6 Classic Horror Films To Get Your Fear On This Halloween

The Ring 1998

Bad hair day. Credit: Ringu/Rasen Production Committee

Forget kids in cutesy costumes knocking on your door demanding sweeties; the best way to celebrate Halloween is by keeping the Haribo to yourself, settling down with a good vino and a film to scare you half to death.

Nothing says Halloween like a great horror film and whether your tastes are for slow-burn psychological scares, slashers or monster-filled epics, there are legions to choose from. We bring you some of our favourites from across the horror genre.

The Shining – 1980

The Shining
Wendy, I’m home! Credit: Warner Bros

Here’s Johnny! It’s a movie quote that almost everyone knows, and invoking it immediately puts in mind a vision of Jack Nicholson grinning manically at his wife through a splintered hole in a bathroom door that he’s just made with an axe. 

What’s not to love about The Shining? Adapted from a book of the same name by the master of horror, Stephen King, directed by Stanley Kubrick and oozing with acting talent it’s a horror with pedigree. 

Jack Torrence, a writer suffering from a mental block, takes his wife and son to the massive, looming Overlook Hotel to act as caretaker over the Winter. Despite the mammoth size of the place, the film conveys the claustrophobic sinister atmosphere as the snow comes down and the family find themselves stuck inside with phone lines down and Jack’s mental balance seemingly tilting dangerously towards psychotic.

It’s a tour-de-force of frights, from the jump-out-of-your-skin discovery in Room 237 to son, Danny’s, endless circular tours of glaring orange and brown geometric patterned corridors on his tricycle that culminate in the world’s creepiest twins, to Jack’s obsessive typewriter hammering of ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ to the final chase scenes around the hotel’s hedge maze. 

Alien – 1979

Alien Xenomporth
An alien with angst. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Another horror that has lodged into the collectiveness consciousness. Directed by Ridley Scott and starring Sigourney Weaver and British Shakespearean heavyweights John Hurt and Ian Holm, Alien is perhaps the most classic and rewatched sci-fi horror film ever. 

A commercial spaceship, Nostromo, picks up a distress call from a distant moon. In line with company policy the ship’s computer, Mother, wakes up the crew sleeping in stasis to investigate. They discover hundreds of eggs in the wreck of an alien craft and the disturbance leads to them starting to hatch resulting in a truly awful crab-like creature dubbed a ‘face-hugger’ to attach itself to one of the crew. 

Back on the Nostromo with the stricken crew member and attached face-hugger, one of the most famous horror movie scenes ensues with a baby alien bursting out of John Hurt’s chest. From there it’s a fright-fest of the rapidly grown alien, known as a Xenomorph, picking off crew members one by one in dimly lit passageways whilst the main character, Ripley, discovers that the massive Weyland-Yutani corporation she works for is a tad lacking in the old corporate responsibility side of things. 

Spawning a franchise of films and hundreds of cultural references in film, TV, music and literature, not least of which is a line in Michael Jackson’s 1982 hit Thriller (“There’s no escaping the jaws of the alien this time, they’re open wide.”), Alien is a horror that it’s possible to watch again and again and still jump.

Spoorloos (The Vanishing) 1988

No light at the end of the tunnel. Credit: Argos Films

Not to be confused with the ruddy awful US remake with Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland in 1998, the original Dutch film is a chilling psychothriller that explores how the greatest evildoers can also be mind-blowingly mundane. 

Rex and Saskia, a young couple in love on a holiday trip through France, stop at a petrol station to take a break and refuel. After burying a couple of coins under a tree and sharing an oath never to abandon each other, Saskia goes off into the petrol station shop and disappears.

For several years, now back home in Holland, Rex receives cryptic postcards purporting to be from Saskia’s abductor telling him to meet at a certain place and time. Although now with a new girlfriend, Rex religiously attends each meeting only to be frustrated as the abductor never shows up…or does he?

After spiralling into unhealthy obsession, and losing his new girlfriend in the process, Rex finally meets Saskia’s abductor and the film ends with one of the most unsettling finales of any horror.

Even if you’re not a fan of subtitles it’s worth watching The Vanishing in Dutch because it is truly terrifying.

The Omen 1976

Damian in The Omen
A little devil. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

If you want to be put off small children and Rottweilers for life, surely The Omen is the film to do it. This supernatural horror stars screen legend Gregory Peck and possibly one of the creepiest child actors ever to have alighted on screen.

The film spawned a whole generation of schoolchildren worriedly getting mates to check behind their ears for ‘666’ tattoos and saddling the odd-ball boy in school with the nickname Damian. 

The plot centres around an American diplomat living in Rome with his pregnant wife who, after losing their baby during labour, comes to a secret deal with a priest to hand his wife an orphan newborn and keep schtum about their own child’s demise. 

Unfortunately, the bouncing little fellow turns out to the spawn of Satan in a more literal sense than new parents are generally used to and so begins a rollercoaster ride of suicidal nannies, grim hellhounds and the untimely demise of anyone who suspects that all is not quite as it should be. 

Ringu (Ring) 1998

Ringu 1998
Eye, eye then. Credit: Ringu/Rasen Production Committee

The Japanese know a thing or two about making terrifying films and, like The Vanishing, this is one where you are well advised to watch the subtitled Japanese original rather than the watered-down Hollywood version that came out in 2002. The Ring is, in fact, Japan’s highest-grossing horror film of all time.

The film is regularly cited by people who were teens at the time as the scariest they’ve watched and it was all the rage for a while to dare your friends to watch a videotape claimed to be haunted. So successful was the urban legend horror that it spawned more in the same vein such as The Blair Witch Project and Candyman, also to the terror of audiences.

The plot revolves around a journalist who investigates an urban legend spreading amongst teenagers of a videotape that, if watched, results in the death of the viewer seven days later after receiving a creepy phone call. 

When her niece dies suddenly, and with a rictus of horror on her face, the journalist discovers that the teen’s group of friends, all of whom had watched a ‘cursed VHS tape’, all died in mysterious circumstances on the same day and time. Going off to a cabin in the woods (yes, there’s always a cabin in the woods!) where her niece and friends stayed, the journalist discovers a videotape – and watches it. From there it’s a chilling and stomach gripping march through the inevitable horror as the race is on to prevent more dying, even in the face of the copying and distribution of the tape by those who watch it. 

Hereditary 2018

Toni Collette Hereditory
All in the genes. Credit: A24

Toni Collette has come a long way from being the dumpy, Abba-obsessed friend in Muriel’s Wedding and in Hereditary she struts her thespian stuff in the supernatural psychothriller genre. 

Hereditary sets its stall out early with a child being decapitated in the first ten minutes of the film; from there, it’s an absolute thrill ride of shock surprises and growing dread.  It revolves around an artist of miniatures, Annie, who after the death of her distinctly odd Mother and the accidental beheading of her daughter, finds her relationship with her psychiatrist husband and 16-year-old son fracturing. 

After being persuaded by a friend to turn to the occult and do a séance, things around the house start to get extremely odd. It should be noted that lovers of cabins in the woods won’t be disappointed.

It’s extremely likely that Hereditary has been single-handedly responsible for an increase in the sale of ceiling inset lights to chase away any shadowy corners. You have been warned.

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Written by

Emma Mitchell

Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on mitch@euroweeklynews.com