Ten Essential Halloween Spine-Tinglers

31 Oct

The tell-tale signs of Halloween’s quick approach are pumpkins galore and Monster Mash on repeat on the radio—and let’s not forget the clever ghost decorations. But you can’t really be in the spooky spirit until you plop down on the couch and binge on some good old classic Halloween movies. Yes, Halloween is coming and that means it’s officially horror movie season, so what better way to spend a cold, dark October night than hunkering down with a scary film. It’s the perfect time to grab some popcorn, huddle with all of your friends, and get prepared to scream your head off at some of the scariest movies out there. There have been so many horror films over the years and it can be so hard to figure out which ones you should definitely watch and which ones you should stay away from. Plus, it can also be tough to find the best Halloween movies that everyone in your friend group will love, but whether you’re looking for the ultimate slasher film or are just trying to find something dark that the whole family can enjoy, there are plenty of picks here for any kind of Halloween and horror lover. So gather your most trusted friends or family members, turn down the lights, maybe add a few candles, definitely grab some Halloween sweets and candy, and you’ll be ready for the ultimate fright night.

Halloween (1978)

This movie’s inclusion on any and all Halloween lists is a no-brainer. Not only does it namecheck the holiday in the very title, but it’s a standard bearer in the horror genre. Directed by auteur John Carpenter, Halloween tells the story of child psychopath Michael Myers, who is locked away after murdering his 15-year-old sister at the age of 6. He breaks out 15 years later, hell-bent on murdering his other sister, Laurie, played by pre-eminent scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis. Carpenter’s bogeyman slasher nightmare spawned a legion of inferior sequels that couldn’t diminish the ominous power of his original, which belongs at the top of any list of must-see films for the eponymous horror holiday.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

This one’s for the in-betweeners: Kids who have aged out of the most family-friendly scary movies, but aren’t yet old enough for Nightmare on Elm Street. Based on the series of books that used to terrify you as a child, this movie follows a group of kids who have to investigate a bunch of local legends — before the legends wind up getting the better of them.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Halloween movies need not be dark, bloody, and nightmare-inducing. Leading the comedy horror pack are the Sanderson sisters, played by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, who are resurrected by a virgin in present-day Salem, unleashing all sorts of mayhem and one of the earliest appearances by actor Doug Jones (as Winnie’s sewed-up ex), who most recently appeared as the fish man in The Shape of Water. It’s easy to see why this family flick has withstood the test of time — the central trio of witches is irresistibly charming. And, if your kids love it, you can get them the sequel novel, which follows Max and Allison’s 17-year-old daughter, Poppy.

Ghostbusters (1984)

When you want to watch a movie with your family that’s as heavy on the laughs as it is on the scares, who ya gonna call? Would it be Halloween without the adventures of Venkman, Stantz, and co. and their battle against phantasms looking to take over New York? Grab a box of Hi-C Ecto-Cooler and enjoy!

Donnie Darko (2001)

This Halloween-set surreal masterpiece is about much broader themes than your standard scary movie. Disaffected teenager Donnie (a brilliant Jake Gyllenhaal) is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit. We spend the movie unsure if the strange world that Donnie inhabits—one in which he narrowly escapes death and is manipulated into committing crimes—is a product of something awry in his mind or a larger, more world-threatening event. Definitely the most cerebral Halloween pick, Donnie Darko will leave you pondering some of life’s big mysteries.

Scream (1996)

“Do you like scary movies?” That line and the shocking killing that followed it marked the beginning of a new era for horror movies. Written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, Scream is the perfect blend of ’90s pop culture archness with slasher film tropes. The series has produced four sequels and a TV series (some good, some…not so much) but the original remains the best. This movie had everything: the genius of Wes Craven, the words of Dawson’s Creek creator Kevin Williamson, and a young Skeet Ulrich licking “pig’s blood” while Neve Campbell looked on in disgust. Just what the (witch) doctor ordered – though it might not always match the brutality on offer in today’s contemporary horror genre, this blast from the 1990s still delivers the chills.

Gremlins (1984)

Director Joe Dante pulls off a difficult feat in this movie: The creature he makes is so cute and cuddly — but it spins off into critters that are truly terrifying. Their hijinx mix suspense, action laughs, and scares in equal measure.

The Babadook (2014)

In Jennifer Kent’s gothic Australian thriller Amelia, a young widow, is burdened with her troubled six-year-old son Sam years after the violent death of her husband. But it only gets worse for the beleaguered Amelia when the titular character of Sam’s picture book—the tall, top hat-wearing spook named the Babadook—seemingly begins to creep beyond the pages of his book and wreaks havoc on the mother and son. Sam becomes convinced that the monster is real. Amelia doesn’t believe him. One of them is very wrong.

The Others (2001)

It’s hard to look away from Nicole Kidman’s powerhouse performance as Grace, a loving and religious mother who tries to protect her children from a photosensitivity disease that keeps them indoors. Who still gets chills upon hearing her daughter Anne say, “Are you mad? I am your daughter”?

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street is Wes Craven’s still-scary ’80s tale of Freddy Krueger, a knife-gloved serial killer who murders people in their dreams. The story of a child molester who returns from the dead to prey upon his killers’ children in dreams, Wes Craven’s seminal shocker recognizes that you’re never more vulnerable than when asleep—a fact that naturally set up countless scares for one of the biggest horror franchises in film history. Watch this one if you never want to get a good night’s sleep ever again.

Bonus movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Not long after the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town concludes he’s simply bored with the annual celebrations related to the blessed day that is Halloween, he stumbles into Christmas Town and immediately becomes infatuated—so much that he tries to recreate the holiday at home. The reason this film only makes the list as an honourable mention is that debate always rages about whether or not Tim Burton’s groundbreaking stop-motion animated movie is a Halloween movie or a Christmas flick. The answer: Watch it every year from October through to December.

One Response to “Ten Essential Halloween Spine-Tinglers”

  1. von October 31, 2019 at 10:39 am #

    Great choice of films the only one that I am not familiar with is The Babadock which I will now catch up with.

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