Granted, if you want some true horror this Halloween, the mere sight of the last few years and all their shortcomings is fearful enough. The sheer size and long-term impact of the catastrophic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic far outweigh any slasher or paranormal killer. However, we all need an escape sometimes and as Halloween begins to loom on the corner of a dark street, a good scary movie is often the best way forward.
Engaging in watching horror films, especially approaching the spooky festivities, is a strangely cathartic experience. As the writer, Michelle Park notes, “We watch scary movies because they help us to release our anxiety and fears deep inside our conscious” and, in truth, there’s a strange satisfaction and thrill of knowing that despite your situation, at least you’re not being stalked by Freddy Krueger or hunted down by Jason Voorhees.
“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external,” horror master John Carpenter once said. “In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”
Carpenter added: “A movie’s not just the pictures. It’s the story and it’s the perspective and it’s the tempo and it’s the silence and it’s the music—it’s all the stuff that’s going on. All the sensory stuff. Sometimes you can get a lot of suspense going in a non-horror film. It all depends. But, look, if there was one secret way of doing a horror movie then everybody would be doing it.”
So, why not enjoy the best that Netflix has to offer this Halloween, from the visceral horrors of Gaspar Noé to the humbug haunts of the terrifying period.
Let’s dive in.
The 5 best horror films on Netflix:
5. Climax (Gaspar Noé – 2018)
Horror spans many subjective definitions and whilst Climax may not adhere to traditional blood-splattering themes, the environment of hopelessness and dread it creates is truly impressive.
Following a French dance troupe who are spiked with LSD in an isolated villa, this is a hellish journey into insanity and depravity. From Gaspar Noé, whose roots are planted in ‘new French extremity’, Climax brings similar themes of futility to this strange image of a psychedelic hell. It’s the definition of a bad trip, a drug-fuelled dance into a world of psychological torment.
4. Hereditary (Ari Aster – 2018)
Possibly the finest horror film to grace the previous decade, Ari Aster Hereditary mixes the contemporary suburban supernatural with sprinkles of cult-horror.
Horrifically hopeless, dread is built upon within an intense hot-bed of guilt, envy and regret with help from fantastic performances across the board, specifically from Toni Collette. That car scene is, as a single entity, an example of horror at its very best.
Director Ari Aster has since dipped his toes into the world of folk horror with 2019’s slow, psychedelic chiller Midsommar and looks to define a new cinematic generation of horror with his future promise in the industry.
3. Krampus (Michael Dougherty – 2015)
In a year of uncertainty and setbacks, one thing we can look toward for hope is Christmas and the New Year, so what better way to celebrate than to embrace Halloween with a festive horror. However, from Black Christmas to Silent Night, Deadly Night, the quality of these films are few and far between, perhaps the very best of them is 2015’s Krampus.
Evidently inspired by Joe Dante’s tactile B-movie Gremlins, Krampus follows a dysfunctional family who gathers together on Christmas, only to be stalked by an ancient Christmas creature from folklore. It’s a great gory gettogether that supplies some fantastic practical monsters and imaginative set-pieces.
Granted, it might not all fully come together, but there’s a lot to salvage from the film’s conclusion. If you’re looking for some Christmas spice to kickstart the festive period, the camp dumb fun of Krampus might just do the trick.
2. Misery (Rob Reiner – 1990)
In the midst of a pretty bleak year, don’t let the title of Rob Reiner’s excellent psychological drama-meets-horror put you off; Misery isn’t as miserable as you might expect.
Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, Reiner’s film recounts the tale of a renowned writer who after crashing his car, is taken in to be cared for by one of his biggest fans.
Kathy Bates commands the story as the manic super-fan, putting the injured author through torture, whilst somehow retaining a dark wit and charm. It’s a pitch-black, drama with a wry, sharp tone that comments a surprising amount on obsessive, irrational fan culture.
1. Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari – 2016)
Some of the horror genres finest films have their subjects firmly in sociological, or culturally significant contexts, especially in today’s politically charged day and age. To expose everyday fears and horrors, the freedom of the genre becomes a tool in and of itself, to help bring new, shocking light to sustained issues.
From Iranian director Babak Anvari, and a co-production from Qatar, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, Under the Shadow is a collaborative effort, blending claustrophobic horror with a wartorn social subtext. The story follows a mother and daughter living among the terror of 1980s war-torn Tehran, whose reality becomes twisted when the violence of the outside world manifests as a demonic spirit in their home.
Radiating a strange, uncomfortable tone from the desolate walls of the main apartment building, AnvarI’s film is a master of atmosphere – a spine-tingling chiller which will leave you with something much larger to think about.