Halloween, something brought to the European countries from the U.S., is slowly rooting itself in the globalized minds of young Poles. Even though the famous “trick or treat” still constitutes a rare sight (or maybe I’m just out of orbit), skeleton masks and pumpkin heads are gaining popularity, supplanting the tradition of the All Saint’s Day. And whilst I do have some issues regarding this trend of Halloween, I adore something about it – horror movies. Being honest – can we find any other better opportunity to sit and watch them?
P.S. To help you out with the choice, I asked my homie Scarecrow to watch the movies first – later on, he sent me pics of his mirror reflections, to show how scared he was…
Dir. Phillip Ridley
A British mixture of a psychological drama and horror is probably the lightest proposition on this list. Phillip Ridely’s flick exhibits a world drowning in an anarchy, where monstrous creatures in hoodies commit bestial crimes. In this hellish reality, we get to know Jamie Morgan – a man, who needs to face the demons, both in the streets and those in his head.
Heartless provokes the viewer with bold and rich symbolism. Intersecting, surreal worlds, Manichean clash of good and evil – those are the main interests of Ridley. Thus, even though his film is not free of mistakes, it still manages to state some intriguing questions, whilst obviously – giving some good ol’ scares.
Scarecrow says: Naaah, that thing cannot scare me. I’m the Scarecrow. But the light-hearted might be frightened.
Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Each film genre has its own semaphores, which direct the way for the newcomers. The masterful piece of art by Stanley Kubrick – The Shining – has undoubtedly set a certain path for future filmmakers. The iconic portrayal of a manager of a desolate hotel by Jack Nicholson radiates with alienation, that slowly drives him nuts. Add to it the suspenseful soundtrack and exquisite cinematography and you get The Shining – a must-see for the horror fans. Notwithstanding the years passing by, Kubrick’s monument has got solid fundaments and I believe, that it will remain so.
Scarecrow says: What a classy choice! But I bet you can do better with the scares, can’t you?
Dir. Bryan Bertino
Although The Strangers are a closer kin to a psychological thriller than a bloody horror, it still rightfully belongs to this list. With an unbearably hermetic, pulsating, Hitchcockian tension, Bertino’s film tells a story of a pathological family that terrorizes a couple in a desolate cabin. The director takes his time to torture both his characters and the viewers, letting the masked killer family to build up the atmosphere piece by piece. However, the most terrifying is the sole fact that the couple’s bane is unavoidable – thus, if you know titles like Funny Games by Michael Haneke, The Strangers will suit you.
Scarecrow says: Did someone rip off my style with these masks?!
Dir. Scott Derrickson
Derrickson’s offer is not a fetching one due to the glittering script – the story of a writer, who unravels a mystery behind mysterious tapes found in his new house is weaved with well-known tunes. Nonetheless, Sinister is bulging at the seams with the creepy atmosphere. The fright fest is delivered by many elements – from ominous soundtrack by Christopher Young, who used a lot of screeching violins, pulsating vibrations of the bass and trippy electronics, to the demon faced by the protagonist. Those, who already had the “pleasure” of viewing Sinister, will probably agree on one thing – the “playing in the garden” tape is as mind-blowing as freaking nightmarish.
Scarecrow says: Okay, that was something. Maybe, just maybe I turned my head for a scene.
Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn is a one deranged lover of visceral brutality. The more vicious and visual it is, the better. Valhalla, where the main character – portrayed by Mads Mikkelsen – is a mute, tattooed warrior named One-Eyed, offers almost transcendent visuals, with deeply exquisite play of colors, landscapes and panache. Refn, taking his audience to the medieval times, lets his ferocious ideas go wild – among the beauties of the plains and mountains, the space left is filled with brutal, very graphic imagery. Nonetheless, it is somehow sexy – in a peculiar, perverse manner.
Scarecrow says: Oh boy, One-Eyed is not a guy I would hang out with.
28 Days Later
Dir. Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle’s zombie tale is probably one of the most appreciated horror films of our times. Directed in 2008, the film paints a dark vision of the apocalypse – emotionally emaciated, in which the leftovers of the humanity wander around, waiting for facing death. Botle neither shocks with graphic imagery nor very direct approach to the topic. Other than that, his film is a slow burn, pushing the audience to answer a nagging question – how far would you go to save your close ones? Additionally, worth mentioning is the fact that 28 Days Later is the beginning of the career of Cillian Murphy – one of the finest actors of our times.
Scarecrow says: Well, I ain’t afraid of the zombies, but if I were you – that would scare the **** out of me.
The Lords of Salem
Dir. Rob Zombie
What kind of horror list would not include Rob Zombie? Although The Lords of Salem did not gather too much of a warm welcome among critics, mainly facing criticism regarding storyline issues and the worrying depravation, Zombie’s product certainly has the potential to become a cult movie. The protagonist, played by his beloved wife, finds an odd tape, which promptly brings her trouble.
The Lords of Salem is mainly a visual feast for the eyes, A baroque panoply of the scenography meets a neo-gothic, oneiric atmosphere and rich symbolism, which collectively truly astonish. And whilst I do understand and even agree with critics panning The Lords of Salem, I belong to the minority, who loved it. As experimental as it is, it’s a nightmare coming true.
Scarecrow says: That was some trippy ride. I need a break.
Dir. Hideo Nakata
Hideo Nakata is unquestionably a master director in the asian horror school. Although it was the American remake starring Naomi Watts that gained more popularity, it’s the Japanese original one that delivers shivers down the spine. The uniqueness of this version lies in the method that Nakata uses to scare. The audiovisual creepiness, the progressive mania that it transferred to the viewer feels almost physical – like a hand slowly gripping our necks. Ringu is just an unforgettable experience.
Scarecrow says: Someone please hug me, I’m scared.
Dir. Dario Argento
Dario Argento’s masterpiece has already become a cult classic. Suspiria tells the story of a girl, who finds herself trapped in a peculiar ballet school, which is full of mysteries. As Suzy unravels them, the world painted by Argento becomes more and more filled with turpism, violence and visual orgasm.
The director managed to strike a genius balance – keeping the dark, forlorn tone of the film, Suspiria is a beautifully sketched painting. With lots of creative playing with colors, shadows and lights, perfectly matching soundtrack by Goblin and bold imagery, Argento invites his viewers to a trippy hell of his own creation – accept the invitation and you will not forget it.
Scarecrow says: How am I supposed to be back at work? ALone, standing in the corn, AT NIGHT?!