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10 Movies To Watch This Halloween

It’s no surprise that Halloween is the time of year where people feel obligated to watch horror. With COVID-19 dismantling any plans for big Halloween parties, it feels even more right to take this particular “spooky season” (forgive me for saying that) to watch movies that keep us up at night. As a big fan of horror, throughout the years I’ve accumulated a multitude of favourites that I consistently rave about. Listed here are what I believe to be fundamental horror movies, alongside some thrillers and other genre-bending films that fit the spirit of Halloween.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Director: Roman Polanski

A classic horror movie, Rosemary’s Baby’s dealings with themes of the occult, Christianity and the paranoia of moving to a new place have now become ubiquitous tropes in the genre. Mia Farrow stars as a woman who becomes skeptical that her pregnancy has been affected by elements of the supernatural, prompting her to investigate her symptoms and if they relate to any potential demonic rituals. The film also provides commentary on the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and reproductive rights, offering interesting cultural insight for modern viewers to look at historically.

Babadook (2014)

Director: Jennifer Kent

Although Babadook and its title character received hilarious meme treatment, the movie is terrifying nonetheless. Babadook is about single mother Amelia whose six-year-old son becomes preoccupied about a character from a pop-up book––the Babadook––and subsequently she becomes entrenched in this same fear. The movie borrows heavily from German expressionism and is frightening on both a psychological and physical-horror scale.

The Shining (1980)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

An adaptation of the Stephen King novel by one of film history’s most quintessential directors, The Shining is a must-watch. The film centers on Jack Torrence and his family’s move to a desolate hotel as Jack is hired as the caretaker of it for the winter. What transpires is a cabin-fever induced saga complemented by the supernatural history of the hotel mingling with the Torrences. The movie has been so widely analyzed and dissected that there has been a documentary made, Room 237, about all the theories people have attached to it.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Based on a book of the same title (written by Queen’s grad Iain Reid!), I’m Thinking of Ending Things is as strange and peculiar of a film. Although not horror, it’s a jarring movie where time, setting and place all become confused and blurred together, creating an unsettling effect. Kaufman does a brilliant job of creating a unique movie experience (and will most likely have you searching YouTube videos to try and figure out what happened in the end).

Hereditary (2018)

This movie combines a mirage of topics––mental illness, cults and whether our family’s difficulties are innate to us as well––into a frightening two hours and seven minutes. The psychological aspects of Hereditary as well as its physically eerie scenes directed by Ari Aster will assuredly have you thinking about this film weeks after watching. Toni Collette’s performance––also featured in the prior film listed––is wonderfully executed and asserts her significance in cinema.

Spirited Away (2001)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

It may seem strange that a movie often watched by children would be on this list, but Spirited Away’s trippy graphic visuals make for a daunting viewing experience. After a girl moving to a new town with her parents makes a pit stop at an abandoned amusement park, she morphs into the world of Kami and its various spirits. Spirited Away is a beautiful movie that includes themes of sustaining the wellbeing of our environment, the supernatural, and the importance of not engaging in excessive consumption. (P.S: If you can, watch the Japanese version and not the English dub to appreciate the original voice actors!)

Black Swan (2010)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Although not of the horror genre, Black Swan is a haunting movie about the consequences that emerge when we strive for perfection. Natalie Portman stars as Nina Sawyer, a dancer at a New York ballet company who aims to receive the dual role of the White and Black Swan in Tchaiovsky’s Swan Lake. While pursuing her goal she experiences hallucinations and delusions that make for an eerie viewing experience. Black Swan also deals with eating disorders that are notoriously present in the dance community.

Midsommar (2019)

Director: Ari Aster

Another Ari Aster film on this list, Midsommar contrasts Hereditary in its visual depiction: the movie is set in the farmland of Sweden, and the villagers are dressed in clothing that scream “Coachella” more than “horror film.” Don’t be mistaken, however, by the movie’s daylit setting and bright colours; Midsommar is an exploration into the occult and family trauma, and is overall a frightening cinematic experience. The movie also establishes Aster as an auteur in the horror genre.

Us (2019)

Director: Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s Get Out rightfully became a critically and commercially acclaimed masterpiece with its topical treatment of race and identity politics, and his sophomore film Us deserves just as much attention. This film focuses on Adelaide Thomas and her family’s vacation to a place with a complicated history for her. Us is not just a horror movie that inflicts fear, but also makes you think about the class system in society and how the socioeconomic position we are born into ultimately dictates much of our privilege, or the lack thereof. 

The Invitation (2015)

Director: Karyn Kusama

Last on this list is The Invitation, a movie that begins as what is seemingly a dinner party for upper-class millennials yet becomes immensely twisted. Like many horror films, it centers on cults and the way in which they pull people into them. It’s a great slow-burn of a horror movie where the frightening aspects take a while to appear––but when they do, you’ll realize they were worth the wait.

Rachel Riddell

Queen's U '23

Rachel Riddell is an English major and History minor at Queen's University.
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