2009’s Jennifer’s Body, starring Megan Fox, is genuinely a fun horror comedy. It plays on the male gaze through its marketing, but turns into a movie about female friendship and puts Jennifer as the main killer of the movie. It’s way more fun than it is scary, and honestly a great time.
You’re Next is my favourite horror movie. It was directed by Adam Wingard and released in 2011. It’s a home invasion slasher with a fun twist at the end, and my favourite final girl. Erin is a really smart protagonist. She fights back against the invaders and constantly makes intelligent choices to save her life and the lives of the people in the house with her. Sometimes with horror, you find yourself screaming at the TV as the main character makes a bad decision, but this doesn’t happen with You’re Next. Erin is consistent in her choices and you never worry about her doing something stupid like other horror protagonists.
These are my nine horror movie recommendations for Halloween. Remember, horror isn’t for everyone, and don’t try to force yourself to enjoy a genre if you don’t want to (or just can’t). It can be a lot to take in for people who don’t like blood, gore, or jump-scares. Don’t let anyone pressure you into watching a horror movie just because it’s October. But, if you do choose to watch a horror movie, or you’re new to the genre and want to get started, these are my recommendations.