Everyone knows October is the month where the air begins to get crisp, the leaves dance with the wind, jack o lanterns sit on porches, and where you want to spend nights indoors with your favorite ghoul cuddled up on the couch watching a spooky movie. If you’re looking for something to send a chill down your spine, then you’re in luck!
UICA’s Film Coordinator, Nick Hartman, lists some of his favorite horror films to watch this October.
Before we dive into this list I think it’s important to mention that I’m not going to cover all the obvious/popular films like Night of the Living Dead (1968), Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Halloween (1978), etc. Sure, I’ll list a couple that I personally can’t leave out, but there are so many other horror films that need to be discussed.
1) The Hands of Orlac (1924)
Directed by: Robert Weine
Rating: Not Rated
When discussing the silent horror genre most people think of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) or the German expressionist masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). If you haven’t seen these films then please do yourself favor and watch them immediately. But, one that finds itself in the shadows is The Hands of Orlac and I wish this one was just as popular as the other two. To me, there’s already something spooky about the silent film era, but The Hands of Orlac cranks up the eeriness with it’s unique use double exposures and haunting cinematography.
Paul Orlac a gifted concert pianist looses his hands in a horrific railroad accident. In order to save his career his wife pleads with a surgeon to transplant the hands of a recently executed murderer named Vasseur. When Orlac learns he now has the hands of a killer he becomes horror obsessed and believes the hands have possessed to him to kill.
2) The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Directed by: Dan O’Bannon
There are so many zombies films out there and to be honest I feel it’s a little over saturated. With the boom of The Walking Dead it seemed like there was a new zombie film every week (just like super hero flicks). It’s understandable to think that all zombie films are the same and you may say to yourself; why watch another? Well, do yourself a favor and watch this film. This isn’t your typical zombie movie because it’s so aware of itself and completely makes a mockery of the zombie genre but in the best way possible.
Two employees working at a medical supply warehouse accidentally crack open a military grade tank they find in the basement that releases a deadly gas into the air which happens to re-animate the dead. The gas works it way into the local cemetery where a group of teenagers are partying for the night.
3) Phantasm (1979)
Directed by: Don Coscerelli
Everyone knows of Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees but not many about the "Tall Man" who happens to have come before both. Phantasm isn’t a cliché blood-bath featuring terrorized teens, it’s much more than that. It’s absolutely horrific and a surrealist fantasy that takes you on a journey of reality vs. imagination through it’s use of non-linear editing, spine tingling soundtrack, and mind-bending imagery.
When Mike witnesses some sinister creatures stealing corpses from the local cemetery, he and his older brother Jody explore the mausoleum, where they find that the mortician (Angus Scrimm), a towering, emaciated figure with superhuman strength, has somehow bridged the gap between Earth and the afterworld and needs fresh corpses. Mike and Jody's allies die off one by one, until only they are left to defend humankind against the nefarious "Tall Man" and his army of cloaked creatures.
4) Inferno (1987)
Directed by: Dario Argento
If you’re familiar with the name Dario Argento then you’re clearly familiar with his masterpiece ‘Suspiria’ (1977) and his other works such as Deep Red (1975), Tenebrea (1982), Opera (1987), etc, but one of my favorite films he’s directed is Inferno which happens to be the sequel to Suspiria. Argento has a way of bringing his stories to life not only through dialogue, but more importantly his visual style of filmmaking. If you enjoyed the surreal atmosphere Argento created with Suspiria, then Inferno is a great way to get your next fix.
Rose Elliot, a young poet in Rome, murdered after she reads a Latin book that tells the supernatural story of the Three Mothers. Her brother Mark investigates her murder and, after his friend Sara is killed, heads for New York.
5) The Blairwitch Project (1999)
Directed by: Eduardo Sanchez, Kevin Foxe
As a horror fanatic nothing tends to scare me anymore because I’ve become to know and understand the formula so well. It’s quite unfortunate actually. But, out of all the horror films I’ve seen The Blairwitch Project is one of those films that can still keep me up at night.
Before it’s release there hasn’t been anything like it and honestly to this day even with all of the rip offs there’s still nothing like it. The fact it was shot all hand held, made to believe it was a found footage tape, and to create a fake legend behind it to sell it to audiences was just absolute genius and will go down as a staple in horror film history.
Three film students embark on a journey into the deep woods to make a documentary film about a woman who kidnapped and murdered eight children known as The Blairwitch. Unfortunately for them they find themselves lost in the woods being tormented by the witch and leaving only their footage behind.
6) Night of the Demons (1988)
Directed by: Kevin S. Tenney
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that Night of the Demons is an amazing movie, because it’s not. It’s quite ridiculous actually, but I can tell you that it’s a fun watch. I mean, what’s there not to like about a group of teenagers partying in an abandon mortuary home on Halloween night while one of their best friends becomes possessed by a demon…?
Teenage outcast Angela is throwing a party at an abandon mortuary on Halloween night. When her radio dies and the music ends Angela insists on having a séance which leads her to be possessed by a demon. Angela’s guest must now survive through the night as she tries to slaughter them one by one.
7) The Shining (1980)
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
I know I said I wasn’t going to cover “obvious” horror films, but The Shining is just one that can’t be left off this list because I believe it to be not only one of the best horror films ever made, but one of the best films ever made. Everything about The Shining from it’s elaborate set design, soundtrack, the plot, acting, cinematography, and direction is (in my opinion) perfect. If you haven’t seen it drop everything you’re doing and prepare yourself for a cinematic experience, you’ll never forget.
Aspiring writer Jack Torrence takes a job as a caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel while moving his family there for the winter months. As Jack slowly begins to lose his mind due to cabin fever and the hotels haunted past his family finds themselves trapped inside the hotel with a murderous maniac.
8) Peeping Tom (1960)
Directed by: Michael Powell
Rating: Not Rated
In the world of horror cinema there’s a debate of who directed the first slasher film and most claim that it was Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960); but there are a select few that claim Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom broke that ground due to it being released just 4 months before Psycho. I recommend you give it a watch and make that call for yourself.
Mark Lewis a socially awkward cameraman murders women using a movie camera while filming their expressions of fear and terror as they meet their demise.
9) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
I know what you’re thinking, this is an obvious one too. Yes, you’re right, and I agree but it’s another one I can’t leave off the list because it’s my all time favorite slasher film. There’s just something about this film that sits with me, maybe because it’s one of the first horror films I ever saw or because the aesthetic choices Tobe Hooper made with the film. When you hear those 4 words that make up the title you immediately would believe it’s one of the bloodiest films ever made. But, in fact it’s not at all and that’s why this film is so impactful. Instead, Hooper uses smart editing tactics and camera tricks to let you use your imagination of what’s happening. To me, the imagination can be far more terrifying than actually seeing it and unfortunately most horror movies have forgotten that.
During a hot summer afternoon 5 teenagers take a trip to a friend’s family farmhouse. On that day they would all find themselves faced with a group of crazed murderous outcasts and a chainsaw wielding maniac who wears the skin of others that are living next door.
10) The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
Directed by: Roger Corman
Rating: Not Rated
It would be absurd and insulting to you if I conducted a list of must see horror films and left out the one and only Vincent Price. The Masque of the Red Death is an adaptation of a classic tale by the master of macabre; Edgar Allan Poe. There have been multiple adaptations of Poe’s stories and unfortunately not a lot of them do his stories justice, but Corman’s vision of the Red Death is one that would even make Poe proud.
Prince Prospero an evil, Satan worshiping prince who is living the life of luxury in a secluded castle while the towns people below are suffering from the bubonic plague. As the plague spreads prince Prospero realizes his life of luxury may be coming to an end.
Now do yourself a favor – order a pizza, dim the lights, grab a soda, wrap yourself in a blanket and enter yourself into a world of cinematic horror!