Spooky season is the perfect time to get scared with friends, and what better way than to watch a few horror films, heart-pumping thrillers, and scary TV shows together?
Luckily the Department of Communication Studies is home to CSU’s film studies minor, so Communication Studies faculty and graduate students know a thing or two about spooky films.
Here are 13 of their expert recommendations!
Halloween film & TV recommendations
Burn, Witch, Burn (Night of the Eagle)
(1962, directed by Sidney Hayers)
“I would recommend that people go back to the motion pictures being made in Britain during the 1960s. In addition to the many Hammer Horror films that brought the classic movie monsters (e.g., Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman) back from the (un)dead, a small, relatively obscure B&W motion picture from 1962 titled Night of the Eagle (and rechristened Burn, Witch, Burn for its stateside release) deserves consideration as a particularly effective demonstration of why the audience’s power of imagination is so important as a means of manifesting monstrosity. Directed by Sidney Hayers and written by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont (who had both just come off stints writing scripts for several Twilight Zone episodes), this film revolves around a man of science—a college professor named Norman—who spends much of the narrative searching for reasonable explanations for otherwise inexplicable occurrences (for instance, attributing the strange banging on the front door of his London house to the storm winds outside). The main character’s eventual willingness to suspend his disbelief, as the film reaches its truly bizarre conclusion, signals that crucial moment in Burn, Witch, Burn when even the most farfetched ideas can stand up to scrutiny and be supported by empirical evidence. For me—a lifelong skeptic myself—I find Norman’s transformation both deeply disturbing and indicative of horror’s power to make us fear things that, in ‘real’ life, are simply beyond belief. If you can track down a copy of this film, watch it before Halloween!” —Professor Scott Diffrient
The Chestnut Man
(2021, directed by Kasper Barfoed & Mikkel Serup)
“One of my favorite fall/scary shows is The Chestnut Man on Netflix. It’s a Danish show, and so it really capitalizes on the gorgeous tones of Scandinavian autumn. A more crime-based (think Mare of Easttown) show, but it is definitely haunting.” —Meredith Laurel, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
Cube and Cube 2: Hypercube
(1997 & 2002, directed by Vincenzo Natali)
“The most impactful [older thrillers] for me have always been both Cubes—paranoia, logic, math, science fiction, and our inner demons unleashed.” —Associate Professor Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager
(2005, directed by Neil Marshall)
“A British survival horror film [that] takes place inside an Appalachian cave system where a group of women encounter creepy subterranean crawlers, [The Descent is] as laugh-out-loud entertaining as [it is] scream-out-loud terrifying.” —Professor Scott Diffrient
(2019, directed by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods)
“Haunt is just a fun slasher film. Not really anything deep or provoking about the film. I just appreciate the way they capture haunted attractions with elements of escape rooms and home haunts, which are inclusive of the haunted attraction history and current business models.” —Riana Slyter, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
Hell House LLC
(2015, directed by Stephen Cognetti)
“This is an underrated first person POV horror film. Also known as ‘found-footage’ horror. Although the found footage is not everyone’s cup of tea, there are some scenes in this movie that are deeply chilling, even for horror film regulars. I haven’t heard many people who have seen the film before, but I think the thrill and suspense are captivating from the start, and provide effective scares throughout. The… found footage and haunted attractions are a great blend of rational fear. It is the first installment of a horror film trilogy, preceding Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel and Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire.” —Riana Slyter, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
The Translators (Les Traducteurs)
(2019-2020, directed by Régis Roinsard)
“Fascinating, breath-taking, cosmopolitan, thrilling—has trauma, death, psychodrama, enigma—and keeps you guessing what’s going on and who is guilty the entire duration of the film. Also, the blurred lines between the mystery novel coming to life within the film, and a truly superb selection of my favorite actors (from many countries) make it one of my favorites.” —Associate Professor Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager
(2021, directed by James Wan)
“For something pretty disturbing, I would watch Malignant. It’s a recent release that not many people have seen, but has great twists and plenty of outrageous aesthetic choices.” —Meredith Laurel, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
(2019, directed by Ari Aster)
“I have recently been really interested in Midsommar. I think the film is gutting in its portrayal of loss, but I am interested in how the community supports or mimes the pain felt by the main character, Dani. It is one of those films I don’t hear a lot of conversation about, but it is one that I think about to this day. I don’t think there is a lingering psychological scare, but it has unsettling and disturbing moments that are 100% horror.” —Riana Slyter, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
“Anyone thinking about grad school needs to see this movie.” —Associate Professor Nick Marx
One Cut of the Dead
(2017, directed by Shin’ichirō Ueda)
“[This] quickly shot, partly crowdfunded 2017 Japanese zombie comedy… follows a team of filmmakers trying to make their own monster movie. [It is] chock-full what some theorists have described as ‘negative pleasure,’ thrusting us into literally and figuratively dark places where our own inner demons are externalized, made flesh. But pleasurably so.” —Professor Scott Diffrient
(2007, directed by Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza)
“A 2007 Spanish found-footage film… set almost entirely within a sealed-up building during quarantine. [It’s] sure to put a giddy smile on even the most trepidatious of viewers while still delivering the (bad) ‘goods’ of horror (shock, dread, disgust).” —Professor Scott Diffrient
(1980, directed by Stanley Kubrick)
“It’s an intelligent horror movie. Kubrick came to Colorado and researched the state history for months. The scene I liked the most is the nightmare of the elevator door flooding with blood. The door cannot be closed completely due to the outflowing blood. If you see the Overlook Hotel as an allegory of the U.S. nation, it is a poetic yet powerful political statement. The hotel/nation is a madhouse, which was built upon the blood of Native Americans (whose visual motif is peppered throughout the film). Kubrick’s dark vision is haunting and provocative.” —Professor Hye Seung Chung
“A must see (and my favorite) is The Shining! It is based on Stephen King’s own experience at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which has a great haunted tour you can go on. It’s lauded as one of the best horror films of all time for a reason (even though King hated it himself at first)!” —Meredith Laurel, Graduate Teaching Assistant & Ph.D. Student
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
(1974, directed by Tobe Hooper)
“It creates an incredibly real, lived-in atmosphere that is fun, funny, and terrifying. Its final sequence of Leatherface’s distraught dance at dawn is my favorite horror scene of all time.” —Associate Professor Nick Marx
Watch films for free through the library
Having trouble finding the right horror movie at home? Try checking out films from our very own Morgan Library!
You can search for film titles or director names through this advanced search tool by clicking the “Material Type” dropdown menu and selecting “Audio Visual.”
Other great tools include the Kanopy Film/Video Streaming database and Academic Video Online, also made available to students and faculty by the Morgan Library. Both offer everything from documentaries, indie and foreign films, to classics and blockbuster movies.
Need more? Study film at CSU
Every year the Department of Communication Studies offers exciting classes in film and media studies like Film & Social Change (SPCM 357), Screenwriting as Communication (SPCM 352), and even a course on horror cinema—Gender & Genre in Film: Horror (SPCM 358B), taught by Dr. Scott Diffrient, who also wrote a book on the topic (Body Genre: Anatomy of the Horror Film, forthcoming in 2023).
Ph.D. student Meredith Laurel recommends that undergraduates take another of Dr. Diffrient’s courses, Narrative Fiction Film as Liberal Art (SPCM 455). “Based on what I have heard from graduate students taking his Media Theory class, I know this class will be fascinating!”
Laurel adds, “I would always recommend Dr. Kit Hughes’s course Evaluating Contemporary Film (SPCM 350). Dr. Hughes is a genius and so tuned in to the media landscape.”
Study film abroad in South Korea
Next summer you can learn about South Korean cinema, history, and culture with Professor Hye Seung Chung while studying abroad in Seoul (SPCM 370C/ HIST 370C/ HONR 392/492). In addition to coursework, this exciting new program includes two weeks of travel in and around the South Korean capital. Students will tour the Joint Security Area/Demilitarized Zone at the border with North Korea as well as the filming locations of the blockbuster thriller Parasite (2019, directed by Bong Joon-ho).
Chung, who is from Seoul and recently returned from a Fulbright scholarship there, is looking forward to sharing with students some of her favorite haunts (pun intended) such as the Seoul Tower, the Han River, the Seoul History Museum, the Seoul Museum of Art, the Insadong Traditional Tea District, Gyeongbok Palace, and more.
“Seoul is a truly amazing city with endless culinary, touristic, and cultural possibilities,” Chung says. “I would like to teach my students about Korea’s past, present, and future through popular culture (Bong Joon-ho’s cinema, Squid Game and beyond).” Learn more and apply to the program at CSU’s Education Abroad website here.
The Film Studies Minor
If you want to hear more about film and media studies, check out this short video featuring Associate Professor Nick Marx:
To see the course requirements for the Film Studies Interdisciplinary Minor, visit CSU’s course catalog here.
And to sign up for the minor, contact Professor Diffrient.