Scratch Cinema has put together a personal collection of horrifying and spooky film recommendations, just in time for Halloween. This listicle ranges from campy favourites to bloody nightmares, and there’s something for everyone. 

Videodrome (1983), Dir. David Cronenberg

A person wearing a white shirt is putting their head through a television screen, creating a hole in the television. The screen depicts an image of feminine lips, and it looks like the person is trying to kiss them.

In Cronenberg’s ’83 classic Videodrome, it’s not the spooky score or jump scares that make it a part of the horror genre but instead the philosophy presented within the film. Its philosophy is an altered version of Descartes’ “relationship between mind and body” theory: yes, our body and mind are one of the same and the mind has control over the body, but what happens when an outer element, a television signal, starts to take over the whole thing and leads one to its self destruction? The film’s protagonist, Max, becomes addicted to a cryptic snuff-porn channel called Videodrome that displays torture as a sexual act but its real deal is that it implants a tumor into its viewers brain. The true horror lies in the way that tumor is created; the constant exposure to violence and sex results in body deformities and hallucinations in its viewer. Max slowly loses his relationship with both his body and mind and transcends into the “New Flesh”. The only way to stop this transformation is suicide. But the program does not end there: considering how many people want to watch the unspoken desires like sadomasochism and sexual repression, the “New Flesh” will always find itself new victims. At the end of the day, this is just a sci-fi horror film and we might not actually get a gun glued to our hands for watching porn, but what if we let media influence us so much that we find ourselves choosing to pick up that gun? Videodrome is a must-watch for not just horror geeks but also for everyone who feels like they need to be thrown back into reality. – Deren E. Akın

Thelma (2017), Dir. Joachim Trier

Like seemingly every other gay kid growing up on the internet, I have always had a troubled relationship with religion. I grew up in a conservative Christian household where my biggest outings were weekly trips to the local church to take classes. As I began to grow, my attractions towards girls became clear and I was racked with constant guilt. I think this is why I felt so drawn to the main character of Thelma; she, like myself, had to tackle coming to terms with her sexuality while coming from an unsupportive family. Although, of course, I did not get to experience the supernatural powers that Thelma did, I think that seeing someone so similar to myself go through an experience almost indistinguishable from my own is part of why I am now so confident in my lesbian identity. The film being my favorite genre, horror, also helped.

Like seemingly every other gay kid growing up on the internet, I have always had a troubled relationship with religion. I grew up in a conservative Christian household where my biggest outings were weekly trips to the local church to take classes. As I began to grow, my attractions towards girls became clear and I was racked with constant guilt. I think this is why I felt so drawn to the main character of Thelma; she, like myself, had to tackle coming to terms with her sexuality while coming from an unsupportive family. Although, of course, I did not get to experience the supernatural powers that Thelma did, I think that seeing someone so similar to myself go through an experience almost indistinguishable from my own is part of why I am now so confident in my lesbian identity. The film being my favorite genre, horror, also helped. – Aubrey Carr

A Quiet Place (2018), Dir. John Krasinski

A young girl with short dark blonde hair is pointing her fingers angrily at her father, a bearded man with dark hair who’s bending down to his daughter’s height. Regan is on the left and her father is on the right. The background is an out of focus green field.

Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place is a contemporary example of authentic storytelling in a genre that typically has a complex relationship with disability and Deaf representation. This film follows a family living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by blind extra-terrestrial creatures with heightened hearing. Regan, the daughter, is Deaf and so they all communicate using American Sign Language, enabling the family’s survival through visual means. The daughter is portrayed by Millicent Simmons, a young Deaf actress, whose role contributes towards the empowerment and representation of Deaf people within horror. This atmospheric masterpiece symbolises deafness, Deaf culture, and deaf adaptations as solutions rather than burdens, exploring the evolutionary advantages they hold over their non-disabled peers in this post-apocalyptic world. Living life as a hard-of-hearing person with visible hearing aids can be lonely, and I had never seen myself reflected on the big screen in all my twenty years. I never had a superhero to look up to, or a character to relate with. That all changed when I sat down to watch this film. I’ll never forget my tears and smiles when I saw Regan and her hearing aid. I felt seen, and I felt like I mattered. – Charlotte Little

Scream (1996), Dir. Wes Craven

(From left to right) Skeet Ulrich, Neve Campbell, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, and Jamie Kennedy sitting by a fountain at lunch on a sunny day. They are all looking at the camera and smiling.

For me, Scream is one of the most defining films of the horror genre and it’s truly the pinnacle of the slasher. Obviously, other staples (Halloween (1978), Friday the 13th (1980), etc.) in this iconic subgenre laid the groundwork for this film, but the way Scream energetically pinballs between these influences and toys with their legacies, all while creating a wholly original world and set of characters in the process, is what makes it the best of the best. The film’s comedic, self-referential nature allows this cinematic world to feel lived-in, and it allows its teen characters to feel like your own friend group from high school, which makes it all the more chilling when one of them gets picked off by the ever-evolving Ghostface. In turn, our dearly-beloved final girl Sidney Prescott (played by a graceful Neve Campbell) gives one of the most nuanced performances in a slasher film by allowing her extreme vulnerability to push through her quick-witted, take-no-prisoners attitude in order to survive the night. Even if it feels like a cop-out to say, everything in this film is pitch-perfect, from Marco Beltrami’s hair-raising score, to the timeless screenplay from Kevin Williamson, and even Courtney Cox’s bangs (I mean, have you seen them?). I could go on for ages about the brilliance of Wes Craven’s masterpiece, but all I would say would support something we already know: Scream is truly one of the best horror films out there, and is undoubtedly my favorite horror film ever. – Nick McCutcheon

Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktakular (2003), Dir. Ezekiel Norton

Animated scene from the film Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktakular depicting the characters Scary Godmother, dressed as a witch, and Hannah, a young girl, dressed as a fairy princess.

Growing up, my sister and I never really celebrated Halloween. As a holiday rooted in the local histories of European cultures, Halloween was incomprehensible to my mother, someone raised in the customs of the Global South. Quite simply, she was uncomfortable allowing us to accept candy from strangers. Hence, when I reminisce about celebrating Halloween as a child, I only remember two distinct events: 1. spending the evening at Odyssey Fun World instead of trick-or-treating and 2. watching Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktakular (2003) on Cartoon Network. All throughout the month of October, my sister and I would be fixated on Cartoon Network as it played re-runs of Scary Godmother — seemingly everyday, multiple times a day! I remember us laying on the itchy, ivory carpet in the basement of our old house, hoarding snacks and integrating into the haunting, magical world that comprised the setting of the film. While I have spent most of my Halloweens consuming candy, this has never really been a defining experience by which I relate the impact or importance of this holiday to my life. My Halloween memories are inseparable from Scary Godmother, which, in effect, serve as an unforgettable extension of my enduring passion for film — even as a child. – Shola Jimoh

Shaun of the Dead (2014), Dir. Edgar Wright

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are holding a spade and baseball bat to defend themselves against zombies in the film Shaun of the Dead.

As a teenager in the early 2000s it seemed nigh on impossible for me to play video games in a friend’s room without the now-iconic Shaun of the Dead (2004) poster looming over us on the wall. The simple costume of a short-sleeve shirt, tie, trousers and that blood-splattered baseball bat was ingrained in my memory long before I saw the film or realised it was the easiest makeshift Halloween outfit. The premise promises zombie horror and wonderfully British humour, but director Edgar Wright delivers so much more. Yes, Shaun of the Dead is a pitch-perfect homage to zombie classics. Yes, it’s also a finely-tuned satire of the horror genre. But wrapped within its gory images and comedic gold is an incredibly earnest story of friendship. Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed’s (Nick Frost) quite unhealthy codependent relationship throws into question the longevity of friendships and preys on the fears of growing out of important people in your life. All this from a film that made me howl laughing at a Coldplay cameo and used vinyl records as DIY ninja stars against approaching zombies. What a feat. –Conor Murray

The Evil Dead (1981), Dir. Sam Raimi

Bruce Campbell as Ash Williams. He is standing in front of a barren landscape holding an axe and a shotgun.

Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981) is an unintentionally fun, campy and undeniably groovy horror classic that I think everyone should watch at least once. Ash (Bruce Campbell) is definitely one of the most memorable horror protagonists, and it’s no wonder he went on to lead the spin-offs and sequels. In all honesty, The Evil Dead may be one of the few movie franchises where the sequel is better than the original movie. Still, you should probably watch all of them just to be sure. – Nicole Sanacore

Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Dir. Frank Oz

An enormous venus fly trap-like plant stares down a blonde woman in a wedding dress. The plant takes up the majority of the image, with its vines spreading to cover the room's walls.

Although I personally tend to watch more scary than silly movies in the days leading up to Halloween, some of my all time favorite horrors are comedy horrors – and Little Shop of Horrors is one of the best. The film tells the story of a down on its luck flower shop located in skid row and its neurotic employee who finds a “strange and interesting” plant that he displays in the shop’s window. The plant’s uniqueness brings an unprecedented amount of business to the shop, but creates a horrific moral dilemma for the film’s protagonist (played by Rick Moranis) when he realizes the plant feeds on human blood. 

A darkly humorous delight, Little Shop of Horrors features several catchy musical numbers and some incredibly impressive practical effects. Although a bit more adult than the likes of Hocus Pocus (1993), it’s a much tamer choice for Halloween than some of the season’s more horrifying classics. If you’ve seen and enjoy the original cut of the film, you may also want to check out the director’s cut this month to see a darker version of the film’s ending more faithful to the stage show it is adapted from. – Beca Dalimonte

Beetlejuice (1988), Dir. Tim Burton

Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder as Beetlejuice and Lydia Deetz. Beetlejuice is wearing a ruffled suit, and has a ghostly white face with black eye makeup. His hair is straggled, and he’s wearing a bowtie. Lydia has black hair and is wearing a red fluffy coat of sorts. There are blue curtains in the background.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Say his name three times, and the campy, demonic corpse of an unrecognizable Michael Keaton will appear. In true Tim Burton fashion, Beetlejuice creates a bizarre, vivid depiction of the Netherworld and the afterlife, bursting with bright greens and intriguing characters to emphasize the lively adventure of the ghosts, humans, and spooky creatures in between. Following the recently deceased Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) haunting their former home, it’s the sentimental relationship between the ghosts and teenage goth Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) that adds an emotional arc to layers of slapstick and fast-paced storytelling. Not only do we get to dive into an amusing world of the supernatural, but Lydia’s journey of dealing with her overbearing parents and helping both the Maitlands and Beetlejuice gives the film a beating heart to thrive on. A creepy, yet entertaining flick that many families can enjoy, Beetlejuice is the perfect horror comedy that manages to take something as melancholic as death and what comes after it and turn it into a spectacle of humor, standout visuals, and delightful storytelling. – Annaliese Avila

The Thing (1982), Dir. John Carpenter

An illustrated silhouette of a man is facing front; his face is shrouded by a bright white light which shoots off in multiple directions and angles; a black and blue background that appears crystalline surrounds him.

Beginning in the late 1970s, writer-director John Carpenter went on a historic run that lasted for a decade, crafting some of the finest and most influential genre films of the modern era. Nearly 40 years after it was released to box office failure, The Thing has taken its rightful place among the very best horror films of all-time. From the claustrophobia of its remote Antarctic setting to the (still) masterful practical effects, the film burrows under your skin from the first frame and never lets up. A scary good ensemble cast led by the one and only Kurt Russell sells every bit of the descent into paranoid madness that will stay with viewers long after the film’s notoriously ambiguous ending. While Michael Myers may be Carpenter’s most enduring creation, The Thing remains his peerless, indisputable masterpiece. – Dan Kingsley

Audition (1999), Dir. Takashi Miike

A young woman with long black hair (Asami played by Eihi Shiina) looks lovingly at an extended piano wire.

When I was in college, one of the most fun things to do was show my friends some of my favorite films that I felt would freak them out the most. Whether it be Mulholland Drive, Evil Dead 2, or Hausu, nothing compared to the reactions I would get from Takashi Miike’s magnum opus Audition, always introducing it as a romance that got slightly weird at the end. I would then watch their faces in pure shock and horror at the infamous jump scare and brutal last 20 minutes, and laugh alongside being frightened with them. At the end of the day, however, Audition is more than just a way to scare friends and laugh at their misery. It’s a masterpiece of horror, relying on silence to create impending doom. Each scare feels intense and all the more terrifying as a result. It’s also a brilliant critique of the way men view women, using the phony audition plot to showcase the main character’s hidden misogyny and expose his supposed nice attitude, commenting on the state of the men who act exactly like him with his sort of power. Audition is a film that’s brilliantly acted, written, and shot, and still manages to have the same impact on viewers now that it did 21 years ago. – Jakob Sanchez

Jennifer Body (2009), Dir. Karyn Kusama

A brunette Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) is holding up a lighter to her tongue whilst on the phone.

Jennifer’s Body (2009) is a satirical horror film that documents the lives of Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) and “Needy” Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfreid) as their typical high school lives take a dark turn. This film has become one of my favorites to watch during the Halloween season because of its upbeat, comedical dialogue that brightens the tone of the plot itself. Satirical horror is one of my favorite genres in general, but Jennifer’s Body stands out to me due to the reverse of stereotypical horror roles. It’s overly common for horror films to have a smart outcast in the “final girl” role, with a more popular best friend, who is killed off fairly fast. This film takes these tropes and spins them in a refreshingly entertaining way. In addition to this, Jennifer’s Body portrays the complex relationship between Jennifer and Needy in such a normalized way, without making a big deal of their feelings, which is something I’ve always liked. Altogether, this film is a fun, female-centric slasher that I really enjoy. – Taya Strauss

Saw (2004), Dir. James Wan

Adam (Leigh Whannell) sits wearing a blood-soaked t-shirt, mouth agape, in front of the grubby tiles of Saw's central setting of a bathroom.

Horror doesn’t get much more fun than the first Saw. There are lots of films I enjoy for their philosophical aspects or bone-chilling scares, but this commits to being an immensely entertaining spectacle. A grungy atmosphere, memorable characters, and genuinely surprising twists are the foundations of the constant thrills and the great sequels to come, and make this reliably rewatchable in a way that few movies are. – Lee Millington

Psycho (1960), Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

A young woman, Marion Crane, is driving a car and staring at the camera. She grips the steering wheel and has a concerned expression on her face. The photo is black and white.

Everyone and their mother (and everyone pretending to be their mother) has written something about Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. It’s not hard to see why: the 1960 film defined the slasher genre as we know it today, pushed the restrictive boundaries of the Hays Production Code, and made an entire generation afraid to take a shower ever again. Psycho is known for its most iconic elements. Bernard Herrmann’s score—its slashing, slicing violins now practically synonymous with fear itself—proved so integral to building the film’s suspense that Hitchcock reportedly doubled Herrmann’s salary. The bloody murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she showers is perhaps the most recognizable movie scene of all time, a chilling testament to the power of editing.

But when I finally watched Psycho for the first time a year ago, it wasn’t those defining moments that stuck with me. Rather it was the little details that drew me in and didn’t let go once the end credits rolled. The police car framed in Marion’s rearview mirror. The neon letters spelling “Bates Motel, Vacancy,” just visible through the pounding rain. The disarming, boyish smile of Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) as he lies through his teeth to Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam). Each tiny thread that Hitchcock weaves into his film only furthers the sense of unease that grows and grows until it is too late. Released sixty years ago this fall, Psycho remains creepy and compelling, a must-watch for any film or horror fan. – Emma Ward

Raw (2016), Dir. Julia Ducournau

A young woman stares intensely as a stream of blood begins to flow from her name. The background is out of focus, and she’s wearing a white jacket.

One of the best, and still underappreciated, horror films of the last several years is Julia Ducournau’s show stopping Raw. It tells the story of a young woman going to veterinarian school. She is shy, uncertain, and notably has been a vegetarian her whole life. Her time in school will soon expose her to a whole new world and stir in her a hunger she has never experienced that may soon consume her. Both a coming of age film and a deeply unsettling journey, Raw is simply put one of the most memorable movies that, if you can stomach it, will be unlike anything you have ever seen. The macabre end shot and the weighty revelation it cares will remain burrowed deep into your very psyche. – Chase Hutchinson

I am a hard of hearing and partially sighted film writer and access consultant, with an interest in accessible cinema and disability representation.