Halloween is right around the corner, which means it’s time to tap into the holiday’s exciting energy. Is there any better time of the year than Halloween? It’s a chance to celebrate the creepier side of things as the weather transitions into fall with less sunlight, colder temperatures and changing leaves. From thrillers to horror, here are thirteen movies meant to help you celebrate Halloween.
One of the most iconic horror movies of all time would be none other than “Scream”. The release of this film single-handedly revitalized the dying slasher genre, and also marked the comeback of actress Drew Barrymore. What makes “Scream” different for its time is its commentary on horror movie clichés and 90’s youth. The movie also granted pop culture yet another iconic final girl, Sidney Prescott. and villain. Every character is a suspect as the town spirals after a series of murders by a killer in a ghost face mask. Sidney Prescott’s past is somehow connected to these crimes, and she must face the truth in order to find out who is really behind the murders.
The Witch, 2015
“The Witch” has a very unconventional, and historic, setting for a contemporary movie. The story takes place in the 1600s as a family of settlers is banished from their Puritan community over religious disagreements. The Williams family tries their best to adapt to their new situation until strange happenings start occurring at their farm. What happened to the baby who disappeared? Is there really a witch in the woods? Is Thomasin to blame as her parents believe? “The Witch” follows the chronicle of this family as they navigate through their isolation and battle what they believe to be evil. This movie is definitely on the darker, more mysterious side of the spectrum as it tackles the question of religion and witchcraft.
A Halloween movie marathon is not possible without watching the holiday’s famous, namesake movie. Everyone knows Michael Meyers and his memorable, scary mask, but it doesn’t hurt to watch the movie again for fun. We know the story. Michael Meyers escapes the hospital he was institutionalized in as he hunts down his family, particularly his sister Laurie Strode. “Halloween” is actually one of the founding movies of the slasher genre, and was released before other well-known movies like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th”. “Halloween” became popular due to how different it was compared to other movies of the time, and it is so culturally impactful that it’s actually preserved within the Library of Congress.
The Boy, 2016
Hear me out. When the trailers for “The Boy” initially dropped it seemed like another Chucky knock-off, but I think there are some aspects of the movie that make it unique. Greta takes a nannying job for a family in England, excited for a new start until she finds out the child she is nannying is actually a porcelain doll. Creepy. Strange things happen once Greta starts her job, such as her things disappearing, the doll moving around on its own and strange noises that echo throughout the home. She can’t help but suspect that maybe a spirit of some sort haunts the doll. The family who owns the house have their own mysteries as well, mysteries Greta uncovers as she seeks the truth about their deceased son. I think The Boy’s approach to its villain—its “monster”—is a unique one that hadn’t been seen before in haunted doll movies which makes it worth the watch.
The horror of “Midsommar” is more psychological than supernatural, but it’s so well done it’s an effective scare. “Midsommar” was written by the same writer as “Hereditary” (2018), Ari Aster, but it’s much different than his previous work. A girl named Dani goes on a trip with her boyfriend and a group of friends to Sweden. What could possibly go wrong? Dani is struggling to cope after the deaths of her close relatives and her deteriorating relationship, so a trip seems to be just the refuge she needs. However, not all is what it seems. What I love about “Midsommar” is its ability to make you feel unsettled without cheap jumpscares or the use of poltergeists, but rather Dani’s own mind and the setting. Every time you watch “Midsommar” there is something new to discover as new details continue to emerge. “Midsommar” is carefully crafted and well-written with nuance that masters the art of subtlety. What I will say is to pay attention to the language used by its characters and to really think about the ending and Dani’s reality. The ending of “Midsommar” is one that is easily misunderstood as its watchers sometimes fall prey to the very same fate as Dani.
Friday the 13th, 1980
When it comes to iconic horror movie villains, Jason Vorhees has to be acknowledged. The movie takes place at Camp Crystal Lake where camp counselors are hunted down by an unknown killer to prevent its re-opening. What adds to the horror of “Friday the 13th” is the isolated setting of the camp. Sometimes what makes a story so effective is its setting, especially if it’s a limited one, because it allows an audience to be fully immersed in it. All the camp counselors are trapped at the wooded camp with no means of escape, and as watchers, we are able to feel this hopelessness and confinement. “Friday the 13th” is only the first part of this multi-film franchise, but with so many movies it’s best to just watch the first one to get a taste of the Halloween spirit.
Child’s Play, 1988
As a child, there could be no scarier movie to me than “Child’s Play.” A murderous doll coming to life and wreaking havoc? That was a nightmare come true. However, when revisiting the old movie, I couldn’t help but realize how funny it actually is. Chucky himself is comical and deadpan with a crude sense of humor, and the digital effects are outdated, which gives the doll a somewhat wonky look. In fact, even the later movies are just as funny, with one of the most iconic ones being “The Bride of Chucky” (1998) with Jennifer Tilly. Even the reboot TV series is just as entertaining as it explores the relationship between Chucky, Tiffany and their child Glen.
Interview With a Vampire, 1994
What is Halloween without the inclusion of fan-favorite, beloved vampires? Halloween is not complete if you don’t watch any films that feature mystical creatures or monsters. Interview With a Vampire is told through the narration of Louis as he’s interviewed by a journalist about his immortal life. He shares how he became a vampire, his relationship with vampirism and humanity and his queer-coded relationship with vampire Lestat. The original books written by Anne Rice are explicitly queer, and while this film adaptation dances around Louis and Lestat’s relationship, the recent AMC TV series doesn’t shy away from it. The “Interview With a Vampire” film is gothic and addictive as we are taken through the turmoil of Lestat and Louis’ relationship during 19th century New Orleans. If you want more of this series, you should also check out the sequel, “Queen of the Damned” (2002), starring Aaliyah as an ancient Egyptian vampire queen.
Train to Busan, 2016
Arguably one of South Korea’s most famous films, “Train to Busan” is the story of a zombie outbreak as a father and daughter attempt to survive and make it to the safe haven of Busan. Father Seok-woo and daughter Soo-an join together with a band of survivors as they attempt to navigate through the train station overrun by infected zombies. Their goal is to start the train they are trapped on and head to Busan, as the title suggests. However, you must be warned. You will be shedding tears at the end. Another example of great zombie media from South Korea would be the series “All of Us is Dead” (2022), where a group of students is trapped in their high school during a zombie epidemic.
“Veronica” is a Spanish film released in 2017 that follows high schooler Veronica and the paranormal occurrences she experiences. After a seancé gone wrong where she attempted to contact her dead father, she starts to see shadowy figures as unusual things start happening in her home. Veronica is in charge of caring for her two young siblings while her mother works long hours in order to provide for them, but she fears something is after the children. However, it’s unclear if she’s losing her mind and doing these things, or if a supernatural presence really has followed her. What makes this movie even more terrifying is the fact it’s based on a true story, and the crime scene photos shown at the end of the movie are chilling. Because of this, I have never rewatched the film since it genuinely terrified me, so if the paranormal genre really scares you, maybe this movie is not for you.
Rosemary’s Baby, 1968
TW: sexual assault
A classic horror movie that ties together the supernatural and the psychological genre is none other than “Rosemary’s Baby,” which dates all other movies listed here. Rosemary, a young wife, moves into a new apartment complex with her husband, Guy, despite the warnings from people around them. Their neighbors are eccentric and offer them gifts regularly, and when Guy gets a new job opportunity, he suggests he and Rosemary have a child together. Rosemary never has the chance to consent to have children, because she passes out after eating a strange dish gifted to her by the neighbors, and Guy sexually assaults her while she’s unconscious. Soon after Rosemary becomes pregnant, but her pregnancy is not an easy one as it takes a toll on her body and mental state. Everyone convinces her she is crazy for thinking there is witchcraft at play, and she is unsure what to believe, and neither is the audience.
“Us” is one of Jordan Peele’s many famous works, and the filmmaker’s style is unique and fresh to the horror movie scene. “Us” follows the story of Adelaide and her family as they have to escape a family of their own doppelgängers attempting to murder them. In fact, it’s happening all across the nation and no one knows why. “Us” is striking and unnerving in the sense that it makes you feel you are on the run with Adelaide and her family as you’re forced to imagine the horror of a murderous doppelgänger. The plot of Us is one that could have easily fallen flat if not carried out correctly, but that absolutely does not apply to this film. What makes “Us” really stick with you is its writing, the ending, and the plot twists that reside in it. You never know what to expect as you grapple to understand Adelaide’s world and the world of her dopplegänger Red.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2007
To end this list with a film unlike the others, Sweeney Todd is not your typical horror flick since it’s a movie based on the Broadway musical. Musicals aren’t for everyone, but if they are your thing then Sweeney Todd is a must for Halloween. The color scales are dark and lifeless, perfectly illustrating Sweeney’s apathy towards the world, while the makeup style is ghastly and makes the actors deathly pale with dark, hollowed eyes. Bleak, dull, and gray is the world of Sweeney Todd, a barber who was recently released after fifteen years in prison and who learns his wife has passed away and knows nothing about what has happened to his daughter. He swears revenge on Judge Turpin, the man who sent him to prison on a false charge, leading to the loss of his family, but is completely unaware that his daughter has been adopted by him. Sweeney partners up with Mrs. Lovett, the owner of the pie shop below his barbering business to help each other achieve their goals. Mrs. Lovett wants better business despite being unable to afford meat, and Sweeney wants revenge. The logical conclusion they come up with after Sweeney murders a man is to use the body for her meat pie business, and every man he murders after that. The premise of the film is what makes it perfect for the Halloween season due to its dark, macabre, and disturbing nature, not to mention its amazing soundtrack.