With Halloween on the horizon, here are some great films to help you share your love of horror with those who may not share your fondness of the macabre.
With horror movies are peaking at the box office and Halloween decorations beginning to festoon people’s yards, those non-horror fans in your life may be naturally more susceptible this Fall to the suggestion of sitting down to watch a horror film. But beware, you need to choose a film that they will find palatable enough so they won’t denounce the genre entirely. So, don’t hit them up with Cannibal Holocaust or Eli Roth’s Hostel right off the bat; Instead, ease them in, like dipping a toe in the pool first before you dive.
When compiling a list of approachable films, it’s vital to take some things into consideration.
Don’t Gorge on Gore.
It’s important to pick a film where gore is not the main feature of the film, but rather where the gore is “tastefully” sprinkled here and there as an element of the plot, but not as a central device.
Take Care to Make Them Care.
While creature features are certainly in play, make sure to pick a film with characters who are well-developed and believable, as opposed to ones who are simple fodder for said creature. If the non-horror fan can identify with and care about the characters, then he/she can be more invested in the film instead of simply dreading the grisly exploits of the creature.
Keep It Real.
Realism can be a draw for a non-horror fan as well. Sometimes the supernatural can be a real turnoff for people who are very logical, so ghosts, zombies and monsters just don’t cut it and will have the logician rolling his/her eyes at the prospect. One thing that can scare just about anybody is a movie that presents a scenario that can very well occur in real life. The appeal about such movies is the fact that sometimes the most frightening monsters are, in fact, people.
Feed the Fame Monster.
Renowned actors and directors, especially those not usually associated with the horror genre, can also be a draw for the non-horror fan. It can be a real comfort to see familiar names and faces in places you might not expect. Just think how many people were willing to go see Darren Aronofsky’s mother! simply because Jennifer Lawrence was starring in it.
Make ‘Em Die Laughing.
Humor is a great element that can get a non-horror fan on board. It’s a great tension-reliever and will serve as a salve for the dread that builds up in between scares. You can show them a straight-up horror-comedy such as Shaun of the Dead, which has as much gore as it does gags, or go a bit more nuanced with a more traditional horror film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
TOP FIVE HORROR FILMS FOR NON-HORROR FANS
The following is a list of horror films (in no particular order) you can show the non-horror fans in your life to get them into the Halloween spirit.
1. The Visit (2015)
This low-budget “found-footage” thriller directed by M. Night Shyamalan presents a situation that is plausible in the sense that the elderly can be an enigma to the young, and sometimes they can even be a bit frightening! There are some knockout performances in this film, especially from Deanna Dunagan who portrays Nana and Peter McRobbie who portrays Pop Pop.
The movie plays upon feelings of nostalgia for the viewer, making one reminisce upon good times had with grandparents. It also shows how the indignities of aging can be a window into the reality of our mortal existence for a child. There are very tender moments in this film, and the characters are believable and sympathetic. Also, this movie is rated PG-13, so that alone may quell some fears prior to viewing.
No M. Night Shyamalan movie would be complete without a “twist”, and he does not disappoint with this film; That alone can keep the non-horror fan planted in their seat in anticipation of the turn.
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
I would preface the viewing of this film by telling the non-horror fan that this was directed by John Landis, whose other features include Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Spies Like Us. Such preemptive information may instantly fill the non-horror fan with relief to have a director with such a renowned background in comedy. This film delivers a plethora of laughs, often times in conjunction with gore. The interactions between the protagonist David and his living-dead friend Jack are both horrifying and hilarious.
I would dare say that the non-horror fan will also find themselves strangely fascinated by the excellent practical effects provided by Oscar-winning special-effects wizard Rick Baker. The transformation scene alone is a marvel to behold and the viewer can totally feel David’s pain as he morphs from man to wolf. And to top things off, the soundtrack of this film serves as a unifying element, as all of the songs deal with the moon or wolves.
This film is well-written, amusing, yet frightening — but above all, entertaining.
3. Snowpiercer (2013)
This sci-fi/horror feature directed by the innovative Korean director Joon-Ho Bong, director of films such as the 2006 creature-feature The Host and Netflix’s 2017 satirical sci-fi film Okja, is a disturbing and thought-provoking film set entirely on a train. This is a dystopian film set in a snowy land after some kind of apocalypse. Humanity’s only hope for survival is this ever-running train that keeps its passengers safe from the dangers of the barren world. The train is divided by social class, with the poorest inhabitants sequestered in the rear and those in the higher social strata in the front.
The talented and versatile actress Tilda Swinton gives a stunning performance as the tyrannical Minister Mason, the second in command to the mysterious engineer driving the train. Chris Evans, of Captain America fame, leads his oppressed group of lower-class passengers car by car up the train in an attempt to confront the engineer. This film maintains a constant tension, which is heightened by the apprehension that is created by the uncertainty of not knowing what dangers and discoveries await the rebels in each new car.
This is a grimy and violent film that effectively melds the sci-fi and horror genres to create a thrilling two hour ride for all viewers.
4. Get Out (2017)
This film was a pleasant and unexpected surprise for the horror world, as comedian Jordan Peele released this beautifully-crafted psychological thriller at what seemed like just the right time and place. In a year when issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion buzz about in the news cycle like a riled up nest of angry bees, Get Out helps the audience take a closer look at the notion of “the other” — who belongs, and in what capacity and setting? In this country we are indoctrinated in the ideals of e pluribus unum (out of many, one) and how we are a “melting pot”, but sometimes this stew is a roiling cauldron of competing interests and views.
The viewer travels along with Chris, portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya and his girlfriend Rose, portrayed by Allison Williams, as they travel to Rose’s parents’ house in a Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? scenario; and just like in that 1967 classic, Chris, who is African American, struggles with the perception that Rose’s parents, who are white, will have of him and his relationship with their daughter. Her parents go out of their way to show how “woke” they are, but things start getting strange and increasingly sinister when a number of their white friends show up for a dinner party.
This film tackles issues of racism in a genre that usually does not deal with such socially-weighty issues, which makes this an intriguing and thought-provoking watch that many a non-horror fan will be receptive to.
5. Jennifer’s Body (2009)
I avoided this film until last year when I listened to a positive analysis of it from a feminist’s viewpoint. I had originally given into the cliched behavior of judging a film by its cover, and upon seeing a scantily-dressed Megan Fox on the cover I rolled my eyes and passed this film off as some teenage drivel. Boy, was I wrong. Jennifer’s Body was directed by Karyn Kusama, director of the 2015 thriller The Invitation and written by Diablo Cody, known for the 2007 comedy Juno. Once I finally sat down to view this film I was reminded of a 1980’s John Hughes teen comedy, only with gore and satanic possession adding to the plot.
Megan Fox portrays the eponymous Jennifer, who becomes possessed by a demon after an unfortunate incident with evil-doing rockers. Fox gives a convincing performance as a girl who derives her self-worth primarily from her looks and her ability to use them to manipulate men. Her friend Needy, portrayed by Amanda Seyfried, is true to her namesake in terms of her relationship with the socially-superior Jennifer, but she comes into her own as a twisted version of the horror movie final girl.
Jennifer’s Body is a self-aware, coming-of-age teenage horror comedy that will leave non-horror fans and horror fans alike smiling.
MORE GREAT PICKS
Here’s a few more recommendations, condensed for the sake of brevity:
- The Babadook (2014)- This supernatural Australian film deals with mother-son relationships and how grief can derail even the strongest bonds. The film is high on creepiness, but low on body count, so a non-horror fan can concentrate on peeking in between their fingers instead of reaching for the barf bag.
- The Host (2006)- This Korean film directed by Joon-Ho Bong portrays what lengths a family will go to in order to support one another in a time of adversity. Also, there is a voracious giant amphibious monster that puts the Park family in the position of peril that helps them demonstrate their love for one another.
- The Voices (2014)- This horror-comedy concerns itself with a disturbed and socially-awkward man portrayed by Ryan Reynolds who hears voices — namely those of his pet dog and cat — who encourage his character to carry out some dastardly deeds. This film also stars the effervescent Gemma Arterton and charmingly goofy Anna Kendrick. With lots of humor, blood, decapitation and conversations with the dead, Voices will have you hearing laughter—hopefully coming from you and not your pets.
- Green Room (2015)- This Jeremy Saulnier thrill-fest will have you on the edge of your seat as a bunch of punk rockers battle neo-Nazis in a fight for survival. Legendary British actor Patrick Stewart gives a chilling performance as the neo-Nazi leader and his presence alone may give the non-horror fan an incentive to see this film.
- Drag Me To Hell (2009)- If you have any Spiderman fans in your household, then director Sam Raimi’s name may hold some sway, as he directed the three Spiderman movies in the 2000s. With his quirky camera tricks, his penchant for campy humor, and his love of horror, the non-horror fan will find themselves laughing and cringing at all the right moments!
- Silence of the Lambs (1991)- As the only horror film to win the Best Picture Oscar, this film is stuffed with Oscar-worthy cred, from its director, Jonathan Demme, to its two stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, this film should be a must-watch for any movie fan.
- Misery (1990)- It seems like only a matter of time before every Stephen King novel is adapted to the silver screen, but Misery really captured the spirit of the novel, and with the direction of Rob Reiner, a sympathetic performance by James Caan, and an Oscar-winning performance by Kathy Bates, the non-horror fan will not be feeling miserable for having watched this gem.
I’m all for spreading the love for the horror genre. And, who knows, if you play your cards right by choosing an appropriate starter film, you may just create a lifelong horror fan!