From A to Z, View From the Morg has your horror movie suggestions covered this October! So grab your popcorn and tune in daily October 5 – 30 for a recommendation for every letter of the alphabet! Happy Halloween!
Today’s Feature: Z is for Zombies
What’s Halloween without a film celebrating the monsters that helped put horror on the map?
Psychopathic children are creepy enough. Children driven to bloodthirstiness by the spread of a virus that only effects youngsters? Ick. This one is surprisingly scary, as the children devolve into mindless killing machines during a long weekend getaway. What makes the premise so creepy is the fact that not all of the parents are willing to accept the fact that their precious little angels are now cold-blooded killing machines, making them easy pickings for these not-so-darling little darlings. Check this one out for the opposite to the Selma Blair/Nicholas Cage Mom and Dad, in which the parents go berserk on the kids.
Y is for Y HAVEN’T I SEEN THIS YET???
Before you all start going after me, it is REALLY HARD to find a word related to horror that starts with Y! Lucky for me, this movie also works for Y is for Yeti.
Every Halloween, I go through my list of what I’d like to watch and there are always a couple on there that I think it’s odd that I haven’t made time to watch yet. Whether it’s one that I own that is still wrapped in plastic or one that’s just been at the back of my mind forever, there is always something that I’ve missed. I love revisiting my favourites, but I also like to make sure that I’m making time for some gems that could become new ones.
This year, that movie is Willow Creek.
This film follows a couple as they head out on a camping trip for his birthday. She is there to give him a nice time, he is there to try and spot Big Foot. Judging from the trailer, only one of those things happen.
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, this is one that had a lot of festival buzz when it was released and that I’m excited to try. Have you seen it? What did you think?
X is for Xerox
I am going on record here and saying that some of the creepiest science fiction in history is that surrounding human cloning. There is something creepy about a being fully formed in a lab, and equally creepy about a scientist who is obsessed with playing God.
Perhaps the scariest movie I’ve ever seen about human cloning, The Boys From Brazil checks just about every box for me.
This film start Gregory Peck as Joseph Mengele, who has been living in hiding and monitoring an experiment in which he engineered over 90 clones of Hitler, and then sent them all over the world to be adopted by different parents. As they grow, he intercedes to ensure that all of the milestones for Hitler are achieved for these children, in hopes that at least one of them will lead the world into the Fuhrer’s master plan that he was unable to complete.
The plot alone is offputting enough, but seeing Atticus freaking Finch as a maniacal Nazi puts this one to over the top disturbing.
W is for Weird
If you’re looking for a weird horror movie, you don’t have to look much further than Suspiria!
Chances are you’re already re-watching, or newly discovering, this one with the remake set for release next week. The 70s version is largely hailed as a masterpiece. It is great…but it is weird as shit.
Suspiria follows the girls at a remote European dance academy as strange things begin to happen. As Suzie, our protagonist, digs deeper and deeper, she uncovers a link to the occult and a coven of ancient witches.
The plot itself may not be insanely weird, but what makes this one disorienting is the filming technique. Everything is shot in insanely bright colours. It also suffers from 70s fatigue, in that there is some over-acting and bizarre dialogue (um…the snake conversation, anyone?).
A must for genre fans, be sure to check out this strange but beautiful film before the remake hits!
V is for Voodoo
We’re going to continue from yesterday’s recommendation of The Serpent and the Rainbow with another voodoo recommendation, The Skeleton Key.
The Skeleton Key is one that will please horror fans and non-horror fans alike. Built mostly on suspense and jump scares, this is the intriguing story of Caroline, a nurse who is hired to take care of an elderly man who has had a stroke, his wife unable to care for him alone. She goes to their remote home in the sticks, and discovers that his wife believes that he has been somehow cursed or attacked by dark spirits.
Caroline’s paranoia grows as she continues to see things in the house and learn more about the history of the area, particularly its ties to dark magic. The lady of the house begins to act increasingly suspiciously, and the viewer’s sense of being trapped in the middle of nowhere combined with Caroline’s uneasiness makes for an insanely suspenseful experience.
A thriller with an ending that packs a real punch, its one you won’t soon forget.
U is for Undead
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…zombies are not my bag. I know that they are such an important contribution to horror culture, and I’m definitely not trying to take away from that, but they’re boring to me. They’ve been done to death. That being said, I’m always looking for a fresh way to approach the undead.
Z will of course be for zombies, but I opted for this category specifically to include this movie, which does not focus on the zombie aspect. In that sense, I couldn’t really call it a true zombie film. The Serpent and the Rainbow follows a scientist who is sent to Haiti by a pharmaceutical company to investigate claims of a man brought back to life. It is a time of unrest in Haiti, and it is dangerous, but they’re willing to take that risk for the cash it will bring.
He is quickly drawn into the world of voodoo as he begins to explore the world between the living and the dead. This film is one of Wes Craven’s underseen masterpieces, and is not his usual type of film. Featuring one of the most disturbing dream sequences in horror history, this is a smart, scary, and intense film that looks at the phenomenon of real-life zombies. Check out the trailer from Shout Factory below:
T is for Transylvania
I’m going to be completely honest here…vampires are not my favourite. There are some classics, for sure, but it is one genre that has not had a ton of revamping (sorry, pun intended). Some of the ways that the genre have evolved as well don’t appeal to me (sorry, Twilight).
That being said, it doesn’t mean that I have hated every single vampire movie that I’ve ever seen. They are a classic for a reason, and people have a fascination with the undead combined with the romanticism that tends to appear in some of the more classic tales. I myself prefer vampires with a bit of bite (man, I am on FIRE!)
One of the most unique vampire movies I’ve seen that I’ve found genuinely scary is 30 Days of Night. Josh Hartnett stars in this tale of a remote Alaskan town about to hit thirty days of no sunlight. As the sun starts to set and people begin to prepare for a month of darkness, a ship full of ancient vampires shows up, ready to enjoy a free buffet without fear of buring up in the sun.
What I love about this one is the attempt to make vampires actual scary monsters again. There is no sparkling in the sun, no ancient being searching for love. They are smart, predatory creatures. They speak their own ancient language. And they are eating machines.
S is for Spirits
A good old-fashioned ghost story is a staple on Halloween, isn’t it? Ghost stories have stood the test of time, and old classics that are getting new life are killing it, as demonstrated by the recent success of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. Classics are well and good, but sometimes a revamping can be a huge breath of fresh air.
The best under-watched movie featuring a new twist on a classic idea is the 1999 film, Stir of Echoes. This one features Kevin Bacon as a skeptical man who allows his new age loving sister-in-law to hypnotise him as part of a party trick. There are some unforeseen side effects, and afterwards he is able to see a pissed off spirit roaming his house.
As his marriage unravels and his obsession grows, he races to discover what it is the ghost is trying to tell him before he loses it all. A great supporting cast including Kathryn Erbe and Illyana Douglas rounds out this spooky and suspenseful ghost story/murder mystery.
R is for Repulsive
A lot of people seem to associate horror with gore. The fact is, a movie does not have to be gory to be scary. As a matter of fact, sometimes it can cheapen the intent of the story and be perceived as going for cheap thrills and shock value rather than genuine scares. This is the reason why Saw ran out of steam for me by the fourth entry – what was the point, other than to put people in a situation where all but one would be eliminated? He never gave multiple people in the group a chance for redemption, it was just a given that they would all be dead except one.
While I am not the biggest fan of excessive gore, I realize that a lot of horror fans are. Because this list is for everyone, I resolved to include a movie driven by gore for you gore-loving weirdos out there! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with Eli Roth. He is known for some of his breakout hits, such as Hostel and Cabin Fever, but one of his goriest ones for me was The Green Inferno.
A group of student activists heads into the rainforests to protest a company that is clear-cutting. On the way back, their plane crashes, and the survivors are kidnapped by an isolated cannibalistic tribe. You can guess where it goes from there. Helmed by the great Lorenza Izzo, this one is definitely going for shock value; it’s hard to look away, but also hard to watch. This one is seriously gross, and I wouldn’t recommend watching it on a day off while you eat a treat breakfast of cheesecake. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience, or anything….
Q is for Quest
A good old fashioned quest is always a good thing in a movie. It provides a linear path for the hero to follow. In these types of scary movies, our hero often thinks in black and white, ignoring grey areas around them. One track minds make for good horror fodder, as it forces characters that you are on board with to make questionable decisions.
My favourite horror movie involving a quest is the twisted cat and mouse Korean revenge flick, I Saw the Devil. An agent’s wife is murdered by a serial killer, and he goes a little bit overboard with hunting him down. He finds out who he is early on, them proceeds to follow him around, torturing him. This movie is a cinematic marvel, which includes a scene where people are murdered inside a moving cab which will leave you breathless. Min-sik Choi and Joon-Hyuk Lee play off of each other wonderfully, and as their actions escalate, the movie gets more and more intense as they prepare for a final showdown.
P is for Possession
I’ve said it before on this list, but once again, I am not going to recommend The Exorcism for Halloween. I guarantee that you’ve seen it a million times. What I will suggest is that you try The Last Exorcism.
The Last Exorcism follows a priest, Cotton Marcus, who no longer believes in God. He runs around performing fake exorcisms for the cash. Looking for easy prey, he finds a family on a remote farm who believe the daughter to be possessed by the Devil. He is quickly drawn in to their family drama, but still believe the “possession” to be a figment of her father’s imagination and grief over losing her mother.
An awesome look at faith and spirituality, as well as a story that keeps you guessing right to the twisted end, this is a found footage film that will have you keeping the lights on! Check out the trailer from eOne here:
O is for Occult
What would Halloween be without a coven or two on this list?
My all-time favourite occult movie is Rosemary’s Baby. While it’s not the most subtle choice on this list, and chances are you’ve seen it, it really does deserve an annual watch.
Rosemary’s Baby follows couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse. They have moved into a new apartment building and meet their new neighbours, the Casavets. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, the Casavets display some increasingly strange behaviour and she becomes suspicious that they have plans for her and her baby.
This movie is a classic for a reason, and has some genuinely disturbing scenes, such as the baby’s conception. Its treatment of paranoia and suspicion are genius, and it plays on our assumptions about the characters. Oh, and despite the myriad of Satan worshippers, see if you find Guy Woodhouse to be the biggest scum of the earth.
N is for Netherworld
No one, and I mean NO ONE, does stories about hell dimensions like author Clive Barker. While he’s famous for Hellraiser, there have been other movies based on his books that have been just as effective of conveying the horror of crossing into Hell. One of these criminally underseen films is Midnight Meat Train, starring Bradley Cooper, pre-Hangover.
Bradley Cooper plays a photographer who is drawn into a mystery when a woman that he photographs at a subway platform goes missing. It turns out that he was the last person to see her alive. Digging deeper, he discovers a slew of missing persons. They get on the last train, and never get off. No bodies, no trace of them. Turns out they are being murdered on the train by a very violent Vinnie Jones, who does an amazing job here.
Underrated and underseen, this is a great addition to cinema that explores what (and where) hell is.
M is for Monster
If you’re looking for a unique creature feature, you’ll love today’s recommendation, Trollhunter!
This Norwegian film is in the found footage style. A group of students goes looking for what they believe to be a bear poacher. They follow along and quickly find that he believes himself to be hunting trolls. What they think will make a fun documentary at first quickly devolves into a dangerous hunt for the mythological creatures, who are coming out of the woodwork uncharacteristically.
This modern twist on the classic fairy tale is a fast-paced monster movie with great special effects that adds in a healthy dose of government conspiracy that ties the whole thing together.
L is for Lycanthrope
While I can’t get enough of essential classics in the werewolf genre, including An American Werewolf in London, Ginger Snaps, and Silver Bullet, there is one that often gets overlooked. That little something is the Canadian horror comedy gem, WolfCop.
WolfCop tells the story of Lou Garou (for those of you who don’t know any French, a werewolf translates to loup garou, pronounced the same). Lou is a slacking, drunk nightmare of a cop to the sleepy town that he works in. After an encounter one evening, he is transformed into a werewolf and thus begins a small town police tale mixed with Teen Wolf.
The transformation effects are key in any werewolf movie, and WolfCop shines with plenty of goop and practical effects. This one is hilarious and sure to become a cult classic. It has already spawned a sequel, the aptly named Another WolfCop. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the 90s style rap in the credits…you won’t be disappointed.
K is for Killer
Obvious, I know, but what horror list would be complete without a great slasher movie on it? Ever since Halloween was released in 1978, studios have seen the potential for cash in a simple yet effective formula. Masked killer runs around, splatters unsuspecting victims, and one is left standing.
One of my favourite slasher movies of the 90s that doesn’t get a whole lot of love is Urban Legend. This fun romp is one of the most effective films following Scream to nail the meta aspect of its plot. It follows a group of university students taking a class on the study of the evolution of stories and urban legends. A killer stalks the campus, offing the members of the group one by one according to different stories.
This one is a fun, bloody and fast-paced plot that also has the bonus of being a who’s who of 90s teen stars, including Joshua Jackson, Alicia Witt, Tara Reid, and Rebecca Gayheart.
J is for Jack O’Lantern
Since it is the season, I thought that it’s only fitting to have at least one movie on the list that is set on Halloween night. One of my favourite oddball fun and entertaining Halloween movie is Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.
With the new Halloween movie about to hit theaters, people are no strangers to Michael Myers’ forty year run of cinematic slashing. When the first two films were released, the studio decided to try their hand at making Halloween an anthology series. They must have figured that people would get tired of Michael Myers. This installment has gained notoriety over the years as the only attempt to change to an anthology; it must not have gone over well with unsuspecting audiences at the time.
Regardless, this film is a fun, hilarious, cheesy, creepy Halloween romp. Halloween masks made by a company called Silver Shamrock have a sinister purpose (and the catchiest/worst jingle known to man). There are maggots. There is a conspiracy. And there are robots. Can’t go wrong!
I is for Indie
Independent films have grown increasingly popular over the years, proving that you don’t need an enormous budget or overblown special effects to make an effective horror film: just a great story.
My favourite in this category is the slow-burn psychological horror of indie film Session 9. This movie follows a group of men working to remove asbestos from an abandoned psychiatric hospital. The building is huge, and tensions run high as the men grapple with relationship drama, money issues and potentially losing the job if they don’t deliver on time.
This movie is very intense and almost too frightening to watch in a couple of parts. It makes full use of the inherent creepiness of the psychiatric institute as it closely examines abandoned rooms, old files, tight corridors, and the good old-fashioned dark. A great one to watch with all the lights on, this one will make for a sleepless night.
Check out the trailer from Shout Factory here:
H is for Holidays
Halloween is the holiday that most people associate with horror. What better time to set a movie to scare people? Ghosts, ghoulies, people handing out toothbrushes instead of chocolate – it’s all built right into the formula! But Halloween isn’t the only holiday that is represented in horror cinema. A surprising number of films are set at the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas. I think it’s something to do with all that goodwill toward men. There is something truly frightening at the thought that anything bad will happen at a time when people are supposed to be focusing on making others happy.
One of the most recent ones that I’ve seen is also one of the most impressive. To get your Christmas movie slasher fix, check out 2016’s Better Watch Out. A simple, retro premise of a babysitter getting a series of creepy phone calls quickly gets out of control in one of the most bonkers, hilarious, genre-mashing horror films I’ve seen in ages.
The only complaint that I have is that the trailer gave WAAYYYYYYY too much away. Go in blind for this one – trust me, you will be rewarded.
G is for Gothic
Gothic horror is one of my favourite categories. It is moody, dark, and isolating. It also often has a historical element to it that eliminates the need to explain away technology in stories that often include specters.
Today’s pick is The Awakening. Set in the 1920s, it follows a young woman who makes a living at debunking spiritualists at the height of the public’s obsession with the topic. Having lost someone, she has a HUGE chip on her shoulder, upset that people take advantage of those grieving over loved ones who died in the war. She is called to an isolated boarding school where there are claims of a spirit haunting the children there.
The setting in this one is incredible, with the bleak, dreary, fog-covered landscape adding to the atmosphere of high tension. The loneliness in this movie is almost painful, with the recent war leaving many children parentless in a cold and unwelcoming place. It is also a breath of fresh air from the modern setting of ghost hunting movies with EMF readers and night vision ad we get a glimpse of the techniques that she uses to explain the phenomenon in a time long before smart phones.
Starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West, this gothic tale examines a country at the height of its grief and has an awesome ending that you won’t expect. Horror and history fans alike will be intrigued by this one.
F is for Funny!
If you’re not a horror fan, what will automatically come to mind is Scary Movie. While it had its merits, that is actually a parody mash-up of horror movies, one that made fun of some very specific films. Horror humour is actually a very different breed, one that will make you laugh, but also doesn’t forget that it is a horror movie. It will still have scary moments, and will act as a love letter to the horror genre rather than feel like it it poking fun. They often use a lot of meta elements to add to the humour, and tend to feature some amazing cameos.
There are a lot of great horror comedies out there, but one of my absolute favourites to watch this time of year is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. A documentary crew follows Mr. Vernon on his quest to become a serial killer the likes of Michael Myers. He takes the crew through some of the tricks to disappearing in plain sight, keeping up with cardio to keep up with people while walking menacingly, and making sure that you have an “Ahab” type to try and stop you. Bonus for horror lovers: the “Ahab” is played by none other than Robert Englund, the iconic Freddy Kreuger himself!
The genius of this movie is that it makes you laugh, but there is always still a slightly menacing air to it. After all, Leslie is a killer, and what will the crew do (and what will happen to them) when he finally begins the bloodbath that he is prepping for?
Check out the official trailer below!
E is for Experiment
Scientists in horror movies are often a one-track mind stereotype. They are egotistical, arrogant, and oblivious to side effects in the name of human progress and furthering their career. There are many stories of experiments gone wrong, all the way from Frankenstein to The Human Centipede, and the thematic elements of the mad scientist haven’t changed that much over the years.
One movie that is an amazing experiment story is The Skin I Live In, starring Antonio Banderas. Yes, seriously. This Spanish-language title is very underseen. It follows a doctor who is slightly unhinged after his wife’s suicide left his daughter in the throes of a nervous breakdown. He is experimenting with creating a synthetic human sin for transplants. The story is a little disjointed at first, as past and present are interwoven. It is dark and moody, with the doctor having a level of clinical detachment that is both frightening and captivating to watch. An examination of power, identity, and mental illness told through the lens of effective body horror, this one is a must see.
D is for Demon
The Exorcist set the standard for blockbuster demonic movies, and there have been a lot of great ones and a lot of not-so great ones since. In all honesty, there have been some truly horrible ones since Regan spewed pea soup everywhere and masturbated with a crucifix.
The trouble with movies about demons is that they tend to follow a formula. Finding a movie about a demonic power that doesn’t feel like a knockoff of some of the seventies greats of the Satanic panic can be very difficult.
That’s why my recommendation to you today is Devil. Devil follows a group of people trapped in an elevator, picked off by the Devil one by one. We are told at the start that this is a common tactic of the Devil; now and then he gets impatient and comes for the people still alive and kicking. What he does is put them in a confined space together and let them do his job for him. As they turn on each other, and the tension grows, you begin to find out more and more about why they are targeted in the first place. The lights flicker, and when they come back on, something horrible has happened each time, leaving us wondering who, or what, is responsible. A unique take on the Devil trope in cinema and an awesome suspense thriller, this is one overlooked gem that deserves a watch this Halloween.
Check out the trailer from Universal Pictures here:
C is for Classic (and Canadian!)
Today’s letter was a tough one to choose. There are so many great classic horror films out there from black and white gems to modern classics. After thinking long and hard, I have to go with one of my personal favourites, 1974’s Black Christmas.
Black Christmas follows a group of girls who have stayed in their sorority house for the holidays as they receive a series of harassing phone calls. There has been a murder in town, and tensions are high.
I know that this sounds formulaic, but only because this movie was one of the earliest to use it. It is one of the earliest slasher movies was ahead of its time for feminist content. The girls have casual and pre-marital sex, discuss abortion, and have to be their own heroes to get out of their holiday hell. This is also the first film to use “The call is coming from inside the house!!!!” Plus, it is near and dear to my heart as a Canadian film.
If you’re not convinced yet, have a watch if only to see how they traced a phone call in 1974. It will blow your mind!
B is for Break-In
If you’re looking for a good scare this Halloween, a home invasion flick should definitely be on your to-watch list. Someone breaking into your home is a fear that is universal; it’s the reason that we lock our doors and windows at night. Feeling helpless in your own private space is one of those deep-seated fears that we can all relate to.
Of the many home invasion horror films that I’ve seen, one of my absolute favourites is You’re Next. I’ve raved about it on this site before, but that’s because it’s really that awesome.
You’re Next follows Erin as she goes with her boyfriend to meet the rest of his family at their vacation home in the woods for their parents wedding anniversary. Shortly afterwards, they are beset by animal mask wearing psychos who begin picking them off one by one. This is a great movie with lots of jump scares and a decent amount of slasher gore, but more importantly, it has a smart plot, is fast-paced, and has a final girl that kicks some serious ass! Check this one out; you won’t be disappointed!
A is for Aliens
If you thought I was going to tell you to watch Alien, you’d be wrong. I mean, absolutely watch Alien if you haven’t seen it. What are you, living under a rock or something? It’s amazing. But for this list, I wanted to focus on lesser known titles, forgotten gems, and nostalgic goodies. So today, I’m going to tell you to watch The Faculty.
The Faculty is an alien movie filled with 90s goodness. Aliens begin slowly taking over the teaching staff at a small town high school, and a rag-tag group of kids a la The Breakfast Club have to stop it. Featuring Josh Hartnett as the school’s resident dealer, and Elijah Wood as the nerd pining after the homecoming queen (Jordana Brewster) this movie is an automatic A for creature feature lovers.
Fun, witty and with plenty of homages to both teen and extraterrestrial classics, The Faculty is a blast. And Josh Hartnett’s patented 90s bed head makes this one an instant win.