As of September 22, we are officially in the Fall season, which of course means Halloween is right around the corner. In addition to the ending of the oppressive heat and humidity of Summer, we now get arguably the most beautiful season, in which nature erupts into its tapestry of colors. The days grow short and dark, and those of us in the northern hemisphere prepare for a long cold winter. It is in this season, and the darkness it brings, that lends itself to horror movies. As we as a society become more and more desensitized to violence and the absurd, we continue to seek out new ways to shock ourselves, and sometimes we do so using the vehicle of the horror film.
I know what it means to be petrified of a film. When I was approximately 13 years old, I had nightmares for days over the movie Dead and Buried, which I saw by sneaking over to a neighbors house, as I was forbidden to see movies like this at my young age. Now, I have experienced hundreds of horror films, and I’ll do my best to bring the best of the best for you to experience this Halloween. I will restrict myself to the modern era of horror, which I identify as 2000-Present. We are undergoing a renaissance in horror, with the 2000’s being packed with quality, being delivered at an astounding rate. If you are curious about the finest Horror classics, there will be another forthcoming article before Halloween covering those as well. For now, let’s take a look at the best of the best of this era, and I will also include an enormous amount of honorable mentions at the end, to ensure your Halloween is packed with terror. As you may expect, I would not recommend allowing children to watch any of these films, unless you like the idea of ruining their lives.
5. It Follows
How does one devise a more unstoppable antagonist than even the Terminator? This movie answers that question with what has to be one of the more innovative concepts I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Setting up the characters, and the viewers with a sense of inevitability that is unmatched in modern cinema was a difficult challenge, but this film delivered in a big way. Combining the sense of dread with the requisite jump scares, It Follows has all the makings of a true classic.
If you read my review, you know that I believe this film will be considered an all-time classic 30 years from now. If you didn’t read my article, feel free to do that, and share it with your friends :) As I said there, it takes a lot to shock me, and Hereditary got me more than once. This is a near perfect film that delivers fantastic acting, cinematography, and plot structure. The runtime is slightly long, but overall, this movie delivers in a way few films can.
3. The Babadook
The ridiculous name alone almost made me miss this modern classic. I prejudged it based on that, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. An incredible psychological horror film of a family under duress where you can’t be sure what is real and what is not. Bringing a nightmarish children’s tale into real life without being cheesy brings a lot of challenge, but the filmmakers brought their A game and delivered what is sure to be an all-time classic.
2. The Descent
One of the most obvious horror tropes is the “Final Girl,” that is when it seems as if the last person to survive every horror movie is a young female. So, what happens if the entire cast is young females caught in a claustrophobic cave diving expedition? Original location and themes, great cast, innovative plot, and brutal gore bring the Descent into the pantheon of modern classic horror movies. I can assure you spelunking will likely never be a hobby you pursue after watching this film.
1. The Witch
“Wouldst thou like to live...deliciously?”
My favorite horror film of the past 40 years. I would have to go back to 1977 and older to find a horror film I hold in the same esteem as this Robert Eggers masterpiece. The only horror film on this list to which I give a perfect score, The Witch is the only film that I cannot even imagine an improvement one could make to improve it and believe me; I can imagine quite a bit. A folktale set in 1600’s New England, the Witch brings a nearly unmatched historical accuracy in dialect, beliefs, clothing, and even in processes such as construction and survival techniques. This, coupled with impeccable directing, acting, and cinematography set the Witch alone on top of the heap of modern horror. I had to watch it twice to truly appreciate it, but I now regard it as on the same plane with the greatest of all time, such as the Shining and the Exorcist. Plus, it has Black Phillip, possibly the creepiest animal in the history of cinema.
The Devil’s Candy - Heavy metal darkness, very nearly made the list.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003: Excellent Remake.
Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning: First-rate slasher film.
28 Days Later: Changed the Zombie film forever.
Evil Dead Remake: Best remake ever, I prefer it to the original.
Train to Busan: Best Zombie film of the modern era.
Wolf Creek 1 & 2: Crocodile Dundee meets Friday the 13th. Amazing.
The Conjuring: Nearly made the list, near flawless execution.
Get Out: Great concept by Jordan Peele.
Martyrs: Most disturbing film of the modern era. Might make you sick.
Cabin in the Woods: Incredible spin on horror tropes.
The Strangers: Top tier modern slasher movie.
Hell House LLC: One of the best “found footage” films ever.
There you have it: all the firepower needed to give yourself and loved ones nightmares for quite some time. Of course, horror is highly subjective, so even if you do not agree with my list above, the Honorable Mentions are sure to have enough for you to produce your own Top 5, and set up a creepy Halloween. Whether it’s Samhain, Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or the Harvest Moon, have a great autumn!
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Steve is the author of Forging the Iron Mind, and is the founder and CEO of Americana Prime.