Spooky season is the perfect time to sit down, snuggle under a blanket with sufficient snacks and put on a horror film, but alas, all good things must come to an end. In honor of the last Halloween, I’ve decided to compile a list of 10 otherworldly horror films to conclude the ghastly month of October. From timeless horror classics and cult favorites to underrated gems and thrilling psychological horrors, here’s my list of the 10 must-see horror films.
1. THE EXORCIST (1973)
The Exorcist follows the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, Regan, and her mother’s attempt to rescue her through an exorcism performed by two priests.
Easily regarded as one of the best films of all time, The Exorcist is a timeless classic. William Friedkin’s horror masterpiece explores the ageless question of faith and the possibility of possession.
Regardless of the viewers’ belief system, The Exorcist is a visceral and haunting take on faith, that would easily leave most religious skeptics trembling at the reality of possession and the possibility of faith.
2. THE OMEN (1976)
The Omen tells the story of a young child replaced at birth by American Ambassador Robert Thorn, unbeknownst to his wife, after their own son was murdered at the hospital. Surrounded by mysteriously ominous deaths, they are unaware that the child, Damien, is the Antichrist.
Richard Donner tells a fascinating tale in which Damien, the Antichrist, the son of Satan, is grown up in a life of luxury and great power, under the care of an American Ambassador.
Harvey Spencer Stephens is menacing as young Damien – a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination – in a film that breeds pure evil. It is equally shocking as it is terrifying to see Damien’s diabolic nature as the Antichrist.
3. HEREDITARY (2018)
Hereditary explores the Graham family as they mourn over the death of their secretive grandmother. The grieving family turn to different means to handle their grief, each beginning to have disturbing, supernatural experiences linked to the sinister secrets and emotional trauma that has been inherited through the generations of their family.
Ari Aster’s 2018 feature directorial debut is a stellar knockout. Exploring grief in a truly lamented yet horrific way, Aster shocks audiences with a slow-burning, yet viciously intense, heart-pounding horror.
Toni Colette’s performance is easily one for the ages – stirring with regret, disappointment, grief and trepidation; her work here is equally admirable as it is distressingly agitating.
4. THE EVIL DEAD (1981)
The Evil Dead is centered on five college students vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods. After they find a necromantic book and an audio tape – that when played releases a legion of demons and spirits – members of the group start getting possessed, leading the group down a gorily chaotic path.
Sam Raimi’s campy cult favorite is arguably one of the most fun horror experiences a moviegoer can have – it’s vivid, unhinged and one of the most berserk films, let alone horror films, ever made.
Bruce Campbell’s star turn as Ash Williams is well-earned, featuring some of the most iconically gory and bloody scenes, including scenes with Ash’s infamous chainsaw, that he later uses to cut off his own possessed hand off and use as his hand in the sequel.
5. HOUSE OF WAX (1953)
House of Wax is tells the story of a disfigured sculptor who repopulates his destroyed wax museum by murdering people and using their wax-coated corpses as displays.
A remake of the 1933 Warner Brother film, Mystery of The Wax Museum, Andre DeToth’s 1953 horror thriller is a special entry in our list: it was the first color 3-D feature from a major American studio, as well as the first 3-D film with stereophonic sound to be presented in a regular theater, creating an illusion of multi-directional audible perspective.
House of Wax is chilling, suspenseful and atmospherically eerie, creating for an uncannily gripping experience.
6. THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019)
The Lighthouse follows two lighthouse keepers who start to lose their sanity when a storm hits the remote island on which they are stationed.
The most recent release on this list, Robert Eggers’ sophomore feature might be the most fascinating film on this list: it has nothing to do with scares, but rather with how untraditional a horror film it is; instead of focusing on any horror entities, Eggers’ unhinged feature touches on mythology and insanity – showing two men’s descent into madness.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, with some of their best work yet, sink into a deranged state of delirium and mayhem, as they confront the horrifyingly maddening effects of isolation and solitude.
7. THE SHINING (1980)
Adapted from the 1977 Stephen King novel of the same name, The Shining centrals in on Jack Torrence, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the isolated historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies.
With him are his wife, Wendy and his son, Jack – who possesses “the shining”, which are psychic abilities, that enable him to see into the hotel’s horrific past. After a winter storm leaves them snowbound, Jack’s sanity deteriorates under the influence of the supernatural forces that inhabit the hotel, placing his wife and son in danger amidst their stay at the hotel.
Stanley Kubrick’s masterful Stephen King adaptation remains to be one of the best crafted psychological horrors, with a vivacious intensity building up in the background. A frenzied, non compos mentis Jack Nicholson, paired with a petrified, scared for her life Shelley Duvall makes for one of the most iconic cinematic moments – “Here’s Johnny!”
8. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968)
Based on Ira Levin’s book of the same name, Rosemary’s Baby revolves around a young couple who move into an apartment only to be surrounded by odd incidents and peculiar neighbors. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins to dominate her life, as she fears her neighbors – who she believes are part of an evil cult – want her baby for a ritual.
The film, which talks about Christianity, paranoia and the occult, is also culturally significant in its feminist message of women’s liberation, reflecting upon the politics of women’s bodies. Rosemary’s Baby is a critique of how a woman’s body can be imprisoned by the world around her, such as how Rosemary’s body and womb become “imprisoned by the world her husband and malefic neighbors craft for her.”
9. ALIEN (1979)
With Alien, Ridley Scott merged two popular genres together -science-fiction and horror – to make one of the most innovatively unnerving films of all time, which would go on to spawn a prevalent billion-dollar franchise.
Combining the claustrophobic confines of a spacecraft and the endless void of space, Ridley crafts an unsettling, daunting and brutal atmosphere for the film to breathe in; one that’s looming with a Xenemorph alien. Sigourney Weaver’s badass Ellen Ripley is definitively one of cinema’s most iconic heroes.
10. PSYCHO (1960)
Saving the most iconic of horror films for last, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a masterwork from the master of suspense himself, dripping with suspense, agitation and plot twists no one would have seen coming.
Hitchcock’s respected film features some of the most celebrated horror shots in history. From the notable shower stabbing scene, to the notorious final scene that features a sinister Norman Bates smiling, the images captured by Hitchcock’s famed psychological horror will be ingrained in viewer’s memories forever.