It’s October, which means it’s Halloween month! Although we do not basically celebrate Halloween like the one in the US, we still can do it the other way around… and that is watching or revisiting some of the best horror movies ever made — the ultimate dream of horror movie fans! But which one should you watch? Here are 10 Must-See Horror Movies to get you started this Halloween month.
1) Halloween (1978)
Let’s face it, no Halloween month would be complete without revisiting John Carpenter’s Halloween. It was a classic slasher movie that doesn’t rely on blood and gore to justify its genre existence. The movie is even simplistic with the way Carpenter and his co-writer Debra Hill chose to tell its story: A crazed killer named Michael Myers (Nick Castle) returns home on Halloween after escaping from a sanitarium and starts killing unsuspecting teenagers. And yet, their minimalistic approach served the movie well. Not to mention John Carpenter’s direction is both taut and suspenseful, complete with clever camerawork (the POV opening scene) as well as the introduction of the frighteningly silent masked killer of Michael Myers and then-unknown young Jamie Lee Curtis as the unforgettable female protagonist, Laurie Strode.
2) Psycho (1960)
Sure, it’s black and white and it’s considerably tame by today’s standard in the horror genre. But you can’t deny the cinematic influence that Alfred Hitchcock has given in Psycho. Besides, this is the movie that started it all: the slasher genre. From Bernard Herrmann’s legendary score to the classic plot twist, everything about Psycho is brilliant. And of course, who could forget the classic shower scene that still resonates even until today?
3) Jaws (1975)
This is the movie that coined the term “summer blockbuster”, and the person who succeeded it was none other than young Steven Spielberg. Jaws is still highly regarded as the greatest shark movie ever made and remains unsurpassed even until today. Frankly, it’s easy to see why: Spielberg successfully tapped into our primal fears that shark attacks could happen to everyone. John Williams’ foreboding score makes the movie even more terrifying. Spielberg is even smart enough not to reveal the shark in its entirety, choosing to tease us instead with the fear-of-the-unknown approach. And when the shark does finally appear in the climactic third act, he goes all out that never lets up until the end.
4) The Conjuring (2013)
Most true horror fans would tell you that the overreliance of jump scares cheapens the intensity of a horror movie. But in the case of The Conjuring, James Wan proves that jump scares can be genuinely frightening if done right. He certainly deserved the praise for all the carefully-placed camera movements and other technical approaches to fulfill a classical haunted-house thriller. It also helps that we root for the actors, thanks to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga’s above-average performances as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren — something that today’s (many) horror movies often neglect: to make us care for the characters.
5) Scream (1996)
Who’s the killer behind the Ghostface mask? That’s the premise that made Wes Craven’s Scream such a captivating whodunit. But what’s even more captivating is Kevin Williamson’s subversive twist on the otherwise tired slasher-movie clichés, combining a thrilling black comedy that referenced popular horror movies of the yesteryears. The success of Scream paved ways for three (inferior) sequels and even resurrected the slasher genre, inspiring more filmmakers to join the bandwagon with the likes of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend.
6) A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
The fedora hat, the horribly disfigured face, the striped sweater and a pair of gloves with protruding sharp blades — need we say more? Thanks to the incomparable Robert Englund, he made Freddy Krueger truly his own and emerged as one of the lasting horror icons until today. This is also one of Wes Craven’s most influential horror movies ever made, mixing slasher genre with a dream logic that allows him to go wild with creative and gory set-pieces.
7) Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Sam Raimi may have hit a breakthrough with The Evil Dead six years prior, but the real deal truly belongs to the 1987 horror-comedy sequel. Sure, it was essentially more of a big-budget remake than an actual sequel. But does it really matter? This is where Raimi goes bats**t crazy with all the outrageous camerawork and set-pieces he could think of (the iconic severed hand comes to mind!) and an equally game performance by Bruce Campbell as Ash.
8) The Shining (1980)
Stephen King didn’t like it and the Razzies (the anti-Oscars that recognise the worst talents and films in Hollywood) even slapped the movie with two nominations including Worst Director and Worst Actress! But Stanley Kubrick’s big-screen adaptation of The Shining became a horror masterpiece, thanks to the director’s methodical direction and Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable performance as a writer who slowly descended into a mental breakdown.
9) Drag Me To Hell (2009)
When you put “Sam Raimi” and “horror” in the same sentence, most people would associate him with the Evil Dead trilogy. But Raimi’s other horror movie, Drag Me to Hell is also worth a mention and yet, it was surprisingly underrated. If you haven’t checked it out already, make sure you do. The movie almost functions like an Evil Dead movie, with the exception of a gender-swapping twist in the form of Alison Lohman and a gipsy from hell.
10) The Exorcist (1973)
Forget about the sequels. William Friedkin’s original 1973 classic remains the real deal and a prime example on how to make a terrifying horror movie about exorcism and possession. Besides, who could forget the 360-degree head spin, the upside-down-walking-the-stairs scene and the climactic exorcism finale?