My 13 favourite Horror movies with a little substance

It’s Halloween night as I type this out. There are very few scary movies on and as this is the 31st of October I find this very disappointing. Now I am not good with gross or too scary movies any more because I won’t sleep. To me these are the best scary movies out there. All these films are about really beautiful storytelling. A few are my favourite love stories.

Freddie Kruger, Michael Myers, Chucky, Jason and a certain clown may have scared me as a child but now I need a little more substance in my choice of film. I don’t really like horror when the boogie man is impossible to kill, it’s not fair for my mind and although all the films I have chosen are scary they have a bit more grit to them. They have loneliness, isolation, beauty and of course the horror of the situation.

Pans Labrynth Guillermo del Torro

Boy do I love this film, beautiful, scary, a traditional fairy tale of sorts. The film is about a girl growing up in facist civil war torn Spain where she escapes into her fantasies which are as dark as the world she lives in. Powerful, emotional the sets and costumes are so wonderful this film is everything a good film should be, regardless of the horror it achieves. Ofelia has the strength and determination to fight demons in the real world as well as in fantasy. I am a big fan of most of his films but this one broke my heart a little. The Spanish civil war isn’t taught much in the UK because of the World Wars but I have read a fair few books now that make me fascinated with Spain during this time.

Pan’s Labrynth

The skin I live in Pedro Almodóvar

Maybe the most disturbing film I have ever seen. Again it holds all the beauty and sadness but the horror comes in the reveal. The characters are all broken and surrounded my sorrow and then…. The horror is so shocking, so perverse it breaks your heart. I never thought much about Antonio Banderas but now I see what an amazing actor he is. I have never seen a film that shocked me as much as this one did. If you haven’t seen it then it’s my too recommendation. It’s a fairy quiet film and build sadness and momentum gently rather than others on the list.

28 days later Danny Boyle

I have seen this film a lot. Living in London makes you appreciate it even more, it’s a zombie masterpiece. The characters are all interesting and have a depth to them, even the ones you dislike are well developed. I don’t like fast zombies but these are excellent, gory, fast paced haunted with moments of humour and humanity. This film is a fast paced whirlwind of journeying from London to Scotland, the supermarket scene is one of my favourites. 28 days later is a masterpiece of zombies.

Same genre something different; Train to Busan fast paced zombie movie, that will have you laughing and screaming at the same time. Korean horror at its best! We were gripped throughout the whole movie.

Bramstokers Dracula Francis Ford Coppola

A horror, not to me, Dracula is one of my favourite love stories, love triangles. Gary Oldman, Winona Rider, Sadie Frost and Keanu Reeves. It’s the classic tale of birth of vampirism wrapped up in a tragic blood filled love story. True love never dies…. The scenes are like paintings and like all good horror stories everyone is haunted especially Dracula.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Kenneth Branagh

Another love story, this is my favourite book. It’s beautifully written and this production of it is so good, Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter fall madly in love and could be happy if not for Frankensteins obsession. Frankenstein feels more and more a metaphor for mans obsession for progress without the forethought of actions. The horror is ambition not the monster. Of course being a period horror the costumes are set s are filled with drama and of course beauty. The colour palette is exceptional.

The Shining Stanley Kubrick

Lifts, coloured carpet and twins still haunt me to this day, don’t get me started on the lady in the bathtub. although this classic should be at the top of everyone’s scary list, it really does deserve it. A fathers low level violence brewing below the surface even before the horror begins. The chase, the hauntings the isolation vibrating from the very first scene. The visuals have informed and inspired so many horrors and everything about this is haunting.

Same genre(ish) different film: Rope Alfred HitchcockThere would have to be a Hitchcock film and this one scares me the most. The callousness of these two white privileged men is so scary. There is something about the stillness in this film, it shows you don’t need dramatic music or jumps to truly scare. That words really do have power and boredom is no place for psychopaths.

The Village

The Village M. Night Shyamalan

Another favourite love story. Maybe not a scary as some of the other but a horror nonetheless. Monsters in the woods, an isolated village, the courage of a blind girl and oh so many secrets and sorrows. You feel depth and empathy for the characters but I expect no less from M. Night Shyamalan, he brought us Signs, Sixth Sense, Split and Lady in the water. I love how all his films feel like folk lore, he is a wonderful story teller and each film is different from the last.

Same genre(ish) something different; Guillermo del Torros The Shape of Water, where the horror is all in the actions of man and some cat eating. This is a love story with a difference and I love it.

Event Horizon

Event Horizon Paul W S Anderson

I watched this when I was 18 and I still dream about the boy the in the air vents. This is a film about nightmares, exposure and claustrophobia. It is a haunting of yourself and is a great horror from start to finish. It’s nothing like the other horrors I have shared for this is set in a spaceship in the future.

Aliens James Cameron

Sorry but Sigourney Weever is a legend, I love aliens, everything about it. The Geiger sets, the claustrophobic labyrinth of the spaceship. The lighting, the griminess, the love of a cat! Aliens is a proper scarefest of monsters ( us ) and aliens. It’s the perfect balance of a survivalist film in terrible conditions. There is a lot of humanity in this empty lonely universe and I love it. I actually enjoy all of them even if this one is the best.

Same genre something different; 30 days of night, love the cast, love the set, love the aliens, this is a great horror I loved it so much that the sequels upset me a bit.


Seven David Fincher

Again more a thriller than a horror but the victims of these murders are so horrific that it will scare you and leave you with nightmares. Everyone is great in this movie it is mainly 3 characters all bathed in loneliness and guilt. I watched this recently and was struck by The darkness, not just of the murders but of the characters and there isolation. No one is sage and nowhere is safe. The most surprising thing about this well paced movie is that you won’t see anyone die, no one is murdered on camera, there is no before only after… which is where the realism and true horror lies. Modern films now love to show the victims in terrible circumstances, almost getting away, being so close to surviving but Seven is not about hope.

Same genre(ish) something different; Copycat sigourney Weever again. Claustrophobia has never felt so oppressive, a clever story with a very scary psychopath.

The Ring Hideo Nakata

One of the first times I screamed at the TV watching this film. Japanese and Korean horrors are such a beautiful horrific genre that I really detest western remakes. They don’t need to happen. After this film ghosts and horror stories changed forever. Western ghosts mimicked Asian story telling, visually. The grudge, Dark water and cult classic Battle Royal! These are all cinematic gold. In the Ring the set is almost a character in itself, it’s oppressive, claustrophobic and you feel trapped even as an observer.

Same genre(ish) something different; A Tale of Two Sisters Kim Jee-woon. Sad shocking and really really beautiful. I first saw this movie silent, projected on a wall and it scared me even without sound.

The Cell

The Cell Tarsem Singh

I talk a lot about beauty in my horror selection but is anything as beautifully cinematic as the cell? Jennifer Lopez tries to find the good child trapped within the mind of psychotic serial killer. It’s scary. The child is being traumatised by his future self within his own mind. It’s a film of damaged imagination and I cannot think of a more brutal film. Each nightmare is a new set with incredible detail. This film is a visual assault on the senses, the music, the movements, colours throw truly is a masterpiece.

Lost Boys Joel Schumacher

A vampire story like no other. It’s like the goonies after hours and although it is very funny the horror is scary. Kiefer Sutherland calling Michael is scary and Michaels battle with his change is a great struggle. I love this 80s cult classic from the clothes to the music. It’s refreshingly kitsch compared to the seriousness of my other choices I watch this film when ever it is on, I cover my eyes at the horror and chuckle away with the witty writing.

Same genre( ish) something different; Let the right one in Tomas Alfredson. A wonderful tale of a child vampire, it’s sweet funny, gory and sad.

In summary

13 + films for you to watch with a bit more grit to them than Amityville Horror or a Texas chainsaw massacre. Gore does has a place in horror but I think there was a bit of death I realise I probably should have written this before Halloween but actually there is always time for a good horror. I hope I have given you a good balance of light hearted and scary. Futuristic and period dramatics. Let me know if I should check out any other horror movies.

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