Horror isn't like other types of film. It's a bodily experience. It's goes straight for your gut, rummages around inside inside your head, makes your chest get tight. It's an intellectual strain too.
"It's a genre that lends itself to saying things about existence and why we're here and what makes us all afraid and what makes us tick," Saint Maud im电竞官网-writer and director Rose Glass told us last year. "But you can, in a way, hide some of those things behind the trappings of just an exciting, scary, entertaining film."
im电竞官网-But where do you start? Horror films go all the way back to the very birth of cinema, and with so many exciting, scary, entertaining films to sift through you could do with a guide. Take these 17 as a primer.
Peeping Tom (1960)
In 1960, two visionary slasher flicks arrived. Psycho premiered in June and was hailed a masterpiece; Peeping Tom had arrived two months earlier and pretty much finished director Michael Powell's career, even after he'd made A Matter of Life and Death, The Red Shoes, Colonel Blimp and the rest. Perhaps Britain was too squeamish about the parallels Powell drew between the voyeur Mark Lewis, who films the murders he commits, and the filmgoing public. A campaign on its behalf by Powell protégé Martin Scorsese helped to restore its reputation – along with Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, he said, Peeping Tom said everything that could be said about filmmaking. It's got a lot to say about sex, life, death, and violence too.
Eyes Without A Face (1960)
A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter Christiane disfigured, and he goes to pretty extreme lengths to get her a new face and allow her to peer out from behind her porcelain doll-style facemask. Georges Franju's direction gives Eyes Without A Face a lyrical, poetic feel, and a twisted logic that makes it feel more like a fairytale than a standard mad professor flick. The Spectator's reviewer at the time called it "the sickest film since I started film criticism," which is quite a recommendation.
No monsters or Big Bads here, but Threads stands as one of the most gutturally horrifying films ever made. In early Eighties Sheffield, people navigate their everyday triumphs and tragedies as the shadow of nuclear war starts to loom over the Don Valley: while the council plans for a war footing, a young couple discover they'll be parents and a family bickers over their son's Gameboy. Then doomsday arrives. It's a kitchen sink horror which pulls as much from Coronation Street and Ken Loach as it does Dr Strangelove, but with added icy dread and a sense of unflinching realism. The bombs start dropping about 20 minutes in, and that's the relatively jolly bit.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
Lynne Ramsay's film digs into one of the most elemental fears of every parent: it's not that anything bad will happen to their kids, or that suddenly decide to be a Leeds United fan. It's that they simply won't ever understand them. Tilda Swinton's Eva watches as her first-born develops into a manipulative, cold young man – a kind of archery-obsessed Damien from The Omenim电竞官网- – but doesn't know how to stop the nihilism taking hold.
The Exorcist (1973)
im电竞官网-William Friedkin's masterpiece was not easy to make. Some said it was cursed: the set burned down when a bird flew into a circuit box; actors Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn were both badly injured on set; and shooting ended up taking more than a year. But it became a phenomenon, its haunting, raw, hallucinatory visions turning it into a 10-Oscar-nominated behemoth. In Georgetown, Washington, 12-year-old Regan starts acting oddly: swearing, stealing, talking backwards, that sort of thing. Best get a priest – the much-missed Max Von Sydow – in to sort things out. Things don't exactly go by the (good) book.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1982)
This slasher elevated the genre to high art via a mixture of black comedy, the unsettlingly childlike Leatherface, and a total commitment to its sense of spiralling surreality. You know the set-up – young hippies head to the sticks, get lost, get chopped up by a creepy family of partially undead oddballs – but nothing prepares you for its visceral thrills, or the family's Ed Gein-inspired interior design choices.
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1920)
Horror cinema started in earnest with this, the peak of German Expressionism on film. An insane hypnotist uses his skills to get a sleepwalker to commit murders, creeping around a jagged, haunting dreamscape. Its influence on the greatest hits of Hollywood in the Twenties, Thirties and beyond, from Dracula and The Man Who Laughs to Citizen Kane and The Third Man, is incalculable.
The Innocents (1961)
A governess moves to a new house, and finds the family living there haunted by the past. And some ghosts. This adaptation of The Turn of the Screw is a beautifully made, deeply textured piece of cinema that uses all the subtleties of the cinematographer's art to draw you into its claustrophobic grip.
The Thing (1982)
Out in Antarctica, a dog runs across the tundra, pursued by some very angry Norwegians. What's that they're shouting? Better shoot them, just to be safe. A dog that cute could never do anyone any harm. Cue grisly body-warping from a scuttling, phlegm-covered shapeshifting alien, and Kurt Russell with a flamethrower. John Carpenter's ice station-set chamber piece is still the gold standard for utterly splenetic effects-driven body-horror.
Night of the Demon (1957)
Based on the MR James story 'Casting the Runes', this one's a slow-burning creeper. An attempt to unmask a murderous cult, led by the devilish Dr Karswell, turns into a supernatural cat-and-mouse game between Karswell's curses and the man trying to bring him down. Kate Bush sampled it on the intro of 'Hounds of Love' too. It's in the trees! It's coming!
The hype around Ari Aster's first film, Hereditary, seems a little overblown in retrospect, but his follow-up more than delivered. It's a break-up film at heart, following bereaved Dani and emotionally stunted Christian as they try to ignore their dead relationship by going on a spring break trip to Sweden for their mate Pelle's traditional family shindig. Some of the most unbelievably fucked-up images follow. We'll not ruin anything, but suffice to say come the ending, you'll be looking fondly looking back on the bit where two old people got their skulls smashed by a lad with a big hammer.
Get Out (2017)
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is visiting his girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents out in rural upstate New York. That kind of thing's nerve-wracking enough without the sneaking suspicion that the other black people in this white neighbourhood are acting a bit oddly. Jordan Peele's excoriating and hilarious critique of liberal America's complacent, but-I-voted-for-Obama racism comes wrapped in horror thrills.
The Babadook (2014)
It's never a good sign when a kid starts getting freaked out about something nobody else can see (cf The Exorcist, It Follows, The Witch, etcim电竞官网-) and when Adelaide widow Amelia's boy Sam starts building weapons to fight off an imaginary monster, she is understandably worried. Despite how disturbing the Babadook is, Jennifer Kent's study of grief, maternal doubt, depression and rage is an oddly uplifting and comforting watch. Plus, the Babadook's an LGBT icon now.
The Wicker Man (1973)
im电竞官网-When a girl goes missing on Summerisle, a island in the Hebrides, police sergeant Neil Howie goes to investigate. Devout Howie finds a Pagan society under the rule of Lord Summerisle (an absolutely majestic Christopher Lee) and sets out to sort out these bloody heathens and find the girl. As you might know, it doesn't go that well for him, and ends in one of the definitive images of all British cinema: the Wicker Man burning as Summerisle sings. Probably skip the extended version where Lee goes on about the cultivation of apple trees for ages. And the Nic Cage-starring remake from 2006.
Vegetarian Justine heads to veterinary school expecting the classic uni experience – lectures, grotty trebles bars, maybe join the badminton team – and ends up being forced to eat raw rabbit kidneys in a hazing ritual. Instead of getting in touch with the welfare officer, she gradually gets a taste for it, and eventually things go the full Hannibal Lecter. Not for the faint-hearted (or weak-stomached).
It Follows (2014)
One of the most overtly indie of the indie horrors of the 2010s, this is a beauty to look at as well as being a chiller. A curse moves from teen to teen in small town America, passed on like a supernatural STI. If it's on you, a figure moves slowly towards you, and when it catches you, it absolutely mullers you.
The Witch (2016)
Also known as The VVitch, this one's about slow-building dread more than any jumps or gruesomeness. Anya Taylor-Joy, from Peaky Blinders and Emma, is Thomasin, eldest child of ostracised New England settlers William and Katherine. They start to believe they're cursed, and it's not long before accusations of witchcraft start flying about. But is it actually the goat's fault?
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
In a year of upheaval, protest and anger, George A Romero's definitive zombie apocalypse film channelled every anxiety America had going into its shuffling, groaning undead: capitalism, communism, race, masculinity. It's still a rich and profoundly disturbing watch half a century later. It's also in the public domain, so it's all on YouTube.
In the great pantheon of taciturn man-mountain bad lads, Michael Myers has to be top of the (gigantic) heap. His first appearance, in which he escaped from captivity after killing his sister and started hunting down teens in smalltown Illinois, remains one of the great slasher thrillers. Jamie Lee Curtis, in her breakout role, is the gutsy Laurie Strode, Myers's next intended victim. By bringing terror to the middle classes' suburban haven, Halloween changed everything.
The Birds (1963)
Alfred Hitchcock basically invented the slasher, the psychoanalytical horror-thriller, and the creepy mummy's boy murderer with Psycho in 1960, but The Birdsim电竞官网- is the furthest he ventured into pure horror. It all starts quite innocently, in the classic Hitchcockian mode, until all of a sudden birds start launching themselves at people. Why the aviary terrorism? And will it ever stop? It's all incredibly tense, with its sparse electronic score the under-appreciated MVP.
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