Forget waiting for kids to knock on your door demanding sweets. Halloween should be just another excuse for gettin’ cosy – preferably with a horror flick. I say this as an advice columnist who's always asked what to do on dates (or how to revive a jaded long-term relationship). Scary movies are IT, people. Studies show adrenalin-boosting activities – and watching horror definitely falls into that category – can boost those loving feelings. Which is great news whether you're in that first flush of lust, or have been together 20 years. So here are my Halloween movie picks. Just add wine and microwave popcorn.
1. Insidious (2010)
Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne star in this horror about a seemingly healthy little boy who falls into a coma. Only it's not a coma. It's a supernatural body-snatching type deal, and can I just say, you never want to hear those sounds coming out of your baby monitor. Insidious is the brainchild of Saw team Leigh Whannell and James Wan (Leigh wrote it, James directed), and while they do go a little overboard on the low lighting, creepy soundtrack and jumpy bits, it's ultimately pretty scary stuff.
2. Let Me In (2010)
It's a remake of a spectacular Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In, and it's terrific – even if purist fans of the original never wanted Let Me In to see the light of day. But, it did and it's well worth renting or Netflixing. This vampire flick tells the story of two lonely kids, Abby and Owen – Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee – who meet in their apartment block and become firm friends. Only, that's not really advisable because Abby isn’t your average 12-year-old. It's beautifully shot, has its share of scares and, in a market saturated with vampire movies, is definitely my pick.
3. The Orphanage (2007)
Foreign horror rocks. Take this chilling Spanish ghost story about a grieving mother who realises her son’s imaginary friends may hold the key to his disappearance. I was reviewing it for a magazine at the time and had to watch it alone. On a weekend. In a rickety old theatrette. Don't follow my lead. Bad move.
4. Open Water (2007)
Nothing like a film that taps into people's worst nightmares. Open Water is based on the true story of a couple who go on holiday, decide to do a little scuba diving and are left stranded in shark-infested waters after their dive boat operator forgot to do a proper head count. (Or just couldn't count.) It's low-budget, sure, but a great alternative for fans of similar films like Jaws and recent but decent Aussie offering, The Reef.
5. Paranormal Activity (2007)
It's a franchise spawning evil sequels at a dizzying rate… but it's really only the first film you should hire, about a couple who move to the burbs to find they're sharing their house with something weird. (No, it’s not possum.) So they start leaving a video camera running in their bedroom while they sleep in the hopes that the tapes will tell the story in the morning. The actors – Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat – were unknowns. The camera work left a lot to be desired. The budget was miniscule. But, people. It literally took a week before I stopped tucking the duvet under the mattress and sleeping with one eye open. Seriously one of the creepiest films ever.
6. The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Nothing like a little family road trip into the middle of nowhere going horribly wrong, right? But that's the fate of the Carters, a typical American family whose detour into an old nuclear testing site in New Mexico proves suitably grisly. What with the blood lust, gritty brutality and murderous mutants, Wes Craven's super sick remake of the 1977 film is a disturbing little piece of cinema I will hopefully not be viewing again anytime soon. But it'll surely put the frighteners on anyone who hasn't seen it.
7. Wolf Creek (2005)
Give me a flesh-eating virus film over a serial killer film anyday. Serial killers are the WORST. What makes Wolf Creek's psycho (John Jarratt) somehow more terrifying is that the actor was previously best-known for his work on Australian TV kids' show Playschool. (He made crafts and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to a whole generation of traumatised filmgoers; I am one of them.) The story – which has shades of the real life Peter Falconio missing person's case in the Aussie outback in 2001 – revolves around a trucker who lures a group of backpackers to his outback lair, only to methodically hunt them down and kill them in super creative ways. A sequel is supposedly in the works, but even I don't reckon they could better that spinal cord scene; it is forever burned onto my psyche.
8. Wrong Turn (2003)
Deliverance meets Scream in this film about a group of teens on a weekend camping trip who fall into the clutches of a family of in-bred cannibals. Think little house of horrors-type vibe, complete with torture chamber. I guarantee from this point on you too will regard all those weird, hoardy-type houses in deserted forests with great suspicion.
9. 28 Days Later (2002)
As a rule, I far prefer lampoonage of the zombie genre (a la Shaun Of The Dead) to the alternative. Because most zombie films are, let's face it, a ridiculous waste of time. But not this one. Who knew a deserted London could be so scary? Isn't that every shopper's dream? Uh, not quite. 28 Days Later is SO well done. So impossibly eerie and creepy and, well, imbued with a kind of hopelessness. Big ups to director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland (of The Beach fame) for a top shelf horror that'll really haunt your dreams.
10. Alien (1979)
We all know the story: a commercial spaceship investigating a distress call lands on a distant planet and discovers some strange creatures. This franchise STILL scares the crap out of me decades after I first saw it, and may I recommend staging a Halloween Alien Marathon with the one you love. If just to relive that alien-clawing-out-of-the-chest scene. It’s not romantic, but if you’re not clinging to one another in terror, I’m all out of ideas.
~ Of course, there are HEAPS more I could've included, so help me out in the comments! What would be your movie picks for a proper scare-fest?