Tired of watching the same kind of movie each year? Want to burnish your indie credentials? These five brilliant chillers may not be the obvious Halloween classics – but for anyone intending to shake up the scariest night of the year a little bit, they might just be perfect. Prepare for the terror that awaits.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
There are few directors whose style screams ‘Halloween’ more than Tim Burton, but that doesn’t mean all his films have received the recognition they deserve. This excessive, lavishly produced and ferociously entertaining take on the classic 19th Century tale is one of his strongest works – surprisingly funny, strikingly stylish and slightly unsettling. For an older film it has held up extremely well, for Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci are both at the peak of their powers in the lead roles. A hidden gem if there ever was one.
Why Halloween: Blood. Severed heads. More blood.
Fear Factor: 2/5 More gory than scary.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Ambiguity is everything in this chilling, low-budget Swedish fairytale of vampiric outsiders. Probably the one film on this list that can be uncontroversially classed as ‘horror’, it may look forgettable on paper and feature a cast of unknowns, but this haunting slow-burner emerges as a ferocious triumph, memorable for its shocking visuals and atmospheric sense of dread that lingers long after the credits role. For a strange, lonely creature of a film it’s also surprisingly tragic – as we contemplate what lies in the futures for its characters’ we hope for the best but know by then to expect the worst.
Why Halloween: Flesh-eating cats. Bloodsucking.
Fear Factor: 4/5 – A lot scarier than you’d expect.
A nightmarish dystopia, an investigation with no end in sight, seven deadly sins and just one elusive killer. Seven (or Se7en) is every bit a horror film; thrilling, disturbing and terrifyingly real at once. We are bombarded with grim visuals and chaotic events from the start, yet somehow by the conclusion everything feels awfully serene. It’s compelling film-making packed full of superb performances and also steered by one of the most consistent directors working today – what’s not to like?
Why Halloween: Serial killers. Grisly murders. Moody visual style.
Fear Factor: 4/5 Less violent than you’d expect. More fearful for that.
Unbelievably it’s not another vampire flick – it’s better – a macabre take on the coming of age genre where the real demons are trapped deep inside us. Loosely inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, the stilted mannerisms, intricate symbolism and fantastical style of Park Chan-Wook’s first English-language film contribute to a totally unpredictable and strangely unnerving spectacle of lost innocence. This gothic thriller has certainly polarised audiences since debuting at Sundance film festival, but even its harshest critics would struggle to deny that there really is no other film quite like Stoker.
Why Halloween: Creepy basements. Creepy characters. Creepy visuals.
Fear Factor: 2/5 – Sporadically disturbing, but unlikely to seriously scare.
Black Swan (2010)
The demented, nightmarish brainchild of Darren Aronofsky turns out to be a brilliant portrait of the ultra-competitive ballet world. What starts innocent quickly spirals into a stunning crescendo of psycho-social ruin and nerve-shredding uncertainty. In her acclaimed central performance, Natalie Portman keeps the real Nina hidden, leaving us only glimpses of our protagonist even when the world around her begins to fall apart. It’s astonishing work, befitting of one of the most unforgettable films of the last decade.
Why Halloween: Hallucinations. Bloody feathers. Shocking twists.
Fear Factor: 5/5 – Hard to think of too many films as frightening.