It is once again that time of the year, the fall season is here. With fall comes Halloween and no good Halloween is ever complete without the tingle that arises from watching a scary movie. Here are five films that will have you checking under the bed.
“Barbarian” is quite often a movie where you have an idea of what is going on, but at the same time you have not the slightest clue of what is on screen at the moment. There are very discernible separations between each of the three acts. The underlying threads of social commentary are weaved into the larger cloth of horror. There are themes here which if dome incorrectly, would have made for a distasteful and even disrespectful film. The movie shows off themes of sexual assault, the difference in experiences for men and women with perceived threats, the power structures present that leads to abusive relationships, the lingering effects from the failures of Reagan era America, the failing of American infrastructure and the predatory rental property industry. All of these themes never take center stage, but they make their presence known quite easily. The classic horror elements not having to do with societal collapse come in the form of the titular Barbarian, who is what you would expect, but with a very creepy backstory. “Barbarian” subverts expectations and raises the bar.
Where to watch: Theaters
Annie and her family find themselves at the center of something quite nefarious and supernatural after the death of their mother. “Hereditary” is strangely a much more satisfying watch when you go into it with little to no context. The movie holds on to every moment of dread, making you uncomfortable and uneasy, making your stomach turn with every passing twist in the story. This is a highlight of the rich A24 catalogue one cannot afford to miss, director Ari Aster makes the experience equally as disorienting for the audience as it is for the Graham family, who suffer from both a Biblical curse upon their family lineage and mental illnesses that impact their already skewed ability to tell what is real from what is not.
Where to stream: Hulu, Amazon Prime and Showtime
“It Follows” has one of the more interesting story elements on this list, as it boils down to a supernatural experience that stems from a sexual encounter. The main threat of the film is The Entity, a slow, lumberous threat that chases its victims incessantly. The threat may appear trivial given its speed, but the relentless pursuit makes it an incredibly present fear in the mind of whoever it is targeting. The Entity has no other goals or morals other than its need to kill whoever is cursed through sexual intercourse. The Entity has no qualms with the time it may take to kill someone, it will not stop until it knows it has taken their life. The indie film’s unique and refreshing spin on horror allowed it to gain popularity immediately following its release which led to its cult following among horror movie fans. The thriller keeps you uncertain of what’s to come as you can only watch as the characters are hunted down. The slow nature of The Entity subverts the expectations of usual horror movie chases. This psychological horror film is a cult classic for a reason, a uniquely told story that you do not want to miss out on.
Where to stream: Netflix
Chris is a black man invited over by his girlfriend Rose to meet her white parents upstate. It seems natural to Chris given the length they have been dating. Something is not entirely right with Rose’s parents though. Their behavior goes from peculiar to downright sinister. Things only get worse for Chris with the passage of as he is forced to fight for his life while being put through what can only be described as unimaginable torture. The film itself is one big metaphor, a reminder to audiences that being black creates situations where one feels anxious, despite the environment feeling innocuous enough, fear persists and grows within the mind. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut shows the nerves black people often experience when they are presented with the judgment of parents who are not accepting. Although there are quite a few scenes that induce legitimate panic, one can argue the scariest part of this brilliantly written film is how thoughtfully on the nose it is with the timely issues related to race that the plot tackles.
Where to stream: Amazon Prime and Vudu
“The Black Phone”
Finney Shaw is a 13-year-old boy who finds himself in a haunting basement after being kidnapped by The Grabber. The basement is startling enough on its own, but the addition of a phone that can communicate with the deceased victims of the kidnapper make the situation all the more tense. The boy and the victims must work together to lead Finney back to safety and to prevent another senseless killing of a child. The movie is a great watch for many reasons, but one cannot ignore the performance of Ethan Hawke in his role as The Grabber. There is somewhat of an instinctual fear that is evoked at the thought of being kidnapped and left somewhere and Hawke only adds on to the tension as he plays his part brilliantly. The jump scares are well used and the twist is legitimately shocking. “The Black Phone” is great at playing with the natural human fears of being stalked or watched and invoking the nerves that make your fight or flight instinct activate.
Where to stream: Peacock