October means pumpkin spice everything, sweater weather, and breathing crisp autumn air on hikes through brightly-colored trees. It also means me intentionally giving myself PTSD as I rewatch my favorite traumatic horror movies over the next few weeks. Care to join me in this psychologically self-destructive behavior?
Read on for my spookiest picks:
THE OMEN (1976)
One of the first films to tackle the "terrifyingly expressionless child" trope, The Omen stars Gregory Peck as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. When his newborn child dies at birth, he agrees to secretly adopt an orphan in its stead. This child, Damien, begins to exhibit some suspicious tendencies: giant malevolent rottweilers show up out of nowhere, people start to die in his presence, he refuses to enter a church, etc. Normal stuff, right? He definitely isn’t The Antichrist. A classic movie in the genre, The Omen’s striking visual style, brooding soundtrack, and iconic set pieces have stood the test of time and make me look twice at any small dead-eyed boy in a goofy little hat. They can’t be trusted.
DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)
From visionary horror director Sam Raimi (the Evil Dead series, the original Spider-Man trilogy) comes this visceral horror film about a bank employee (Alison Lohman) who, when trying to impress her boss, forecloses on the home of an old “gypsy” woman and is subsequently cursed. The rest of the movie follows her as she attempts to break the curse, but mostly she’s being covered in vomit, blood, or a combination of the two. Watching this movie makes you feel the need to take a shower, both literally and metaphorically (for your eyeballs). I swear, something like 90% of the visual effects budget was reserved for exploding bodily fluids. It maintains Raimi’s signature goofy camp style from his earlier films — the nosebleed scene is so absurd that it borders on comedic — but remains just self-serious enough for major scares.
KILL LIST (2011)
This British film follows two ex-soldiers who have become hitmen upon returning home from war. In a classic case of “I need one last job to support my family,” they are hired by a mysterious client to execute three men for a massive payday. As the story goes on, it transitions from a run-of-the-mill crime thriller into something far more unnerving and insidious, with a soundtrack and editing to fit the tone. I can’t say much more without giving away the many crucial plot twists, but suffice it to say that the reveal in the final scene is as emotionally devastating as it is cruel and genius. This is one of those movies that simply sticks with you no matter how much you may try to deny what you’re seeing on the screen.
THE BABADOOK (2014)
This Australian flick follows a single mother whose young son becomes preoccupied with an imaginary monster from an extremely scary pop-up children’s book. As you might expect, the monster turns out to be a little less imaginary than it seems on the surface. This wildly inventive and original film deals with mental illness and grief in surprisingly mature and nuanced ways, plus it introduced one of the most disturbing (and surprisingly empowering) horror antagonists of the past few decades. It’s been years since I first watched this movie and to this day, even thinking about the name “Ba…. Ba…. Dooook” makes chills run down my spine. At least it has a happy ending... kind of.
THE VVITCH (2015)
Robbert Eggers’ debut film takes place in 17th century Massachusetts, where a family has been expelled from the Plymouth Colony for being TOO religious — yes, you read that right. Banished to the frontiers of civilization, the family immediately suspects that witchcraft is afoot when their baby son disappears on oldest daughter Thomasin’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) watch and mysterious incidents begin plaguing their homestead. Less scary than truly disquieting and creepy, the family devolves into puritanical paranoia, hallucination, and violence — all amplified by the sparse score, the bleak cinematography, and the period-accurate costuming and dialogue. A true masterpiece of tone and mood, this movie had me re-living its best moments for weeks. Be sure to catch Eggers’ follow-up project starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse, later this month.
Honorable mentions go to The Cabin in the Woods (too funny and meta for this list), It Follows (too much of a metaphor to be truly horrifying), and The Descent (too scary for me to even think about any more than I already have). Whichever movie you choose to watch, I wish you the best of luck sleeping once you’re done!
Zach is very brave, and this whole “being scared of movies” thing was just a bit. He definitely didn’t have a sudden vivid flashback to the movie “The Grudge,” which he watched a single time in 9th grade, just the other day.