CSU film studies experts share their top picks for scary movies this Halloween

Contact for reporters:

Stacy Nick

Note to journalists: Interviews with Professor Scott Diffrient, who teaches Gender & Genre in Film: Horror (SPCM 358B) and wrote the book “Body Genre: Anatomy of the Horror Film” (forthcoming in 2023) are available. More information can be found at https://col.state/93fL8.


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!

“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 far-fetched 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, who teaches Gender & Genre in Film: Horror (SPCM 358B) and wrote the book Body Genre: Anatomy of the Horror Film (forthcoming in 2023).

“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

“The Descent”

(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 of 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

“The Shining”

(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

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 Scott Diffrient, who also wrote a book on the topic (Body Genre: Anatomy of the Horror Film, forthcoming in 2023).

Happy Halloween!