Some film recommendations from our Film & TV Editor for the spookiest month of the year.
It looks like streaming will take the place of guising this Halloween. These horror films are all available on popular streaming services, and will keep things scary in your household on the 31st!
Sisters (1972), Amazon Prime Video
An early De Palma, when he was still in his Hitchcock phase — voyeuristic tones loom large as we follow a journalist who witnesses a brutal murder and, through seeking justice, becomes embroiled in the lives of conjoined twins Danielle and Dominique. What could easily be a rote example of the evil twin trope is something else entirely in De Palma’s capable hands. This is a still-relevant story of police incompetence, trauma, and identity, as well as being an excellent psychological horror.
Cape Fear (1991), Amazon Prime Video
A maximalist masterpiece, Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear is operatic, violent, and extremely fun. Scorsese is almost parodying De Palma here, bringing the same bombastic, coke-fuelled energy as his friend did in films like Scarface and Blow Out. Robert De Niro is muscle-bound and brutal as rapist Max Cady, and yet he’s still totally beguiling — the ultimate statement in psychopathy.
Zodiac (2007), Netflix
Following the hunt for the Zodiac Killer in San Francisco, this is, above all, a film about obsession — the mystery eventually consumes the life of anyone who investigates it, and by the end that obsession will be passed onto you. Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo are both magnetic, and this features to my money the best Robert Downey Jr. performance this century. Perhaps more of a thriller than a horror, but you’re a liar if you say this film doesn’t send a chill down your spine.
The Thing (1982), BFI Player
Containing some of the best practical effects in cinema history, this is a horror film for the Cold War era, and it’s John Carpenter’s masterpiece. It’s short, and it moves fast, but it has rhythm — Carpenter gives you a couple of seconds to catch your breath before he ramps up the tension once again. Paranoia drips off this film — that desperate panic of being trapped in the cold and the dark with people you can’t trust.
Thelma (2017), Kanopy
All sterile spaces and brief flashes of violence, this Norwegian film is a deeply original exploration into the trauma inherent to coming of age as a queer person. Thelma comes from a deeply religious family, and her attempts to repress her feelings for her best friend lead to visions and epileptic fits, exposing her psychometric powers. This is a new take on a superhero narrative — she sees her powers as a curse, and by attempting to suppress them she ends up hurting the people she cares about.