Sunday 25 February 2018

Want to have a reel fright night?

Ed Power scares himself silly and rates the top 10 horror movies

Chilling: Jack Nicholson in classic horror film, 'The Shining'
Chilling: Jack Nicholson in classic horror film, 'The Shining'
Ed Power

Ed Power

Assuming you're too old/grumpy to dress as a "sexy" witch or (suspiciously chubby) superhero, there's only one proper way to celebrate Halloween.

You dim the lights, pour a double helping of popcorn, slap on the scariest movie in your DVD collection . . . and spend the evening cowering behind the couch. Of course, not all scary films are created equally.

Some are mildly disturbing – others will keep you awake all night. Here is the ultimate guide to the most marrow-freezingly terrifying flicks to watch this October 31.

1 The Shining

A forensic exploration of mental collapse – and the creepiness of large, empty buildings in the middle of winter.

Liberally adapted from the Stephen King novel, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 frightfest might be the most chillingly bloodless horror ever.

Even when – eh, spoiler alert – Jack Nicholson devolves into an axe-swinging lunatic at the end, the camera remains at a dispassionate remove, as if the terror was playing out on the far side of a plate-glass window.

The movie also reminds us that extended steady-cam shot + sinister little girls = 'aaargh!'.

Scare Rating: 8/10

Yuck Rating: 1/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 9/10

2 Reanimator

Lustily adapted from HP Lovecraft's Herbert West: Reanimator, this VHS favourite from the late 1980s is proof that, if you've enough fake intestines to go around, schlock truly can shock.

Concerning a crazed scientist in search of fresh body parts for his diabolical experiments Reanimator is lasciviously funny and eye-poppingly macabre with it. Great fun – assuming you keep your lunch down. And you probably won't.

Scare Rating: 5/10

Yuck Rating: 10/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 2/10

3 Event Horizon

In space, nobody can hear you whimper like a scared puppy.

A low-budget mash-up of Star Trek, Alien and The Exorcist, Event Horizon is one of those exquisite constructs that scares the bejaysus out of you by implying horrors rather than spelling them out.

Sam Neill is the designer of a cutting-edge new space ship that, oh dear, seems to have opened a portal to hell.

What seems a clunky premise becomes a masterclass in nerve-shredding editing and shudder inducing insinuation.

Scare Rating: 8/10

Yuck Rating: 8/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 8/10

4 Ringu

Alongside raw fish dishes and cartoons about giant robots, the Japanese do no-limits horror terrifically well.

Sublimely creepy, 1998's Ringu ('Ring') investigates the power of urban myths and the collision of ancient beliefs and modern technology.

Teenagers exposed to a 'cursed' video tape die within the week and two investigators try to solve the mystery.

The absurd premise is a starting point for a movie that at moments feels more like a waking nightmare than popular entertainment. Good luck nodding off afterwards.

Scare Rating: 9/10

Yuck Rating: 4/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 9/10

5 Paranormal Activity

Cheap as chips and all the scarier for it, 2007's Paranormal Activity is a reminder that sometimes it's what we don't see that unsettles the most.

A couple instal a video camera in their bedroom to determine whether the things going bump in the night are a product of their mounting paranoia – or if something awful really is happening. Can you guess which?

Scare Rating: 9/10

Yuck Rating: 0/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 10/10

6 Audition

There's gross-out horror and then there's this Japanese yuck-sploitation tour de force, wherein stomach-turning cinema is elevated to dizzying heights.

Adding to the shock value is a misleading opening hour in which Audition masquerades as a romance about a lonely pensioner's quest for love.

Then the narrative pulls a hand-brake turn and things get very disgusting indeed.

Scare Rating: 8/10

Yuck Rating: 11/10

Can't Sleep Afterward Rating: 7/10

7 Hunger

No, not the unwittingly hilarious vampire movie starring David Bowie (that was THE Hunger).

We refer to Steve McQueen's meticulous chronicling of the final days of Bobby Sands, in which Michael Fassbender starves himself almost literally to skin and bones.

If by 'horror' we mean cinema that disturbs and unsettles, Hunger is surely one of the scariest of the past decade.

Scare Rating: 5/10

Yuck Rating: 10/10

Can't Sleep Afterward Rating: 8/10

8 Watership Down

Adapted from the Richard Adams novel, the scrappy, low-rent animation style is curiously unsettling in its realism.

But it's when the feral dogs turn up that Watership Down gets really frightening. The Art Garfunkel theme is pretty gruesome in its own right too.

Scare Rating: 8/10

Yuck Rating: 2/10

Can't Sleep Afterward Rating: 8/10

9 The Thing

Inspired by Lovecraft's At The Mountains of Madness and 50s' b-movie The Thing From Another World, John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece is a hallucinatory ghost ride set amid the terrifying blankness of Antarctica.

Shot when computer generated effects were in their infancy, the monster at the movie's heart is a triumph of latex, puppetry and rubber gore – far scarier than any of today's whizz-bang CGI creations.

Scare Rating: 8/10

Yuck Rating: 8/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 9/10

10 The Exorcist

Forty years on, you can understand why, unleashed into cinemas for the first time, The Exorcist caused audience members to faint in the stalls.

Linda Blair's gunk covered devil-child is terrifying enough (two words: crucifix scene) but, for our money, the most unbearable scenes are at the start, as the little girl's parents try to work out why she is behaving strangely – and if her imaginary friend 'Captain Howdy' might have something to do with it.

Scare Rating: 10/10

Yuck Rating: 5/10

Can't Sleep Afterwards Rating: 11/10

Irish Independent

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