Everyone loves a good scare… don’t they? Well like it or lump it, the horror genre is alive and kicking (like many on the list below) as it continues to be one of the most thriving and most profitable genres in Hollywood. There are many ways that a good horror film can get under your skin; from psychological chills through narrative like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, to the outright weird and creepy like The Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre; and of course, using suspense and surprise to make audiences jump out of their seats in shock; like The Blair Witch Project.
To celebrate the release of this highly anticipated sequel – Blair Witch – on DVD & Blu-ray January 23rd, we take a look at some of the greatest scares to ever make it onto the big screen.
The Blair Witch Project / Blair Witch (1999 / 2016)
The Blair Witch Project is a film that was truly groundbreaking when it first arrived in cinemas, and gave new outlook the genre. Three college students decide to investigate a local rumour of woods in Maryland being haunted by the unforgiving Blair Witch for a class project, armed with nothing but their video cams. As they progress further into the woods they begin to realise that their school exercise is becoming a nightmare when they get lost and discover strange artefacts from (what can only be) the Blair Witch, still living in the woods. The true horror of this film lies in its presentation with handheld, home-video quality footage, and for a long time fans suspected the film to be a real-life video documentary about kids that had disappeared and never found again. Blair Witch picks up where the original left off, with the younger brother of one of the victims venturing out into the woods to try and find her, with the help of some caring friends of course. Although this is a sequel, the film does try to build up the original’s story, with the trees and atmosphere of the forest playing a much bigger role and playing on its supernatural elements. Hopefully, after this one, people will stop going into those woods!
The Shining (1980)
HERE’S JOHNNY! This masterpiece of horror comes from one of Hollywood’s ultimate visionaries, Stanley Kubrick, who took a shot at adapting Stephen King’s terrifying novel of the same name. Jack (Jack Nicholson) takes a job as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the mountains whilst it’s closed during the winter. He moves in with his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his young boy Danny (Danny Lloyd), and sets about trying to write a novel during the solace of the hotel. But as he soon discovers, he isn’t alone in the Overlook Hotel, and the ghosts of the past manipulate Jack into craving the murder of his family. As they say; “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, and with this in mind Jack plays particularly rough, trying to break down a door with an axe just to get near his family, in one of cinemas most iconic scenes.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
In Roman Polanski’s first American film, adapted from Ira Levin’s horror bestseller, a young wife comes to believe that her offspring is not of this world. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) has just moved into their new apartment in the city with her husband (John Cassavetes) when she finds out the joyous news that she’s to be a mother. However that joy soon turns sour, as she starts feeling a lot of pain with her pregnancy, and receives help and medicine from her rather creepy neighbours. Needless to say after Rosemary eventually gives birth, she feels somewhat detached from her child, as it’s revealed that her neighbours were Satanists all along, willing the arrival of their master in their own world. If anything this film gives a very good argument for not trusting your neighbours… especially when with child!
The Evil Dead (1981)
This auspicious feature debut from Sam Raimi — shot on 16mm in the woods of Tennessee for around $350,000 — secured the young director’s cult status as a creative force to be reckoned with. The film follows a now classic Hollywood narrative of a group of teenagers making their way into the spooky woods for a cabin holiday, but end up being picked off one by one by merciless demons of all shapes and sizes. Luckily one of the teens finds a particularly nasty chainsaw, and uses it to blitz his way out of the woods to safety. The film manages to pull of a miraculous thing; making audiences question whether they should be laughing or screaming at what they bear witness to, as skeletons dance with their skulls in the moonlight.
The Exorcist (1973)
Another renowned director for the 70’s that mastered the horror genre was William Friedkin, who adapted William Peter Blatty’s novel into a film that left its mark on audiences around the world. The story was based upon the last exorcism sanctioned by the Catholic Church in 1949, making the true-life element of the film create even more tension for those who watch it. The mother (Ellen Burstyn) of the young possessed girl recruits a priest who bravely steps in to try and save the girl’s soul, but faces a power more terrifying than he could have ever imagined. The physical transformation of the young girl (Linda Blair) into the devil incarnate is still shocking to this day, and is easy to see why it had such a lasting effect on audiences when it was first released.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
“One, Two, Freddy’s gonna get you” – Introducing one of horror’s most iconic villains to the list, Freddy Krueger, an evil being from another world who gets to his victims by entering their dreams and slicing them open with his iconic knife blades attached to each finger. The film was directed by the genre’s master, Wes Craven, and follows a group of teenagers who have the displeasure of meeting Freddy in their dreams, and have to find a way of defeating him whilst not desperately trying to stay awake. A young, clean shaven Johnny Depp starred as one of the terrified teenagers, and let us tell you, it really doesn’t end well for him in this one!
SAW came as a breath of fresh air to the genre, as it took a step away from some of horror’s clichés such as teenagers, ghouls and jump-scares, and used an incredibly smart and detailed plot as its weapon of choice. The film immediately introduces us to two characters; Adam and Dr. Gordon, two men who wake up chained to the opposite side of a room with another dead man laying in the middle, and a hell of a lot of questions. As the two characters talk, they discover they have a little more in common than they first thought, and as a creepy clown giving out clues via a television set is introduced, they can either trace their steps to find a way out of the nightmare, or use turn to a rusty saw (get it?) they find amongst them. The plot of the film ended up twisting and turning its way through six different sequels (with another on the way), and ended up as one of the biggest film franchises of modern cinema.
Blair Witch is available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD now, alongside a box set with the original Blair Witch Project.