Halloween season is at its peak, so it is the best time of the year to indulge in horror films. Whether you like timeless classics or new discoveries, the Mancunion Film Section team have gathered our horror favourites to help you choose the perfect titles for your Halloween film marathon.
Alien (1979) – Benjamin Klauber-Griffiths
Ridley Scott’s Alien was first released more than forty years ago and is still recognised as one of the best of the sci-fi horror genre.
The film follows the crew of the ‘Nostromo’ spaceship as they flee a murderous alien stowaway. Scott’s movie blends moments of gross-out body horror, notably the famous ‘chest buster’ scene, with edge-of-the-seat tension.
It also demonstrates how showing the audience as little of the alien as possible is scarier than showing it in full. The alien is terrifying in its ambiguity, hidden in the recesses of the ship, and maybe even those of the cinema!
Alien has also been the subject of academic study, illustrating a complex set of gendered politics whilst creating one of the first major action heroines. It is the first and best of a cult series and a terrifying must-watch for any film fan.
Carrie (1976) – James McCafferty
Carrie might be the greatest horror film ever made. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 debut novel, it centres on the title character as she is constantly bullied by her peers and manipulated by her zealous Christian mother. From the opening sequence, legendary director Brian De Palma demonstrates his willingness to utilise the camera in a beautifully expressive manner. The film’s infamous climax at the prom is the zenith of this work.
The world of the story is populated by a cast of multifaceted characters who are supported by a clutch of brilliant performances. At the head of these is obviously Sissy Spacek, who perfectly embodies the young teen without any self-esteem, despite being twenty-six at the time of the film’s release. Both familiar and startlingly singular, the film – and its story of a broken young woman who seizes control of her environment – remains a mesmerising horror.
Frankenweenie (2012) – Sanjana Meka
Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie is not necessarily the best of his works, nor the most popular one. But the film has its own charm with its heartwarming plot and the supporting stop motion animation. The black and white picture, based off Burton’s 1984 short film, revolves around a young Victor Frankenstein who tries to resurrect his dog and best friend, Sparky, using electricity.
The story follows the unintended consequences of his actions, but also explores the deeper relationship between the two characters, with a gloomy visual backdrop. The technical elements behind the film add to the characters’ eerie movements, with 24 stop motion frames per second and 1300 visual effect shots, adding to Burton’s traditional filmmaking style of storytelling through precision.
For people looking for a film that reflects simple childishness on its exterior, at the same time dealing with desperation and mourning through a kid’s perspective, Frankenweenie is the perfect balance.
Gerald’s Game (2017) – Alex Harris
Gerald’s game is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about the dangers of wild dogs, viagra and Max Headroom. The film is so unrelentingly gloomy that it’s hard to think anyone could enjoy watching it. However, this gloom is completely shattered by the Halloween decoration that flows into the bedroom with its toe collection.
The performances are great, and the themes of abuse and trauma are dealt with elegantly.
However, there are a few scenes which broke my immersion in the movie; How does she escape? Clearly, Jesse doesn’t know how to dislocate her thumb because she decides to peel her skin off instead; the car crash scene that was supposed to be the climax, that turns into a damp squib of a jump scare.
I would recommend watching this movie alone – I made the mistake of watching it in a group and ended up wasted 20 minutes in.
Godzilla (1954) – Ross McFadden
If you think the old Godzilla films were just unathletic men in rubber monster suits fighting in unconvincing miniature cities, then I implore you to watch the 1954 original. Of course, it follows the traditional monster-attacks-city storyline, and was instrumental in establishing the kaiju genre, but director Ishirō Honda also incorporates staunchly political subtext which elevates the already technically impressive film to an absolute classic’s status.
Sure, it’s hardly subtle: the whole film contains enough melodrama and patriotism to make an American squirm. However, it’s important to consider historical context. Godzilla gives fascinating insight into a country still recovering from World War 2, trying to process the devastation wreaked upon them by the nuclear bomb. US-Japan occupation had only ended 2 years prior to the film’s release, and Godzilla provided a much-needed boost to the country’s national pride.
Visually compelling and hugely influential, this genre-defining classic definitely deserves a watch.
The Babadook (2014) – Jonathan Hosking
Jennifer Kent’s psychological horror is the stuff of dreams. In an age of jump scares, bad acting, and horrendous effects, The Babadook stands tall as a beacon of the genre. The film follows Amelia, a single mother struggling to raise her anxious six-year-old son, while trying to fend off a supernatural force from entering her home.
From a technical aspect, The Babadook is impeccable. From its intense cinematography to its eerie set design, the film does not let you breathe all throughout its 90-minute running time. The performances are also outstanding: from Essie Davis’ haunting portrayal of a mother grieving the death of her husband, to Noah Wiseman’s estranged and frightened son, made all the more impressive for a feature debut.
Overall, it is Kent’s direction which gives the film its unique voice; It’s a a fantastic, female-led horror film that delivers a terrifying look into the dissection of the human condition.
Us (2019) – Florrie Evans
If you’re looking for a perfect film to revisit this Halloween, it’s always best to rewatch personal favourites – Jordan Peele delivered mine in 2019. Us was released shortly after Peele’s extremely successful debut, Get out.
After creating a physical form of the trancelike otherworld state in Get Out, in Us Peele creates a physical underworld which holds the doubles of every human trapped in the darkness of this underworld.
A family holiday turns sour when there is an invasion at the dead of night. The family is forced into a battle when the doubles rise up against the humans, which are classed as the lucky ones, consistently living ‘in the light’.
The film is filled with the twists and turns of a perfect horror, while the cinematography and soundtrack only build suspense and add to the distorted reality of the underworld. Additionally, Michael Abels has created a soundtrack not only for the film, but for the whole Halloween season.