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Film Studies’ Favourite Scary Films

Stuck for a suitably spooky screening tonight? Our Film Studies academics have got you covered. We’ve got suggestions from the classic to the contemporary, so grab a cushion to hide behind and read on. Happy Halloween!


Dumplings (2004)

Hong Kong director Fruit Chan’s body horror stars Bai Ling as the mysterious chef whose dumplings hold the key to taitai Miriam Yeung’s eternal youth. But at what price? Beautifully shot by Christopher Doyle, and with a truly unsettling soundtrack from Chan Kwong-wing, this film is guaranteed to put you off your Halloween dinner.
Dr Luke Robinson, Lecturer in Film Studies
Watch the trailer


The Haunting (1963)

It may not pack the same punch nowadays, as many films (e.g. The Conjuring) have imitated what it does, but it scared the bejeezus out of me when I saw it on television at a tender age, largely because of the way it conveys the mysterious happenings in Hill House via sound. Ever since Val Lewton’s Cat People in 1943 makers of horror films have exploited the capacity of sound to cultivate thrills and shocks, and The Haunting’s director Robert Wise drew on his experience working with the Lewton unit in the 1940s to deliver sounds that insinuate a creeping sense of unease.
Dr Frank Krutnik, Reader in Film Studies

The Babadook (2014)

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook, like any good horror film, is brilliant at defamiliarising the familiar and subverting expectations. The director manages to create a view of domestic life that is extremely disturbing even after the film has ended. The menacing atmosphere, the disorienting and suspenseful narrative structure, as well as the clever usage of generic motifs leave the viewer at the mercy of the eponymous monster. An intensely poignant exploration of mourning and motherhood, this perfectly paced film was a truly spine-chilling viewing experience for me. It is an excellent choice for Halloween night, but only for those who feel brave enough!
Dr Despoina Mantziari, Teaching Fellow in Film Studies


Prevenge (2016)

One of the most striking horror films I've seen lately was Prevenge. Directed and written by, and starring Alice Lowe, who was eight months pregnant during production, Prevenge portrays Ruth, who believes that her unborn child is telling her to avenge the death of her recently-deceased partner by means of a murderous rampage. The question, then, is whether Ruth is harbouring an evil foetus, as seen most famously in Rosemary’s Baby (Polanksi, 1968), or if Ruth herself is simply murderous. Successfully blending comedic moments with the frequently gory murders, Lowe’s film is a dept at conveying the prosaic horrors of pregnancy, namely isolation, and perceived loss of identity, without succumbing to the tendency that deems the pregnant body abject or terrifying in itself.
Dr Frances Smith, Lecturer in Film Studies

Carrie (1976)

My vote must go to Brian De Palma’s Grand Guignol horror: Carrie. The film is filled with many of De Palma’s characteristic cinematic pastiches (Psycho, Deliverance and even Douglas Sirk’s melodramas all get a nod) but the real pleasures of the movie are the two chilling performances from Sissie Spacek as Carrie and Piper Laurie as her religious-fanatic, lunatic mother. My favourite element is the recurring motif of Saint Sebastian – the  iconoclastic saint who, like Carrie itself, mocks religious ecstasy with an ironic wink. A sequel, Carrie 2: The Rage, was made in 1999; there was also a rather pointless remake in 2013 and Broadway even attempted Carrie: The Musical in the mid 1980s – one of the biggest musical flops of all time. However, the original Carrie remains a cult classic. While it is most famous because of its spectacle of abject, monstrous femininity is truly terrifying, Carrie has also been subject to queer appropriation. Many gay spectators have found considerable empathetic appeal in the character of the bullied Carrie which have resonated with painful memories of being ostracised because of being gay.
Dr Niall Richardson, Senior Lecturer in Media and Film and convenor of Gender and Media MA


And if you need any more ideas for some Halloween viewing, check out our Film Studies students’ top Halloween picks:

  • Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
  • Young Frankenstein (Mel Brooks, 1974)
  • The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)
  • Under the Shadow (Babak Anvari, 2016)
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)
  • Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
  • Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
  • Society (Brian Yuzna, 1989)
  • Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977).

Carve your pumpkin

When you've watched your scary film, why not do a spooktacular job of carving your own pumpkin. Here's how we did ours:

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By: Amie Morrell
Last updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2018