Desert Island Discs: Horror Film Edition

Stranded on a desert island? Forget your hunting knife and water desalinator...just give me some quality entertainment. This is Desert Island Discs: Horror Film Edition.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Written by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper

​Horror films don't get more ugly and visceral than this! Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic is my pick for THE classic horror film, and borne from it is arguably the most terrifying and depraved horror antagonist ever created - the infamous Leatherface. Despite a modest 80 minute runtime, this raw and infinitely unsettling slasher flick is a nightmare which never seems to end - a feeling which is particularly apparent during the film's climatic dinner-table scene. Unapologetically brutal and iconically rough and ready, this particular massacre is unpleasant in every single conceivable way - and therein lies its genius. I've said before that the best horror films don't just scare you - they have you squirming in your seat from start to finish. This genre-defining film is a masterclass at just that.

Oculus (2013)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard and Jeff Seidman

One of the more peculiar items on this list, Mike Flanagan's Oculus tells the story of a malevolent mirror called 'The Lasser Glass', and the damaged brother and sister who attempt to rid the world of it. Oculus is two stories told simultaneously - one past, one present - and each is blended with the other with a superbly fluid and innovative use of cinematography - it has been choreographed rather than directed, and shows some extraordinary agility as it continuously but confidently juggles its two narratives. This film is most enjoyed with both eyes firmly fixed on the screen at all times. Not one of the 'scarier' members of this list, but is certainly one of the more inventive and can still boast a desperately chilling atmosphere. It is brutal and tragic story, heavy with tension, and complete with brilliant performances; not only from Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites but also from the Lasser Glass itself - Oculus' most remarkable achievement may be its ability to turn a wordless piece of furniture into one seriously intimidating horror antagonist.

(for a full review of Oculus, visit our horror section or check out the 'Related Posts' box to your right)

The Strangers (2008)

Written and directed by Bryan Bertino

This more modern slasher-film employs a remarkably simple concept, but bathes it in a suffocating wash of silent dread. As they argue in an isolated house during the dead of night, a young couple is stalked by three masked strangers in this unbearably tense home invasion-horror. In the same way that the invaders toy with their victims, The Strangers pushes the tension to the absolute limit; characterised by long periods of silence and panning shots which are so slow it is almost cruel, there is a stillness to this film which only increases the menace. If The Purge is the hare, then The Strangers is the tortoise, working steadily, slowly and purposefully towards a shocking climax after more than an hour of tightly wound anxiety-provoking suspense. A calm and calculated approach makes this one of the most effective home-invasion horror films, and truly one of the scariest you are likely to see.

The Babadook (2014)

Written and directed by Jennifer Kent

This Australian-set nightmare set the world alight back in 2014, and has quickly become revered as one of the greatest horror films of the decade. The praise is not misplaced. Telling the story of a desperate mother caring for her increasingly disturbed child, this startlingly powerful performance-led film will exhaust you with its ever-present air of unease and horridly invading score. The titular Babadook, a haunting and beautifully designed creature which has taken up residence in this mother's house, is a mystery, as the film opens itself up to interpretation, allowing you to make your own conclusions as to what has occurred.

Saw (2004)

Directed by James Wan

Written by Leigh Whannell

The brilliance of this franchise spawning film has sadly been diluted following an array of sequels of varying quality, and so is often not given the credit that it is sorely due. That fact remains though, that the disturbing brain-child of Leigh Whannell and James Wan is a narrative sensation which arguably rocketed an entire horror sub-genre into the mainstream. Preying on the nightmares we didn't even know we had, this savagely inventive film introduces its viewers to the now iconic 'traps' and one of the most intriguing characters in modern horror, John Kramer, better known as the morally deluded Jigsaw (with Tobin Bell's marvellous portrayal also to thank for that). Unlike many of its successors which poorly translated the film's winning formula, Saw refuses to indulge in more than in needs to, some of its more harrowing scenes portrayed predominantly through suggestion (the infamous hack-saw scene is a prime example of this). Coupled with a staggeringly intelligent storyline which is communicated to us piece by piece, this film was one of the most refreshing and innovative of its time, pushing the boundaries of horror out just that little bit further.

Honourable mention:

Alien (1979) - this is certainly one of the best horror films ever made, and one of my all time favourites. However, it will be better suited and will therefore appear in my upcoming Desert island Discs: Sci-Fi edition

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