The "ber" months have rolled in, and for most Filipinos, this is an indication for the most popular holiday we celebrate - Christmas. The countdown begins mid-September, but we still have a few holidays before the yuletide. Beginning November, we observe All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, the latter having a tradition involving families and relatives visiting the cemeteries where their loved ones rest. But there is one more event before this: October 31st, otherwise known as Halloween.
Originally "All Hallows Eve," this non-holiday has a long history, with various origins such as the most known, Celtic harvest festivals; where it was believed that this night, the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. Soon, we are introduced to the modernized (mainly Western-influenced) activities: Trick or treating, costume parties, telling of scary stories, and my favorite - watching horror films.
Horror films aim to frighten, invoke feelings of fear through various ways often combining with other genres such as mystery or suspense, while still being entertaining. And so, a lot of horror films often present ghosts, the supernatural, making them merge well with Halloween.
There are thousands of scary movies out there, and a lot of "top lists" of them online as well. So if you've watched them all already, and are looking for more - here's a list of my personal favorite underrated horror films that are definitely worth your scary movie nights:
This Thai supernatural thriller follows Tun, a photographer, and his girlfriend, Jane. The story begins with them accidentally running over a woman, whom they leave on the road. Since then, they became haunted by her ghost, mainly her appearing in Tun's photos. But as more clues show up in the photos, it turns out that there is more to this spirit than just the initial accident.
While some of the classic and "expected" scenes are scattered in the movie, it doesn't take away from making the audience feel anxious. The acting is natural and not exaggerated. And let’s admit it, or at least I will, scary photos are always intriguing and give such goosebumps. Above all, the plot is the driving point. The twist at the end is memorable.
From the directors of Shutter comes another unforgettable Thai horror, Alone, which is about conjoined twins.
Pim and Ploy, for most part of their lives literally together, got along well, even vowing to never separate. But the two are different. From being a child, Ploy is shown to be easily jealous, as well as sickly, while Pim is patient and is always caring for her twin. As they grew up, they stayed in a hospital where they met a young man named Wee. Both girls show affection towards him, but he only reciprocates Pim’s, to Ploy’s dismay. As Wee recovers and wishes to see Pim for the last time, Ploy refuses to move, despite Pim's pleas. This causes the sisters to fight, Pim demanding to be separated from Ploy. Unfortunately, the surgery causes Ploy to die.
Later, we see Pim and Wee are married and living in Korea. However, the two return to Thailand after news of Pim's mother being sick. Upon their return, Pim is haunted by Ploy's ghost - causing Wee to set her up with a psychologist. However, soon Ploy haunts Wee as well.
This has a lot of the typical scary movie scenes, you know the ones where we expect the ghost to "suddenly" appear - bathtub, elevator, the bed, and dark corners. Some are excellent, and some may have fallen a bit on the cliche side. The story shifts between past and present quite smoothly, and everything leads flawlessly into a dramatic end twist. Overall, though the plot is simple, the film was executed properly. This easily became a favorite since I first watched it.
DEAD SILENCE (2007)
"Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children, only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream."
This creepy poem is from the 2007 American horror film, Dead Silence, and it plays a pretty useful role in it too. Jamie Ashen and his wife receive a ventriloquist doll from an anonymous person. On this same night, her wife is found dead, eyes and mouth open, her tongue missing. Believing her death is related to the doll, Jamie rummages through the doll's case where he sees an inscription "The Amazing Mary Shaw and Billy in Raven's Fair." He sets out to his hometown and searches for the truth about the doll.
I'm not sure if a ventriloquist's dummy really is creepy, or if this movie just made it that way, for me at least. There is a good amount of suspenseful scares, although the main character's behaviour is pretty much the usual cliche found in most horror movies. Still, I found this quite scary, biased as it seems. I find puppets creepy enough on their own, but combine that with clowns, well. If you're like me, you can't help but let out a few good screams while watching this. It's also the ending that made me enjoy this movie too. When I watched it for the first time, it really blew my mind.
THE BOY (2016)
Like I mentioned, puppets and dolls creep me out. Chucky from Child's Play was probably the first to scare me out of my wits as a child, and soon horror movies just continued to feature what should be harmless toys into nightmares.
The Boy is an American horror-mystery following Greta, who gets hired by an elderly couple - the Heelshires, as a nanny for an 8 year old boy named “Brahms.” Well, it isn't actually a boy, but a porcelain life-sized doll resembling one. It's revealed that 20 years ago, their actual son passed away and that to cope, they had treated the doll as human. Greta was given a specific list of rules and schedule with taking care of Brahms, while the Heelshires go on vacation. Left alone with the doll, Greta logically ignores the rules. With this, strange incidents start to happen - a child's cries are heard, phone calls get cut, objects get moved, all implied to have been actions by Brahms. Greta, scared and convinced that Brahm's spirit lives in the doll, immediately follows the rules - including reading stories in a loud, clear voice, playing music in a high volume, and even setting out meals for the doll. However, the strange events continue to occur as Greta goes on a date, and is hunted by her ex-boyfriend.
Unsettling and weird, this modern film did well to stay away from the jump-scares, with the direction being more suspenseful and chilling. The atmosphere is clear and clean, it doesn't rely on any dimness or lack of light to scare the audience which is refreshing for horror films. It's the actual storyline that's darker, sadder, and more disturbing than one might suspect.
A story about a financially-struggling mother doing her best to support an ill daughter is a simple enough plot, but 2019 Filipino horror movie, Sunod, has something more unsettling with its plot. Olivia takes a call center job at an old building, a hospital back in the 70s which recently got reopened and is being remodeled. This is where she unknowingly attracts a ghost girl, who follows her back to the hospital where her daughter, Anelle, is confined. Since the encounter, she subtly notices seemingly small yet strange incidents.
The cinematography in this film is almost flawless, and the ominous tone also seamlessly shifts accordingly to the lead's mood and predicament. The movie isn't big on the scare factor, allowing the audience not to feel apprehensive. It does have a few of those flickering lights moments, but nothing extreme to make you scream. But there is a certain pull that keeps the audience watching - with only little hints, we're made to wonder and wait for the answers.
One of the best things I find with this is the way Olivia's dreams are expressed scene by scene from beginning to end. It's something not overly artistic, and simply visually appealing. The acting for both Olivia and especially Anelle is praise-worthy as well. Despite the lack of details with the actual supernatural causes, the mentioned factors plus a sinister ending are enough to enjoy this dark horror film.
Creepy dolls, evil possessions, vengeful spirits - a pretty satisfying mix for a thrilling movie night, right? Whichever is your pick, we hope you get that adrenaline rush. Happy watching, and Happy Halloween!
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