So, you’re here because you’re on a new adventure, a journey that will change your life forever. It might sound like a horrific and terrifying journey for some, that can only culminate in the worst scenario possible; death. Well, that assumption would be correct in some aspects, however, as a dedicated horror fan myself, I can safely assure you that what comes with horror films is an emotion and experience like no other.
Cinema was created to entertain, but also to evoke emotions that you may find yourself lacking in in every day life. Horror squeezes fear from our souls, an emotion that you rarely ever feel on a day-to-day basis, which makes it so exhilarating and thrilling. Much like adrenaline junkies search for their next high, once you become a horror addict, you’ll soon find yourself searching for your next horror-hit. Let’s begin with five horror films that will make you laugh, make you want to hide, make you scared of the ordinary, make you anxious and most importantly, horrify you.
1. The Evil Dead
The first film on your list is Sam Raimi’s cult classic The Evil Dead, which was originally released in 1981, and was considered as one of the most shocking yet hilarious horror movies of its time. Bruce Campbell (who will you become to recognise as a horror icon as you continue on this path) presents the loveable and also detestable Ash, who is now an iconic horror character. Ash and his friends decide to stay in a cabin in the woods for a feast filled with sex, booze and good times. When the group stumble across a book known as the Necronomicon, and recite chapters to one another, their frolicking soon turns to undead carnage.
If you’re worried about feeling so terrified of your first hit of horror, then you shouldn’t feel too afraid as The Evil Dead perfectly combines gore with comedy. If there is a moment where you feel yourself disgusted or frightened by the evil trees in the woods or the undead Henrietta trapped in the basement, you’ll be reassured and comforted by the hilarious and often stupid lines that come from Ash and the deadites. After you’ve chainsawed your way through this one, it’s time to watch Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness.
2. 28 Days Later
To become a fully fledged horror fan, you need to experience zombies in their many forms. You don’t have to like them as a monster, but you need to have an understanding that zombies are a big part of the horror world. You should of course at some point watch classics like Dawn of the Dead and Return of the Living Dead, but as a newbie to horror, you might not really appreciate the slow and often tedious type of zombie. Therefore, it’s good to start with something a little more fresh in the dead body department, for that reason it’s time to watch 28 Days Later.
As with any film, it has it’s merits and some downfalls, but all-in-all it’s a film that’s going to make you feel the sheer velocity of terror that zombies and infection could bring to the Earth. Awaking from a coma, Jim (Cillian Murphy) finds London is completely deserted and void of life. When he starts to explore the city, he finds that his initial thoughts were untrue, but what inhabits the city isn’t quite alive. Directed by Danny Boyle, who you might know for Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours, this film explores what would happen if a infectious disease hit a city like London, bringing with it rabid-like animated corpses who can run faster than Usain Bolt.
3. Kairo / Pulse
This title covers two sub-genres of horror that I would implore you to exploit as much as you possibly can. The first is supernatural; I would say about 70% of horror focuses on ghosts, demons and anything paranormal. The second is Japanese cinema; if you want to find the most terrifying ghost stories, look to Asian titles. Kairo aka Pulse looks at what happens to a group of people when their electronic devices open up a gateway of communication between a world we shouldn’t have access to. First released in 2001, which made this film even more terrifying as it took advantage of the technology age, which was still coming into its prime and looked at the social impact behind social media and the constant need to feel connected.
Kairo is a horror film that has and always will stick with me. There are certain scenes that made me sick with terror, and even after 10 years (from when I first watched), will still creep their way into my thoughts on lonely nights when I find myself alone with my head buried in my laptop screen. If you’ve ever wondered what those stains are on the walls in unsettling and old buildings, this paranormal sci-fi film will give you another reason to think about. It’s also worth noting that after this you might want to venture further and watch Ringu and Ju-On.
4. The Birds
In order to start your venture into horror, you of course have to visit some old classics at some point to fully appreciate the origins of the genre and some of the places where modern day horror takes inspiration from. Most places will suggest that you watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which is one of the most classic horror films known to cinema. However, I’m actually going to suggest you start with something else from Hitchcock and that is The Birds.
The first time I ever watched The Birds was during an art class when I was about 12 years old. I had been exposed to some horror, but nothing had prepared me for the shock and pleasure I found in watching this movie with my more than unwilling class mates on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon. The Birds is such a beautiful starting place as truly encompasses terror in a more natural form, and explores the often used horror trope which is killer animals; think Jaws, Arachnophobia and Cujo. A town is plagued with frantic birds that swoop and dive to use their beaks to torture the people in the village. If you think old, black and white movies can’t be frightening, just wait until you watch a bird peck out someone’s eyes.
This final choice is where everything could go wrong and you let your blood curdling screams lead the way into the hills, and far away from anything ever invented to terrorise. There will be many who disagree with this picking and will deem it too extreme for someone who is just starting to get into the horror world. The reasoning behind this choice is that, you should understand what the genre is capable of and how far the blood shed can really be taken. That’s why we’re going darker and deeper, a little more under the flesh so to speak with Martyrs.
Martyrs seeks to completely breakdown the viewer and force them into a situation where they are presented with some of the most heinous acts committed. Although it is bloody, raw and disturbing, it also has a sense of beauty to it and provokes a thought process that will leave you with unanswered questions for days. It can sometimes take some convincing to get anyone to watch this film, yet once you have seen it you will also agree that it’s one of the best horror films ever made in the 21st century. Without giving too much information, this is a film that will play havoc with your mind and determine whether that’s a place in horror that you really want to venture to.