Sleepy Hollow (1999)
No Halloween is complete without a bit of Tim Burton, and I must admit I had trouble choosing which of his horrors to go for. I’ve settled for Sleepy Hollow for its fantastical narrative and wonderfully gothic set design – oh, and plus Johnny Depp. This film gives you a nice break from typical horror, as it is less about the frights and more about the film’s atmospheric qualities, letting you enjoy the eerie elements of the horror genre without making you, quite frankly, too terrified to sleep. Burton’s known for his visuals and this film does not disappoint, ensuring that Sleepy Hollow is a joy, rather than terrifying, to watch. Plus, I’m not entirely sure if this film was intended to be a comedy, but it definitely delivers a few good laughs with Depp’s reactions of utter disgust when faced with any blood. And, trust me, there’s quite a bit of blood.
The Shining (1980)
Look at any top horror film lists and you can pretty much guarantee that Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining will be there, and with good reason too. Exploring the extremities of insanity within a remote, labyrinth of a hotel, this film will make you feel as lost and trapped as the victims themselves. With incredible performances from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, and not to forget six-year-old Danny Lloyd’s impressive film debut, it is easy to see how this film became iconic in cinema history. Littered with creepy characters, from girl ghosts to a random guy in a bear costume, this film does well to keep the audience on its toes, always weary of what’s around the next corner. And what’s more, considering the film’s date, The Shining does well to maintain its legendary status, boasting as one of the few horrors to stand the test of time.
The nineties aren’t usually the decade you would associate with the horror genre, but Wes Craven’s masterpiece may leave you thinking twice. Both acting as and parodying a teen movie, this film teaches you how a horror film works, arguably preparing you for any other horror films you may encounter this Halloween (thanks, Wes). The film’s offering of comedy within the horror offers the wussier ones some respite, as well as a good laugh. What’s more, this film has some killer female protagonists – which, we must admit, do tend to be lacking in this genre – resulting in a pretty feisty, feminist movie.
So what’s left for me to sell Scream? The gore, a beautiful rendition of the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, some fantastic one-liners, and the fact that being students, it’s all a little too close to home.
The Conjuring (2013)
This, in my opinion, is a modern classic. Featuring all the characteristics of a true horror (big family, big house, isolated setting, anyone?), The Conjuring takes all this and then turns it up a notch. Whilst most horrors start with little jumps and go from there, this film has no such thing as a ‘little jump’. From the moment it starts you’ll be on the edge of your seat, or if you are anything like me, hidden behind the safety of a blanket. Note: not for the faint-hearted. What I love about this horror is that it does away with the gore and opts for proper suspense, something that sadly is becoming a rarity nowadays. Oh, and if this doesn’t scare you enough, it’s all based on a true story, as the credits will remind you – if you get that far…
The Woman in Black (2012)
To give you a sense of how terrifying I find this film, I could not even bring myself to re-watch the trailer. There’s something about it that simply manages to unsettle the viewer, be it those long dark corridors, the rocking chair, the creepy child’s toys, or that horrendous sense of isolation when you are placed in Eel Marsh House. Making matters worse is the woman in black herself, a movie villain that never gives up. Daniel Radcliffe gives a rather surprisingly great performance, fresh from his Harry Potter days, and ready to face new realms of the supernatural, whether the audience is or not is another question. Set in the already eerie Victorian period, this film does wonders of transporting you to this haunting setting, making sure that you’re ready to jump at any moment. And if that’s not enough, this film will make you slightly more grateful for your un-haunted (or is it?) shabby uni house complete with last week’s washing up.