Horror season is here, and you may have read all about why we like to be scared in our recent press release with psychology Tutor Dr Jonny Dudley. So now you know why you enjoy a good scare, here are our top recommendations for horrific horror, gothic ghouls and ghastly goings on.
By Cara Fielder. Published 30 October 2023.
Midsommar (Channel 4 online)
If you haven’t watched Midsommar, you’ll probably still recognise it thanks to the incredible Florence Pugh memes that came from her performance.
Florence’s character, Dani, joins her boyfriend and some of his friends on a trip to rural Sweden to visit a fabled midsummer festival. What starts as an idyllic location to escape from the pressures of modern life turns into something far more sinister.
Midsommar is packed full of foreshadowing and easter eggs that are easy to miss. If you enjoy the movie, it’s well worth tumbling down a Google rabbit hole of everything you might have missed. It’s hard to say any more without giving away spoilers but this is one vacation you will not want to be copying.
Us (rent or buy on Amazon Prime or YouTube)
As a huge fan of the writer and director Jordan Peele, it’s been hard not to simply list all of his work. I’ve chosen to highlight Us as I think it’s one of his movies that didn’t quite get the attention it deserved (but please also watch Get Out, Candyman and Nope too).
Us follows the Wilson family as they go on a sunny beach vacation. Things take an ugly turn when strangers lurking outside break into their holiday home. Their situation goes from bad to worse when they discover that the people terrorising them are unhinged doppelgangers of themselves.
The music adds a whole extra level to this movie, so turn the lights off, pull the curtains and listen to this one loudly for full creeps.
The Wailing (Amazon Prime)
The Wailing is a 2016 Korean film set in a small rural village where a strange hysteria leads the inhabitants to carry out violent crimes.
If the comedic aspect of the main policeman character puts you off a bit, please stick with it as the film becomes bleaker and bleaker. It soon mixes folklore, disease and tradition to create a truly disturbing movie.
Nightcrawler doesn’t involve ghosts or serial killers, but if psychological horror is up your street, this is for you.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a young man down on his luck who steals to make ends meet. One day he witnesses a car crash and is fascinated as a news team pulls up, films the accident and sells the footage on to the local news. Inspired, he buys a video camera and gets to work. Soon he’s top of the game, chasing ambulances and providing news-breaking coverage. However, ethics go out of the window with his drive to be the best. Before long he becomes involved in the scenes he’s meant to be recording.
Midnight Mass (Netflix)
The opening episode of Midnight Mass is packed full of every traditional creepy scene setting trope you can think of; an isolated island, a storm on the horizon, newcomers who don’t fit in and a deeply religious community. There’s plenty you might have seen here before, but when tens of cats turn up dead on the beach and a new priest comes to the island, this story takes an unexpected turn.
Lovecraft Country (Now TV)
For those who enjoy a mix of horror and fantasy, Lovecraft Country is a series you don’t want to miss.
Set in the 1950s, Lovecraft Country follows a young Black man, Atticus, as he travels across America to find his missing father. Along with his uncle George and friend Letitia, he outruns Jim Crow monsters in a sundown town, just to be faced with a more literal type of monster.
This series is packed with great performances, unexpected twists and is also a feast for the eyes.
The Last of Us (Now TV)
If you haven’t watched The Last of Us yet, where have you been? Pedro Pascal is waiting for you. And if that’s not enough encouragement, this computer game-inspired TV series racked up an incredible 24 Emmy nominations.
The world has been stricken down with a fungal infection that turns people into part zombie, part plant-like creatures. Once bitten, everyone turns. However, when Joel is put in charge of transporting the 14-year-old Ellie across the country, he learns she holds the key to a possible cure.
Warning; get your tissues out for episode three (featuring Nick Offerman from Parks and Rec) because this stand-alone episode will devastate you.
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
If you’re a BookTocker, you’ll probably be well aware of this book. Tender is the Flesh is a horrific tale set in the near future where livestock is infected with a disease that makes them inedible. To keep up with demand, a new ‘special’ meat is created. Humans, known as ‘heads’ are specifically bred as food.
The lead protagonist, Marcos, works in an abattoir, I think it’s self-explanatory how that leads to a horrific story. However, while the cannibalistic storyline makes for obvious grim reading, it’s the way that Agustina Bazterrica constructs a world so devoid of humanity that keeps you reading.
Tender is the Flesh is not for the faint-hearted but makes for an incredible read.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Any true crime aficionados will know that the Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, was arrested in 2018. The 74-year-old was sentenced to 11 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
What many people don’t know is how influential journalist Michelle McNamara’s investigative work was in the case. After years of research into what were thought to be different serial killers across the USA, she connected cases and coined the term Golden State Killer. Her obsessive yet compassionate work shone a light on unsolved cases and paved the path to DeAngelo’s capture.
Sadly, Michelle passed away before the Golden State Killer was caught and has not seen the success of her book and subsequent spin-off TV series. Adding to her incredible work, the afterword from her husband, comedian Patton Oswald, gives a tender insight into the woman behind the words.
The Troop by Nick Cutter
Set on a remote island, The Troop follows Scoutmaster Tim and his scout troop of five teenage boys on a hiking trip. During their first night on the island, Tim spots a small boat heading straight for them. Shocked, he watches as a skeletal man drags himself from the boat, onto dry land and begins to eat handfuls of dirt, plants and anything he can get his hands on.
Thinking he’s sick, Tim helps the stranger to his cabin and vows to stay awake to keep an eye on him. But where did this stranger come from, and can he be trusted?
The Troop is a masterclass on constructing a tense atmosphere and makes for a brilliantly unsettling read.
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