October is when the nights get darker and more mysterious. It’s the month where people like to delve deep into the horror genre and watch a variety of scary movies as Halloween approaches.
Movies In Focus has put together a list of great horror and science fiction movies to watch – some of them are classic films and others are more modern titles – but all of them are worth a look.
The Thing From Another World
Christian Nyby (1951)
The Thing From Another World is one of the best sci-fi films of the 1950s. Expertly shot, brilliantly acted and well-written, it is infused with the paranoia of its day, but it also has humour and romance. The plot sees US Air Force men and scientists defending themselves from an alien at a remote arctic outpost. It was used as the starting point for John Carpenter’s 1981 remake, The Thing.
Devereux Milburn (2020)
Director Devereux Milburn’s Honeydew is a gloriously atmospheric horror. The film’s tension is taught and tense and it grips its viewer and drags them into is own special brand of drug-induced weirdness. It’s a slow burning, but captivating piece of horror cinema which is highly effective in its own hallucinogenic way.
Natalie Erika James (2020)
Relic is a powerful piece of low key filmmaking, but while it might be small in scope, it’s huge in resonance. On the surface, Natalie Erika James’ piece is horror film – and for all intents and purposes it is. But there’s much more to unpack in this richly layered piece of genre cinema. James not only shows she’s a force to be reckoned within the horror genre, but that she can also tease-out expectational performances and deliver a film with a serious amount of emotional heft.
Jennifer Kent (2014)
The Babadook never goes for the easy option of throwing in cheap scares and Kent presumes that its audience is interested in unravelling the layers of the story on their own, rather than handing them easy pointers. It’s a well-rounded horror that has great visuals and good performances, something that puts it a cut above other films in the genre.
John Carpenter (1978)
John Carpenter’s 1978 film essentially created the slasher sub-genre. High on tension and surprisingly light on gore, Halloween is the benchmark by which all modern horror films are evaluated. Carpenter’s score has also gone down as one of the definitive horror cues and it has recently inspired a whole new raft of genre filmmakers. (Read the Movies In Focus review)
The Witch In The Window
Andy Mitton (2018)
Every aspect of The Witch In The Window is excellent and Mitton must also get applause for the score and editing too (cinematographer Justin Kane deserves kudos too). The film doesn’t feature any gore or gimmicks, just wonderfully old-fashoned storytelling which unfolds at a perfect pace. It’s not only the best ghost story to hit the screen since M.Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense in 1999, but it might just be one of the greatest ever! This might sound like hyperbole but it’s not – Andy Mitton’s film is just that good.
The Sixth Sense
M. Night Shyamalan (1999)
M Might Shymalan broke onto the scene in a big way with this fantastic chiller. A perfectly composed ghost story, The Sixth Sense isn’t just a great horror – it’s a great film full stop, with Bruce Willis giving a career best performance.
Don’t Look Now
Nicolas Roeg (1973)
Don’t Look Now is an excellent example of taking horror tropes and turning them into something which works well as a drama about relationships. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are exemplary in the lead roles, bringing real vulnerability to the characters, something which helps sell the supernatural elements of the film. These elements never seem forced and they sit will within the tangible world that Nicolas Roeg has created. This is what makes Don’t Look Now work.
John Carpenter (1982)
If tension is your thing, then John Carpenter’s remake of the 1951 b-movie The Thing From Another World will fit the bill. This paranoia-fuelled sci-fi/horror is exceptional in every way and the snowy landscape creates a wonderful sense of isolation.
William Friedkin (1974)
Atmospheric beyond belief, The Exorcist continues to terrify audiences decades after its initial release. William Friedkin’s film has been copied often, but never bettered. The use of Tubular Bells helped make this a huge hit and an iconic horror.
David Robert Mitchell (2014)
An enjoyable horror that probably won’t satisfy gore-hounds, It Follows is a well constructed and perfectly realised piece of genre filmmaking. It won’t give you sleepless nights but it will have you on the edge of your seat for most of the running time.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Tobe Hooper (1974)
Disturbing, but not as violent as your imagination would have you believe, Tobe Hooper’s movie has been remade, prequelized and sequelized and nobody – not even Hooper himself – has been able to match its feral power. (Read the Movies In Focus review)
Richard Donner (1976)
After years of working on television, Richard Donner kick-started his career with this classy demonic chiller. Gregory Peck adds authenticity and Jerry Goldsmith’s score adds power. Gripping.
An American Werewolf In London
John Landis (1981)
As darkly funny as it is terrifying, John Landis hit a career high with An American Werewolf In London. Rick Baker’s effects make-up is still stunning, while the opening werewolf attack remains one of the scariest things ever committed to film.
Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
Many would argue that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a thriller, but this is a serious piece of horror cinema. Bernard Herrmann’s score is flawless, while great visuals and storytelling make this eminently re-watchable. Showers have never been the same since 1960.
F.W Murnau (1922)
F.W Murnau’s unofficial screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula pretty much created the horror genre. This stunning silent vampire film has iconic visuals that are still inspiring filmmakers to this day. (Read the Movies In Focus review)
Stanley Kubrick (1980)
Stanley Kubrick’s big screen version of Stephen King’s novel may have deviated from the source material, but it packs a serious psychological punch. It has many great elements but it might be most famous for giving Jack Nicholson a career-defining performance.
The Blair Witch Project
Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez (1999)
In 1999 the internet was in its infancy and The Blair Witch Project used it to its utmost advantage. Many thought this found-footage horror was real, but it broke the rules for how films were made and kick-started a slew of copycat features.
Steven Spielberg (1975)
Steven Spielberg’s Jaws is flawless. It’s a masterclass in tension, showing that less is more in creating fear within the mind of the audience. John Williams’ score is simple, yet so very, very effective. (Read the Movies In Focus review)
The Wicker Man
Robin Hardy (1973)
Robin Hardy’s cult horror is eerily disturbing on many levels and equally unclassifiable. Edward Woodward excels as the uptight Christian policeman searching for a missing child. What he discovers is a startling look at an unexpected pagan culture.
Train To Busan
Yeon Sang-ho (2016)
It might sound like hyperbole, but Yeon Sang-ho’s Train To Busan is the best zombie movie since Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. The South Korean horror sees a father (Gong Yoo) and daughter (Kin Su-an) struggling to get to Busan by train in the middle of a zombie outbreak. It’s thrilling, visceral and very, very watchable.
Neil Marshall (2002)
Neil Marshall’s werewolf horror is an exceptionally refreshing piece of horror cinema. The set-up is classic: Zulu meets Aliens with werewolves – and it’s every bit as good as you would expect. Funny and scary, this was a fantastic calling card for the British filmmaker who continues to impress on the big and small screen.
Night Of The living Dead
George A. Romero (1968)
George A. Romero’s fright flick is the best zombie movie ever made. It’s simplicity is mind-boggling, but this material is still being mined decades after its initial release (most noticeably with The Walking Dead). It’s about zombies, but also about how people deal with difficult situations.
The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
Robert Weine (1920)
Robert Weine’s expressionist horror is filled with mesmerising imagery. Along with Nosferatu it helped shape the genre and this dream-filled film is still having an impact on a visual level, having inspired the work of Tim Burton and the recent horror hit, The Babadook.
Tod Browning (1931)
Tod Browning’s Dracula kick-started Hollywood’s fascination with horror and it still remains one of the quintessential vampire films. The success of this Bela Lugosi starrer would lead to Universal Pictures’ iconic monsters series of movies and inspire Hammer Film’s interpretation of Dracula.
Robert Eggers (2015)
One of the great horror films of the 21st Century, Robert Eggers The Witch is impressive in how it builds atmosphere. It’s a simple story, with small cast that manages to do a lot in a genre that often resorts to cheap shocks.
The Lost Boys
Joel Schumacher (1987)
The Lost Boys might be firmly rooted in the 1980s, but Joel Schumacher’s MTV-style vampire film still hits the mark. Shrewd casting, good music and a witty script make this the only teen vampire film which entertains.
Michael Mann (1986)
Michael Mann’s Manhunter introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter (here called Lektor) and offered up a visually bright, but emotionally dark film that might appear to be a thriller, but it has its roots firmly in the horror genre. This might have flopped on release and been over-shadowed by The Silence of The Lambs, but it is haunting stuff.
The Dark And The Wicked
Bryan Bertino (2020)
Bryan Bertino’s The Dark And The Wicked is a horror film which is constructed from creepy atmosphere and and honest of emotion. A family drama enshrouded in a dark cloak, Bertino’s film is an intelligent horror which is as much about the loss of parents as it is about anything else.