Friday the 13th has long been associated with fears, superstitions and scary stories, stemming from the fact that number 13 has historically been regarded as unlucky. In fact, there are two medical phobias — one for the fear of the number 13, and another for the fear of Friday the 13th. For many, the day (which can occur up to three times in a year) is reserved for re-watching slasher classics or indulging in fantasy, supernatural and cult status movies. So, we round up eight films for you that run the gamut from funny and harmless to totally disturbing. Choose wisely.
1. Midsommar (2019)
‘Midsommar’ is writer-director’s Ari Aster’s second horror film in just as many years, following on 2018’s ‘Hereditary’. A troubled American couple travels to Sweden for an idyllic mid-summer festival, but things get deadly when a pagan cult’s unsettling plan begins to unfold. This is 33-year-old Aster’s second full-length feature to date, but it’s already cementing him as a new master of horror.
2. A Quiet Place (2018)
One of our favourite movies of last year — in any genre — ‘A Quiet Place’ is a beautifully filmed, acted and conceptualised horror. Parents-of-three Lee and Evelyn Abbott (real-life couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) navigate a post-apocalyptic world where any noise can get you killed — and we all know how hard it is to keep one kid quiet, let alone three. This high-stakes creature feature won’t keep you up at night, but it will stick with you after credits roll.
3. Freaky Friday (2003)
If you don’t have the heart for horror, fear not: you can still make Friday the 13th your day. One of our favourite kooky fantasy films is the body swap classic ‘Freaky Friday’, brilliantly cast with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in the lead. The film is about a warring mother and teen daughter duo who wake up one day in each other’s bodies — and, as always, must learn a profound lesson in order to switch back. It’s a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, where the protagonists switch bodies after getting into an argument on the eve of Friday the 13th.
4. Stir of Echoes (1999)
One of Kevin Bacon’s best and most underrated performances took place in ‘Stir of Echoes’. The supernatural horror plays on a major human fear, which is to open up an unknown door in your own mind that you can’t shut. When Tom Witzky (Bacon) is hypnotised by his sister-in-law Lisa, he becomes haunted by terrifying visions that won’t let up. ‘Stir of Echoes’ is a film that is likely to stick with you for all its creepy undertones.
5. Sphere (1998)
Any plot that involves an unwilling manifestation of one’s biggest phobias gives us the creeps, so psychological thriller ‘Sphere’ gets a spot on our Friday the 13th watch list, despite being a critical flop two decades ago. The premise, taken from Michael Crichton’s book, revolves around a group of experts (Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L Jackson) who are sent to investigate an extraterrestrial force underwater, only to come into contact with a metal sphere that makes their worst fears seem real.
6. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Despite failing to achieve commercial or critical success, Disney’s ‘Hocus Pocus’ has become a cult classic over the years and is especially popular on Halloween. Directed by Kenny Ortega (‘High School Musical’ trilogy), the movie combines horror, comedy and fantasy. When teenager Max accidentally awakens three witches who were executed in the 17th century (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy), he has to find a way to defeat them with the help of a motley crew.
7. Candyman (1992)
Graduate student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) unwittingly summons a one-armed homicidal entity with a hook for a hand (Tony Todd) through her research on superstitions. While several of the films on this list were based on novels (‘Sphere’, ‘Stir of Echoes’), ‘Candyman’ was actually inspired by the short story ‘The Forbidden’.
8. Friday the 13th (1980)
It’s been nearly 40 years since this slasher classic released and it’s still as polarising as ever, with many critics finding it to be irredeemably hollow and some fans considering it to be an all-time great. The premise is simple enough — camp counsellors attempt to reopen a summer camp that had once been the site of a child drowning, but a masked assailant keeps stalking and murdering them. The movie spawned a 12-film franchise. Despite being panned, it has been a box office success and is considered one of the highest-grossing slasher franchises of all time.