As I mentioned in my Horror Block unboxing video, I’m something of a closet horror hound. I even used to write about horror and cult films for Film Threat, back in my past life as filmgurl. So, it should come as no surprise that I have a special place in my heart for Halloween and all the activities it entails, like dressing up, eating lots of pumpkin things and watching spooky movies.
However, I also know that not everyone likes having the daylights scared out of them. Harper Honey and Mia Moore have both compiled great lists of not so scary Halloween movies, so I figured I’d take a page from them and recommend some great classic horror films that are more about atmosphere than gore and jump scares.
This one is very near and dear to my heart. I have a great love of all things Frankenstein, from the novel to the many film adaptations (except for the Kenneth Branagh one, which is hot garbage). But this is the film that made me love classic horror. The high contrast lighting, the nods to Expressionism, Jack Pierce’s iconic creature design. It’s tragic and spooky and thought provoking all at once, and it was also one of the first horror films to have a sequel, which also happens to be the first horror comedy.
See also: Dracula (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
Producer Val Lewton is often credited with, if not creating then certainly mastering, the “psychological horror film.” Working with small crews and smaller budgets he used clever writing and fantastic directors to lift up the rather schlocky premises (often just a title) studio RKO saddled him with. This one stands out for the inclusion of actual voodoo rituals in what amounts to a fantastic tropical retelling of Jane Eyre.
See also: Cat People (1942), The Seventh Victim (1943)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Okay, so Polanski’s kind of a creep, but man does he know how to make creepy movies. This one’s definitely more on the psychological side of horror, but with Satanic cults thrown in just to keep you guessing. I dare you not to start feeling paranoid after watching this movie.
See also: The Omen (1976)
Black Sunday (1960)
This is probably the goriest out of all the movies on this list, but it’s all in black and white, which definitely makes things classier. Said to be a favourite of director Tim Burton, the film features amazing cinematography, oodles of atmosphere and Barbara Steele’s cheekbones.
See also: Castle of Blood (1964), anything my Hammer Studios
The Haunting (1963)
Not the first film based on The Haunting of Hill House and far from the last, this one stands out for sheer classiness. It is also the template by a which all haunted house movies should be judged. Nothing is ever shown, and you’ll leave the film wondering what was real and what was imagined.
See also: The Innocents (1961), The House on Haunted Hill (1959)