Halloween is finally upon us, and that means candy, costumes, fun and fright. Movies are an unquestionable tradition for the holiday, so the question remains: Which movies should you be watching this time around? Do we watch “Hocus Pocus” for some light-hearted fun, or do you try and stomach some terrifying, slasher horror like “Halloween?” Kick back with some candy corn and get ready for a list of my 10 all-time favorite movies that I recommend to you this Halloween, whether they are lighthearted fun, scary or just plain strange.
10. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
Tim Burton’s magnum opus is an amazing mix of beautiful, often eerie, visuals with gorgeous music. It redefined ’90s animation standards, demanding to be different with its highly stylized stop motion. It’s creepy style still somehow crept its way into our hearts, becoming one of the most revered cult classics of our generation. The music is especially wonderful, as you’re instantly hooked by Danny Elfman’s hauntingly beautiful vocals as Jack Skellington, our lovably complex lead. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this film either, as so much of the comedy is written with an adult audience in mind. This film is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit, as its opening song “This Is Halloween” introduces you to the holiday itself.
9. “Cabin in the Woods” (2011)
There’s a lot going on here. Meta is a term referring to a work of art that is self-referential. The story it tells is somewhat parodic and makes fun of the genre of film that it is connected, and that’s what makes this horror-comedy so much fun. From the crazed minds of Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, five teens vacation in a remote cabin in the woods where they are soon subjected to nearly ever horror cliche and trope you can think up. This film is a mix of humor, gore, awesome scenery and really clever performances that is parodic without descending into the depths of being gratuitous or insulting. The horror is thrilling, the comedy is insanely clever, it’s a genuine love letter to the horror genre.
8. “It Follows” (2015)
The best horror takes a situation that normally wouldn’t be frightening at all and makes it absolutely terrifying. What if some malicious presence only you could see began pursuing you and never let up? It simply walked slowly towards you, constantly hunting you. That’s the brilliance of “It Follows,” and it works. The film is absolutely frightening and arguably the best horror film of 2015 thus far. It does suspense the way it should be done; right when you think our leading lady is safe, the curse appears– constantly following, never faltering. The only thing you could do to get rid of it is to pass the curse onto another person to buy time. Prepare for the impending paranoia that will follow in the next few hours after watching this film. It will make you suspicious of everyone and everything.
7. “What We Do in the Shadows” (2015)
What do vampires do for fun? How do they find their victims in these modern times or handle their roommates that don’t clean their “bloody” dishes? “What We Do in the Shadows” is a hilarious mockumentary handling these types of questions from the makers of “The Flight of the Concords.” Think “The Office” style comedy, but with supernatural beings. It’s a great watch if you enjoy vampire mythology and the subsequent parody of vampire fiction. When it comes to horror-comedy, “What We Do in the Shadows” is a fine choice.
6. “Halloween” (1978)
It would be quite odd to have movies for Halloween and not include the film “Halloween.” After all, it was a major milestone in the slasher flick genre, and its main character Michael Myers has become one of pop culture’s most iconic villains. It is a little antiquated now and it definitely is not the scariest movie by today’s standard’s, but there is still some genuine suspense to be found in the writing and an appreciation for the production value given the time period. This movie should be viewed for its historical significance and for the fact that it delivers some mostly timeless good scares.
5. “The Exorcist” (1973)
While the conventional murderer/slasher flick has died out, demons, ghosts and other supernatural creatures remain to haunt us. This film was one of the first demonic possession movies in cinematic history. It follows the story of two priests sent to cast out the devil from a little girl named Regan. William Friedkin’s movie is filmed with imagery so popular that it is still parodied and praised to this day, and the movie is over 40 years old. Several critics and directors have suggested that “The Exorcist” is the best horror movie ever made and still terrifying as it was when it debuted. The demon’s voice echoing from Regan’s deformed and disgusting visage is a terrifying image and one that will haunt you. I have chills just thinking about it.
4. “The Babadook” (2014)
William Friedkin, the director of “The Exorcist” previously mentioned, stated that he thinks the Australian film “The Babadook” is the scariest film he has ever seen. It’s hard to argue with him, because “The Babadook” is not only a brilliant film exploring the psychological effects of parenthood and the power of grief over a person, but it is also one of the scariest movies I have ever seen. Still mourning the death of her husband, Amelia and her young son have a strained relationship at best. One day, a strange storybook depicting a monster called Mr. Babadook coming to kill the two appears in their home, and Amelia begins to unravel psychologically. Everything about this film is brilliant. Watch it with a friend because by yourself, you might not get through it. This is a movie I will not soon forget: “If it’s in a word or in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook.”
3. “Psycho” (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock’s library is vast and filled with so many tremendous films that some would consider it an insult to pick just one as his best. The master of suspense has created such thriller masterpieces as “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest” and, of course, “Psycho.” Out of all of these, the latter exudes a sense of dread, terror and suspense that the others come close to but never end up reaching. It follows the story of a woman on the run who finds herself in a serial killer’s motel. A cultural touchstone and a piece of art, it is still quite frightening despite being 55 years old. Hitchcock was not only a master of suspense, but an artist and a film pioneer. If you want to experience movie history and get some good scares, I highly recommend “Psycho.”
2. “Alien” (1979)
A claustrophobe’s nightmare and the reason the phrase “In space, no one can hear you scream” still sends chills down my spine, “Alien” is an amazing film. It features Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the most memorable movie characters of all time, one of the scariest monsters in cinematic history and some of the best visual effects in a movie I’ve ever seen. Even to this day, the special effects in this film are convincing. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres, and there is something about “Alien” that feels impossible to improve upon. Its sequel “Aliens” is also great, but it doesn’t quite meet the standards of horror that Ripley’s original ordeal on the Nostromo did. Most of the frightening elements of this film are the product of the brilliant mind of H. R. Giger, who passed away just last year. He created the costume for the eponymous monster, and its terrifying visage is instantly memorable and incredibly convincing.
1. “The Shining” (1980)
Stanley Kubrick has always produced films with masterful visuals, and his psychological-horror film “The Shining” is no different. When a family of three is hired as caretakers for an isolated hotel over the winter, they soon learn that the picturesque resort is actually violently haunted. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the deeply disturbed Jack Torrance is one of his greatest performances, and he has been immortalized as one of the greatest villains in cinematic history. The film is filled with brilliant visual clues that have spawned so many theories about what message the film is trying to convey, but Kubrick has never uttered a single word on the matter. “The Shining” wasn’t made simply for the purpose of being an efficient and enjoyable horror, it was made to be studied and puzzled over. However, if examining movies for their cultural commentary is not your idea of a great time, then at the very least watch this movie for its genuine thrills, brilliant storytelling and gorgeous set pieces. “The Shining” is one of those movies that you can never forget, because it is history, it is art and it is frightening.
There you have it; whether your tastes run scary, suspenseful, satirical or shocking, there is plenty here to choose from. If these aren’t enough for you, here are a few honorable mentions. For those of you in need of some lighter humor, check out “Young Frankenstein” (1974), “Rocky Horror Picture Shows” (1975), “Hocus Pocus” (1993) or “Beetlejuice” (1988). If you’re looking for some classic horror movies, you can always try “Dracula” (1931) or “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920). So grab the candy and popcorn, turn down the lights and get ready for a fright! Happy Halloween!