Don’t know what to do this Halloween night? Have you totally forgotten to take part in your Candy Corn devouring, costume making and horror movie binging? We at TYF have an eclectic group of both those who adore and seek out all things frightful and then there are others (yours truly) who gets startled by a well placed jump scare in a trailer that airs on television in the middle of the day. Between us we’ve come up with ten of our favorite seasonally appropriate films worth watching on Halloween to get you in the mood for all things wicked with picks from streaming services such as Shudder, Hulu and Netflix.
Coraline was a gateway for a lot of young children, like myself, into the world of horror film making. Before I ever watched The Shining or Halloween, Coraline was the very first scary movie I ever saw. Through its gorgeous stop motion animation and imaginative story telling, the film delivered a finely crafted look into home life from a child’s perspective and the dissatisfaction that can come with it. Director Henry Selick, who famously directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, perfectly encapsulated the dysfunctional family drama through the lens of its main character Coraline. Its visual style, even now in 2019, still impresses to a large degree. Coraline was pushing the animation genre forward with the now niche stop-motion animation style and combining modern digital effects seamlessly.
Yet, the themes of belonging and imagination really propel the message of the film forward. In my case, it was one of the first animated films to convey actual comprehensible emotion that was able to resonate with me over time. Coraline doesn’t skirt around these issues with kid gloves and thus has aptly been able to withstand the test of time as a modern classic across all genres, and arguably a great horror film. [Mark Wesley]
Dearest Sister [Shudder]
With class inequality dominating the film conversation this year, Mattie Do’s Dearest Sister seemed to be an appropriate recommendation. Being Laos’ only female director, Do has a knack for developing meaningful relationships among Laotian women. Her 2nd feature, Dearest Sister, is no different.
Noc is a poor village girl who is sent away to care for her rich cousin, who has come down with a mysterious illness. Her cousin, Ana, lives a privileged life with a wealthy, white husband and servants to serve her every desire, but she’s constantly haunted by spirits of the dead. When Noc sees Ana having one of her “episodes,” she notices that Ana inadvertently recites winning lottery numbers. Noc starts to use this to her advantage by copying down the numbers and claiming the lottery money for herself.
In today’s society, the horrors of class inequality are all too real, and it’s hard not to cheer for the oppressed when they are taking from the oppressor. Noc’s position is a special case because she is deemed too low class to dine with her cousin, but too high class to dine with the servants. Do brilliantly conveys the desire for wealth and status, and what one will do just to be noticed by the elite. [Yasmin Kleinbart]
The Evil Dead [Hulu]
The iconic original horror film [Not to be confused with the 2013 soft-sequel-reboot Evil Dead] that’s mere existence is nothing short of a miracle in the eyes of today’s moviegoers. Writer/Director Sam Raimi and childhood friend, actor Bruce Campbell made their mark with this notoriously low budget, highly inventive horror film in a time that desperately needed a fresh take on the genre. The franchise would go on to be an ambassador for merging the Horror and Comedy genres of film together into what became “Splat-stick”, as demonstrated in this film’s extremely bloody demons and make up effects that were so grotesque that they cross the threshold of the absurd.
However with this original film, famously made for only 90,000 in 1980, the independent low budget of the aesthetic works in the films favor in combination with the world building of the Necronomicon Ex Mortus book and the white eyed demons thrust upon Ashley Williams and his friends.
It’s the entry in the franchise that is the most genuinely scary, and follows the traditional ensemble cast horror film set ups, which make this a perfect film to introduce to an audience looking for a creative, fun but also scary film, and they’re not quite ready for the absurdity of Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn just yet. And, if your friends like it and are ready to keep watching movies until the crack of dawn, you can always double feature them on Hulu right now. [Evan Griffin]
Honeymoon revolves around women’s anxieties about pregnancy and bodily autonomy. Bea (Rose Leslie) and her husband are recently married love birds who decide to spend their honeymoon at Bea’s family cabin. After a wonderful few days of “consummating the marriage,” Paul finds Bea naked and disheveled in the woods one night. She begins to act strangely, and Paul starts to think this woman isn’t the woman he married.
Writer/director Leigh Janiak frequently alludes to bodily integrity and traditional gender roles. One morning, after having sex, Paul jokingly suggests taking a break from intercourse so that Bea could “relax her womb.,” despite her being unsure of wanting a child. Honeymoon uses the fear of the unknown (both figuratively and literally) to spotlight feminine agency in a traditionally patriarchal society and makes a pretty damn scary film while doing it. [Yasmin Kleinbart]
The Invitation [Netflix]
For those of us who cower somewhere in the “horror averse” section, never fear (or fear a little, it is our nature) because I, a certified crybaby when it comes to all things scary, was able to not only sit through Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, but I was able to love it too. A potent take on grief and how it eats at your from the inside out and how the insidious know how to prey on the emotionally vulnerable to create something in their violent nature, there are plenty of grizzly images for the typical horror fan, but what makes it much more interesting is the humanism that tethers all of it to reality. The world is dark and sometimes the light we see is equally as foreboding (as are the ominous red lanterns raised at the end of this tense flick) but what’s the most engaging about The Invitation is that some of the most emotional moments come not from the horror, but the sadness that lay barely underneath. [Ally Johnson]
Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Hulu]
Alien invasion movies usually come with the imagery of flying saucers and laser beams, obvious images done to death. But what if the aliens were silent? Sneaking? Sabotaging your life without you ever knowing it? That’s the spook of Philip Kaufman’s remake of the 1956 Red Scare-riff that manages to trump it and it’s two other remakes decades later. The way Invasion is executed is a ramping of tension and paranoia, with health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) going from noticing little changes in a few random people’s behavior to spiraling into madness as he runs from aliens inhabiting the cloned bodies of his friends. The secret weapon that distinguishes the ‘78 Invasion from the original and the other two remakes? Lighting. The collection of singular spotlights in scenes that make every the shadow of every person (alien or otherwise) ominous. When those shadows move frantically, either from avoiding the pod people or chasing down humans, it’s as if the darkness is about to jump out of the screen. Could you be next? [Jon Winkler]
Night of the Living Dead [Shudder]
In the realm of horror movies that defined the genre, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a must see for anyone who enjoys zombies. A lot of the zombie movies we see today have paid homage to this classic (and even more have just shamelessly ripped it off). Set in an old farmhouse, a group of people become trapped together as they fight through the night against an army of the dead. While this film doesn’t have the levels of gore and violence that you see on The Walking Dead every Sunday night, its use of black and white and practical effects added to the increasing sense of dread and tension. This film was a fundamental part of the development of the horror movie genre that can still be felt today. And as far has movies to watch on Halloween, this should be on your top ten list! [Tyler Carlsen]
The Promise [Netflix]
As a woman in a dream once said, “If you don’t mind every now and then hearing the crunching of glass in the back of your head, go ahead and break a promise.” But director Sophon Sakdaphisit, in his 2017 film The Promise, thought of something worse than an unpleasant sound: a vexed spirit. Not long after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Boum (Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen and Bee Namthip) and her best friend Ib (Panisara Rikulsurakan) swear to perish together, but Boum retreats at the last minute, giving Ib enough cause to return from other side years later. That time being the co-writer of the legendary horror film Shutter serves Sakdaphisit well, for here he has cooked up many, many chill-inducing scares with little hesitancy — as if darkness, altitude and unearthly audio are his best mates. There is also a refreshing angle about poverty as the scariest and realest phantom of them all, something that Sakdaphisit previously tackled in Laddaland — also on Netflix! — but with inferior results. Anyhow, think thrice before committing to anything if you want them good nights, folks! [Nguyen Le]
Tigers Are Not Afraid [Shudder]
To live in Mexico is to face a series of profound contradictions. It’s the place where we revere mothers to almost religious heights yet cities like Juarez kill dozens of women every week amidst the chaos of the Drug War and our failed Police state. No wonder we had to find alternatives — to feed ourselves and our spirits, to protect each other, to make sense of the world, to play a game we were born already losing. In Art, look no further than Issa López’ grim supernatural horror story Vuelven (Tigers Are Not Afraid); the film centers in this atrocious stage, the violent every-day of the Mexican marginalized, and in true Latin American tradition, uses magical realism to offer a Deep study on the resilience of childhood will, the power of fantasy, and makes a poignant statement about the dangers of growing up in such conditions: There’s always a space for the magical, even in the worst possible world. [Leonel Manzanares]
Train to Busan [Netflix]
Yes, it’s another zombie story and yes, this one too will break your heart. A truly heart pounding action film that pulls no punches in bleak imagery and visceral action, it never loses its story amongst the mayhem. It’s an overwhelming experience from the thrumming score to almost immediate onslaught of action and the emotional push pull between the protagonist and his young daughter. Heroes die in this film and the end haunts you with its simmering melancholy, but what holds it afloat from the moment it begins is the sheer entertainment value it employs. [Ally Johnson]