Halloween is just around the corner, which means it’s time again to raise your blood pressure with some horror movies. While everyone’s aware of the tentpoles of horror, here’s a history lesson through the decades with hidden gem recommendations.
As the weather gets colder and pumpkins grow in presence, relax on the couch to these hair-raising films.
“Black Christmas” (1974)
Before the days of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” annual releases, the slasher genre found its footing in the 1970s with this subdued cult classic.
Directed by Bob Clark, “Black Christmas” follows the members of a sorority house as they’re offed one-by-one. With disturbing phone calls by the killer reminiscent of later smash hit “Scream” (1996), the film sets the stage for the slasher tradition.
The winter setting helps “Black Christmas” accompany a cozy night in. And despite being a horror film from the ‘70s, the film’s take on social issues, including abortion, is shockingly progressive and well-done. The character development provides intrigue and adds depth to a genre often known for its shallow nature.
While the film has led to two lackluster remakes, “Black Christmas” stands on its own as a chilling winter horror with innovative kills, sympathetic characters and a top-notch atmosphere. Lacking the campy nature of future horror, “Black Christmas” has stood the test of time.
“Black Christmas” is streaming on The Criterion Channel and Shudder, available for rent for $1.99 on Amazon Prime. Also, it’s uploaded in full on YouTube.
The 1980s are known for extravagant shopping malls, a booming economy and a slasher film craze that had horror popping up in theaters like a bag of Jiffy Pop on the stove. The decade produced classics from “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to “Prom Night,” as well as off-the-wall fan favorites like “Chopping Mall.”
Amid the plethora of diverse ‘80s horror came a lesser-known release in Canadian film “Curtains.” The movie, directed by Richard Ciupka, takes place at a director’s mansion where a group of actresses stay to audition for a film. A mature tone and a flair for the dramatic differentiate it from the average whodunit slasher of its decade.
“Curtains” maintains suspense effortlessly while allowing for strong dramatic moments and character arcs. The film isn’t a kill-fest but even then, it features memorable murders. An ice skating suspense scene provides intense intrigue and a unique take on horror chase scenes.
Fans of soapy dramas or anything Ryan Murphy would undoubtedly love “Curtains” and its horror-infused peek behind the curtain of Hollywood.
“Curtains” is streamable for free on Vudu, available for $1.99 to rent on Amazon Prime, and uploaded in HD on YouTube.
“The Craft” (1996)
Horror in the 1990s represents the morning hangover after a night of overindulgence, or decade in this case. The latter half of the decade produced smash hits “Scream” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which moved the genre to a more grounded, self-aware approach.
The same year as “Scream” redefined horror, another Neve Campbell-starring film arrived to the genre: “The Craft.” A film about high school girls who dabble in witchcraft, “The Craft” veers superbly into the paranormal.
A strong cast and tight writing, as well as directing by Andrew Fleming, makes the film a standout of the ‘90s. Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist,” “Empire Records”) shines as the cold, dry lead and the rest of the witches nail their roles as well. The film’s take on high school social dynamics adds some playful humor that keeps “The Craft” from taking itself too seriously.
For horror fans who are more into a spooky atmosphere than suspenseful kills, “The Craft” serves that up on a silver platter.
“The Craft” is streaming on Freeform’s website with a cable subscription and available for $2.99 to rent on Amazon Prime.
“Sorority Row” (2009)
In the 2000s, the “Final Destination” franchise dominated the screen while the genre began its remake frenzy. With reboots of tentpole horror brands releasing left and right came a reimagining of a quieter ‘80s horror, “The House on Sorority Row.”
“Sorority Row” surrounds sorority girls who accidentally kill their sister and cover it up, only to be terrorized by a mystery killer a year later. The film is very reminiscent of its time. Directed by Stewart Hendler, many scenes look straight out of The CW textbook for glitzy glamour.
While more of a dumb fun pick (let’s be real, the 2000s weren’t exactly opulent with top-tier horror), “Sorority Row” is a blast. Plus, it features Carrie Fisher (“Star Wars,” “Shampoo”) as the take-charge house mother. The film works best viewed as a horror comedy and Fisher adds greatly to the comedic relief.
The plot is on the silly side and the cinematography has aged like a grape, but the energy of the film complements well for anyone looking to watch a glitzy horror with some creative kills. Not to mention, the soundtrack is randomly fantastic as well.
“Sorority Row” is free to stream with a Showtime subscription and available to rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime.
“It Follows” (2014)
The 2010s went in a more psychological, prestige direction with late-decade hits “Get Out” and “A Quiet Place.” Preluding those blockbusters came “It Follows,” a film about a teenage girl who’s pursued by a supernatural being following a sexual encounter.
The introspective nature of the film makes for a richer watch. “It Follows” captures an eerie sense of isolation through the voyeuristic-directing style done by David Robert Mitchell, as well as the gloomy cinematography. The excellent score sounds reminiscent of “Halloween” and effectively adds to the creepiness.
“It Follows” is very ambiguous in its depiction of a time period. This helps the film apply a retro atmosphere while remaining modern in the subtext. With few jumpscares or classic horror tropes, “It Follows” manages to scare in its silent subtleties.
Horror fans who want an unsettling slow-burn will find that in “It Follows.” Even film fans who don’t often enjoy horror would likely enjoy the film for its inspired directing and clever suspense.
“It Follows” is free to stream on Peacock and available for rent at $3.99 on Amazon Prime.