I don’t know what truly defines a “Halloween” movie. It’s not always a horror movie (see “Hocus Pocus”), and it might as well be an animated film (“The Corpse Bride” is a fine example of that). So without really focusing on a specific genre, I give you a list of films I personally enjoy watching during Halloween season.
Ed Wood (1994)
My favorite Tim Burton movie and one of my all time favorite films for many reasons. “Ed Wood” is the reason why I fell in love with classic Universal monsters as well as Bela Lugosi movies. Set in the 50’s, it tells the real-life story of the worst director of all time, who made crappy low budget horror films out of sheer passion. Johnny Depp has never been better, and who can forget the late, great Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi? I’ve seen “Ed Wood” so many times, and it’s still a fresh experience every single time.
Henry Selick made a name for himself when he directed “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in the 90’s, but it’s “Coraline” that truly stood out for me. This is an exceptional animated film about a young girl who finds a secret door in her new home and discovers an alternate version of her life. The result is a funny film, with a chilling atmosphere and unique sense of humor. Selick himself worked on the production design, and if you watched it at the time of its release, then you’ve probably experienced some of the best 3D gimmicks ever made. I can’t think of a better animated film to recommend for a Halloween gathering.
The Others (2001)
Hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since this superior horror film hit theaters back in 2001. I watched it with my mom (who hated anything scary but watched it with me anyway), and it’s an experience that still haunts us to this day. Nicole Kidman is terrific as a mother who tries to protect her children from a photo-sensitivity disease by keeping them indoor at all times. But nothing is truly what it seems in this old mansion. Is the place haunted? That’s the mystery that eats at you in this exceptional horror film, but it wouldn’t have been the same without its shocking twist. My lips are sealed. If you’ve never seen this movie, now’s the time.
Happy Death Day (2017)
A recent film, but a good one nonetheless. It’s best to describe “Happy Death Day” as a cross between “Groundhog Day” (one of my favorite films) and basically any slasher film you can think of (the movie even pokes fun of that and I loved that about it). Jessica Rothe plays a college student who keeps reliving the day of her murder over and over again. I will not say more, allowing you to witness the way director Christopher Landon keeps coming up with twists and turns, even when you know there’s nowhere else he can go. And Rothe excels as a woman seeking answers: who’s trying to kill her? This movie will keep you guessing at every turn.
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
I love this movie. There, I said it. It caught me off guard at the time of its release, and some of its images still haunt me to this day. Justin Long was better known for his comedic roles, but as a teenager passing through a creepy countryside with his sister, he pulls this one off quite well. Little do they know that they’re about to encounter a flesh-eating creature that would stop at nothing. And I do mean nothing. This isn’t a flawless film by any means, but it’s an original idea that spawned a couple of forgettable sequels.
I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
You knew I’d throw in a crappy slasher film eventually, and “I know what you did last Summer” is one of my favorites. The genre was at its peak in the 90’s, and all the kids my age eagerly awaited the next slasher film playing at the local multiplex. While “Scream” is highly regarded as a classic in the genre, this one faded into obscurity. It’s still a fun film to revisit, and as silly as it may sound, I enjoy every minute of it. So if you’re looking for a cheesy slasher film to watch this Halloween, look no further.
Red Eye (2005)
Cillian Murphy. Rachel McAdams. A stormy night on a plane. What more can you ask for? The great, late Wes Craven was better known for such classics as “Nightmare of Elm Street” and “Scream”, but he truly succeeded in manipulating his audience in “Red Eye”, even if he had to resort to familiar techniques. This is a solid film from start to finish and an underrated gem in my opinion.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Not the sequels. Not the remake. The original 1974 film in all its glory. The way I see it, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is much more than just a horror film. It’s a landmark movie that inspired a generation of horror filmmakers. In telling the story of how a group of friends fall victims to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths, director Tobe Hooper keeps you pinned to your seat at every turn. It’s a fantastic achievement that truly ranks as one of the creepiest films you will ever watch.
The Cat and the Canary (1927)
The mother of all haunted house movies. A movie that inspired so many remakes and quite possibly a few Scooby Doo episodes as well. Plot involves relatives of a millionaire who gather in his spooky mansion on the 20th anniversary of his death for the reading of his will. Then someone…wait for it…dies! German Expressionist director Paul Leni cleverly blends black humor with elements of pure horror to create an eerie atmosphere. The result is a film that you’d want to get lost in. Like “Nosferatu” a few years earlier, “The Cat and the Canary” is full of imaginative touches that has the power to haunt your dreams. I double dare you to watch it alone in an empty house.
The Raven (1935)
I wanted a Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff movie on the list, and “The Raven” is by far one of my favorites. Based on the works of Edgard Allen Poe, “The Raven” focuses on a neurological surgeon (Lugosi of course) who plans to kidnap the woman he loves and kill her fiance with the help of a wanted criminal (that would be Karloff). The result is a chilling atmosphere and a pulse-pounding climax. They don’t make them like they used to anymore.
Honorable mentions: “Get Out” (2017), “It” (2017), “A Quiet Place” (2018), “Drag me To Hell” (2009), “The Addams Family” (1991).