It’s October, and for some of us this means the Christmas countdown has begun. For others, this means one thing. Halloween. No matter what October means for you, it is an excellent time of year to enjoy horror books and movies.
There is something very ominous about the month. The constant hum of lawnmowers across the suburbs. Packs of wild children loose in the streets. Magpies sharpening their beaks. And the sun growing ever hotter and ever hungrier.
I’ve been a fan of horror movies for decades, and over the last few years has that translated to a love of Halloween. It’s our time, our last opportunity to rebel against the Summer and celebrate the darkness that one day (not soon enough, if you ask me) will consume all. To help you get into the October mood, I have put together a short list of underrated gems and classic horror books and movies that you might have missed.
1 – Re-Animator. A classic. A campy 80’s gore-fest. If the jokes don’t get you, the special effects will. There are many wonderful horror films from the 70s and 80s, but few have the charm of this Lovecraft-inspired tale of a scientist’s experiment gone horribly right.
2 – Cabin in the Woods. For me, Cabin in the Woods is one of the greatest movies of the last twenty years. It’s a horror movie that blends humour, scares and monstrous bloody mayhem perfectly. Five friends go to a remote cabin, hidden away in the woods. Oh, you think you’ve heard this all before? You’ve got another think coming.
3 – Event Horizon. Event Horizon is a sci-fi horror story about a space ship that has returned from the far reaches of the universe, and all the wonders it has seen. The casting is great, the special effects hold up well, and the suspense is out of this world.
4 – The Void. If you’re after a gore-filled extravaganza with monsters, mayhem and madness, then you need to see The Void. Simple. Done.
5 – Triangle. Triangle is unlike anything else I’ve seen. A group of friends on a yacht encounter a freak storm and their boat capsizes, but soon find rescue in an abandoned ocean liner. It’s is a remarkable mindfuck of a film, and in the best possible way. The sort of film that will have you watching it again and again and again.
6 – Host. Host is the sort of film I don’t usually like, a ‘found footage’ film shot from people’s computer webcams and mobile phones, but there was something about this one I really enjoyed. And it’s not that it’s set during the 2020 lockdowns either. A group of friends have a regular Zoom catchup, and this week they have invited a medium to lead them in an online seance. What could go wrong, you ask.
1 – Ring by Koji Suzuki. This just happens to be the novel that the ‘Ring’ series of movies are based on. Those movies changed the face of Horror around the world, and this is where it all began. A great unique and memorable read.
2 – Served Cold by Alan Baxter. Served Cold is a collection of sixteen excellent horror stories by Alan Baxter, who has also written some scarily good novels (Devouring Dark) and novellas (The Roo). There is something uniquely chilling about a short piece of horror though, and this truly is a fantastic collection.
3 – What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra. A gripping tale of family secrets and friendship, What The Woods Keep is a wonderfully spooky story to start your Halloween off with!
4 – The Ruins by Scott Smith. This is a completely engrossing story that will keep both your stomach and the pages turning over. A group of young friends in Mexico find some abandoned ruins when searching for a friend, but find more than what they bargained for.
5 – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is an out-and-out classic of horror literature. It’s only on this list just in case there are people out there who haven’t read it yet.
6 – The Fisherman by John Langan. There’s nothing quite as relaxing as fishing, is there? The beautiful waterways, mysterious depths and dark secrets. This is a great read, certainly something to sink your teeth into as the days start to get longer.
This has been a tough year. No-one’s going to make it out the same way as they began it. Don’t be too hard on yourself for needing a break, for needing to sleep for a week, for questioning everything, for wanting to burn this world to the ground. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends or to strangers, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The matches are on the coffee table.
(Originally published October 2020)