Only the uncivilised believe that any horror movie is appropriate for Halloween. Who watches Friday the 13th at this time of the year? These people are amateurs.
But seriously, we can’t consider every movie with snow a Christmas movie, so why make exception for Halloween? I’ve collected some of my favourite movies to watch at this time of the year. Some are on-the-nose, yes, but I like to think they best celebrate what this time of the season really feels likes.
I personally like to enjoy classics of the genre, but that isn’t to say there aren’t others worth mentioning. My list isn’t the most inspired, but sometimes it’s worth just revisiting the traditions. So whether you watch horror movies all year round, or just this week – maybe you’ll find something here:
1. Halloween (1978)
John Carpenter’s classic should be a staple for everyone’s Halloween. Growing up, I was constantly renting this movie from the rental shop. But it wasn’t until I watched it on the full screen at the Prince Charles Cinema in London that I realised how truly incredible this movie is.
Rent it, watch it, continue the tradition. But if you have the opportunity to see this in a cinema, you absolutely need to.
2. Night of the Demons (1988)
On the surface, this movie looks like pretty standard fair: kids go into haunted house on Halloween, kids become possessed, kids die. But Night of the Demons is so much more than an average slasher film. Like many of the late-80s slashers, there’s a lot of style influence from the American hardcore scene (see number 5 on the list). It’s ascetic and memorable characters (including great performances from Amelia Kinkade and Linnea Quigley) make this a slasher a head above the rest.
This is one of the few films that I actually enjoy the sequel to (actually, any 90’s horror movie with Christine Taylor is a win), so I also will throw that one in as a bonus rec.
3. House of the Devil (2009)
This Ti West-directed beauty is more than just a nostalgia trip. While the film looks and feels very much like an early 80’s thriller, it offers a much more contemporary take. The tale is of a young woman who agrees to a babysitting job on the night of a lunar eclipse. Only the job isn’t so average, instead of a unruly group of kids, it’s to watch an elderly woman. It’s certainly a slow burn, but West does an incredible job at building suspense.
Also, arguably the best use of The Fixx in any movie.
4. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
It’s fabulous, stylish and just everything a gothic stunner needs to be. Bride of Frankenstein picks up precisely where Mary Shelly’s original tale ended. This is Universal Horror at it’s height.
Arguably, any of the Universal Monster Movies is perfect for Halloween, but the story of Frankenstein and his monster is very special. And Bride of Frankenstein might actually be better than the original. Elsa Lanchester’s Bride character doesn’t come to life until towards the end, but she’s so iconic, you’d think the movie is about her.
And as always, anything where Boris Karloff is the monster is necessary viewing for Halloween.
5. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Like Night of the Demons, this Dan O’Bannon-helmed zombie movie is full of style and Linnea Quigley’s boobs. It has a fantastic soundrack, talking zombies (well, they can say “brains”), and the fabulous Don Calfa. The story isn’t exactly inspired, but it’s done in such a way that everything feels fresh. It’s enough to inspire your own picnic in a graveyard.
If not this one, just go with the classic Night of the Living Dead. That one never gets old.
6. Mad Monster Party? (1967)
I only watched this stop-motion animation movie for the first time back in September, but it made such an impression I feel compelled to share this strange, zany film. Sure, it is terribly dated, but how many animated movies really stand the test of time.
Answer: Charlie Brown.
But this little Rankin/Bass movie (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) is a literal monster mash of characters. It’s corny, yes, but anything that is willing to use King Kong alongside Dracula is going to be.
7. The Haunted Castle aka The Devil’s Castle (Le Manoir du diable) (1896)
My first proper introduction to Georges Méliès was in a media studies class at university. Our professor was completely enamored with the magic that the French director was able to create on film. And that affection was infectious. I’ve loved Méliès work ever since.
Many of his films contain sinister undertones, but none quite like Le Manoir du diable. Two men encounter Mephistopheles’ castle, which is haunted by bats, skeletons and spectres. It’s only three minutes, but this black-and-white silent film manages to create some seriously chilling imagery. Completely astounding for something created in 1896.
This is often considered the first horror film ever made. So if you haven’t seen it, be sure to treat yourself to a viewing.
8. The Omen (1976)
The 70’s was a truly golden era of horror cinema, especially the kind interested in religion, demons and Christianity. The Omen is often paired with the slightly-superior The Exorcist, and arguably, both of these films could make the list. But the first time I watched The Exorcist I was in a farmhouse in July – so I’ve ruled it out. But The Omen is about an adopted child that ends up being the Antichrist. Can it get more seasonal than that?
Just watch the graveyard scene.
9. Don’t Look Now (1973)
Based on Daphne du Maurier’s short story, this is a dark and brooding tale of lose and obsession. It’s certainly the most harrowing movie on this list, but it’s also the most stunning. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie play a couple of parents who leave for Venice after the accidental drowning of their daughter. But they don’t find the escape that they desire in Italy. Sutherland’s character begins to see visions, which includes a lot of red rain coats.
Don’t Look Now is filled with cold, dark places perfect for the short, dark days. It’s also terrifying.
10. Fright Night (1985)
Fright Night is everything I love about 80’s movies: it’s a bit wacky, the main character is a lovable goof, THE MONSTERS ARE REAL, KIDS, and there are a lot of great, memorable lines! It’s like Goonies meets Lost Boys meets Monster Squad with a bit more thrills. Oh, and a lot of great lines.
When Charley realises that his next-door neighbour is a blood-sucking fiend, he sets out with a motley group of friends to get rid of him. It’s a comedy of errors, but one that includes a late-night horror TV show host. The idea of horror movie actors helping you destroy a servant of darkness has to be a dream for most horror fans.
There is also a documentary available on Shudder called You’re So Cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night, which I will need to watch…as soon as I make it through this list again.