While it may have felt as though the scorching, lengthy summer months would never end, the crisp days of autumn (and the official start of Spooky Season) are upon us. This is the time of year when we can indulge in a warm beverage, put on a classic horror film, and steal long looks out the window at the gloomy weather outside. If this sounds like the ideal way to spend a rainy, chilly afternoon, you may ask yourself what movies would go perfectly with the new season. To help with this, we've compiled a list of ten horror films that are teeming with dark, moody atmospheres to fulfill your cozy day desires.
When it comes to foggy, autumn-themed adaptations, this easily ranks near the top of the list. Based on Washington Irving's 1820 short story "The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow" and directed by goth king Tim Burton, it tells the tale of the titular New York village plagued by an alarming number of beheadings. Rumored to be the work of the infamous Headless Horseman, it's up to constable Ichabod Crane (famously played by Johnny Depp) to crack the case and hunt down the supernatural entity. Producer Scott Rudin and Burton originally wanted to shoot on location in New York but eventually ended up at England's Leavesden Film Studios (now Warner Brothers Studios). The entire village was built from the ground up, and sound stages were utilized to help achieve the misty, monochromatic aesthetic that's Sleepy Hollow's trademark.
M. Night Shyamalan's 2004 period film centers around an isolated 19th-century Pennsylvania hamlet under the constant threat of mysterious creatures in the surrounding woods. The village elders have gone out of their way to keep residents from venturing beyond the town borders, which is a mysterious enough storyline on its own. What gives this such a moody tone, though, is the flawlessly murky set design. With so many scenes occurring outdoors, there are plenty of gray skies, red and orange foliage, and mist-shrouded trees. Combine that with the wardrobe and language of the 1800's, muted colors, and frightening creatures, and you've got yourself an excellent rainy-day watch.
It's no surprise that weather plays a large part in the theme of this article, but October doesn't always have to play the starring role. Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece, based on Stephen King's novel, takes place entirely during an oppressive, snowy Colorado winter at the deserted Overlook Hotel. The weather is practically a character in its own right, as the isolation begins to play with caretaker Jack Torrance's mind (Jack Nicholson). Of course, there's a gaggle of ghosts that help aid in his mental decline, but the brutal blizzard that bears down on the hotel makes this a worthy candidate for a chilly afternoon viewing.
An American Werewolf in London
One of the most classic werewolf films of all time also has one of the most classic horror settings. David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking through Europe when they stumble upon the shady Slaughtered Lamb pub in Yorkshire, England, where locals warn them to stay off the moors. So what do they do? Trek across the moors, of course. That's when they're attacked by a werewolf, which kills Jack and turns David into…one of them. England has always had a cloudy, gray, misty feel to it, and An American Werewolf in London utilizes this to add to the overall creep factor.
This 1922 German-made silent film is one of the oldest vampire stories in cinema and is based loosely on Bram Stoker's Dracula. With a setting as ionic as Transylvania, you know you'll get a dark, gothic backdrop. Combine that with the black and white cinematography of the era and impressive costume design, and Nosferatu is virtually required viewing for an Autumn afternoon. The shot of Count Orlok's (Max Schrek) shadowy figure ascending the staircase remains one of the most well-known moments in horror movie history.
The subtitle for Robert Eggers' 2015 directorial debut immediately helps set the scene for what's in store: A New-England Folktale. The Witch indeed takes place in New England in the early 1600s and focuses on a family of English Settlers who build a farmhouse in the isolated woods. They soon begin to experience unsettling occurrences, not the least of which includes the tragic death of their infant son at the hands of a witch lurking in the forest. This movie helped establish Eggers' style as a filmmaker, emphasizing dark atmospheres with historical folklore. From start to finish, The Witch oozes puritanical-style horror and was primarily shot using natural lighting and candlelight, helping to give it that chillingly gloomy tone.
Yes, this one is pretty self-explanatory. After all, the entire plot of this adaptation from Stephen King's short story consists of a mysterious cloud of mist that takes over a small town in Maine, bringing with it Lovecraftian-like monsters. The entire feel of this movie progressively gets darker, both in plot and scenery, leading up to that notorious, heartbreaking ending. This entry would pair perfectly with a chilly, sunless day.
It would be a crime not to include this one, and it only makes sense for it to follow another appropriately named movie. You could even do a cheeky double-feature of both The Fog and The Mist, especially since the two have commonalities. John Carpenter's The Fog is a good old-fashioned ghost story set in the fictional Antonio Bay, California. It focuses on a thick fog that sweeps across the small coastal town, delivering an army of vengeful ghosts of a shipwreck 100 years prior. With a plot like that and plenty of gloomy, ethereal outdoor shots, this is the epitome of "mood horror."
Based on the popular video game of the same name and inspired by the real-life events of an eternally burning coal mine fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, Silent Hill is yet another entry into the "mysterious foggy town" category. The city of Silent Hill is in another supernatural dimension not of this earthly plane, though, and filled with sadistic, inhuman creatures like the fan-favorite, Pyramid Head. This story relies heavily on a weather phenomenon for plot and cinematography. So much so that we dare you not to picture a mist-shrouded road when you hear its title.
Gore Verbinski's 2002 remake of the Japanese film Ring, about an urban legend, a cursed videotape, and a seriously creepy long-haired ghost girl, is considered a standout in gloomy horror. Shot and set primarily in Washington, it's full of rainy, angry-looking skies looming overhead as characters attempt to outrun the supernatural curse. Hans Zimmer's dramatic score aids the tense, dark scenes to ensure this is a terrifying option to watch no matter how it looks outside.