Wanna see something really scary? Here are 20 of the best horror movies available at the Toronto Public Library. Film critic Robin Wood wrote that the horror film's “true subject is the struggle for recognition of all that our civilization represses or oppresses." This holds true from James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein to the films of David Cronenberg. Haunted houses, sinister children, monsters, murderers and the undead - there is something for everyone on this list. Prepare to unleash the repressed. And let us know if your favourite is not on this list.
Let the Right One In (2008, Sweden) dir Tomas Alfredson. Based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindquist. Oscar, a bullied 12-year-old boy makes friends with Eli, a young female vampire. It's a moving (and terrifying) story of two outsiders finding each other. Still thirsty for blood? Try Nosferatu or Vampyr, or the Universal films with Bela Lugosi.
The Shining (1980, UK/USA) dir Stanley Kubrick. Misunderstood when first released, Kubrick's film is now recognized as a masterpiece of the genre. Hotel hallways will never look the same. Keep your eyes peeled for the paintings by Canadian artist Alex Colville. The documentary Room 237 explores the film's symbolism. Based on Stephen King's novel.
The Exorcist (1973, USA) dir Willam Friedkin. Based on William Blatty's novel about a 12-year old girl's demonic possession, this film tested the boundaries for graphic horror and spawned many 'demonic child' films, including The Omen.
Diabolique (1955, France) dir Henri-Georges Clouzot. A meek schoolteacher plots to kill her abusive husband by enlisting the help of his mistress, played by a smokin' hot Simone Signoret. The plot twist will keep you up at night.
Rosemary's Baby (1968, USA) dir Roman Polanski. Based on Ira Levin's novel. A pregnant newlywed (Mia Farrow) suspects something is wrong with her unborn child and that her creepy husband may be responsible. Farrow got served divorce papers on the set by Frank Sinatra who reportedly didn't want her to take the role. Cinematographer William A. Fraker explains why this film terrifies in the documentary, Visions of Light.
Psycho (1960, USA) dir Alfred Hitchcock. Critically-acclaimed as one of the best American films of all time, Psycho broke boundaries with its editing, performances, music, and mise-en-scène. The best book ever about Hitchcock? Hitchcock's Films Revisited by the late, great Robin Wood.
The Host (2006, South Korea) dir Bong Joon-ho. A monster, born of toxic waste, lurks in the Han River and kidnaps a young girl. Both poignant and frightening, this film premiered at Cannes to great critical acclaim.
Nightmare on Elm Street (1984, USA) dir Wes Craven. Freddy Krueger, a disfigured spirit armed with razored gloves, kills teenagers via their dreams. Watch for a chubby-cheeked Johnny Depp in his first film role. The 2014 documentary, Never Sleep Again, goes behind the scenes of this enduring franchise.
The Haunting (1963, UK) dir Robert Wise. Based on Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House. A group of people stay at a haunted house to study its paranormal activity. 50 years after its release, this film still terrifies. Keep your eyes on that bedroom doorknob.
The Devil's Backbone (2001, Spain/Mexico) dir Guillermo del Toro. Carlos, an abandoned child living in an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War, sees terrifying visions of a ghostly child. By the director of Pan's Labyrinth.
Halloween (1978, USA) dir John Carpenter. Around Halloween, ringtones everywhere change to this ominous theme song, composed and performed by Carpenter. A murderer escapes from an asylum, returns to his old neighbourhood and slices up hormonal teens. Best jump scares ever - and features an intelligent heroine played by a young Jamie Lee Curtis. Steadicam technology becomes a staple of the horror film.
The Innocents (1961, UK) dir Jack Clayton. Based on Henry James classic novella, The Turn of the Screw, Deborah Kerr is luminous in this ghostly psychological tale about a governess and her sinister charges, Miles and Flora. Fun fact: Truman Capote worked on the screenplay.
The Evil Dead (1981, USA) dir Sam Raimi. A low-budget horror film about students accidently unleashing demons while vacationing in the woods. Its gore, sense of humour, and ironic performances turned it into a cult classic and spawned sequels, a comic book and a stage musical.
The Changeling (1980, Canada/US) dir Peter Medak. After losing his family in a car accident, a man moves into a isolated Victorian mansion where he is visited by the ghost of an extremely angry child. Filmed in Canada, this won the first Genie for Best Canadian film.
Don't Look Now (1973, UK/Italy) dir Nicolas Roeg. A couple moves to Venice after the accidental drowning of their young daughter. Grief turns to dread as they catch glimpses of a little girl following them. Donald Sutherland and Julie Harris appear in an extremely athletic sex scene (shocking for the time) in this exploration of death and grieving. Based on Daphne Du Maurier's short story.
Black Christmas (1974, Canada) dir Bob Clark. Filmed at the University of Toronto in Annesley Hall, with Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder, John Saxon, and Andrea Martin. The Dubious Achievment Award goes to the Great White North for making the first slasher film (after Psycho, of course). The terrifying phone call becomes a staple of horror films.
28 Days Later (2002, UK) dir Danny Boyle. A seminal film of the zombie film renaissance, this post-apocalyptic nightmare was shot in Picadilly Circus and Oxford Street. With Cillian ("Spooky Eyes") Murphy and Christopher Eccleston.
Night of the Living Dead (1968, USA) dir George Romero. Romero delves into the dark recesses of the American psyche and offers scathing political commentary in his zombie series (the sequels are good too, if not better). Birth of the Living Dead is a documentary on the making of this cult classic.
The Ring (2002, USA) dir Gore Verbinksi. What's that I hear? The shrieks of purists faithful to Hideo Nakata's 1998 Japanese film, Ringu? Sadly, Ringu is currently unavailable, and it is a fact that excellent Asian horror films are regularly remade for North American audiences. Nonetheless, this tale of a lethal video has its moments. Even scarier is having younger audiences ask "What is a video cassette?"
American Werewolf in London (1981, USA/UK) dir John Landis. Two American students are backpacking in the British moors when they are attacked by a werewolf. One dies and the other...well. The film achieved cult status with its in-jokes and special effects. The early 80s was a hot time for werewolf films which included Joe Dante's The Howling.
And speaking of John Landis and werewolves, re-visit Michael Jackson's Thriller video. (Heads up: some scary images and some pretty intense dance moves...)