Halloween: Why do we love being scared? + Expert picks: Top 11 films to watch this spooky season.

by - 14:19:00

Halloween, the spookiest time of the year, is almost upon us. Carving bizarre faces into pumpkins, dressing up, in creepy costumes and watching the scariest movies we can bear are just some of Halloween’s most fun (?) traditions.

But, why do we enjoy being scared, and why do we love watching scary movies?
Halloween Season Is Here
One of the first recognisable horror films was made 100 years ago, in 1922, it’s a genre that has definitely stood the test of time.

We asked Horror film boffin from the world-famous MetFilm School, Pete Appleyard for his thoughts, and recognizablehe told us:

“It’s a pretty common question for horror fans, why do you like horror movies? Some people love to be scared, and some love buckets of fake blood and the visceral thrill of the horror FX. 

“For others it’s the fun of narratives that are not confined by the limitations of ‘real life’ and can go anywhere and do anything. 

“At its best (and often at its worst) horror is diverse genre that can be made anywhere by anyone. It can be romantic, tragic, hilarious or have you on the edge of your seat. As the late, great Wes Craven once said “Horror films don’t’ create fear. They release it”. 
Halloween Season Is Here
“Perhaps that’s why we love them so much, it’s a safe way of confronting our fears.”

With that in mind, we asked Pete to share his top 11 recommendations of the best spine-chilling Horror films from around the world to help us scare ourselves silly this Halloween.

So, grab the snacks and remote (and a fluffy cushion to hide behind) and settle down for Pete’s macabre movie marathon…

To start with, the one where it all began…

1. Nosferatu – 1922
This early, unofficial adaptation of Dracula by F.W Murnau still holds every bit of its gothic power 100 years after it was made. It’s filled with iconic gothic imagery and features an amazing central performance by stage actor Max Schreck as the terrifying Count Orlock (who’s name translates as Max Fear). It also works as a wonderful introduction to silent film for those new to early cinema.

 2. The Phantom of the Opera – 1925
This lavish production of Gaston Leroux’s novel marked a few important firsts for the horror genre. It was Universal studio's first full-blown horror film, a genre they would go on to define in the 30s. It was a huge break-out role for actor Lon Chaney who played the role of the Phantom in terrifying and physically torturous makeup. However, the film's biggest legacy is probably its Paris opera house set which remained standing on the Universal lot until 2014 and appeared in 100s of films and TV shows.

3. Dracula– 1931
Tod Browning’s screen adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel feels rather slow and quint by today’s standards but there is still a great deal of power to this slow burning gothic horror. Karl Freund’s expressionistic cinematography create some of the most striking cinematic images from the 1930’s and Bela Lugosi’s performance as Dracula is beyond iconic. Coming just 9 months before Universal’s Frankenstein, Dracula paved the way for Hollywood’s golden era of monsters.

4. Dead of Night – 1945
One of the few Horror films produced at Ealing Studios during its golden era, Dead of Night is one of the earliest examples of a Horror Anthology film. Essentially a collection of short films linked together by a wraparound story, the anthology format became a staple of British horror films through to the 70’s and 80s but rarely was it done as well as here. The scenes of Michael Redgrave being menaced by an evil ventriloquist dummy remain terrifying to this day.

5. The Quatermass Xperiment – 1955
Whilst Hammer films would go on to have huge success re-adapting the classic monsters of the 30s with their own Dracula, Frankenstein & Mummy franchises, It’s this film version of the BBC sci-fi serial that marks the true beginning of ‘Hammer Horror’. The story of British astronauts returning to earth with an alien parasite was massively ahead of its time in the 50s and shocked audiences with its brooding atmosphere and sudden bursts of violence. Hammer wore its ‘X’ rating with pride by incorporating it into the title.

6. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – 1974
‘Who will survive and what will be left of them?’ asks the tag line for this grindhouse classic from Tobe Hooper. Banned for decades in the UK, Texas Chainsaw remains a uniquely powerful film. More refined and realistic than similar films such a ‘Last house on the left’, all of TCM’s scares come the relentless atmosphere and terrifying antagonist. Tellingly, there is almost no blood in the film but after leaving the cinema you feel like you have witnessed a slaughter.

 7. Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984
The horror boom of the 80’s gave birth to a number of new horror icons but king amongst them has to be Wes Craven’s ultimate boogie man Freddy Kruger. A killer who stalks you in your dreams, Kruger was brought to life by the classically trained Robert Englund. Whilst the sequels are imaginative and fun it’s the original film that has all the scares, including a very gory encounter with a young Johnny Depp.

8. The Ring – 1999
The late ’90s saw an explosion in new Japanese horror cinema and the most terrifying of all has to be The Ring. The setup is simple, once you have watched the cursed VHS tape you have 7 days to live unless you pass the curse on to another. Blending MR James with Japanese folk law, The Ring is a slow burn of a film with an explosive and horrifying final. Forget the watered-down American remake and numerous sequels, the original is the real deal.

 9. [REC] – 2007
This low-budget Spanish zombie film breathed new life into the ‘found footage’ genre when it was released in the mid-2000’s. It’s the story of a small TV crew following a group of firefighters on an emergency call to an apartment building. The films simple set up, engaging characters and claustrophobic sets build to one of the most horrifying ‘what did I just see?’ endings in horror history. All in a lean 78 minutes.

10. Under the Shadow – 2016
Set in Tehran in the mid-1980s, this wartime ghost story is a harrowing tale of a mother and her daughter trying to survive the oppression of a terrifying Djinn during a missile strike. Iranian-bord director Babak Anvari dials up the tension to an almost unbearable level in the final act whilst deftly balancing the scares with political commentary in the vein of George R. Romero.

11. Censor - 2021
Set in the 80's during the video nasty scare which saw countless horror films banned and re-cut in the UK, Censor is both a celebration of those forbidden and maligned works whilst telling its own dark parable about censorship and who gets a say in what we watch. Director (and MetFilm School tutor) Prano Bailey-Bonddelivers one of the smartest horror movies about horror since Wes Craven's Scream whilst also delivering enough gore and shocks to make the 80s proud.

Pete Appleyard is a specialist tutor at MetFilm School London and we enjoyed hearing his top horror films to watch this Halloween. Pete is a professional filmmaker with specialized wide experience in making short films, documentaries, music videos, and corporate productions and he specialises in teaching and editing in Adobe Premier and Final Cut X. https://www.metfilmschool.ac.uk/people/pete-appleyard/

Pete also recently edited the feature film Hollywood Dreams and Nightmares, a biography of Nightmare on Elm Street actor, Robert Englund, which had its premiere at the Sitges Film Festival in September. 

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