Back in 2017 I wrote a list of horror movies to watch for Halloween. And to be honest, looking back on it, it isn’t up to scratch. While a list of fun and great horror movie, I thought it just didn’t scream HALLOWEEN enough.
So here’s part 2. The redo. Movies that I’ll personally be watching over the next few days and on Halloween. This time, I decided to include some non-horror films. Because hey, not everyone wants that!
1. WNUF Halloween (2013) dir. by Chris LaMartina, various
A truly one-of-a-kind. This is found footage movie is done in the style of a VHS taping of a live news report on Halloween 1987. There are news reports, local commercials (that are repeated) and a Halloween special involving ghosts!
It’s cheesy and fun. But it also gets unsettling enough at the end to scare you. If you love low-budget magic with plenty of kitsch, this is the one to check out.
2. Halloween Party (1989) dir. by Dave Skowronski
When I saw little, my sister and her friends made movies using my dad’s VHS camera. They made horror movies mostly, the best of which was titled Pretty in Pink Turned Blood Red. They just made shorts doing the best that they can.
Halloween Party is a shot-on-video oddity that aired on Connecticut public television in 1989. It reminded me a lot of those movies my sister made back in the early 90s. It’s a group of friends making a horror movie about some kids getting killed at a Halloween party. It really has the feeling of the bored fun you’d have as a teen.
It’s short. It’s sweet. It has a surprisingly effective mask. Come for some SOV greatness, stay for the “Monster Mash” dance at the end.
3. The McPherson Tape/UFO Abduction (1989) dir. by Dean Alioto
In my humble opinion, The McPherson Tape is one of the most effective found-footage movies. First of all, I really hate aliens. I believed they lived in the woods behind my parents’ house. So an alien movie that takes place in the woods? I’m done.
A family get together to celebrate the birthday of their youngest member. When the lights go out, some of the family go out into the woods to see an alien spaceship. The family must escape, but the aliens already know they’re there…
There’s apparently a 1998 remake. But if it isn’t as grainy and haunting as the original, I don’t want it!
4. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) dir. by Tommy Lee Wallace
The third instalment of this franchise is easily the most difficult to describe. “There’s a man, and he has bits of Stonehenge. And he’s putting the stone in microchips that go in masks that will make kids’ heads melt into snakes on Halloween night!”
Yeah. This movie is weird. But it also stars Tom Atkins, who’s ace.
When I first watched Season of the Witch, this was often considered by many to be the worst in the franchise. No Michael! But I’ve seen a lot of love for this in recent years. Its reappraisal is well deserved, I think.
5. Hell House LLC (2015) dir. by Stephen Cognetti
Apparently I’m big into found footage this Halloween. This one is easily the scariest on the list.
A group of friends running a haunted house go to an abandoned hotel for their newest tour. In typical haunted house fashion, the group refuses to leave despite all the sirens and warning lights. When things go south, it’s terrifying. But the build-up in this one is equally as uncomfortable.
I’d skip the sequels for this one. They’re convoluted and pale in comparison to the real scares this one has. I also: I don’t recommend watching this if you’re alone in your house.
6. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) dir. by Bill Melendez
A classic for a reason. Whether you’re young or old, this is the ultimate cozy tale of Halloween. I rewatch this TV special at least once a year. If children’s specials are your thing, I recommend listening to Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack. It epitomises the snuggly feeling of carving pumpkins and going trick-or-treating.
7. Night of the Demons (1988) dir. by Kevin S. Tenney and Night of the Demons 2 (1994) dir. by Brian Trenchard-Smith
If you want a Halloween double feature, these two classic slashers are perfect. Teenagers at a haunted house on Halloween night is always a winner. Throw in some iconic characters and possessions, and you’re set.
Both of these movies are quintessential examples of their era. Night of the Demons has lots of teens doing stupids things to Bauhaus. Its sequel amps up the bitchiness and adds more nuns. These two are lots of fun and always work a rewatch on Halloween night.
8. Practical Magic (1998) dir. by Griffin Dunne
I don’t think this ever comes across in this blog, but I’m a bit of a romantic and a big fan of fantasy. Alice Hoffman writes the perfect type of book for me. And this adaption of one of her most famous novels is a classic.
Practical Magic is the tale of the Owens sisters, whose family has been cursed. Anyone they fall in love with is doomed to die. The multi-generational family must stick together when Sally and Gillian get themselves into trouble with a dead boyfriend and a suspicious investigator.
While not strictly a Halloween or autumnal movie, there’s plenty of witchy business to give the right vibes. Plus the cast is absolutely perfect in this. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing steal the show. Watch this with your loved ones (this one means a lot to my sisters and me). Have yourself a midnight margarita while you’re at it.
9. The Sentinel (1977) dir. by Michael Winner
If you’re looking for supernatural horror in the same vein as The Exorcist or The Omen, but have already seen the classics, try The Sentinel.
Young model Alison Parker moves into a Brooklyn brownstone, thinking she’s found the perfect place. But the building is full of strange inhabitants, including a priest that is seemingly always looking out the window keeping watch over…something.
As Alison spirals, so does the film’s imagery, increasingly becoming more and more surreal and terrifying.
I get the feeling this isn’t a hit with most people. But every time I watch The Sentinel, I find myself scared as much as the first viewing.
10. Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972) dir. by Bob Clark
When a theatre troupe head to a remote island, things go very wrong when the troupe’s leader performs a ritual to raise the dead. It’s dark comedy in Clark’s signature style, co-written by and starring Deranged director Alan Ormsby (who also directed the excellent Popcorn). For a low-budget movie, its effects are really effective. The atmosphere is perfectly eerie. It’s also very funny.
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things shows the promise of what’s to come from two horror icons. Perfect for exploring the early careers of both Ormsby and Clark.