Halloween is only days away. This means that it’s nearly time to turn off the lights, grab a pillow to hide behind, and sit down to watch some truly terrifying horror films. To help you get into the spirit of things, here’s a list of some of the best horror films of the last ten years. Enjoy, and sweet dreams!
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Pan’s Labyrinth is a chilling modern fairytale from director Guillermo del Toro. While technically not a horror film, it is frightening enough to give anybody nightmares. Set in Francoist Spain, the film follows the journey of Ofelia, a young girl who retreats from the horrors of reality into a fantasy world filled with magical creatures. Like a much darker version of Alice in Wonderland, the film blends reality and fantasy in a way that is both enchanting and horrifying, beautiful and gruesome, and in which the monsters Ofelia encounters in her fantasy world have nothing on her stepfather, the sadistic Captain Vidal.
Based on the short story by Stephen King, the film is about horror writer and cynic Mike Enslin, who makes a living debunking supernatural phenomena. That is, until he makes the fatal mistake of staying in room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel, a place where ghosts are very real. Less a film and more a hallucinatory nightmare, 1408 will mess with your head and leave you doubting what you see with your own eyes, very much like the eponymous room does with poor Mike.
The Orphanage (2007)
Another film by Guillermo del Toro, only this time in the role of executive producer. The Orphanage tells the story of Laura, a woman who decides to buy the orphanage in which she grew up and, with the help of her husband, turn it into a home for sick children. However, her happy memories of the house are soon soiled by the loss of her son, and the grief-stricken Laura begins to see ghosts. Intelligent, poignant, and deeply unsettling, The Orphanage is just as much a film about grief as it is about ghosts.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Based on the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Let the Right One In is the haunting story of the friendship between a mortal boy and a vampire. I haven’t seen the American remake from 2010, so I can’t comment on how the two compare, but I would definitely recommend watching the Swedish original; it’s beautiful, grisly, and captures the tone of Lindqvist’s writing perfectly.
A twist on the haunted house genre, contrary to their initial fears, it isn’t Josh and Renai’s house that’s haunted; it’s their son. While not the best horror film ever made, Insidious benefits from an interesting concept, some effective scares, and a fantastic performance from Lin Shaye.
Fright Night (2011)
While not particularly scary, Fright Night is a lot of fun, thanks to a clever script and enthusiastic performances by Colin Farrell and David Tennant. A remake of the 1985 movie of the same name, the film is about a Las Vegas teenager called Charley who comes to suspect that his charismatic next door neighbour may in fact be an evil creature of the night. Highlights include exploding vampires, a speech about the problems of wearing leather trousers, and Colin Farrell strutting around in a vest.
The Woman in Black (2012)
Young lawyer Arthur Kipps is sent to a remote English village to arrange the sale of the eerie Eel Marsh House, and to put in order the affairs of its recently deceased owner. The villagers are terrified of the place, with most refusing to venture anywhere near it, and before long Arthur comes face to face with the reason why. While obviously lacking the stage play’s clever play-within-a-play element, the film nonetheless makes for deeply unnerving viewing. Beautifully shot and genuinely chilling, a perpetual sense of unease hangs over the film, like the fog that floats above the grounds of Eel Marsh House.
The Conjuring (2013)
Few horror films have frightened me as much as The Conjuring did. Set in Rhode Island in the early 1970s, the film is about the quest of real life demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren to save a family of seven from the evil spirit that haunts their home. It may not sound particularly original, but the film is a perfect example of how an apparently overused concept can feel new again in the right hands. Intelligent, atmospheric, and benefitting from a brilliant cast, The Conjuring is well-crafted and completely terrifying.
It Follows (2014)
Jay is a normal, carefree teenager, until she sleeps with her boyfriend for the first time and becomes the newest recipient of a sexually transmitted curse. Following that fateful night, Jay is haunted by Death itself, walking slowly and inexorably towards her in human form wherever she goes. True to its title, It Follows is a clever, subtle film that will have you looking over your shoulder long after the credits have rolled.
The Babadook (2014)
Despite being about a monster, The Babadook draws most of its horror from human psychology, focusing on real world problems like unresolved grief and difficult family relationships. It’s an incredibly tense and unsettling film, but also genuinely touching, with characters you soon care about a lot. Oh, and the eponymous monster, which is apparently based on Lon Chaney Senior’s character from London After Midnight, is very, very scary.