What’re you doing this evening? Did that invite to Jonathan Ross’ big Halloween bash get lost in the post again? Never fear, because we all know that you’d rather spend this spookiest of nights sprawled on the sofa with a warm laptop and a bag of Minstrels for company than being out and about trying to have a totally normal chat with a mutual friend while you’re dressed as Fred Dibnah and he’s come as a bloodied Bugs Bunny.
With that in mind, we’ve asked our very talented team at It’s Nice That to run us through the horror movies they whack in the DVD player each and every time the 31 of October rolls around.
Matt Alagiah, editor
Don’t Look Now (Dir. Nicholas Roeg, 1973)
I was probably a bit too young when I first watched Don’t Look Now – around 12 or 13. My friends and I spent most of the film laughing at the outdated effects and the motifs that seemed to us so hackneyed (oblivious, of course, to the fact that we were watching the very film that had created so many of those tropes in the first place). We weren’t really scared at all for most of it – until the final sequence, that is. Without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film, it’s safe to say that sequence stands as one of the great moments in the history of horror. Suddenly, we all went from tittering to whimpering. Even as it approached its 50th birthday, Don’t Look Now still has the ability to silence and scare – a masterpiece of horror film-making.
Jyni Ong, staff writer
Coraline (Dir. Henry Sellick, 2009)
Who doesn’t love a meticulously detailed stop-motion animation about an alternate reality through a tiny secret door in your very own home? This film has everything you’d want at Halloween — or any other time of year for that matter — a slightly creepy surrogate mother who wants to sew buttons over your eyes, dancing mice and walls filled with shelves of stuffed dogs dressed in angel costumes, halo and all. Not to mention the vividly rich atmosphere that consistently pulls you into the film with every, single, pain-staking, frame. Coraline’s iconic costume design should go down in history with the likes of Indiana Jones and Darth Vader — except she has blue hair, a yellow raincoat and wellies.
Will Knight, junior art director
They Live (Dir. John Carpenter, 1988)
From The Fog to The Thing, in my humble opinion, anything John Carpenter touches is guaranteed gold. Here he blends ex-WWF Superstar Rowdy Roddy Piper with a bit of political commentary in the form of an alien ruling class who managed to manipulate people into spending money and accepting the status quo via some Barbara Kruger-esque typographic subliminal messages, and the result is the recipe for a hell of a Wednesday night in.
It’s an all-round screamer of a movie, and it’s left a lasting legacy, especially with Shepard Fairey who borrowed/stole one of the films main typographic slogans to start his demonic OBEY empire – the irony of which is still not lost on me. And if that isn’t enough to go on, then as with all of Carpenter’s films the soundtrack is a real cracker too.
While here why not revisit our Friday Mixtape from this time last year courtesy of the big man himself.
Connor Campbell, junior art director
The Blair Witch Project (Dir. Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
I remember watching it when I was 10 years old and it was the first movie I’d seen with the handheld camera style that was so authentically amateur that I fully believed it (it didn’t help that my much older friend who was over visiting from Ireland at the time had convinced me it was real footage). Although it now seems little more than a motion sickness-inducing, poorly lit blast from the past, it still creeps into my dreams from time to time (or the occasional wild camping trip…)
Lucy Bourton, staff writer
The Blair Witch Project (Dir. Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
I’m a massive wimp. After watching The Blair Witch Project at a sleepover I was so scared (thought it was real didn’t I) I vowed never to watch a “scary film” again. Or go for a walk in the woods. Or believe a local legend. Or investigate what a noise is I hear downstairs is, even though it always turns out to be my housemates boiling the kettle.
Josh Baines, news editor
Alien (Dir. Ridley Scott, 1979)
By and large, I have very little time for horror movies. Not liking blood, slashers are out of the window. Being prone to feeing anxious about the fact that Asda might have run out of quinoa by the time I get after work, the more psychologically-driven genre benchmarks can happily gather dust on the shelf. And, please, for your own sake, don’t get me started on the Human Centipede and all those other horror movies custom built for hormonal teenage boys hepped up on cans of Monster and feelings of gaping insecurity. Alien, however, is an unalloyed masterpiece. A visually stunning, genuinely haunting exploration of fragility, fear, and what happens when you shove rolled up jazz mags down the throat of an uptight android, I could watch it at least twice a year without getting bored. Twice.
Ruby Boddington, staff writer
Rosemary’s Baby (Dir. Roman Polanski, 1968)
I first encountered Rosemary’s Baby aged 11 when visiting a friend after school. Said friend’s older sister had been tasked with watching (and reviewing) the cult classic as part of her A-Level film studies course, and asked if we’d like to join the viewing. Having sat through the likes of Paranormal Activity, The Ring and Gothika by this point at various sleepovers, we scoffed at idea that a film from 1968 could ever measure up.
To this day, however, Rosemary’s Baby remains one of the most subtly terrifying (if that’s a thing) films I’ve ever experienced. Beyond its motifs of satanic cults and the idea of giving birth to the child of the Devil – scary enough but pretty removed from my then 11-year-old atheist ideals – it was the betrayal, and portrayal, of Rosemary Woodhouse played by Mia Farrow, which really got to me. Watching Rosemary’s protests fall on deaf ears while it was slowly revealed that everyone – except her – was “in on it” left me feeling slightly weird, and angry.
In the years and viewings of this film that followed, I realised this was largely in part to the fact that my first viewing took place at such a formative time. At 11 years old, I was just beginning to grapple with the concept that I was a woman, and that meant my words – and protests – often took on a very different context to those of my male peers. Ironically, this film which so adeptly introduced me to a well-known feminist dilemma, was directed by Roman Polanski – a man who embodies a whole other feminist dilemma. “Roman Polanski has made one of the great feminist parables of cinema – and yet we have to struggle with Polanski the man and the mistakes he has made, the crimes he has committed,” Karyn Kusama, director of Jennifer’s Body, recently wrote in a contribution to The Guardian.
I should finally point out that I grew up in a very rural area and, post-first viewing of Rosemary’s Baby, had to walk from my friend’s house, back to my house, through a field on a pitch black November night. I ran all the way, and it’s potentially this utterly traumatising experience which ultimately meant the film left such a mark on me.
Recommended reading: The Devil Inside: Watching Rosemary’s Baby in the Age of #MeToo by Laura Jacobs
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