Essential Halloween Horror Movie Viewing – A Top 10 Countdown

Suspicion leads to hysteria when rural villagers link a series of brutal murders to the arrival of a mysterious stranger in The Wailing.

by Brody Rossiter

Given that it’s the spookiest of all months, October is the perfect time to revisit or discover a selection of the scariest horror movies out there. However, once you’ve grabbed your snacks, turned out the lights and begun to endlessly trawl through Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky Movies, the scariest part of the night may well be the beguiling conundrum of deciding what to what to watch! Film In Words has stitched together a scare-filled viewing guide featuring a rogues gallery of our favourite horror films perfect for watching this Halloween. From darkly comic misadventures to bloody fights for survival, here’s a diverse lineup of essential horror viewing to sink your teeth into!


The Invitation

If you’re in the mood for a slow burning mystery…

Serving up a healthy dose of sinister intrigue alongside an impressive ensemble cast led by Logan Marshall-Green, The Invitation warms up the chills for a candlelit gathering that soon reveals itself as a carefully choreographed and understated slice of horror cinema.

Beautifully curated by director Karyn Kusama and cinematographer Bobby Shore, the sultry aesthetic of the film is a feast for the eyes. Elegant and robust in terms of its shadowy visuals and diverse character-driven performances, the attractive imagery on the surface contrasts an increasingly tense and volatile undercurrent of paranoia as a group of estranged friends accept an unexpected invitation and reunite in the Hollywood Hills. The Invitation is a slow burning mystery perfect for those searching for a cerebral and stylish example of the genre this Halloween.

Maltilda Lutz stars in Coralie Fargeat's Revenge

Revenge (2018)

If you’re in the mood for revenge…

Coralie Fargeat’s rape-revenge thriller slices and dices tired tropes and replaces them with a blood-soaked tale of survival against all odds. Revenge breaths new life into the traditional exploitation flick, replacing the male gaze with vengeful female intent. 

When a luxurious weekend getaway with her married boyfriend spirals out of control thanks to the premature arrival of his hunting buddies, Jen (Matilda Lutz) is left fighting for her life yet also transformed by the trauma she has endured. What ensues is a thrillingly visceral pursuit that pits her against a trio of assailants desperate to conceal their crimes and ensure their privileged lifestyles back home remain intact. 

The striking, oversaturated visuals, cunning cat and mouse narrative and uncompromisingly brutal moments of squirm-inducing violence ensure that Revenge is one of the best and bloodiest revenge thrillers of recent memory. 


The Wailing (Goksung)

if you’re in the mood for an epic investigative horror…

At first glance, South Korean supernatural horror The Wailing may well appear to be an intimidating watch given its hefty two hour plus runtime, however, those willing to immerse themselves in its mystifying tale of a village afflicted by a destructive malady will undoubtedly reap its many unsettling rewards.

Enigmatic, darkly comic and deeply tragic, upon its release The Wailing received universal praise for its sprawling depiction of a bumbling local cop haplessly striving to uncover the source of the disease plaguing his patch. The effective scares are underpinned by a growing sense of dread, as the viewer is presented with increasing evidence of evil at play – yet its true form remains ambiguous until the highly rewarding final third of the picture. The Wailing is a captivating, nuanced and visually arresting piece of contemporary horror, and an essential addition to your October viewing.


The Descent

If you’re in the mood for nerve-shredding action…

The Descent was first featured on the site as part of the 31 Days of Fear Halloween movie marathon back in 2016. In his glowing appraisal of the cave dwelling British horror Dave Roper stated:

“There is an atmosphere of dread and despair throughout, which is hard to explain or quantify but impossible to ignore and right up to the breathtaking, hope crushing denouement, Marshall refuses to let up, tension and oppression mounting inexorably. The final shot genuinely continues to haunt me to this day and I haven’t seen the film for close to ten years.”

While many of the entries on this list may provide new, lesser-known horror fodder for bloodthirsty viewers, Neil Marshall’s subterranean thriller stands as one of the most celebrated pieces of British horror cinema, and deservedly so. With blistering, action-packed set pieces, a narrative rife with tension, an engaging cast of characters and a terrifying collective of foes for them to face up against, it’s a Halloween must-watch, whether for the first time or the next.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker star in Spring

Spring (2015)

If you’re in the mood for love…

Starring Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan, an American tourist who flees to Italy following the death of his mother and a violent barroom brawl, Spring’s narrative soon unites Evan with an alluring local woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker). The slowly fall for one another beneath a canopy of hazy Mediterranean sunlight and race through the characterful warrens of the Italian coastal town in which Evan has decided sequester himself.

Linklater-esque in its delivery, directors Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have crafted a lovelorn drama that preys upon the fragility of burgeoning romances. As the couple’s affections grow, so do the realities of Louise’s otherworldly affliction. Boasting gorgeous aesthetics, a deeply personal tale of young love and startling body horror, Spring’s romantic escape is a distinct departure for the genre, and one not soon forgotten.

Sam Neil stars in John Carpenter's In The Mouth of Madness

In The Mouth of Madness

If you’re in the mood for Lovecraft…

It would be remiss to assemble a Halloween viewing listicle without including horror maestro John Carpenter. While Halloween, The Thing, The Fog and several more entries from the director’s filmography will no doubt provide you with suitable viewing over Halloween, it’s also the perfect opportunity to uncover one of his deeper cuts.

The final chilling entry into John Carpenter’s ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ (also including The Thing and Prince of Darkness), In the Mouth of Madness is a mind-boggling creep-fest which journeys into the twisted prose of a decidedly dangerous mind.

John Trent (Sam Neill) is an insurance investigator known for getting results and uncovering the truth behind a scam. Recruited by Arcane Publishing director, Jackson Harglow (Charlton Heston), John is tasked with investigating the disappearance of one of the firm’s most mysterious and revered novelists, Sutter Cane, and ordered to recover the valuable manuscript of his final novel. What ensues is a bewildering descent into societal breakdown, lunacy and Lovecraftian tendril flailing.

Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch star in The Autopsy of Jane Doe

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

If you’re in the mood for something supernatural…

Starring Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as father and son coroners, Tommy and Austin, The Autopsy of Jane Doe follows the pair as they strive to identify the cause of death of a young women found at the scene of a disturbing multiple murder. Given the bizarre nature of her injuries, Sheriff Sheldon Burke (Game of Thrones’ Michael McElhatton) urges the pair to pull an all-nighter in an effort to help crack the case.

Despite her serene surface appearance, the woman’s body has been subjected to a series of extremely violent acts. As these gruesome discoveries are revealed, increasingly strange and alarming occurrences begin to plague the morgue, hinting that the mystery of the woman’s death is far more macabre than Tommy and Austin first believed.

With Cox firmly back in the spotlight thanks to his patriarchal turn in the majestically dysfunctional Succession, and director André Øvredal having recently helmed the acclaimed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this Halloween is the perfect time to settle in for a frightful and increasingly claustrophobic night featuring the two. With a sparse but strong cast, some serious scares and an increasingly creepy atmosphere, The Autopsy of Jane Doe may well be the most frightening and instantly satisfying feature on this list. Can you handle a night in the morgue?
Morgana O'Reilly stars in horror comedy Housebound


If you’re in the mood for laughs…

Horror comedies can often be accused of forgetting to scare their audiences. Pictures such as Shaun of the Dead, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and What We Do In The Shadows are undeniably great films, and perfect horror-tinged Halloween viewing if you don’t particularly enjoy being scared! However, this list is for those who do enjoy the sensation of a racing heart and quickening pulse.

Housebound is one Kiwi horror comedy that delivers big on both the laughs and the scares. After a botched robbery, Kylie (Morgana O’Reilly) is sentenced to house arrest and forced to co-habit alongside her eccentric mother, gruff stepdad and what would appear to be a spot of paranormal activity. As Kylie begins to uncover her childhood home’s torrid past with the aid of her ghost hunting probation officer, the everyday mundanity of Coronation Street episodes and second servings of meatloaf is quickly overtaken by gory encounters and midnight investigations of the cursed property.

Housebound’s mixture of comical exchanges, gross-out set-pieces and unforeseen revelations confidently renovates the haunted house sub-genre, providing a wildly entertaining narrative that keeps you wondering whether what lies ahead will have you howling with laughter or shrieking with fear!

2016 horror anthology Southbound

Southbound (2016)

If you’re in the mood for a horror anthology…

Interweaving five distinct and subversive contemporary fables, 2016 horror anthology Southbound, strips away the sheen of modern Hollywood shockers and catapults the ingenuity of its indie filmmaker ensemble to the fore. Featuring a series of bizarre and repeatedly shocking features that isolate various characters in a corrupted visage of the everyday world, the omnibus is a disturbing study of guilt, and a quest for salvation that mangles both the human form and spirit along the way.

While many horror anthologies are marred by inconsistency, Southbound’s greatest asset is its quality across the board. Each grisly tale packs in the thrills for a hectic journey that leads its increasingly desperate protagonists to a destination that connects them all. Southbound is a punchy, often downright nasty, but always intriguing and surprisingly contemplative eighty-nine minutes of horror filmmaking.

Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving

Mayhem (2017)

If you’re in the mood for mindless ultra-violence…

Life inside a soulless corporation is fertile ground for horror filmmakers. 2016’s The Belko Experiment took everyday office life and transformed it into a brutish battle royale of exploding heads and bloodied white collars. Led by the talented duo of Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead’s Glenn) and Samara Weaving, Mayhem expands upon Belko’s dog-eat-dog fight for survival by turning the batshit craziness up to eleven and introducing a destructive, inhibition lowering virus into the headquarters of a amoral law firm.

With the infected employees quarantined and their pent-up aggression running rampant, the recently dismissed Derek Cho must once again navigate his ruthless co-workers and climb the career ladder all the way to the top so he can settle a score with the firm’s despicable head honchos.

With an intriguing premise built upon unjust legal loopholes, Mayhem’s chaotic, nail gun wielding ballet of ultra-violence is a supremely satisfying, albeit mindless, action horror flick that takes the cold and detached nature of corporate America and ferociously stamps upon it until it begs for mercy. If you’re after a quick and dirty descent into mindless violence this Halloween, then look no further than this gleefully destructive workplace incident from director Joe Lynch.


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