With Christmas family-comedy season beginning to rear its cringey head, our writers prescribe four horror classics to keep your spook-levels up all year round.
Horror Movie with the Best Female Leads: Ginger Snaps (2000)
In a genre littered with disturbing representations of women, Ginger Snaps offers a unique portrayal of meaningful and complex female relationships, and an examination of the bonds of sisterhood. Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins) are teenaged sisters attached at the hip—snarky loners with a macabre sense of humour and a fascination with death. However, when Ginger gets her first period and is subsequently attacked by a werewolf, she begins a monstrous physical and psychological transformation—and it is up to Brigitte to save her sister.
Ginger Snaps is a fearless, sharp, and truly important feminist contribution to the horror genre—complete with excellent special effects, beautiful art direction, and a darkly-comedic script. Isabelle and Perkins are standouts as the film’s feisty heroines. Director John Fawcett (Orphan Black) forgoes sexist stereotypes—instead delivering a scathing commentary on the impossible double-standard of purity and sexual experience, society’s fear of powerful women, and the stigma against menstruation. If you’re on the hunt for a great creature feature with some pitch-black humor and hard-hitting social commentary, look no further.
Horror Movie That Will Make You Want to Never Have Kids: Dark Water (2002)
If you’re ever considering having children, look no further than the age-old “creepy child” horror film to squash that desire once and for all. Perhaps no subgenre does it better than Japanese ghost stories, most notably in Dark Water. Don’t be turned off by the shoddy American remake—the original Dark Water is a modern horror milestone. Directed by Hideo Nakata (Ringu, 1998), Dark Water is a chilling melodrama about a divorced mother who moves into a derelict apartment building with her young daughter, only to be haunted by inexplicable ghostly activity involving water and a mysterious young girl.
Nakata combines genuinely unnerving images with an emotionally resonant story about failed motherhood, abandonment, and breaking traditional family roles. Most of Dark Water’s terror stems from the expertly-crafted atmosphere, which Nakata accomplishes through his use of cool tones and sepia coloring, and jarring cinematography. Even in the lulls between scares, the film’s pervasive sense of dread and isolation keeps viewers tightly in its clutches until the very end.
The child-ghost is an ominous reminder of the consequences of neglectful parenting and cycles of abuse. Impeccably produced, superbly written, and frighteningly relevant, Dark Water is a challenging tear-jerker that will appeal both to horror connoisseurs and those more hesitant to dip their toes into the genre.
Best Date Night Horror Movie: Paranormal Activity (2007)
Paranormal Activity is the perfect date night horror movie—combining thrills, innovative filmmaking techniques, and a compelling story. Oren Peli’s low-budget film uses a found-footage style to tell the story of couple Micah and Katie, the latter of whom has suffered from strange inexplicable occurrences throughout her life. Micah’s attempt to get to the bottom of this results in a clash with the supernatural forces that are haunting Katie. The experiences faced by the couple push their relationship to the edge.
The good thing about Paranormal Activity is that it’s not too scary; there are enough thrills to make for a solid bonding experience between you and your date, without the risk of losing any sleep. Paranormal Activity also offers good post-film discussions, and there’s a plethora of ‘did you see that’ moments to chat about once the movie ends. Plus, film nerds will appreciate the impressive special effects given the movie’s low-budget.
Don’t judge Paranormal Activity by the series of mediocre sequels it spawned—the original is truly a classic.
Best horror movie drinking game: The ABC’s of Death (2012)
Can’t decide on a movie? Preparing for a Halloween bash? The ABC’s of Death is the modern equivalent of clicking through creepy YouTube videos as a preteen at a 2-a.m. slumber party and eventually landing on “Scary Car Commercial.” By no means a critically-acclaimed film, it is nonetheless rowdy, indulgent, bloody fun. The movie is composed of shorts, each corresponding to one of 26 words starting with each letter from A-Z. Since the anthology is a collaboration between 26 different directors, there’s something for everyone in varying levels of dread—including classic paranoia, body-horror, gore, slasher, and even comedy.
The ABC’s of Death’s segmented structure makes it a great Halloween party movie, and also perfect for drinking games. The rules: Each person has the length of the short to guess the word that characterizes the segment. Each person can only guess once, and after being claimed, that answer is locked in and off the table for anyone else. There’s advantage to an early guess, but slightly more risk. If you guess correctly, everyone else drinks twice. If everyone gets it wrong, everyone drinks once. If anyone screams prematurely, they have to have a bonus sip.