13 Movies for Halloween
Be it on your own or with a group, these features will be sure to get under your skin. But don’t get me wrong; these aren’t any old jump-scare festivals or torture porn you will see in the average theater. For this list, we are giving you a fresh mix of classics, contemporary, the cult, and the under-appreciated horror movies that embody what horror is truly about. So, without further due, here are 13 movies to watch this Halloween!
1. Halloween (1978)
The Slasher: Why not start off with something everyone is well accustomed to: The Slasher genre. These are our "Jasons", "Freddy Kruegers", and "Leatherfaces". Each to his own, violent psychopaths who show no remorse in killing their young victims for their own personal or sporty reasons, and for our first pick, we are going with the grandfather who started it all: the eponymous Michael Myers in Halloween (1978). John Carpenter revitalized what was a then failing genre in the U.S. with the ghoulish Michael Myers. Shot in a perfect portrait of suburbia on a meager budget, Halloween’s sadistic, traumatic subject matter molded the very fabrics of modern horror, creating an entire new genre as a result. John Carpenter’s hard work, which included directing, writing, and even scoring the film paid off, cementing Halloween as our first pick.
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981).
The Horror-Comedy: Riding off the success of comedic classics Animal House (1978) and Blues Brothers (1980), John Landis secured funding for this surreal horror comedy about an American backpacker who is attacked by the titular creature. Our #2 pick goes to the at-times brutal humor of An American Werewolf in London (1981). A moderate success portrayed as both a romantic comedy and a bloody werewolf horror film, both laughs and frights are guaranteed. All genres are made fun of and turned into jokes in one way or another. Horror, which over the years has gained a vast number of tropes, is no exception. But many filmmakers fail to realize that comedy and horror are in fact compatible in many ways. Recently, in Get Out (2017), director Jordan Peele utilized this concept perfectly, and even horror auteur Wes Craven highlighted the comedic aspects of horror in Scream (1996).
3. The Conversation (1974)
The Genre Blender: Okay, we are kind of cheating here, but, we are not ashamed of it! We would be remised if we didn’t mention at least one flick of non-horror origin that genuinely frightened us; that made us actually forget that we weren’t watching horror to begin with. "Requiem for a Dream" (2000) and "Trainspotting" (1996) show us the traumatic outcomes of drug abuse, while war films such as "Come and See" (1985) and Coppola’s "Apocalypse Now" (1979) place us in the haunting atmosphere of war. But for this spot, we are going with another one of Coppola’s films, but instead we are choosing his 1974 thriller The Conversation. This forgotten gem from "The Godfather" (1972) director focuses on a surveillance agent, played brilliantly by Gene Hackman, who inadvertently gets involved in a heinous crime. Coppola’s tension building through isolation, dreadfully long silences, and a haunting atmosphere makes a seemingly normal hotel turn into an actual hell house.
4. Suspiria (1977)
The Arthouse Horror: For this pick, we are focusing on films that overtly emphasis style as a means to disturb and frighten us. In more recent years, some examples include Under the Skin (2013), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and the deeply controversial Antichrist (2009), and in the older days, our #4 pick, Suspiria (1977). "Suspiria’s" bright colors may surprise most viewers expecting a traditional horror film. Believe us, this isn’t your average horror film. The juxtaposition of bright colors with gruesome murders and downright nightmarish imagery puts viewers through the fright of their lives in this Italian masterpiece.
5. Peeping Tom (1960)
The Thinking Killer: By the term “thinking killer”, in films we mean antagonists with whom we experience the makings of their motives first hand, as opposed to the previously mentioned slashers, who kill usually for the sake of killing. The first film you may think of Silence of the Lambs (1991). Don’t get us wrong, we love Anthony Hopkins’s chilling performance as Hannibal Lector, but we aren’t going with him. In fact, we are going with a much older film: 1960’s Peeping Tom. Upon its release, viewers were shocked and angered over what was at the time considered over-the-top and unacceptable sexual violence. What makes this film so much more personal compared to other similar films is that we actually see the deaths through the eyes of killer Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm), who films his victims as he kills them. We go through this cycle of terror and discomfort with him as Lewis achieves a sort of adrenaline rush, making for a disturbing yet intriguing view into the mind of a killer.
6. Alien (1979)
Claustrophobia: We all have that one friend who is uncomfortable in tight spaces, be it at a party or in a bathroom stall. Our next pick takes that to the extreme, turning the tight corridors of the environment into an enemy itself. Think the caves of The Descent (2005) or Buried (2010), which literally takes place in a coffin. But nothing takes the cake for claustrophobia like the original Alien (1979). Alien takes a small group of ordinary people, and locks them into a damp, rustic, enclosed environment with absolutely no means of escape, as an unseen creature stalks them. Hostile activity could be around every corner, in every air vent, in any room. We cling on the edge of our seat through the entire ride in one of the best films ever put to cinema.
7. Event Horizon (1997)
Love Craft: When discussing “Lovecraftian horror”, or cosmism as some call it, we aren’t talking about films loosely influence by the industrial righter. We are looking films that go beyond the fear of what is not known; that delves into a discover so mind-bending and inconceivable by man, that it drives them to insanity. Very few films venture into this area. Guillermo del Toro experimented with cosmism in Hellboy (2004), and other recent films such as A Cure for Wellness (2016), Prometheus (2012), and The Mist (2007) dared to explore these themes, but for our #7, we are returning to space in 1997’s Event Horizon. This widely unknown science fiction-horror follows a deep-space rescue crew as they discover a rift in the space-time continuum, allowing an indescribable force to wreak havoc aboard the ship. We experience how each crew member is effected by a cosmic being so indescribably feared that they each collectively lose their minds. Combining the atmosphere of Alien and the cosmic horrors of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Event Horizon is a joyride worth experiencing firsthand this Halloween.
8. The Babadook (2014)
Fear of Disease: No one likes getting sick. When all of us see a sick person, we generally try to avoid it. Films such as Contagion (2011), I Am Legend (2007) take this fear and portrays it at a global level, while other films take a more philosophical approach, be it with insect-born diseases as in Mimic (1997) or with STDs in It Follows (2014). Every zombie movie ever takes this approach, and so does our #8 pick, The Babadook (2014). A visually and emotionally dreadful approach to portraying loss and depression, Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut highlights the painful downward spiral of a mother and her son, played by Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman respectively, after they suffer a dreadful loss. A hauntingly slow burn of sophisticated tension building that rises, and rises, and rises to a terrifying climax, The Babadook gives viewers a dreadfully bleak atmosphere of pain and scares.
9. Eraserhead (1977).
Body Horror: Body horror refers to the fear of the deterioration one’s body. Imagining your body gruesomely falling apart sends chills by your spine just by thinking about it. Films that exploit this fear include Eyes Without a Face (1966), The Thing (1982), The Fly (1986), as well as the majority of films directed by David Cronenberg. However, nothing takes this fear to such unique interpretations as David Lynch’s directorial debut, Eraserhead (1977). Lynch’s classic surreal visual style is littered throughout his first film. From the rustic, uncompromising portrayal of industrial America, to the deformed baby constantly at risk, this confusing, bizarre flick plays with ideas of how we define our bodies, and how far we are willing to take relationships, not matter what the physical costs. Prepare for a hayride of unimaginable, disturbing imagery straight from the mind of the man who brought you Twin Peaks (1991-92; 2017).
10. Diabolique (1995)
Hitchcockian Horror: You’re probably thinking: “Who else can do Hitchcockian horror asides from Hitchcock himself?” Well you’d be surprised. This spot was almost given to Psycho (1960). But what influenced it? It seems impossible that something actually influenced the 1960 classic, but in fact, Hitchcock took major influence from the 1955 French masterpiece, Diabolique. Upon viewing of this film, there is no question that Hitchcock was directly influence by Diabolique. From the strong female characters, the bathroom, and a twist ending so shocking that people lept from their seats, this film is the foundation of what all Hitchcock fans love.
11. Jaws (1975)
The Monster: Even on the international scale, monster movies have been a foundation of horror cinema. To the all-consuming The Blob (1958), to Godzilla (1954), King Kong (1933) and The Host (2006), giant creatures have always been here to entertain and frighten audiences, and in the latter case, no monster has frightened more audiences then our eleventh recommendation, Jaws (1975).
Revolutionary for its time for its behind the scenes action and box office success, Jaws alone created what we now know as the “Summer Blockbuster”, attracting millions of moviegoers across the world. A masterful combination of camerawork, atmosphere, and a daunting score by legendary composer John Williams has turned Jaws into a household name.
12. Kill List (2011)
The Low-Budget Film: Now let’s turn out appreciation to the rising filmmakers who turned a couple of bucks out of their pockets into masterful works of terror. This is The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Evil Dead (1981) both redefined horror filmmaking and what is socially acceptable to put on our screen, but for our #12 spot, we are giving a lesser-known gem the spotlight: Ben Wheatley’s Kill List (2011). Kill List follows two British soldiers-turned hitmen as the stakes rise in inexplicable was, and as their pasts as soldiers returns to haunt them. Wheatley makes his $800,000 budget shine as he experimentally manipulates the films style, atmosphere, and narrative, meticulously transforming what at first seems to be a crime thriller into a nightmare.
13. The Shining (1980)
Fear of the Unknown: For the grand finale, we look at films that explore the thing that we fear most: what we don’t see or don’t understand. Where this differs from Lovecraftian horror is that this fear not only targets the audience as well as the characters, but also it doesn’t necessarily drive us insane. In the Mouth of Madness (1995), The Witch (2015) and Possession (1981) are both pinnacle examples of this process, and although it is more of an action film, Predator (1987) plays with this philosophy immensely, making the threat literally invisible. However, none of these films come close to challenging our final pick: Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece: The Shining (1980). Kubrick took all horror expectations and trends, and threw them out the window for this haunting family tale. He simply leaves us with subtle clues of what may be truly occurring, but by the final frame, we are still left baffled and disturbed by what we just witnessed. Nothing but the best can be expected from the master himself, and horror is no exception.
We hope you have a splendid and spooky Halloween!