7 essential horror films to get you in the mood for Halloween
Are you planning to stock up on popcorn and scare the hell out of yourself by binging on horror films this Halloween? If so, this list of fan favourites will help you tick all the right boxes.
The following bucket list of horror movies includes seminal movies, classic titles and films that introduced some of the genre’s favourite characters. From everyone’s favourite franchises to modern trendsetters, each of these seven movies are essential Halloween viewing.
You can now catch all of these films and over 1,000 movies on demand on NOW TV. Their huge selection of scary horrors and spooky films for the whole family will keep you covered this Halloween.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles
Cinema’s undisputed “master of suspense” reinvented the horror genre when he released what would become the granddaddy of all slasher films. In Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock uses audience manipulation to lull the audience into a false sense of security before cranking up the tension and the stakes. The result is a disturbing film that combines the director’s technical mastery with visceral scares like the infamous shower scene.
Fun fact: This was the highest grossing movie of Hitchcock’s career.
The Exorcist (1973)
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Linda Blair
It may be an oldie but this tale about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl is just as terrifying today as it was almost a half a century ago. Few films have managed to portray the concept of pure evil as convincingly as The Exorcist. Graphic, shocking scenes assault the audience’s senses, preying on their most primal fears while also tapping into timeless themes like love and loss. It’s packed with memorable moments and the titular exorcism will test both your nerves and your endurance.
Fun fact: A white demonic face flashes up at certain moments throughout the film, intended to unnerve the audience at a subliminal level.
The Omen (1976)
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens
The Omen is the film that led to a generation of children being christened “Damien” by their older siblings or family whenever they misbehaved or acted up. This creepy tale about a devil child also features some notorious fatalities and one of the most ominous theme tunes in horror. High production values, a cast that included established stars like Gregory Peck and some genuinely shocking moments have helped this chilling film to hold its own against the genre’s gorier young upstarts.
Fun fact: Rumours of a curse surrounded the production after the crew were plagued by dog attacks, car crashes, lightning strikes on separate planes and a bombing. Peck also had a narrow escape when he cancelled a flight, only to find out that everyone on board was subsequently killed in a crash.
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tony Moran
It may seem a bit tame compared to today’s horrors but this seminal flick invented the template for slasher films over the next two decades. The unstoppable masked psycho with a knife, the suburban setting, the final girl trope, a disposable circle of friends and a killer theme tune all became genre conventions that would be copied again and again. Horror maestro John Carpenter spawned a 40-year franchise that would go on to produce 11 movies. He also introduced two of horror’s most iconic characters in Jamie Lee Curtis’s heroine, Laurie, and the emotionless killer, Michael Myers.
Fun fact: Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother was Janet Leigh, who starred in Psycho.
Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke, Craig T. Nelson
Poltergeist was directed by Tobe Hooper but it has the fingerprints of producer/writer Steven Spielberg all over it. It transplants the haunted house concept to 1980s suburbia, the demonic possession revolves around a TV and the kids bedrooms are full of pop culture references. Its inimitable Spielbergian quality expertly transports you back to your youth and the childhood fears that went with it. Poltergeist combines subversive humour, special effects and old-fashioned scares to remind you that sometimes there are indeed monsters under your bed.
Fun fact: Tobe Hooper was also the director of the classic horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp, Robert Englund
Director Wes Craven certainly knows how to create a horrific baddie. Freddie Kreuger is a dead child murderer with a glove made of knives who haunts the dreams of his victims. The film posed a challenging question for its audience – how can you hide from a killer that hunts you in your dreams? We all need to sleep after all. The film’s vivid colours and inventive visual sequences (Kreuger’s glove stretching a wall shows how well some of the old school special effects have aged) blur the lines between dreams and reality. The cast includes a young Johnny Depp but the real star of the show is the disfigured maniac in the distinctive striped jumper.
Fun fact: Robert Englund actually cut himself the first time that he tried on the infamous Freddy glove.
Get Out (2017)
Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
Many horror movies have provided social commentary over the years but this story of a black man’s introduction to his white girlfriend’s parents certainly doesn’t pull any punches. Director Jordan Peele provided a searing take on racial politics in this critically-acclaimed cerebral horror. This modern classic combines humour, satire and horror to shine a light on bigotry and offer a powerful deconstruction of racism. The film’s success transcended the genre, picking up four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor.
Fun fact: Get Out was filmed in just 23 days.
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