Oh, Halloween: the perfect time of year to hunker down with your nearest and dearest to watch a film that’ll hopefully scare the living hell out of you.
Note the word “hopefully.” While feeling unnerved by an approaching jump or lingering spook is a thrill most people don’t care to admit they enjoy, the act of being scared is something cinemagoers have been relishing for over 80 years, in films as early as 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu (1922).
Frustratingly, only a marginal number of horrors are actually capable of achieving their purpose. Those that do, however, linger in your memory forevermore.
Advance at your peril.
1 The Orphanage (2007)
Directed by J.A. BayonaBoth my selections on this list mark the two instances in which I’ve actively cried in a cinema out of fear, if you can believe that’s possible. Though J.A. Bayona’s ghostly tale is a beautiful throwback to Gothic conventions, which lace its hauntings with powerful emotions and warnings, that kid with the sack on its head traumatised me for life. Worse, I came back home and remembered the flat I’d newly moved in to had a cupboard with no key, and no clue as to what may be contained inside; considering what’s eventually found to be hiding in the basement of The Orphanage – yeah, I didn’t sleep that night – Clarisse Loughrey
2 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Directed by Don SiegelAnother film that doesn’t rely upon (or need) special effects to make you a bit scared to turn the telly off when you’ve finished watching it. So disturbing in fact that the studio insisted the ending was changed to make it less dark before it was released. The 1978 remake is very good too – Jon Di Paolo
3 House of Usher (1960)
Directed by Roger CormanI’m a huge fan of Roger Corman’s House of Usher (1960), the first in a series of Edgar Allan Poe adaptations the schlock producer made with the gloriously hammy Vincent Price. The latter stars as Roderick Usher, a sickly aristocrat living in queasy isolation with his sister in the crumbling mansion of the title. Corman’s Poe films became increasingly formulaic and campy but this one really delivers – Joe Sommerlad
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