by Brian J. Showers, © October 2012

Dear Octoberists: Here we are again. We've come full circle and the end of the year is upon us. Once again the daytime diminishes and a chill besets the house. What better to do than light some candles, brew a cup of something hot to warm the hands and belly, and switch on the reassuring flicker of the television for some unsettling spectral cinema. As always, I've compiled a list of films from across the horror genre, hopefully you'll find something here that suits your taste! Boo!

And don't forget, there's plenty of films in links past. Enjoy!

Halloween Recommendations 2011
Halloween Recommendations 2010
Halloween Recommendations 2009
Halloween Recommendations 2008
Halloween Recommendations 2007
Halloween Recommendations 2006
Halloween Recommendations 2005
Halloween Recommendations 2004
Halloween Recommendations 2003

Directed by Michael Dougherty, USA, 2007

If you're looking for the spirit of Halloween, you'll find it here with Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r' Treat. Perhaps most reminiscent of George Romero's classic film Creepshow (1982), Trick 'r' Treat is a portmaneau film composed of four intertwining stories, each one a joyous love letter to a different aspect of Halloween night. And there is a genuine sense of fun in this film, as much as there is genuine sense of horror. Trick 'r' Treat will take you right back to your childhood and a pillowcase filled with sweets!

Directed by Dan O’Bannon, USA, 1992

Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected may very well be an overlooked classic. Despite his many other genre contributions, mainly as a scriptwriter (Alien, Total Recall), the only other film O'Bannon directed was the raucous punk extravaganza The Return of the Living Dead (1985). However, just as fun though considerably more subdued, The Resurrected takes its cue from detective-noir films instead of Romero's walking dead. A loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Resurrected remains faithful where it counts. Worth checking out, especially if you're a fan of Lovecraft.

Directed by Victor Sjöström, Sweden, 1921

Utilising the classic spectral theme of the phantom coach, this early film from Sweden touches on an eeriness not seen since the silent era. Nosferatu (1922) may spring to mind, or even the Danish film Häxan (1922). But the innovative use of special effects in The Phantom Carriage give both of these classics a run for their money. Lovers of old cinema will not want to miss this. As for me, having lived in Sweden once upon a time, this film brings back memories of my own encounter with a phantom coach . . .

Directed by Antonia Bird, Czech Republic/UK/USA, 1999

I only dare imagine the difficulties studio executives had trying to market this film. Ravenous is a perfectly balanced tug-of-war between off-beat comedy, horror, and historical drama. And despite the mish-mash of tones this film offers, it inexplicably works. The presence of David Arquette is almost innoffensive, while the always charismatic Jeffrey Jones takes on darker shades made even more unsettling for his characteristic affability. At its heart, Ravenous is a film about cannibalism with a healthy dose of wendigo mythology; Robert Carlyle is at his most animalistic and Guy Pierce at his stoniest. I hope you enjoy the hell out of this oddball film.

Directed by Peter Sasdy, UK, 1972

Television scriptwriter Nigel Kneale was the man behind the excellent Quatermass series, which seamlessly and brilliantly fused the genres of horror and science fiction. In The Stone Tape, he gives us a classic ghost story with a modern twist: a team of scientists set up their research equipment in an ancient house to record and analyse its psychometric phenomena--the spectral activity encoded in the walls of the house itself. Kneale's script is inventive and intelligent, and the use of video instead of film rightfully gives The Stone Tape that classic British television feel--after all, The Stone Tape is the very definition of classic British television.


Directed by Roger Corman, USA, 1963

I admit that I've never really been a big fan of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations for American International Pictures. They never achieve the same horrific heights attained by early Hammer Studios productions or Mario Bava films. However, The Haunted Palace, at least for me, is different. Like Dan O'Bannon's The Resurrected (1992), Corman's Haunted Palace also takes inspiration from Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (despite the title swiped from Poe). The film is saturated in Gothic atmosphere, and the make-up effects of the deformed villagers is still unsettling, especially when the eyeless and mouthless Arkhamites slowly advance on Ward (Vincent Price) and his wife (Deborah Paget). With an appearance by Lon Chaney Jr. and with a script by Twilight Zone veteren Charles Beaumont, this one's a winner!

Directed by Matt Lipsey, UK, 2010

Psychoville is the darker and more horrific (though still wickedly comic!) follow-up to the cult British television show The League of Gentlemen (1999-2002). And this is their diabolical Halloween episode! Like the classic horror films Psychoville was inspired by, this Halloween special is an anthology of stories featuring a washed-up and out-of-work clown, a delusional housewife, a blind collector of dolls, and a murderous woman whose imbecile son is obsessed with serial killers. Sound scary? It is. And it also happens to be hilarious! In so far as self-aware horror goes, Cabin in the Woods (2011) has got nothing on the brilliant minds behind Psychoville.

Directed by Mike Flanagan, USA, 2011

Absentia may not have received the attention it should have, but that doesn't stop it from being a real creeper. Admittedly there are some minor problems with the acting, but once this film picks up speed, it proves itself to be quite original. Menace emanates from the film's many dark corners, but the most terrifying is the dark pedestrian tunnel that plays a prominant role in the story. Editor of Supernatural Tales, David Longhorn, was as impressed with this one as I was. You can read what he has to say about it here.

9. PULSE (Kairo)
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, 2001

Of the films on this year's list, I find this one to be the most profoundly disturbing. Kairo rode the early wave of Asian horror, and like Ringu (1998) and the Ju-on films (1998-2003), it has a rather soulless Hollywood counterpart. But the original has far more to offer if you're looking for intense horror of a more philosophical variety. The world of Kairo is filled with isolation and depression, with sunless rooms and ashen smudges upon the wall that look vaguely human. The ending is one you might not expect, but the film's ultimate conclusion is a bleakly logical one. So . . . do you want to see a ghost?

Directed by Ti West, USA, 2011

Ti West's The Innkeepers is easily one of my favourite films of 2011. His debut, The Roost (2005), was thoroughly lacklustre, but after that came The House of the Devil (2009), a film so focused on building tension that audiences were divided between cries of boredom and declaring West the next Hitchcock. His third film, The Innkeepers, is something else entirely. With a likeable cast and some genuinely good storytelling, this film draws you in and keeps your attention until the final scene. West is certainly a director to keep an eye on, and I'm eagerly awaiting his next one . . .

Directed by Hilton Edwards, Ireland, 1953

This year's bonus short film you can watch entirely on YouTube. Part two is here and part three is here. If you've never seen this short before, you're in for a treat. Return to Glennascaul was produced by the Gate Theatre Company and filmed in Dublin as a sort of diversion during the production of Orson Welles's adaptation of Othello (1951). Featuring Welles himself as the narrator, Return to Glennascaul is an expert retelling of the classic phantom hitchhiker tale, with the added wink as if told by an Irish raconteur. They just don't make'em like this anymore.

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