Ten horror films to watch during coronavirus self-quarantine

Clinton Bigelow, ChicagoPride.com
April 6, 2020

We're all stuck at home, so now is a good opportunity to take a cinematic break while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the month of April - to keep us from complete boredom - GoPride.com photographer Clinton Bigelow will be compiling "Top Tens" of films in different categories. Each list is rated purely on personal opinion. Without spoilers for films you may not have seen, Clinton will be making a short case for each film on his list. 

Image: Dakota Johnson in 'Suspiria' - via Amazon Studios

About Clinton Bigelow: Filmmaker and photographer Clinton Bigelow has been freelancing for several years in film, television and theatre. He has been living in Chicago for five years and is truly in love with the city. You may recognize his photography on GoPride.com from Chicago Pride Fest, Market Days and Pride in the Park. 

We're all stuck at home, so now is a good opportunity to take a cinematic break while social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the month of April - to keep us from complete boredom - GoPride.com photographer Clinton Bigelow will be compiling "Top Tens" of films in different categories. Each list is rated purely on personal opinion. Without spoilers for films you may not have seen, Clinton will be making a short case for each film on his list. 

Image: Dakota Johnson in 'Suspiria' - via Amazon Studios

About Clinton Bigelow: Filmmaker and photographer Clinton Bigelow has been freelancing for several years in film, television and theatre. He has been living in Chicago for five years and is truly in love with the city. You may recognize his photography on GoPride.com from Chicago Pride Fest, Market Days and Pride in the Park. 

10

Director - Tim Burton
Starring - Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci

Ichabod Crane is sent to Sleepy Hollow to investigate the decapitations of three people, with the culprit being the legendary apparition, The Headless Horseman.

Not one of Burton's well-known films, however, possibly one of the best examples of his craft. Burton's dark and quirky style is at his best for the particular story he is telling. When one hears of the tale of Sleepy Hollow, one might think back to the hokey stories of year's past or perhaps the Disney film 'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.' What Burton pushes forward with his adaptation is the true darkness and classic murder-mystery of the original tale. With the distinct art-style of Burton, dark atmosphere, Depp's nerdy Ichabod, and large amounts of gore, you are sure to have a fun time with this film.

9

Director - Wes Craven
Starring - Heather Langenkamp, Robert Englund

A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather Langenkamp play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?

Not the film you immediately think of when you hear "Freddy Krueger," however this film is by far my personal favorite of the franchise. Followed by the original classic and 'Part Two: Freddy's Revenge,' 'New Nightmare' takes the franchise back to being the tension-building and serious horror themes of its origins. Krueger is remade into the scary, evil figure he was meant to be, not the slap-tick comedy villain of the sequels. This was the film in which director Craven wished to introduce the world into mainstream meta-horror that was made infamous by Craven's follow-up two years later with 'Scream.' If you're a fan of the 'Scream' franchise, then you will love this unique take on a classic franchise from its original creator. It's also fun to see the 'real-life' actors, directors, and producers play themselves on the big-screen.

8

Director - Wes Craven
Starring - Neve Campbell, David Arquette

A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.

The second Craven film on this list, and also the second murder-mystery listed as well, the most infamous entry of the sub-genre of meta-horror. Both a self-aware horror film in the way the story is told and a commentary on whether or not the old wive's tale of "films cause violence." Craven cleverly calls out horror tropes of the past while at the same time smartly using them to the film's advantage. The use of sprinkled comedy throughout keeps smartly uses your own comfortability while watching the film to keep you at unease while trying to solve the mystery at hand.

7

Director - David Slade
Starring - Josh Hartnett, Melissa George

After an Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for a month, it is attacked by a bloodthirsty gang of vampires.

Beautifully shot and beautifully rendered, this adaptation of the unique graphic novel of the same name is one hell of a ride. It's also nice to see stories of an animalistic take on the ideas of the vampire as a creature, rather than the romance tropes that has plagued the genre. The pumping soundtrack throughout keeps your heart going as you watch these animals play with their food while ripping them apart as well.

6

Director - Ridley Scott
Starring - Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore

Living in exile, Dr. Hannibal Lector tries to reconnect with now disgraced FBI Agent Clarice Starling, and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim.

This horror film is sure to delight thespians. Though, regrettably, Jodie Foster declined to reprise her role, recasted with Julianne Moore, that does not take away from this great entry into the Hannibal franchise. 'Silence of the Lamps,' as some may argue against, was not a film centered around the character of Hannibal Lector. This sequel surrounds Hopkins and his depth into the character of Dr. Lector. Almost aristocratic and thespian in tone, this film perfectly blends dark horror with classical arts much to my delight. My personal highlight of the Hannibal franchise as a whole.

5

Director - James Wan
Starring - Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.

James Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannel smartly re-invigorate the sub-genre of paranormal horror too much success with both 'Insidious' and 'The Conjuring.' Spawning an entire horror universe of its own, no one expected this film to become so big. Fun and clever scares, partnered with the acting of Farmiga, Wilson, and Lili Taylor, makes this film a well-crafted piece of horror cinema. The slow-burn builds to the film's scares are wonderful to watch with your scaredy-cat friends. To director Wan and the producers' delight, though they shot the film to be PG-13, the MPAA decided to give it an R rating based on the scares alone.

4

Director - Francis Ford Coppola
Starring - Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder

The Centuries-old vampire Count Dracula comes to England to seduce his barrister Jonathan Harker's fiancée Mina Murray and inflict havoc in the foreign land.

Closely beating out director Werner Herzog's 'Nosferatu the Vampire' (1979) as my favorite vampire film. 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' is arguably the closest adaptation to Stoker's original novel. Theatre lovers look no further, this horror film is truly a delight for you. Beautifully filmed with an equally beautiful soundtrack, this film is like watching a classical theatre production on the big screen. A true highlight of this film is the use of original special effect techniques used in the film era of the 1890's to 1930's to envelope you into the actual time period of the story. The second film on this list starring both Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman, they would both eat up the energy of a full stage production and truly suck in their audience.

3

Director - Luca Guadagnino
Starring - Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton

A darkness swirls at the center of a world-renowned dance company, one that will engulf the artistic director, an ambitious young dancer, and a grieving psychotherapist. Some will succumb to the nightmare. Others will finally wake up.

Horror-buffs may attack me for this one, but I believe Guadagnino's remake is far superior to Dario Argento's original 1977 classic. Swinton's swallowing presence and Johnson's innocence suck the viewer into this film's descent into darkness and madness. Another mystery-centered story on this list, will trap you and pull you into its distinct visuals and harrowing performances from the cast and director's view. Dance theatre fans will be right at home here with the characters and piece's on display here. Swinton also plays three separate characters throughout the film, so listen closely and keep your eyes trained and you can find her in each of those characters.

 

2

Director - Ridley Scott
Starring - Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skeritt

After a space merchant vessel receives an unknown transmission as a distress call, one of the crew is attacked by a mysterious life form and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Pitched by director Ridley Scott to the studio executives as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in space," he certainly turned some heads in curiosity that quickly took film history by storm of its infamy. Also the second Scott film on this list. 'Alien' rocked the horror and science fiction world by storm in blending the two genres together into one of the first five blockbuster films in history. The character of the alien species is well-known today, but in 1979 the world was shaken to its core. Director Scott is a mastermind of tension and scares in his most famous film aside from 'Blade Runner.' Also truly introducing the world to the power behind actress Sigourney Weaver and further pushing the female-hero archetype of horror into the mainstream.

1

Even with these two films being vastly different from one-another, I truly cannot decide between these two for my top spot.

Midsommar (2019)

Director - Ari Aster
Starring - Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor

A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled Midsommar festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.

Director Ari Aster's follow-up to his breakout hit 'Hereditary,' 'Midsommar' envelopes you into true horror. Pugh's acting alone is enough to immerse you into her true terror and mourning. The opening eight minutes of this film has to be alone the best filmmaking I have ever witnessed, completely immersive and truly haunting. Having taken place in far-north Sweden in the summer, the film's almost never-ending daylight gives the viewer a false sense of hope as horror has been more accustomed to darkness shrouding scares and terror. This film will trap you in its spell-binding visuals and acting.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Director - Tobe Hopper
Starring - Marilyn Burns, Paul A Partain

Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather's grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths and must survive the terrors of Leatherface and his family.

Breakout independent film, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,' transformed the horror world as we know it and combined slasher with gore. Along with 'The Exorcist' and 'Alien' after it, this film changed horror history forever and we still feel its effect today. The close-quarters filmmaking and performances from the cast transform the environment around the viewer into this world of despair and pain. The heart-pounding sound of a chainsaw just behind your head partnered with Burn's haunting screams will never leave your psyche.

 

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