Every year, I like to have a scary movie night with friends. It can be fun to imagine that we're the archetypal victims, stuck in a cabin when all of the sudden the power goes out. Which one of us will survive? What is that shape over in the corner, just out of reach of the lamp light?
I take that you chose to read this because this time of year brings to mind images of dark hallways with ambiguously shaped shadows, and deep dead forests of twisted trees, or old abandoned hotels or, better yet, insane asylums!
If that’s you, then you understand the desire to plumb the darker side of imagination, even if only for a small time each year. Why do people like horror films? The 2010 edition of Stephen King’s Danse Macabre includes a great essay called, “What’s Scary,” where King posits that people who seek out scares are not bent in the mind, but instead cursed with an overabundance of imagination. Horror fans are using these films as a release valve, letting out the built up imagination of the horrors of the real world by placing themselves in the controlled environment of the horror viewer.
The horror genre has so many classics and so many great films that there is no way to fit them all in this post. For more ideas, you might want to read last year’s Halloween post or a post remembering one of the genre’s masters, Wes Craven, who passed away earlier this year.
Cabin in the Woods is not particularly scary, but very unique in that it acts almost as a study of horror tropes.
The Babadook is about a single mother whose young son causes her a lot of emotional turmoil and stress, especially when he starts seeing a monster from a children’s book come to life.
Unfriended is unique in that it explores a more modern horror environment. I don’t know what the genre will soon be called, not exactly creepy pasta, more like a supernatural Internet, or network gothic? We’ll probably see more like this.
Finally, who doesn't like exploring dark small caves? The Descent is a little older, but it deserves to be brought up again because there are not many horror films with a completely female cast. Plus, out of the recent movies in caverns or other headlamp-requiring environments, this one is the best.