Halloween is almost upon is – it looks like this one will be spent indoors with a plethora of spooky content from Netflix and other streaming services, from our bookshelves and on consoles. I’ve found myself tasked with picking what my fiancé and I will be watching this year, and there’s so many horror movies, as well as thrilling books, scary games and TV shows that I love and want to delve into, that the choice is actually a bit overwhelming. I’ve decided that I want us to watch a couple of horror movies that I’ve never seen before, but they’re hard to find since I’m a long-time fan of the genre.
On that note, however, I appreciate that my obsession might come in handy for those looking to engage more with horror this year, so I’ve decided to lay out some of my favourite pieces of content across different mediums, and also call out for your recommendations too. So, here we have my favourite horror films, books, short stories, and some books and films from my to be watched/read list.
ANYTHING BY IRA LEVIN – Ira Levin writes a fantastic, iconic horror story. I’ve actually only read three of his works, but loved each of them individually so much. You’re likely familiar with his works, Rosemary’s Baby and the Stepford Wives, as they’re such impactful culture phenomena, but my favourite of his books is a Kiss Before Dying, the story of a man so determined to marry into wealth, he’s willing to kill for it. This book kept me on my toes and I seriously couldn’t put it down when I first read it. It’s so cleverly filled with twists and turns, and I was left guessing in the best way possible. Levin’s books are such fun reads, and if you want one to start with, I definitely recommend A Kiss Before Dying.
CORALINE BY NEIL GAIMAN – most people will know about this one, and may have seen the amazingly creepy and fun film adaptation released in 2009. I read the book when I was 12 in my first year English class in high school, and didn’t expect to be anywhere as into it as I was. It’s spooky, clever, and seriously engrossing. It’s been twelve years and I seriously think I’m long overdue a re-read. The movie adaptation is such a fantastic Halloween watch as well, if you want a little spooky, but not too much scary.
THE VEGETARIAN BY HAN KANG – this one jumped out of me from nowhere, and I cannot sing its praises enough. While I wouldn’t class it strictly as horror, it definitely does paint a disturbing image. A South Korean woman decides to be a vegetarian, much to the displeasure of her family, particularly her husband. The novel is told in three parts and describes the physical decline of Yeong-Hye as her vegetarian aspirations overpower her. The deterioration of her mental health is depicted by the two male narrators of the story as some magical, spiritual, mystical spiral of events, and it’s not until we see the story through the perspective of her sister that that we understand that Yeong-Hye is not a well person, and there’s nothing beautiful about what has happened to her. Seriously cannot recommend this one enough!
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS BY IAIN REID – another unsettling and disturbing tale: Reid takes us through the thought process of an unnamed woman who is considering ending her relationship with her boyfriend Jake, who originally grew up on a farm. Through the whole novel, the reader is left guessing as we are guided through philosophical conversations, discombobulated inner workings and concerningly strange family members. There’s this dark energy throughout every page, and there’s always this fear that something is about to go seriously wrong. Read more of my thoughts about this book and its 2020 Netflix adaptation at SNACK.
ANYTHING BY ARI ASTER – can you tell I like to pick creators and closely follow all of their work that I can? Ari Aster made his feature length film debut in 2018 with Hereditary, a film I have made no effort to forget since I saw it in cinema. It was viscerally tragic, complex and sad, and when it was followed by Aster’s sophomore film Midsommar (2019), it confirmed that Aster was extremely skilled at manifesting a physical image of grief. These two films aren’t for the faint of heart, and that’s not just because of how gorey and heart-poundingly terrifying they can be at times, but also because the themes of grief, guilt and heartbreak are explored in extreme depth, and will likely be extremely upsetting to anyone affected by the content.
CREEP DIRECTED BY PATRIC BRICE – Creep is a 2014 film that is criminally underrated. Seriously criminally underrated. This manages to be so fun and tense at the same time, and neither the tension nor the fun undercuts the other. It’s masterfully produced, with a cast of two and very little in the script, due to the two cast members (Brice and Mark Duplass) improvising much of the film. This is definitely one of my favourites. When I saw that it was followed by a sequel, simply named Creep 2 (2017), I was disheartened since the first film finished with such a graceful finality; I was seriously worried that a sequel could ruin the impression the first had on me. Thankfully, I was wrong. Creep 2 matches its predecessor with its small cast and simple premise, but introduces a fantastic and fun new character who brings a completely different energy to the movie. We learn more about Mark Duplass’ character (or do we? We can never tell when he is being genuine), and the premise of newcomer Sara documenting weird Craigslist ads in a YouTube series is honestly a refreshing and fun take. Creep currently sits at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, while its successor has a perfect score, so you know it’s not just me who recommends this little series. You love to see it.
MASON BY MELISSAURUS – fuck it, creepypastas and nosleeps. I heard this story a while ago and it really stayed with me! It’s visceral and tender all at once, and deeply disturbing. This short tells the story of a girl who had been left severely injured after a car accident; in hospital she meets Mason, a boy her age who is terminally ill. To the delight of the hospital staff, they start a sweet and loving relationship, though it quickly takes a turn for all consuming.
WORLD’S BEST SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST BY CREEPY CARBS – another one from Reddit! This one is nothing short of diabolical. It’s a really fun read, and very twisty and turny. This tells the story of a child who does not feel love from their parents, so seeks help from their school counsellor. The counsellor is of course more than happy to help, but the help offered takes the child past the point of no return very quickly.
THE TELL-TALE HEART BY EDGAR ALLAN POE – who doesn’t love a classic? This is one of Poe’s most well known and iconic short stories, and it also happens to be one of the shorter ones as well. Personally I find Poe’s short stories so engrossing and fun to read, so if you’re in the mood for spooky ghost stories this Halloween, this one is probably going to be a good shout for you.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE – if you want genuinely creepy and psychological thrills backed up by real complex emotions and experiences of terror, guilt, loneliness and depression, look no further. This series hits deep, and if you start early enough, you could probably binge watch all of this in one Halloween. That said, I don’t think I actually know anyone who hasn’t at least started this show. Based on Shirley Jackson’s novel of the same name, this series tells the story of the Crain children in adulthood, mourning the loss of their youngest sister, as they are haunted by the memories of the short period of their lives spent in Hill House.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY, BUT NOT ALL OF IT – I stumbled across American Horror Story in 2014, and was totally enthralled by its first season, ‘Murder House’. It was my first real experience of horror in a TV show format, and it was a great blend of campy, funny, goofy, but also genuinely affective and scary. I really loved season one and eagerly continued on to season two (‘Asylum’), and was super thrilled with the anthology format. That said, I didn’t like season two as much as season one on my first watch, but looking back and re-watching now, I really appreciate it. Then season (‘Coven’) three was amazing. It maybe wasn’t as scary as I would have liked, but the witch aesthetic really pulled me in, and I loved the compact drama of a coven of witches huddled together in secrecy, in this grand house right in the open streets of New Orleans. I regularly re-watch the first three seasons, so it saddens me to say that I found the fourth season to be a bit misguided and all over the place. I stopped watching half way through, and was really surprised that I got to that point seeing as I’m a completionist. Nothing kept me pulled in to see how the story ended. Then, I was seriously unhappy with season five’s marketing – the main feature of ‘Hotel’ seemed to be the fact that it starred Lady Gaga. I watched the first episode and nothing more, and since then I’ve sworn off the show (or at least, anything past season three) all together. From the sounds of it, it’s really wacky now, and no matter what I hear about it, nothing compels me to delve into the show again.
DEADSET – this was released in 2008 and is sort of the precursor to Black Mirror. Created by Charlie Brooker, Deadset sees a violent zombie apocalypse ravage Britain during one of Big Brother’s eviction nights. In eight episodes, we see contestants of the show along with a runner, her boyfriend, and a big shot producer try to survive the invasion. This is a really sickening watch – all of the gore looks frighteningly real, and it actually does feel a bit like an episode of Big Brother gone wrong at some points. It’s all very bleak, in typical Brooker fashion, and is unfortunately a bit on the nose in delivering some of its key themes (like how modern people are now glued to their phones and televisions) but that doesn’t detract too much from how I enjoyed the show.
iZOMBIE – this five season long CW show is so funny, endearing, creative and unique, and it doesn’t skip out in scares and tensions. If you’re currently watching and loving the Haunting of Bly Manor, you will see a familiar face in this show in Rahul Kohli, who plays the hilarious and sensitive Dr Ravi. I stuck closely to this show from relatively near the start, and recommended it to the point of being annoying to friends and family. After begging him to watch it with me, I finally got my partner to reluctantly love it as well.
To be read
THE WORKS OF CJ TUDOR – I’ve been following the releases of CJ Tudor’s books ever since she randomly popped up on my Twitter feed. Though I’ve yet to get round to starting her horror novels, I am really excited to delve into her writing and have stuck her first book, the Chalk Man on my Christmas list for Santa to bring me. I’ve seen nothing but enthusiastic positivity for Tudor’s works, and hope to be leaving her my own positive reviews one day soon.
MORE INDEPENDENT SCOTTISH HORROR – this is my call out for Scottish writers to slide into my DMs to share with me their horror novels, short stories, etc., or to share with me what they like to! Actually, this is open to anyone: if you have some horror lit you love and I’ve not mentioned it at all in this blog, pleeeeeeeeeease let me know about it!
To be watched
THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR – at the time of writing, I’m on episode five of this and am desperate to finish it as I’m enjoying it so much! I don’t have a whole lot of excess time at the minute, so am a little bit behind and am dodging spoiler at every turn. This instalment of the Haunting Of anthology works as a loose adaptation of Henry James’ the Turn of the Screw, and is a pretty fantastic one at that. Like its predecessor, Hill House, it’s intensely emotional and vulnerable, and also spooky and terrifying.
THE VVITCH (2015) – I really really really really really want to see this one. So much. Since I’m so behind on it and it’s not available on streaming platforms (that I know of) I’ve loaded myself up on spoilers from the Wikipedia page about it, and watched countless YouTube videos about all of its secrets and little bits of trivia. Still, this comes nowhere close to experiencing the real thing. Admittedly, I’m sort of embarrassed because I’ve not watched it yet – it feels like a quintessential instalment in recent horror canon.
SUSPIRIA (2018) – okay, I’m definitely watching this one on Halloween. I actually don’t know that much about it, other than it’s been grouped with the likes of Hereditary, Midsommar and the VVitch, so it seems like I’m really going to be into its vibe. Since I am planning on seeing it too, I am going to leave myself completely in the dark with it, and spoil nary a thing.
I NEED RECOMMENDATIONS! – Again, if there are any shows, films, or any watchable media that you can recommend that isn’t listed here, please fire it my way! I want to consume all of the horror. All of it!