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Horror Movie Recommendations: The Sequel

Last year, I wrote about fifteen of my favorite horror films for the Halloween season. I’ve seen a lot more of them since then, and I figured that I should write about a bunch more recommendations if you’re looking for something to get you into the Halloween mood. I covered a lot of the classics last year, like Halloween and The Thing, so I’m trying to include a few more obscure ones you may not have heard of this time around, along with a couple more essentials I didn’t touch on previously. I’m also limiting each franchise to one entry, so I can’t discuss any sequels to films on last year’s list or this year. Horror is still my favorite genre, so there were a lot of picks I couldn’t include here; I’m missing a few obvious ones, but there’s always next year. So, without further adieu: ‘Horror Movies: The Sequel’- this time it’s personal.

Green Room (2015)

While you could classify Green Room as more of a thriller than horror, it’s close enough. This is one of the most unforgiving and aggressive films I’ve ever seen, being absolutely brutal with both its violence and tension from beginning to end. It revolves around a struggling punk band who gets a gig at a seemingly normal bar, before realizing it’s a hangout spot for Nazis. After they insult the bar’s attendants on stage and witness a murder, they lock themselves in a room in an attempt to wait it out, and have to try and both negotiate with and escape from a group of violent Nazis. Just like the band’s music, Green Room is loud, bold, and intense, and does not relent for a single second. This is comparable to something like Panic Room; they instill a specific feeling of desperation and dread that few other films can replicate.

Talk To Me (2022)

A24 never seems to disappoint with their horror films, and Talk To Me does not break this trend. I had the pleasure of seeing this in the theater over the summer, and was fascinated by its premise and screenplay. I enjoy horror films that make you question whether you’re seeing what’s really happening, and Talk To Me does a really fantastic job of this. It’s fairly straightforward for awhile, but towards the end, things start to get weirder (more than they already were), and you begin to wonder if you’re being shown untrue events. While there are many theories as to what really takes place, there’s no definitive explanation, which makes it that much more fun to discuss. This is easily one of my favorites of the year, and definitely my top horror pick of 2023 after Evil Dead Rise. I didn’t mention much about the plot because I believe it’s best to go into this completely blind like I did; you’ll get a lot more out of it. It recently came to digital platforms and got a physical release, so make sure to check it out if you get a chance and support these new directing duo’s first attempt.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

Don’t Breathe was something I knew very little about before I watched it; I knew that it was directed by Fede Álvarez, who I was already a fan of thanks to his Evil Dead remake, and that it starred Jane Levy, most known for that very same remake, but little else. Based off of the poster and Álvarez’s past work, I figured it would be an ultra-gory monster movie. So, imagine my surprise when I learned that Don’t Breathe was completely free of supernatural elements, and relied on extreme levels of tension and atmosphere over gore. While I don’t love it to the same degree that some do, I still found Don’t Breathe to be a very interesting change-up from his first film, and something that had me genuinely uncomfortable in a few spots, most notably those towards the end. This film’s insane twist comes completely out of left field, but I think it works quite well. It very much fits in the same subgenre as Green Room and Panic Room, and I’d really love to see more films like them. While I definitely recommend this film, I can’t say the same for its sequel. Don’t Breathe 2 is a completely unnecessary entry that relies on the well-regarded reputation of its predecessor to sell tickets. It has almost no connections to the first, and is more of an action-thriller than horror. While I would strongly recommend skipping the sequel, Don’t Breathe is a very interesting piece of mid-2010’s horror that should not be missed out on by horror fans.

The Fly (1986)

The only David Cronenberg film I’ve seen, The Fly is a gory, strange, and gross gem of 80’s horror. I found it to be strangely comedic at times, as the premise and Jeff Goldblum’s performance are so over the top that it almost comes off as tongue-in-cheek. But, of course, the most notable aspect of The Fly are its fantastically done practical effects; the gore effects are extremely impressive, and comparable to other demonstrations of 80’s practical gore like The Evil Dead. While it is bloody, most of its gross factor comes from the insect-like nature of this film’s monster, and all of the nasty things that come with it. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of The Fly; the story is interesting enough to keep you watching and had me laughing quite often, Jeff Goldblum’s classic character, Seth Brundle, rivals his performance as Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, and I always appreciate some homemade effects.

Malignant (2021)

During the first two acts of Malignant, I found it to be an enjoyable, but overall lackluster attempt from horror icon James Wan. However, when it hits the final thirty minutes, Malignant becomes one of the craziest horror films I think I’ve ever seen. From the second the main character is locked in a prison cell until the ending, this film goes completely off the rails, in the best way possible. The impressive stunt work really carries the film, and has some of the more notable stunts I’ve witnessed in a horror film. I adore James Wan’s style, and it really shone through here, as it’s basically two hours of him experimenting with what kind of crazy shots he can get away with. Once the story starts to connect, I find it to be an overall solid script that earns a lot of points for creativity. The directions the story chooses to take often come out of nowhere, but are executed quite well, and work out nicely in the end. It’s no masterpiece, but Malignant is a film that delivered on many aspects I’ve come to expect from Wan, and ultimately did not disappoint.

Insidious (2010)

Insidious is one of the very best examples of how well pg-13 horror can work when executed correctly. This film definitely left me feeling uncomfortable at points, thanks once again to James Wan’s directing. The first act of Insidious is quite effective; while the second and third acts get steadily worse, it still scratches that horror itch I find myself having quite often. The Insidious franchise is very comparable to The Conjuring; the first two entries of both series were James Wan directed, both star Patrick Wilson, both revolve around a family being haunted, and both have many unnecessary sequels. However, the main difference between the two is that Insidious doesn’t branch off into a bunch of random spin-offs and side stories; it stays focused on the same characters, and only has five entries versus The Conjuring‘s nine. The subsequent Insidious films really aren’t all that great, but all have a few redeeming factors that make the series as a whole worth a watch. Despite this, the original still stands as a fantastic display of how you can create this much dread and terror within the confines of a pg-13 rating; the tagline of ‘It’s not the house that’s haunted’ is creepy enough to warrant a viewing. It’s earned its reputation as a staple of supernatural horror films, and sealed Wan’s stature as a talented horror director, especially after Saw.

The Cabin In The Woods (2011)

One of the many horror comedies in existence, The Cabin in the Woods is one of the very best. Not only is it a brilliant parody of countless horror tropes, but it finds a way to make every single horror film that’s ever been made fit together canonically. It’s pretty incredible how one movie can (albeit unofficially) explain and connect the plot and characters of (almost) every horror movie imaginable. Aside from its comedy elements, some of the most creative kills I’ve seen take place throughout The Cabin in the Woods– I won’t spoil anything, but I can think of several deaths that are wholly unique to this one film. There are also countless references and nods to existing movies; I pointed out quite a few different ones, but I’m sure I still missed a ton. There are probably five different shots that contain dozens of references at once. The Cabin in the Woods‘ script is pretty much a work of genius, but should not be viewed until you’re very familiar with the genre. You could definitely still enjoy it if you’ve only seen a handful of horror films, but you’ll get a lot more out of it if you have a deeper understanding and appreciation for horror; It’s something of a rite of passage for the genre.

Final Destination (2000)

While the entire Final Destination series is very campy, I find the first one to be a genuinely decent film, and a great encapsulation of what horror movies felt like at the time. This is a franchise I can always count on for some laughs, as each one gets more and more over the top with its stupidity and its violence. Each one takes it a bit farther, and I have a very deep love for the specific feel these movies have. While the fourth entry is a complete disaster, the rest are a lot of fun, and fit together quite nicely. The original Final Destination isn’t a fantastic film overall, but I think it definitely has its place. It’s campy, yes, but the idea was creative and unique in an era where mediocre slashers ran the genre. There is no other franchise quite like Final Destination; no other horror film that I know of has death as its villain. Each film begins with some horrible tragedy that a small group of people are able to escape, and death slowly picks them off one by one. The rest get really crazy with the Macgyver-style deaths, but the first one keeps it somewhat contained while still being pretty ridiculous. I would not call this franchise scary by any means, but they’re great picks to throw on and have fun with a few friends.

The Lighthouse (2019)

While I do prefer Robert Eggers’ first film, The WitchThe Lighthouse is still a near-masterpiece of a horror film and is definitely one of the most unique films I’ve seen in general. It’s entirely black-and-white, the aspect ratio is pretty much just a square, and it’s about two lighthouse keepers slowly losing their minds while trapped on a remote island. While the film’s certainly very unsettling and strange, I found it to be weirdly funny; Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson make a great duo, and their constant arguments are very entertaining. They’re really giving it their all, putting on a very convincing accent, talking exactly how you’d imagine a lighthouse keeper to talk. The Lighthouse‘s strange execution will definitely annoy some, but I loved every second of this film. Robert Eggers is easily one of our best horror directors at the moment, and with this film, he just further proved himself after the already brilliant Witch. I am very much looking forward to his upcoming Nosferatu film; after seeing how talented he is with his other two films, I think he could give a really interesting take on that story. The Lighthouse is something I can see myself revisiting very soon, as it’s quite disorienting at times. There are many scenes where you’re not quite sure what’s really happening, as both Pattinson and Dafoe could be classified as unreliable narrators. If you want to see something completely different from any other horror film you’ve watched, The Lighthouse is an excellent pick.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night of the Living Dead is, of course, one of, if not the most important and influential horror films ever made, and one of the most important films ever made in general. Not only has it inspired countless other filmmakers and artists, but it still holds up remarkably well to this day. I was surprised by how unsettled I was at a few specific points; I wouldn’t necessarily call it an overly scary film, but there are a good few scenes that surprised me with their graphic nature, especially when I considered the era it released in. Before Night of the Living Dead, horror films were seen as something for the whole family, and something that parents could drop their kids off to watch while they did something else. So, imagine their surprise when their children talked of horrifying scenes of zombies eating people and a child killing her parents. And, of course, while George Romero unintentionally created the racial allegories and messages present in the film, he still created them, and this was one of the first examples of horror films trying to spread some sort of social message, which is a very common trope for the genre. Night of the Living Dead is genuinely a film that everybody should watch, regardless of whether or not you are a fan of horror, or a fan of film in general. And, thanks to its public domain status, this is a very easily accessible film, and can be found very easily; it’s probably on several streaming services right now, and could be found for free in many other places.

It Follows (2014)

An indie favorite of many, It Follows stands with The Babadook as one of the films that kickstarted the trend of elevated horror. Not only does It Follows have one of the greatest titles in film history, but it’s a fantastic blend of modern horror and John Carpenter/Wes Craven style. It takes an extremely creative idea and crafts a plot full of uncertainty and vagueness. It leaves you guessing what happened at many points throughout the movie, allowing you to create your own conclusions to bridge the story together. The plot is essentially a metaphor for STDs, as it revolves around a woman who is transmitted an extreme version of one. If you are passed this disease, you are constantly followed by a figure that resembles its past victims until it catches you. If you are caught, you die, and the disease returns to the last person who had it. It fits next to other films in the elevated horror ‘genre’, as it takes a more unique premise and blends it with more artsy filmmaking tactics, but it simultaneously feels like an 80’s film thanks to its incredible synth soundtrack. You also can’t really tell when it takes place, as nobody has cell phones, but some electronic devices exist. It seems to be occurring in the spring, summer, and fall, further adding to the trippy feeling it wants to instill in you. I love this movie for its premise alone, but the way it makes you question yourself and your understanding of what’s happening makes me appreciate it even more.

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

I somehow hadn’t seen A Nightmare on Elm Street until last October, and I had been missing out. I found it to be a fantastic blend of 80’s b-movie schlock, a synth soundtrack, and genuinely creepy scenes. Freddy is one of the most recognizable horror characters for a reason; his first appearance made a huge impression, giving some of the most memorable kills of all time. The first kill of the film is honestly pretty unsettling, and displays how much of a threat Freddy is. A Nightmare on Elm Street contains what is easily one of the most creative horror premises from this era- a man with a deformed face chases and kills you through your dreams. It was Wes Craven’s first real hit, and cemented him early on as one of the greatest horror directors of all time before he even created Scream. I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but this is still something I could see myself revisiting many times just for how much it encapsulates the general feel of 80’s horror.

Barbarian (2022)

Barbarian was something I hadn’t heard of until it had already hit theaters, and I didn’t get a chance to see it in time for last October. However, I watched it when it came to HBO Max last January, and it grabbed me right away. This is one of the best horror films of recent memory, and is something I couldn’t recommend more. It takes the fear of strangers and unknown places to the extreme, and will make you hesitant to ever rent an Airbnb again. There are several big twists and tone shifts throughout the runtime of Barbarian that caught me very off guard, but the story ties together very nicely in the end. I found the performances to be very notable; Bill Skarsgård is gaining the reputation of a horror legend, and I think that Georgina Campbell deserves a spot among the modern scream queens next to actresses such as Jenna Ortega and Samara Weaving just for this one film. Just like the film’s monster, Barbarian came out of nowhere for me, and ended up being one of my favorites pf the past few years.

Skinamarink (2023)

I already wrote about Skinamarink in depth a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll keep this brief, but just know this: Skinamarink is the single most terrifying film I’ve ever seen. A lot of people have a strong distaste for this film and its subdued terror; the premise and execution are very outlandish, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant. It relies on its geniusly crafted atmosphere and cinematography to frighten you, and it does so very well. There has never been a single film quite like Skinamarink, and there probably never will be.

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