A lot about the world may feel uncertain right now, but there’s nothing as reliable as a good old—or new—horror film. And while it may be cold outside at the start of the new year, there’s nothing quite like curling up with those horror and thriller movies that send chills down your spine—all from the warmth of your home. Be it the more campy horror fare or the urgency of thrillers beckoning for the end of the world once the clock strikes midnight, there’s something so very satisfying about kicking off the new year with stories that make us cold with terror.
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We’re ringing in January with some frigid scares and the resolution to never, ever live without the satisfaction of great horror flicks—both new and old.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski’s horror classic has stood the test of time. Everything from the way it portrays New York City in the 1960s to the source material (by way of Ira Levin’s mastery of suspicion and plot), Rosemary’s Baby gets under your skin. It could be your first or 15th viewing—and you better believe there’ll be more than a few chills.
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Perhaps its Rosemary Woodhouse’s paranoia and the oddity surrounding Guy, the stage actor who just seems to have everything going for him (I wonder why…), or it could be the extremely unsettling “baby night”—and how Guy took advantage of Rosemary while she was asleep. Her body falling apart by the time Christmas comes along, we are given more than a few clues as to what’s really at play here. The new year is on the horizon—and Rosemary’s life will change by the time the year rolls over anew.
Rosemary’s Baby is a classic of paranoia and occult worship—and a cautionary tale for anyone worried their trust is being manipulated and abused by those claiming to look out for their best interests.
Angel Heart (1987)
In some respects, I see Angel Heart and Rosemary’s Baby as a perfect compliementary double-feature. Both involve occult worship and the presence of evil. Both films are based on books that explored heaven and hell.
In the case of Angel Heart, we see a young Mickey Rourke and equally young Robert De Niro taking on the roles of Harry Angel and Louise Cyphere, respectively, in a plot involving a missing person. New York City is in full snowstorm swing as we enter the final days of the year. Angel is tasked with finding Johnny Favorite, a crooner who struck it big before disappearing. The investigation takes him across the city, from hospitals to eventually New Orleans.
The icy city reflects the core of the story, with its blind eye towards the fact that Angel is being led around by his nose—seeking not the source of Johnny Favorite but rather something far more sinister and personal. It’s a film that sticks with you, much like how one’s new years resolutions haunt you after you break them.
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New year, same problems. Midnighters is a film that’ll probably be a little too close for comfort for anyone currently struggling to keep their relationships together. Jeff and Lindsey’s marriage is beginning to fall apart and, as it so often does, money is the main culprit.
When they leave a New Year’s Eve party in a bit of a uproar, Jeff accidentally hits someone with their car. They’re in the middle of nowhere and can’t get any reception, so they decide to toss the seemingly dead man in the trunk and drive home. To make matters worse, they were both drinking at the party and had decided to drive home under the influence. This is everyone’s worst nightmare.
When it turns out that the man isn’t dead, and the body count increases, Midnighters kicks into high-gear, full of action and sincere desperation. Think A Simple Plan crossed with I Know What You Did Last Summer—with an added emphasis on money.
New year’s resolution: Try to live life while less consumed by dire need of money. Easier said than done, but we can dream, can’t we?
Strange Days (1995)
It’s 48 hours before the end of 1999. Strange Days was clearly written with that Y2K fear and paranoia in mind—a time when some people feared the millennium might just bring about the end of the world.
It’s almost quaint to think about in modern day 2022, and yet Strange Days manages to be far more than a relic of previous cultural paranoia. It is a remarkably refreshing sci-fi noir about a black-market peddler obsessed with experiencing other people’s memories. In doing so, he stumbles upon a mystery of a dead prostitute, one that he believes he can solve using the technology to recreate the entire murder. Of course, much like our own aspirations and dreams to change the past, the film doesn’t allow for easy endings and answers. In that way alone, it’s the perfect bittersweet film to watch as we end one year and begin yet another.
The Shining (1980)
It wouldn’t be a new year without a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s unsettling masterpiece, The Shining. The Torrence family moves into the Overlook Hotel to brave the off-season. Jack hopes to finish a draft of his novel while his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, offer their support—even though the hotel’s vibes are alarming and surreal almost instantly. This is before the real inhabitants of the hotel begin to reveal themselves, many of them with sinister inclinations.
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As the film progresses, Danny exhibits a brand of clairvoyance called “the shining” and Jack’s sanity degrades. Many of us have this entire film memorized and for good reason! What better way to ring in the new year than to see Jack unravel, right on down to his dull boy final moments?