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The Evil Dead (1981)
This 1981 horror follows five friends who take a trip to a secluded cabin in the woods, only to find that their antics release a world of terror.
While the teens are settling into their vacation home, their exploration leads them to find an old book with a more than haunting appearance. The book, unbeknown to the group, releases a hoard of spirits and demons that quickly take a liking to them…
As this film was released in the 80s, the special effects are not spectacular, but that’s part of the charm with older movies. The scene in which one of the friends has been trapped in the basement by the others is, however, visually brilliant – the young girl’s eyes are big yet empty; her hair is greasy and her mouth looks rotten.
The horror aspect of this film lies in the guesswork – who will die next? Is there more demons lurking? Horror films that let the audience guess, while allowing them to be correct at the same time is phenomenal, and this film does just that.
While clichés and less than perfect special effects hold this film up, they are by no means bad pillars for this classic fan-favourite.
Released in 1986, the second instalment in the Alien franchise is arguably the best of the bunch.
Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is asked to help investigate what happened to a mining colony on the planet LV-426, which she refuses to do. However, when nightmares of her previous endeavours keep her awake every night, she agrees to go along on the mission.
Once on the planet, Ripley and the SWAT team (including Private Hudson, played by Bill Paxton) make their way around the base, looking to find out what happened to the colonists who seem to have vanished.
This film is truly exceptional, as the aliens (or xenomorphs) are still the same cunning, nasty, and devilish beings they were the first-time round, with one frightening addition: the Alien Queen.
The film follows Ripley as she must save yet more people from these monsters, including a little girl. This is why this film is as incredible as it is, it mixes horror and tension with love, friendship and even a bit of comedy, as the casting is truly brilliant.
While that may not sound scary, the events unfolding are anything but basic. The xenomorphs are there at every turn, with tension building as Ripley and the team struggle to escape, and the fate of the little girl they find while exploring the base is always at stake.
Some may argue that since this film is set at Christmas, that it is a Christmas film. But why hold the film there, why not watch this devilish film at Halloween too?
When Billy’s (Zach Galligan) father gets him an unusual present for Christmas, this 1984 classic takes an ominous turn.
Gremlins follows Billy as he attempts to take care of the Mogwai, who he names Gizmo, but the specific instructions that come with this ditzy critter are harder to follow than you would expect:
Do not get Mogwai wet
Do not feed Mogwai after midnight
Do not expose Mogwai to bright lights
Seems simple enough, or so Billy thinks…
Once Billy accidentally breaks these rules, horror begins to unfold as Gizmo ‘gives birth’ to little pods which, when they hatch, release the Gremlins. The design of the Gremlins is fantastic, as they slightly resemble demons. Their comedic antics lead to the terrorising of Billy’s town as he tries desperately to stop what he started.
The death of the lead Gremlin, named Stripe, is one of the most gruesome scenes within this film. As he is bested by Billy, Stripe melts – first his skin, then his bones and then his hair.
This film is one to watch as the comedic antics and awesome look of the Gremlins may lead you to relax, when perhaps you shouldn’t….
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Released almost 40 years ago in 1981, this film about a young American boy in London may not spark excitement, but give it a chance and it will definitely keep you hooked.
When American tourists David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) get lost in the British countryside, they find refuge in a small pub. They quickly leave however, as the patrons in the pub seem as though they are hiding something sinister regarding the creepy moors that surround the tiny village.
While hitchhiking away from the pub, the rumours they heard about werewolves and beasts suddenly become very real as Jack is attached by a werewolf – the patrons decide to save the boys, but only David survives.
David is now haunted by his friend Jack, who appears a little more decomposed each time we see him. He warns David that he is now a werewolf, but David doesn’t listen.
This film is so impressive, especially now considering its age. The work gone into the shift from David to werewolf is quite uncomfortable, as his nose grows longer, his bones change and crack, and his nails turn into claws. This scene is one of the reasons why this 80s film is a great Halloween watch – we see David trying to live a life in England following the attack, but the more we see Jack and the more David goes on when he realises his problem keeps you on your toes.
The horrific acts David commits while in werewolf form are gruesome, and play a huge role in his demise…
The Thing (1982)
Another very old pick, but John Carpenter’s 1982 horror is gruesome, tense and all together terrifying.
In a remote location in Antarctica, a group of scientists are concerned when they see a helicopter shooting at a sled dog (husky) near their base camp. They take the dog in, but soon after a long list of horrifying events soon follow.
The dog then attacks the other sled dogs it is housed with, and a mess of what seem to be tentacles rip the poor canine in half, revealing what may be one of the most disturbing horror scenes in this list.
The film follows the scientists, including MacReady (Kurt Russel) as they attempt to capture and kill the alien beast that stalks them. Not only is this beast out to kill them, it does so by shape-shifting into the scientists and taking over the host in order to kill the crew one by one.
The visuals of this film alone are enough to qualify it a Halloween pick, and even in 1981, this films use of CGI and special effects are nothing short of amazing – the way the creature morphs into crew members and creates a mess of body parts, including the split face of two crew members combined, is phenomenal.
This film truly understands the horror genre, as the visuals combined with brilliant acting and cast, and the famous petri dish scene, in which Russel’s character tests the crew’s blood for anomalies one by one – the tension builds each time a crew member is cleared. This film should definitely be on your watch list.