BY JAKOB BECKER
Horror movies are an essential part of Halloween, and the genre has expanded far and wide to bring viewers’ fears into reality. Psycho killers, satanic cults, home invasions and zombie plagues—to name a few—they’ve all been done time and time again.
With such a wide variety of films to help get you prepared for the season, it can be hard to find those hidden gems. If you’re not searching through endless titles on Netflix, you’re watching the same tried and true movies you’ve seen every year.
The Ritual, directed by David Bruckner, follows the story of a group of old university buddies who have recently lost one of their own. To try and bring themselves back to their normal state of camaraderie, the remaining four fulfill their fallen friend’s last wish, and plan a hiking trip across Sarek National Park in Sweden.
After one of them gets injured along the road, the disgruntled foursome attempts to take a shortcut across the park in hopes they’ll be able to get out of the woods. After discovering a seemingly abandoned cabin, the group learns they’re not alone—and begin to receive real nightmares.
What makes The Ritual so good is that it takes a stereotypical formula and gives it new life by emphasizing its unique setting. The forest of Sark National Park provides a landscape that is both familiar and somewhat strange, giving the impression that the evil within it is ancient. The environment, being monochromatic for most of the film, is still somehow beautiful despite being dark.
The film is a perfect pick for anyone that enjoys The Blair Witch Project, which The Ritual evokes every step of the way. However, what makes The Ritual truly unique from similar works is its clever use of Nordic folklore to create a story that seemed ripped from the history books of the region.
House of 1000 Corpses
Rob Zombie’s directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses, is an uncanny homage to the crazy cannibal family films of the seventies. With a clear visual connection to infamous predecessors like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, House of 1000 Corpses shamelessly lives up to its theatrical heritage.
The film centers around a group of teenagers traveling across the country to experience the “road life,” and document the oddities they encounter along the way. When the group picks up a hitchhiker, she leads them back to her home, where their car conveniently breaks down. What the group thinks is going to be a slight detour, becomes their nightmare. Tortured and held captive by the family, they soon attempt to escape—or die trying.
House of 1000 Corpses does little to deviate from the writing of films like it and features a lot of the same staples of this portion of the genre. Ditsy teenagers, a bleak desert landscape and murderers with an affinity for power tools are all on display—but what House of 1000 Corpses does differently is give its killer family, the Fireflies, real character development. In a lot of ways, they’re the stars of the film.
Each member of the family is given their own visually striking introduction, relying on choppy editing and other post-production techniques to make you feel frantic. At times, the film loses or severely alters its color scheme, creating an experience that makes you feel like you’re watching an old corrupted home video you weren’t meant to find.
If you like horror films that make you feel like you should bathe promptly after viewing, House of 1000 Corpses is the perfect addition.
The Witch, often marketed as The VVitch, is arguably the most unsettling on this list. Following a Puritan family recently exiled from their village for alleged heresy, The Witch shows their struggles to establish a new homestead at the edge of an eerie woodland in 1630’s New England.
Haunted by the loss of their newborn baby at the hands of “something,” the Yorkshiremen family begins to live in constant agony and hysteria as their life falls apart. Strange happenings serve as a constant plight to the group, and they soon begin to fall into desperation.
The Witch is a harrowing depiction of colonial life in America, showing how real families dealt with the discomfort of living in a foreign land. The dialogue used throughout is actually pulled from real journals and accounts of the period, giving it an authenticity that is inimitable.
Much like The Ritual, The Witch uses its landscape to its advantage, which allows for wide shots of open plains that are just as unsettling as the events taking place around the homestead. The Witch is a stark and slowly moving film, but it will leave the viewer just as paranoid as its characters.
Hush is a revitalization of the most overdone horror premises of them all, the home invasion. It hits all the beats of the genre, with one exception that’s made immediately clear — Maddie, the main protagonist, is deaf.
While the film itself isn’t always entirely silent, there’s something to be said about being put in the scenario of someone who has lost this sense. It puts into perspective just how drastic of a change this can be for someone who is just naturally accustomed to relying on what they can hear.
Hush plays into a primal fear of the unknown. It showcases a scenario the majority of the target audience have no experience with, which keeps them from guessing where the plot will take itself. One can expect this plot to play out like any other film like it, but the one defining trope of the film’s heroine is enough to keep it constantly turning on its head.
Jakob Becker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org