Darren Aronofsky has never been afraid to make challenging movies (well, have you seen Noah?), but Mother! might be the auteur extraordinaire’s most out-there movie yet, particularly given the fact it stars quite possibly the most bankable leading lady on the planet.
Billed as a psychological horror, it’s a taut, disturbing and increasingly intense film that lays on its allegory with hard-to-miss heavy-handedness – and yet many viewers, apparently expecting a straight-up “Jennifer Lawrence in a creepy haunted house” yarn, have declared it impenetrable, dull or just plain old hilariously bad. We’re a little more open-minded here at Stuff and, despite feeling that the director is a little too pleased with his own cleverness at times, it’s hard to fault his execution. A masterclass in controlled chaos, even if it's not a film that won't be for everyone.
Stephen King, in his infinite wisdom, spotted the insane creepiness potential of clowns, and propagated the concept via his beloved novel It, adapted for the screen for a second time in Andy Muschietti’s 2017 chiller.
Rich in Kingian tropes (childhood trauma, loss of innocence, friendship, historical evil, the darkness lurking behind small town America’s doorways) and a fond homage to the 1980s, It is a fine piece of crowd-pleasing supernatural horror in which seven misfit kids are stalked by a entity that takes the form of their worst fears – and yes, in some cases that’s a clown. While it doesn’t attempt to redefine the genre, it works within horror’s confines to produce a film that’s packed with heart and soul as well as scares.
Deep and crisp and even it may be, but the Antarctic snow of John Carpenter’s cult horror classic is far from pure. The movie’s eponymous parasitic extraterrestrial, unwittingly woken from an icy slumber beneath the permafrost, is able to assume human form, leading to near-unbearable suspense – who is human, and who is the alien? - as the inhabitants of a cut-off research station are preyed upon in gruesome fashion.
The Monster Squad
Something of a 1980s cult classic, The Monster Squad is The Goonies meets Ghostbusters – a rollicking b-movie horror-comedy in which a bunch of misfit kids take on Dracula and other assorted beasties in their small town. Co-written by Shane Black (creator of the Lethal Weapon series, and director of the upcoming Predator reboot) and featuring effects from the legendary Stan Winston, this is enjoyable for far more than simple nostalgia value.
Don't Look Now
Nicolas Roeg’s 1970s horror – a cult classic for all the right reasons – tells the story of mourning parents Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, who take an extended stay in Venice in the hopes of coming to terms with their young daughter’s tragic death.
After meeting two sisters, one of whom claims to be able to contact the dead, their despair begins to lift – but there may be something worse than grief stalking them among the canals…
I Am Legend
This film has been unfairly slighted, probably due to not living up to the iconic sci-fi novel upon which it’s based - but we reckon it's still well worth a watch. It sees Will Smith playing the last man alive in a post-apocalyptic New York, and is imbued with the tense atmosphere and survival themes characteristic of zombie movies (even though the undead here are perhaps more vampire than ghoul). It stands out because it’s interesting, sad and hauntingly beautiful to see a lone survivor struggling both to outlive the horde as well as his own past.
It’s nothing short of iconic – a film that well deserves its spot in the annals of modern horror, and one that spawned a bunch of bad sequels, a decent TV series and a bizarre shot-by-shot remake starring Vince Vaughn.
But does the black and white Psycho still have the power to shock and scare almost 60 years after it was first released? While the ketchup-like gore and the psychological horror may have lost their edge in this age of Saws and Hannibal Lecters, there’s still something deliciously creepy about Norman Bates, his motel and his dear old mother. Not to mention Alfred Hitchcock’s use of misdirection and twists, which may still wrong-foot modern-day audiences who’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers.
This gore-glutted deep space shocker could easily be entitled Dead Space: The Movie if not for the fact that it came out 10 years before the horror-gaming classic. The plot bears a strong resemblance, with Sam Neill's motley crew of space jockeys investigating a seemingly deserted craft on the outer reaches of the solar system and finding all manner of hellish horrors aboard.
So, just another unoriginal B-movie clinging on to Alien's coat-tails? Not exactly. The terrors on board the starship Event Horizon are grotesque enough to lift it above the many inferior rivals, making it a horror film set in space rather than a sci-fi film with a horror theme.
So don't watch it on your own. Or just before boarding a deserted spaceship.
Yes, it’s John Carpenter again – but there’s no chance in hell we could leave this classic slasher flick (probably the classic slasher flick, in fact) off our list.
Halloween is the movie that created the mould from which all other films with a silent, seemingly unstoppable masked killer are cast, and its creepily “normal” suburban setting, chilling music (written and performed by Carpenter himself) and knife-edge tension make it a great watch almost 40 years after it was made.
Jamie Lee Curtis became a star off the back of her performance as babysitter-turned-serial-runner-away here, and the apparently motiveless Michael Myers, clad in his expressionless white mask, makes for a fine villain.
The “found footage” sub-genre of horror is a patchy one, with every decent effort (1999’s The Blair Witch Project) seemingly matched by a dreadful one (2016’s Blair Witch).
J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield takes the concept and conceit – that the viewer is watching “actual footage” of the events, which has been recovered after the fact – beyond its low-budget roots by setting the movie not in a creepy forest or secluded farmhouse, but in New York during a massive, initially mysterious disaster. So the viewer essentially gets a first-person view of the apocalypse, complete with gory deaths, collapsing buildings and much, much worse. It’s a fun ride while it lasts, but those who suffer from motion sickness might well have to check out early – Abrams does love his shakicam footage.