Halloween is only a few days away, and judging from the hordes of zombies and vampires I saw walking around London yesterday, it’s becoming quite a significant event here on the other side of the Atlantic as well. Besides dressing up and devouring tons of sweets, there’s no better way to mark this demonic date than by watching a scary film. However, what would you watch if you are a bit of a scaredy pants, like me, but still want to join in the Halloween movie fun? Well, then you might enjoy one of the films on my alternative and arthouse Halloween film list!
Arthouse tip: A Ghost Story
Hiding underneath this sheet (speaking of a cheap Halloween outfit!) is Casey Affleck. Despite not always being able to understand what he’s saying, he is one of my favourite actors. His acting is always on pointe and he seems to choose his films well, and A Ghost Story is no exception. This rather unique film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2017 and is definitely one of my favourite films of the year. Although in a way not much happens in this very slow-moving film, it kept me thinking for many days afterwards. While some might think the sheet-covered ghost is a cheesy depiction of a spirit (for which the director was actually inspired by the Japanese animation Spirited Away), I think the simplicity of the spirit’s appearance emphasises his complex internal conflicts. This film is more like a love story and coming-of-death (I think I just invented a new genre!), rather than a horror film. A definite must-see if you’re into arthouse films, be it Halloween or not!
Iranian djinns: Under the Shadow
This spine-chilling horror film with dozens of hide-behind-the-pillow moments (at least for me) is by far the scariest film on this list. Set in 1988 in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, the story follows a mother and her young daughter while the father is in military service. Although there are some elements in the film that reminded me a bit of Japanese horror films such as The Ring and The Grudge, this Iranian-British production cleverly combines historical events, folklore, and psychological struggles, making it more than your average supernatural horror film. The majority of the film is situated in an apartment block in a heavily bombed area. When most of the residents decide to move out to safer areas, the mother and daughter remain behind alone – almost alone that is.
Gruesome Shakespearean deaths: Theatre of Blood
Warning: contains a Game of Thrones season 6 spoiler
A horror film list wouldn’t be complete without one of the greatest classic horror actors, Vincent Price. In this black comedy Price plays a humiliated Shakespearean actor who decides to give the theatre critics their just deserts and murders them in the same fashion as some Shakespearean murders. Unfortunately for those critics, The Bard invented quite some gruesome ways to die. If you think that scene in Game of Thrones season 6 of Walter Frey eating a pie that contains the meat of his own sons was so original, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. This rather nasty meal already featured in Shakespeare’s tragedy Titus Andronicus (and an adapted version of it is served in Theatre of Blood), probably The Bard’s most violent play. Just to illustrate: when it was performed in The Globe Theatre in London in 2014 over a hundred people fainted or were overcome by the level of extreme violence.
Zombies and comedy duo Simon Pegg & Nick Frost: Shaun of the Dead
This British comedy zombie film by director Edgar Wright (whose new film Baby Driver is also a must-see!) was the first instalment of the so-called ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ film trilogy featuring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. We see how the life of loser Simon Pegg is falling apart when his girlfriend dumps him. Not to mention the fact that hordes of zombies are suddenly roaming the streets and decide to make his stepfather one of them. Together with roommate Nick Frost they go out to save his loved ones. Expect fast edits, witty jokes and some unexpected twists.
Vampire mockumentary: What We Do in the Shadows
You might think you know there’s all to know about vampires, but I beg to differ. Besides their alternative sleep pattern (after all, vampires don’t fare well in daylight of course), have you ever considered the frustrations vampires experience on a day-to-day basis? For instance, how do you check your outfit when you can’t see your reflection in the mirror? This hilarious New Zealand mockumentary follows four vampire housemates. One of them is played by Jemaine Clement, who also starred in the brilliant TV series Flight of the Conchords (the band’s coming to the UK in March 2018!). For a more detailed review of this film, read my older article on this blog Film Review: What We Do in the Shadows.
Do you have any alternative Halloween film tips that wouldn’t be too scary for me? Then please leave me a comment below!
By the way, note that the ‘ratings’ in this post are based on an adult audience. According to official audience ratings, the films aren’t suitable for Under 15s.