I'm not your mother. And I'm not your Netflix. Which means I don't actually know which horror movies you have and haven't seen. What I do know is that horror is a genre which, despite its reputation, is rich with classics - if you know where to look. Some go gory, others build tension until you can hardly bear it anymore, and once in a blue moon comes that elusive, unguessable plot twist.
All of the films in this list stand out from the crowd in one way or another, so if you're looking for a bloody good haunting this Halloween, you've come to the right place...
All Cheerleaders Die (2013)
A mash-up of comedy, horror and high school flick, All Cheerleaders Die aims to subvert some of horror's typical gender tropes, even if it ends up falling prey to a few of them. The tone is set when Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) witnesses the death of her friend Alexis in a brutal accident during cheerleader practice - so it seems odd when Maddy decides to take up cheerleading herself. Still, perhaps everything is not quite as it appears. What follows is a healthy dose of sex, death, revenge, and even resurrection. Not the greatest horror you'll see this Halloween, but nonetheless an entertaining film which hits the buttons it's aiming for. And in the best horror tradition, the ending is wide open for a sequel...
This turn of the century classic is often considered one of the greatest horror movies ever made in Japan. A widower and a film producer stage a fake audition to find the widower a new wife, settling on a beautiful young woman named Asami. Beautiful she may be, but Asami, it turns out, is so not wife material. In fact, she has something else in mind entirely. Have patience with this one; it's a slow-burn which takes a while to play its hand, but when it gets there you'll be thrilled you stuck around.
Battle Royale (2000)
"One of the most controversial films ever made!", boasts the US trailer for Battle Royale, and that's not hyperbole. Nobody takes quite so much sick pleasure in inserting and twisting the knife as South Korea when it comes to horror, and Hunger Games fans will find this film's plot strangely familiar: the government selects a group of high school students to go on a "field trip". Class 3-B are then shipped to a remote island, handed a bunch of weapons (some much less useful than others) and told that only one can live. It's the very definition of dog eat dog and the cultest of cult classics. An undisputed masterpiece.
Black Swan (2011)
Not a horror per se, but utterly horrifying in places, Black Swan is the relentessly bleak story of Nina, a sexually repressed ballerina who finds that the only way to achieve her dreams is to discover something deep inside herself, the black swan to her white. The director of her ballet gives her a homework assignment: to touch herself. To discover her sexuality, to unleash what's hiding within. As the opening night of the ballet draws closer, Nina descends deeper into her very damaged psyche. There's some gruesome body horror, but most of the thrills here are psychological, and the film's operatic climax will stay with you for a long time after the credits roll.
The Canal (2014)
David (Rupert Evans) is a film archivist who, promptly after moving into a well appointed new home, discovers vintage film footage of a century-old murder that took place in his new abode. Shortly after, the body of his wife is found in the canal behind the house. David, naturally, becomes the prime suspect. Not every piece of the puzzle is presented to the audience, keeping us guessing about what really happened to David's wife, who had a few secrets of her own. Although not the most original film on this list, The Canal successfully ramps up tension and features a surprisingly good performance from child actor Calum Heath as David's young son.
The Descent (2005)
What do you do after losing your husband and child in a car accident? Do you gather your girlfriends for wine and distraction, or do you take them on a trip to Appalachia to explore a bunch of not-at-all-creepy underground caves? If you're Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), you take option B, and if that decision seems insane it's got nothing on what this subterranean mindbender has in store for its six female heroines. Claustrophobes need not apply.
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
The Evil Dead director Sam Raimi made his grand return to horror with Drag Me to Hell, in which an elderly woman refused a bank loan places a curses on Christine (Alison Lohman), the unfortunate clerk who took the decision to refuse the loan. The woman places a curse on Christine, using a button from her jacket (yup), and Christine has three days to shake the curse before the demon tormenting her drags her into the burning depths of hell. High on the fumes of classic horror tropes, the film flashes past without giving you too much time to really think about what's going on, which is probably just as well. Personally, the ending disappointed me, but a metacritic score of 83 says I might have been the odd one out.
Being a teenager is difficult. Dealing with hormones sucks. It's enough to drive anyone insane. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord) is an outcast of school who hasn't yet had sex, and whose erotic dreams consist of hardcore body mutilation. No wonder everyone at school thinks she's a freak. Gorgeous 90210 star McCord is way out of her comfort zone here - let's be honest, it should be impossible to accept her as somebody the guys at school don't look twice at - but she throws everything into her performance, capturing with ease the chilling emotional detachment that makes Pauline such an anomaly in her own life. Excision has gore for miles - clue's in the title, folks! - but perhaps more surprisingly, it also has a brain. A very, very twisted brain.
Goodnight Mommy (2015)
Perhaps this year's most hyped arthouse horror, Goodnight Mommy is the story of twins of Elias and Lukas, whose mother returns home from a mysterious surgery covered in bandages and sporting a new, cold attitude which seems completely at odds with the mother they knew before. During a guessing game of "who am I?" with the boys, the Mama is given herself - and fails to guess who she is, despite the specific clues offered by the twins. They, and we, soon begin to suspect that she's not the woman under the bandages is not their mother at all. What unravels is an atmospheric mystery that's light on dialogue and heavy on tension. You won't find a better performance from a young actor than Elias and Lukas Schwarz give here as the twins stuck in a living nightmare.
The entirely demented Orphan gleefully barrels its way through a treasure trove of horror cliches, settling on the "interloper in the family home" trope - the interloper in question being the Coleman family's new adoptive daughter, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). There's something seriously off about Esther, but of course only one parent can see it, and thus a wedge is driven deep into the heart of the Coleman clan - and as we all know, evil succeeds best when its subject is divided. Orphan is trashy, no doubt about it, but those who enjoyed Drag Me to Hell should get similar thrills out of this movie. The big twist works a treat.
Teeth is a blackly comedic horror about a young woman who develops the medical condition "vagina dentata" (and if you think that could be a real thing, you definitely won't have a problem with the intelligence level of this film), which turns out to be an excellent coping mechanism for fighting off the unwanted attention of boys. It's dumb as hell, but so brazen in its stupidity that it becomes a total riot. You could say the film's plot is some kind of metaphor or parable for teenage sex, but that might well be to give Teeth much, much more credit than it deserves. Extra points for a final scene which proves that the film has its tongue lodged firmly in cheek. Mouth cheek, that is.
Under the Skin (2013)
What do you do if you're walking down the street in your beat-up Scottish town and Scarlett Johansson pulls over her white van and offers you a lift? It's a question that needs no answer. Under the Skin cleverly subverts the idea of the predatorial man on the hunt for a hook-up by casting Johansson in that role. Only she's playing an alien, and the men she lures back to her house soon find themselves sinking into a mysterious black void. Happy not to answer any of the question it asks, this film is too surreal for some, and unsettling enough to sort-of qualify as a horror. You will never accept a lift from a stranger again.
The big one. The film for which the term 'brutal' was coined. The pinnacle of South Korean cinema. Helmed by the legendary Park Chan-wook, Oldboy sees businessman Dae-su imprisoned in a hotel room... for fifteen years. Enough time to plan some seriously bloody revenge which, upon his unexplained release, he sets about achieving. Soon after, he begins a sexual relationship with a thoughtful, much younger woman. To say any more would be criminal, but it wouldn't be fair to recommend Oldboy without advising that you go into it on an empty stomach. If you watch ten thousand movies in your lifetime, you will never find a more devastating reveal than the one so cruelly unleashed in Oldboy.