Love movies, but new to the ghastly world of horror? Film buff Olivia Lamb has you covered with a horror film for every mood.
“Quite literally anything can happen in a horror film,” says graduate diploma in film studies student Olivia, “horror can take the familiar and transform it into something scary. Take Psycho for example, Hitchcock’s shower scene created paranoia around something that everyone has in their home. The genre also offers surprises, so many variations and directors can be really creative.”
Whether it’s a slasher, mystery, paranormal, monster, or splatter horror it takes stimulating narrative and interesting characters to make a truly frightening watch. “It ’s a common failing of horror films to have one dimensional characters’ who are there simply there to be killed off.”
“You want to be able to root for the characters’ survival!”
Olivia’s top picks scope of what the genre has to offer, ideal if you’re a horror newbie. Although a “thriller over gore” kinda gal she’s included some good gruesome movies in her selection.
So you know what you’re letting yourself in for Olivia’s added a fright factor rating to each film. They rank from one (a dash of horror that contains themes of the genre, without actually being that scary) to five (absolutely terrifying, do not watch alone).
For the lover of classics:
Any film fan has probably already seen this one – but it’s time to dust off that VHS and watch it again. This classic is full of mystery, tension, and suspense – you’re never quite sure who’s innocent. Screamis a self-aware slasher. It re-ignited the slasher genre for the next decade, Scream is a great film to start on if you’re new to horror. It’s perfect for those who like a bit of gore, but also enjoy a good who-done-it narrative. If you’ve only seen the 2022 version, go back and watch this!
Fear factor: 3/5
For the people who “only watch comedies:”
An apocalyptic comedy, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Emma Stone, Zombieland is set in a pandemic plagued world (relevant to today) where a mutated strain of mad cow disease is spreading throughout the USA and creating zombies (not so relevant). The story follows a geeky college student who’s afraid of everything, and his make-shift family of survivors searching for the last Twinkie before they expire for good. Well, they’re also looking for a sanctuary to call home. This horror flick is full of laughs and it is ideal if you want to get in the Halloween spirit, but also want to be able to sleep.
Fear factor: 2.5/5
For music lovers and photography buffs:
Not only is this a good (and terrifying) watch for its plot, it’s also got a great ominous soundtrack, produced by composer and musician Disasterpeace.
The film is set in an ambiguous time period that feels somewhere equally in the past and in the present. This helps develop the surreal nightmare that’s potent within the film. It Followsdoesn’t rely on jump scares to get your heart racing, instead its eerie cinematography keeps you on edge throughout. Surreal photographer Gregory Crewdson’s work was used as the inspiration for this (check him out and you’ll see why).
Fear factor: 4/5
For the person who’s watched them all:
Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Already a horror expert? Dubbed a “loving hate letter” to horror by director Joss Whendon, Cabin in the Woodsis a horror-comedy which plays on all the classic stereotypes of the genre – good and bad. Five university students (garden-variety horror characters) head away for a weekend to a woodland cabin, but when a mysterious basement door opens up they discover a room full of spooky trinkets…In classic horror fashion not is all as it seems, and the group starts being hunted down! Cabin in the Woods is filled with Easter eggs to spot throughout, and scenes which parody other horrors.
Fear factor: 2/5
For the person who’s too busy for a film (but could binge watch 10 episodes):
Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Feeling brave? This is the spookiest of the bunch. Directed by horror genre extraordinaire Mike Flanagan (who also directed Doctor Sleep and Ouija: Origin of Evil)Haunting of Hill House flashes between past and present, in a house full to the brim with dark spectres, unnerving silhouettes. and ghostly goings on. If you can come out from under your duvet for long enough to click play on Netflix, there’s a second series called The Haunting of Bly Manor. There’s a lot of debate about which is scarier, so go judge for yourself.
Fear factor: 5/5
For the person who loves local:
We started with a classic slasher so let’s end with a brand new one. Although set in 1979 Texas, X was filmed in New Zealand, in 2020 when soaring covid cases would have made it impossible to film in the US. Scenes were shot around Whanganui, Otaki, Foxton and Wellington, so you might spot somewhere you know in between the blood splatters. The location meant the crew were in close proximity to Wētā Workshop and were able to make use their world class prosthetics and visual effects, meaning this great one for lovers of gore.