For anyone who hasn’t looked at a calendar recently, I have splendid news! It’s October! Well, the end of it anyway.
It’s the time to ditch the bro-tanks for sweaters, grab your choice of pumpkin-flavored beverage and gawk at just how pretty all the leaves are this season. However, the more dark and twisted of us choose to use this time in preparation for our favorite holiday: Halloween.
It’s a tradition for many Americans to get wrapped up in the festivities of All Hallow’s Eve and briefly allow a bit of our darker selves to come creeping from the shadows. To get in the spirit of season, many turn to the magic of Hollywood and turn on a scary movie to enjoy with family, friends or, for the most courageous of us, alone.
Cheap, cash-grab, scary movies are a dime a dozen, and fans of the genre have to wade through an absurd amount of crap just to find the good stuff. However, if you aren’t feeling like sorting through a bunch of movies, take this shortcut and check out our list of the thirteen best movies for Halloween.
13. “You’re Next” (2011)
“You’re Next” follows a family’s attempts to survive, as their peaceful dinner turns into a bloodbath when mercenaries armed with crossbows invade their home and slaughter anyone they find. The night turns crazier, as the main characters and the audience delve deeper into this murder-plot, searching for their killers’ motives and who is behind this coordinated attack. “You’re Next” is unapologetic in its insanity and is a perfect example of an outrageous, action-packed thriller done right!
12. “The Others” (2001)
“The Others” takes place just after World War II and chronicles the efforts of religious housewife, Grace (played by Nicole Kidman), as she desperately tries to protect her children when she discovers that they aren’t the only occupants on their estate.
The audience gets to experience the dread of a mother fighting an enemy she can’t hope to understand, as inexplicable event after inexplicable event withers away her courage and sanity. Though this may not be the scariest movie of all time, its beautiful storytelling and compelling mystery should not be passed up.
11. “Scream” (1996)
Despite the over-saturation of slasher movies on the market, Wes Craven made something truly special with his classic “Scream.” After a grisly murder of two teens, the hunt is on to unmask a killer bent on trying to torture Sidney Prescott for reasons unknown.
Given his experience in the movie industry, and in horror in general, Wes Craven was able to use “Scream” to clearly label “The Rules of Scary Movies.” Even with the rules known by the characters, they still managed to get picked off one by one, helping further the now-classic whodunit narrative. It’s this meta-quality that gives “Scream” its charm, ensuring it will stay a Halloween necessity for years to come.
10. “It Follows” (2014)
Almost nothing can activate our primal fears more than being followed. The uncertainty of a pursuer often causes many of us to continuously look back, quicken our pace and even in some cases, sprint to the nearest safe place we can find.
In “It Follows,” Jay is stalked relentlessly by a monster, which only she can see, that was passed to her after an incidental hook-up. She and her friends are never safe throughout the film, as the creature, no matter where it may be, is always walking straight towards them.
While this may not be terrifying on the surface (A monster just walking? Boo!), the real genius of “It Follows” is that in every meticulously planned shot, in the background, someone is walking towards the main characters, allowing the audience to experience and understand the true helplessness of Jay’s situation.
9. “Insidious” (2010) and “Insidious Chapter 2” (2013)
No, this isn’t a tie, but experiencing the entire story of “Insidious” requires viewing its sequel. In “Insidious,” a mother and father desperately search for answers after their son falls into a coma and is threatened by the possibility of demonic possession. It’s very similar in its construction to “Poltergeist,” but unlike “Poltergeist,” “Insidious” is actually scary.
The only bad thing I can say about “Insidious” (besides some of its fake scares) is its shameless ending, which serves only to set-up a sequel. However, on the optimistic side, that leaves twice the amount of horrifying fun for viewers!
8. “[REC]” (2007)
Originating from Spain, “[REC]” is a truly special film because it is one of the only legitimately scary found-footage and zombie (or at least zombie-ish) movie, a rare find for both categories. “[REC]” follows a TV reporter and her cameraman as they do a special on the local fire station. During a routine call, however, things turn grim as the building is sealed off and quarantined by the government, trapping the occupants inside with the cannibalistic infected.
“[REC]” takes full advantage of the realism squandered by many found footage movies, and takes us right into the bloody, confusing action. We can feel the closeness and claustrophobia experienced by the characters as they dive past monsters, barely escaping each time with their lives. “[REC]” is a real gem among the found footage sub-genre and should not be missed by anyone who is a fan of a solid zombie thriller.
7. “Oculus” (2013)
We’ve all thought about the trustworthiness of our senses or lack thereof. “Oculus” takes this idea to the extreme as the antagonist of the movie is a demonic mirror capable of altering everything its target perceives. Brother and sister, Kaylie and Tim, take on this mirror, as they try to document its true malicious nature.
The main plot is told seamlessly alongside the dismal events of their childhood, revealing their motivations and personal stakes in the investigation. “Oculus” is a shining example of psychological horror and adds a fresh new flavor to the horror as a whole.
6. “Sinister” (2012)
Have you ever heard the phrase “Some things can’t be unseen?” 2012’s “Sinister” gives this sentence an entirely new meaning. In the film, disgruntled true-crime writer Ellison Oswald moves himself and his family into the house of a recently deceased family. In the attic, he finds a projector and home movies, all of which feature gruesome deaths of entire families. The evil doesn’t stop there, however, as Ellison soon discovers something even more sinister (see what I did there) contained within the old footage.
Not only is this film beautiful in its cinematography, but also contains frightening character designs. Also worth mentioning is Ethan Hawke’s performance, as we get to see his confident and borderline smug character give way to hysteria and realizes there is more to this bizarre mystery than he can hope to solve. For anyone who enjoys novel storytelling with a grisly twist, you cannot go wrong with “Sinister.”
5. “The Cabin in the Woods” (2011)
If you’ve only seen the trailer for “The Cabin in the Woods,” you may have been lead to believe it was just going to be another typical “let’s-kill-some-good-looking-teens-cause-we-can” horror movie. Let me assure you: it is anything but that. In fact this is probably the weirdest, most outrageous movie on this list.
And you shouldn’t be surprised by that, since Joss Whedon produced and co-wrote it. The script is dripping with Whedon’s dry, poignant wit and, unlike all other movies on this list, is freaking hilarious!
The script for this movie is full of symbolic references and self-awareness, as the movie bombards the audience with overused trope after overused trope. In reality, the film serves as a fantastic critique of horror and is perhaps one of the most clever movies to come out in recent memory.
4. “Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
In “Silence of the Lambs,” FBI agent Clarice Starling is faced with the tough question: how do you catch a psychopathic serial killer? Simple, hire a psychiatrist! But there’s one catch: he’s also a psychopath (and a cannibal).
To anyone who has not seen this movie: what are you doing with your life? “Silence of the Lambs” is often hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time, and for good reason. With its warped, compelling plot line, along with the performance of a lifetime from Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, the film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. Need I go on?
3. “The Conjuring” (2013)
Though James Wan was able to demonstrate his skills as a horror director in “Insidious,” “The Conjuring” is his true nightmarish masterpiece. In “The Conjuring,” a pair of paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, try to aid the Perron family after they realize their house is haunted by evil spirits. Possibly the only problem I have with this movie is the fact that it spawned a God-awful spin-off: “Annabelle.”
Though it premiered in the summer of 2013, “The Conjuring” is near perfect for Halloween. Featuring a haunted house, witches, Satanism and possession, the film has every aspect and trope of a fantastic horror flick. Through its dynamic storytelling and distinct scare tactics, “The Conjuring” may become a new Halloween classic.
2. “The Babadook” (2014)
On November 28, 2014, a small Australian film, called “The Babadook,” quietly slipped into U.S. theaters, going largely unnoticed by the general public. This is unfortunate for everyone as this is one of the best psychological thrillers of all time. And I’m not the only one who thinks so either; the movie currently sits at a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
After reading a strange book to her son, single mother Amelia Vanek slowly begins to unravel as she and her son are tormented by the malevolent Mr. Babadook. Through Amelia, the audience is given a vessel in which to experience what the descent into madness could be like.
And it’s terrifying! This may be one of the most intense horror movies I have ever seen. “The Babadook” swallows you up into its dark, twisted fantasy and never lets you go. The lack of jump scares in the movie allow for tension to continuously build to one of the most amazing climaxes ever made.
1. “Evil Dead” (2013)
WARNING: If you are squeamish in any way, shape or form, DO NOT watch this movie!
Take everything you could possibly want in a horror flick: possession, zombies, witches and add a splash of demonic flare, all mixed together with great acting, writing and cinematography, and you’ll end up with “Evil Dead.” The movie takes place largely in a cabin, and centers around a teen and her friends uncovering The Necronomicon (The Book of the Dead). The book is read aloud, releasing a demon which subsequently terrorizes the group.
This movie is incredibly vulgar and gory and, unlike some movies, “Evil Dead” opts to show nearly everything. This fully immerses the audience into the plot, allowing us to fully understand the extent of the evil that has been awakened. However, you may not fully understand what I mean by “gory.” No, I don’t mean a throat or two being casually cut; I mean a girl cuts part of her own face off (Don’t you worry! You see every bit of it!) and people being shot by nail guns.
As disturbing as this all sounds, the film doesn’t short the audience on substance just to gross them out a few times. The plot is engaging and the circumstances are dire. The characters abandon the shell of horror movie archetypes. We care about them, and when they hurt, we hurt. All elements considered, “Evil Dead” is a cinematic experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone claiming to be a fan of the genre.
Unfortunately though, we’re only human, albeit disturbed ones after watching hours of horror movie marathons. This means we can’t even hope to watch every scary movie out there, so tell us:
What’s your favorite Halloween movie?