If you’re feeling more inclined to stay in for a sinister movie night than to dress up for a costume party this Halloween, there’s plenty of cinematic options to choose from. Over the past few years, directors have pulled out all the stops with their terrifying creations, imagining increasingly disturbing new stories that will haunt you days after the finals credits have rolled. From the jaw-dropping folk horror Midsommar to the little-too-close-to-home drama Get Out, these are some of the best modern horror films to watch this All Hallow’s Eve.
Modern Horror Movies to Watch for Halloween
The setting may be the resort of Scarborough, with its sandy beach and donkey rides, but the seaside fun ends there. This psychological melodrama – from first-time feature director Rose Glass – is a tale of “faith, madness and salvation in a fallen world”. Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) is a headstrong former dancer and choreographer who is dying from cancer. Along comes Maud (played by Morfydd Clark), a newly devout hospice nurse, who – haunted by her own sinful past – becomes obsessed with saving her patient’s soul. As Maud’s journey into darkness unravels and we witness her disturbing breakdown, be prepared to be chilled to the bone.
A truly eerie folk horror from acclaimed Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska, which tells the story of an all-female religious cult that lives in a forest cut off from the world, led by a man who calls himself Shepherd (Game of Thrones’ Michiel Huisman). Here, the women are divided into ‘wives’ and ‘sisters’ , all of them sexual servants of the Shepherd. As Selah (Raffey Cassidy) – who was born into the secretive cult – reaches adolescence, she begins to rebel and starts questioning the Shepherd’s authority… with blood curdling results. The film, shot entirely in Wicklow, is visually stunning, but even the dreamy landscapes won’t distract you from the misogynistic toxicity and simmering suspense.
Swedish midsummer is traditionally a time of flowers in your hair, dancing around a pole, singing songs and drinking schnapps. Not so in Ari Aster’s folk horror flick. Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor play Dani and Christian, a young couple who, in a bid to repair their deteriorating relationship, head to a Harga village in Halsingland to observe the fabled festival in an ancestral commune. Unfortunately for them, the commune turns out to be a sinister pagan cult, and their carefree summer holiday becomes a nightmare of hallucinogenic drugs, mutilation, murder and more. If you’re after a fairytale ending, this isn’t for you.
Jordan Peele rewrote the idea of horror films with this multiple award-winning creation that fuses together classic horror with searing social satire. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young, Black American, is invited by his white middle-class girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to come home with her to meet her parents. What ensues is a mind-bending, terrifying nightmare that sees Peele stretch — a little — the very real Black experience in America to new horrors as Chris uncovers the family’s secret. If you haven’t watched this cinematic juggernaut yet, now is definitely the time.
As if a pandemic wasn’t horror enough, The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan spent three months last year in the Dominican Republic filming this tense drama. Based on the French-language Swiss graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, Old sees a family’s holiday in a tropical paradise turn into an unbelievable nightmare when they stumble upon a secluded beach that causes them to age at lightning speed, reducing their lives to a single day. And, to make matters worse, no one can seem to escape. A deeply disturbing concept that plays out in nail-biting fashion, it may have you questioning that dream winter sun vacation after all.
The second installment of John Krasinski’s powerful horror was released this year to great acclaim, but the original has an unrivalled impact. The actor’s directorial debut sees him join fellow actor and wife Emily Blunt as parents facing an unimaginable feat — trying to keep their children alive in a world that has become overrun by terrifying monsters that have killed almost all humankind. The blind creatures are noise-sensitive, meaning the family — which includes deaf daughter Regan — must fight for survival without making a single sound. To make matters even more complicated, Blunt’s character is pregnant, meaning she will inevitably have to find a way to go through childbirth in silence. Extraordinarily tense, this critically praised film is surprisingly emotional, so make sure you have tissues at the ready.
The ecological horror from Jaco Bouwer boasts incredible visuals in addition to its spine-chilling plot. When Gabi (Monique Rockman), a South African forestry ranger gets injured during a routine mission, she’s relieved to be saved by two off-the-grid survivalists. Her joy, as you can predict, is short-lived, as the father and son duo begin to reveal a disturbing, cultish devotion to the forest. That’s only the beginning as, following an attack on their cabin from some strange, unearthly being, Gabi realises there are threats in this wilderness beyond her wildest imaginings.
A hospital, an orphanage, a nurse haunted by nightmares of her past — British horror flick The Power has pretty much everything you could want from a Halloween film. The story follows Val (Rose Williams), a nurse still in training in early 1970s London. We join her on her first night at the East London Royal Infirmary and, just her luck, her first night happens to be during power outages caused by a miners’ strike. As she makes her way through the halls and rooms of a hospital left in near-total darkness, she finds that she is being followed by a supernatural presence, who is determined to remind Val of her troubled past growing up in an orphanage.
For those craving a good ol’ fashioned slasher, director Nia DaCosta and writer Jordan Peele have you covered. A direct sequel to the 1992 film of the same name and the fourth film in the Candyman series, this latest release is based on the short story The Forbidden by Clive Barker. We return to Chicago’s Cabrini-Green neighbourhood, where residents of the housing project have long been terrorized by the tale of a supernatural killer with a hook for a hand who appears whenever someone dares to repeat his name five times into a mirror.
Now, visual artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner, gallery director Brianna Cartwright (Teyonah Parris), have moved into a luxury loft condo in the same spot where the project once stood. As McCoy struggles to try and make his mark in the art world, he stumbles across the terrifying true story behind Candyman and becomes obsessed with exploring these macabre details in his studio, unwittingly opening the door to an unimaginable wave of violence in the process.
A psychological thriller with a Hitchcockian mood, David Bruckner’s film is not one to watch alone. After suddenly losing her husband, the widowed Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left to try and put her life back together in the lakeside home he built for her. Desperately trying to stay strong, Beth begins to struggle with deeply disturbing nightmares that grow into terrifyingly real visions. As the house begins to come to life with ghostly voices, Beth ignores the advice of her friends and starts to frantically search through her husband’s belongings to try and get answers to her nightmares. But as she uncovers more and more secrets, she risks unleashing a nightmare more terrifying than the ones she sees in her sleep.
David Charbonier and Justin Powell supernatural horror will quickly destroy any Aladdin-influenced ideas of genies. As soon as mute and asthmatic young boy Dylan (Ezra Dewey) discovers a dusty mirror and an old book containing instructions for summoning a djinn and having it grant the summoner’s wish, it’s clear that you’re in for an unsettling ride. Dreams of having his wishes fulfilled are quickly upturned, as a terrifying creature appears and begins a chase for Dylan throughout the house. It’s sure to have you jumping out of your skin multiple times.
Stalking is taken to terrifying new extremes in this slasher horror from Natasha Kermani. Self-help author May Ryer (Brea Grant) is living the suburban dream, until one night when she spots a man outside the house she shares with her husband. Perhaps more disturbing than the strange man’s attempt to break into the house is the apparent ambivalence of her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh). Even as the man continues to try and break into their house and kill them each night, Ted is dismissive, telling her simply, “This is just how things are.” Ted says. Eventually, May must take things into her own hands — with bloody consequences.