Have you noticed that the door to your apartment has suddenly developed a creak? No? What about the dusty cobwebs hiding in every nook and cranny of your flat? Surely, you felt the cold gusts of wind blowing through the curtains despite the fact that you just closed the window? Yes, all the signs are there alright: Halloween is on our doorstep, knocking. What to do?
In order to answer that question, we at Writer’s Block came up with a list of our favourite films, games, and series to enjoy with your pumpkin soup or whatever Halloween inspired food you happen to be consuming. Whether you are looking for a suspenseful dive into existential dread, a classic of the horror genre, or something a little more light-hearted, we have you covered. So, curl up under your blanket, ignore the hound that is howling in the distance, and take your pick!
Anne’s pick: Layers of Fear (2016)
If you are looking for a game to play during Halloween, without the cliches of being followed around by some monster, I have one to recommend to you: Layers of Fear.
This horror game was developed by Bloober Team SA and released at the start of 2016. As the name suggests, the game really does have multiple layers of fear, each of which scare you more and make you wonder “why?”. From the start of the game the suspense is already at a high, with the calm classical music and singing of a woman in the background, the tension only builds up more with the eerie sounds and objects you find in the psychological horror game.
Level by level and room by room you find out more about what went on in the head of a painter-gone-mad. You learn of how he used blood to paint on the human-skin-canvas with a finger for details and an eye for precision. With each body part you piece together the story of a family. The best part about this game is that it is cheap and you can play it alone in the dark! I’m not saying you won’t experience the feeling of not being alone in your room, but I’m also not saying you will…
Emilia’s pick: The Shining (1980)
This one is a classic, so probably you have already seen it. I am sorry but I just cannot think of any other movie that was scarier to me than The Shining. My hard skepticism is probably why most horror movies fail to scare me. I don’t believe in supernatural stuff, but psychopaths? They are very real. Not to say that The Shining does not involve some supernatural elements, but Jack Nicholson’s character, Jack Torrence, rubs me the wrong way even before he arrives at the Overlook Hotel. Obviously, this is due to the brilliance of Nicholson’s performance, but, for me, the anxiety that is felt from the very beginning is largely due to the insane use of sound throughout the movie. The music dissonates the symmetry of the cinematography, and it foreshadows all the terrible events that are about to happen. If you are anything like me, and you want to be on the edge of your seat this Halloween, The Shining is the perfect movie for you.
P.S. I am perfectly aware of the extreme trauma Stanley Kubrick caused on Sherry Duvall while filming this movie, but he is dead now. He can rot in hell while I continue to watch this film.
Marijne’s pick: Buzzfeed Unsolved
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of scary stories that are gory, or are meant to scare the living Hell out of you. Horror is not a genre that I find myself gravitating towards. Growing up, I never celebrated Halloween. In fact, I’ve never gone trick-or-treating, I’ve never even carved a pumpkin, and I’ve hardly ever watched scary (Halloween themed) movies or series. The scariest things that I would expose myself to were Harry Potter and the Goosebumps series. Unfortunately, that leaves me with a pretty scarce Halloween recommendations list… But fret not! I have the perfect recommendation of entertainment that is still gory and spooky, but a bit more lighthearted!
I am, of course, talking about the Buzzfeed Unsolved Youtube channel, and their respective Unsolved series which ventures into two distinctive areas: “Unsolved True Crime”, and “Unsolved Supernatural.” The two besties, Ryan Bergara and Shane Madej, tackle a different real-life cold-case every episode and the whole premise is that by the end of the episode, the case still isn’t solved. Shane being ever the sceptic and Ryan being the scaredy cat, they approach these cases in a very fun and comedic way. The dynamics between Ryan and Shane are what makes it so enjoyable to binge watch this web series, and the comedic element makes them less terrifying if you’re not really into gruesome stories, like I am. The best part about this Youtube series is that there’s tons of footage to watch already (about 14 seasons filled with all kinds of different cases). My favourite episodes would have to be “The Strange Disappearance of D.B. Cooper”, “The Chilling Exorcism of Anneliese Michel”, and “The Bizarre Road Trip of A Missing Family.”
PSA: The Unsolved season that is currently being uploaded is unfortunately their final season. But not to worry, Ryan and Shane have another Youtube account called Watcher. Their “Are You Scared” series is kind of like a scary story marathon that you can binge watch. Maybe a little less popular but also a bit more morbid at times. For the people that are into scary stuff! Nonetheless, it’s still filled with a lot of funny jokes and humour.
Laiana’s pick: A Quiet Place (2018)
I’m the type of person who enjoys going to the movie theatre every now and then to catch a movie, but it is rare for me to be able to watch an entire movie of over two hours in one sitting at home. However, A Quiet Place (2018) had me glued to my computer screen for the entirety of its duration.
A Quiet Place unfolds the intriguing story of the Abbott family, who survive the attack of noise-sensitive creatures (hence the silence) and the movie nicely describes their struggles with daily activities that are so quotidian to us – like talking and walking. There is something about silent horror movies that intrigues me – personally, I feel that the lack of suspenseful sounds adds a sense of horror unmatched by any other film production. When they do use sounds, though, they really highlight how loud humans are, which is an interesting concept for a horror/sci-fi movie. Also, the acting was incredible – the characters really make you emotionally engaged with their story. The casting of Millicent Simmonds, who is hearing-impaired in real life, just makes you even more interested in the plot.
The movie contains the perfect balance of adrenaline, thrill and action, making it an ideal choice for those who enjoy horror movies and those who are not that big into the genre. So if you feel like diving into a silent world for a few hours this Halloween, just grab yourself some popcorn and search for A Quiet Place on your preferred streaming website, and if you really enjoy it, go ahead and watch A Quiet Place II, which is almost as good as the first movie.
Olivia’s pick: Get Out (2017)
The movie “Get Out”, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut that premiered in 2017, can already be considered a classic. Distancing itself from slasher movies, “Get Out” balances reality and fiction with perfection while creating one of the best postmodern horror motion pictures, embodying remarkable jump-scares and several social critiques.
The film tells the story of an interracial couple and takes place on the weekend the protagonist, a young black man, meets the family of his white girlfriend. Throughout the movie sensitive topics such as systemic racism and the subversion of the white savior trope are handled. The horror movie is based upon daily difficulties black people face in the U.S. but works as a universal critique and has a satirical premise.
The reception of Peele’s debut was astonishing, grossing more than $255 million worldwide in opposition to a production budget of $4.5 million. The movie acquired an approval rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the most famous film and television review websites, and received countless award nominations. This production should definitely be on your Halloween watch-list for 2021, along with further projects directed and produced by Peele. If you enjoy psychological thrillers and are a pop-culture enthusiast, “Get Out” is a must watch.
Vivian’s pick: The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
The Haunting of Bly Manor is a Netflix series that may seem familiar to some, as it is the second in The Haunting anthology series. The stories are not connected so you do not need to watch the first to understand the second, however they do both feature the same cast members. Anyway, to the point: if you’re in the mood for a chilling series that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout, then this is the one for you.
I, for one, very much enjoy series or movies where a haunting story is slowly unravelled but just fast enough to keep you on your toes. This series definitely achieves this, so if you’re looking for a Halloween night binge, this is the one. There are 9 episodes, so maybe you’ll need two nights, or if you’re dedicated you can finish it one night. An added bonus is Victoria Pedretti, who everyone most likely knows from the You series (also a great show), but her performance in this series is stellar.
Oh yes, before I forget: it’s about an au pair who is hired by a man to take care of his nephew and niece, but once she arrives at the manor she starts seeing strange apparitions. Anyways, enjoy!
Reinier’s pick: Stories Untold (2017)
Can’t get enough of the wave of eighties nostalgia that Stranger Things unleashed upon the horror-mystery genre back in 2016? Well, do I have a recommendation for you! Stories Untold is a collection of four short games—each roughly an hour in length, that creatively experiments with horror tropes by putting you in charge of a whole host of clunky tech devices from the eighties. One game you find yourself playing a text-based adventure in your old family home, the next you are operating the knobs and levers of a disturbing experiment involving a cased-up heart. Taken together these fragmented stories form the dots of an ominous larger narrative that pulls you in the more you play.
Aside from the occasional jump scare to keep you on your toes, this is less about cheap thrills and more about the slow buildup of existential dread. Fun! Maybe not great for a party, but perfect to immerse yourself in for a night alone in your room with the lights turned down.
It’s not a flawless package; at times the writing is a little obvious and the occasional puzzle is more frustrating than it is fun (I am not touching the signal decoder puzzle again with a ten foot pole, you can’t make me). It is, however, consistently creative, interesting, and willing to shake things up to keep you hooked.