What are your plans for this Friday night? AKA All Hallows Eve? If you’re anything like us, you’ll be unplugging your doorbell, drawing the curtains and hunkering down in front of the TV with a big bowl of sour jelly spiders.
Ah, but which Halloween appropriate movie to jam into the DVD player? If you’re bored of watching the same old Halloweeny films year in year out, take your pick from our list of overlooked spine chillers…
1. Zombieland (2009)
OK, so it’s not strictly a horror movie – despite the zombies, there’s surprisingly little gore, and the antics of Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin are far more likely to make you cackle with laughter than hide behind a sofa cushion. Still, Zombieland is a tasty post-apocalyptic gumbo, featuring amusing zombie deaths, an epic hunt for the last surviving Twinkie, and a cameo from Bill Murray, doing a sterling job of playing himself.
2. Ginger Snaps (2000)
It’s a Canadian werewolf movie with a difference; the main characters – get this – are girls! Yep, turns out you can make a good horror movie without consigning all half-way decent female characters to being sliced and diced in the first eighteen minutes. Cleverly juxtaposing the onset of menstruation with the almost as annoyingly inconvenient process of turning into a werewolf, Ginger Snaps is a rare gem, and also spawned a sequel and a prequel.
3. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919)
This one’s just about as old school as you can get; a German silent film made in 1919, Das Kabinet Des Dr Caligari tells the strange story of a mysterious doctor who seems to be controlling a somnambulist patient, sending him out to murder unsuspecting victims. However, all is not quite as it seems in this weirdly stylistic and shadowy world – this may be one of the earliest examples of the ‘what the hell did I just watch’ twist ending. You have been warned.
4. From Hell (2001)
Based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, this is a colourful re-imagining of the ‘Jack the Ripper’ murders that rocked Whitechapel in 1888. The identity of the real life killer remained a mystery for more than a century (before the murderer was apparently identified only this year), but From Hell offers a deviously intricate solution to the puzzle, while touching on every deliciously gothic trope that Victorian London has to offer. Plus, Johnny Depp drinking absinthe in a bathtub. What’s not to like about that?
5. The Birds (1963)
Perhaps not one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best known movies, The Birds is still a pretty tense ride from start to finish. Every single common or garden bird in the vicinity of small US town Bodega Bay suddenly takes it into their feathery brain to attack and kill any human they can get their claws on. Worth watching just for the spine-chilling playground scene.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Yeah yeah, it’s a sci-fi movie, but it’s one of the most head-scratchingly creepy sci-fi movies ever made, especially all the business with HAL the computer when his programming goes haywire. Nothing scarier than being alone in space with a computer that’s gone insane in the mainframe, especially considering this film was released the year before the Moon landing.
7. The Wicker Man (1973)
The original, not the remake, obviously. When a god-fearing policeman heads to a remote island to investigate the disappearance of a local girl, he discovers that the islanders are extremely unhelpful, seeming more interested in practising their pagan religion than looking for the missing child. It becomes clear that the islanders themselves are almost certainly responsible for her disappearance, and the policeman gets sucked further and further into their strange world. Look out for Christopher Lee as the charismatic and creepy Lord of the island.
8. Dead of Night (1945)
Another oldie but a goldie, Dead of Night is what is known as a ‘portmanteau’ film, made up of several different stories linked together. A man arrives at a house he’s never been to, full of people he’s never met before, and yet has the strangest sense that all of this has already happened – prompting each member of the group to tell their own story of uncanny occurrences. Of course, the one that really sticks in the mind is the terrifying tale of the ventriloquist’s dummy; if those horrible things didn’t creep you out before, they sure will after you watch this.
9. Suspiria (1977)
This one certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted. A ballet school turns out to be a front for something far more sinister in this horror from Dario Argento. The opening sequence alone is more than enough to put you off your tea, but the film as a whole is a psychological maze of bright colours, disarming music and grisly, grisly deaths.
10. Freaks (1932)
Last but certainly not least, it’s Tod Browning’s Freaks. A beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of the circus side show performers, but after his fellow ‘freaks’ discover that she’s only married him for his money, they exact a terrible revenge. The result is an extremely disquieting film that was banned for decades in many places, with an ending that haunts the viewer long after the credits have rolled.