With Halloween just over two weeks away, it’s that time again to once again talk about my favorite horror movies to watch on Halloween – as of right now. I say as of right now because this is a list that seems to be ever evolving as horror movies come and go every year, more so than with other film genres. Depending on my mood I can be into a pure gore fest, or sometimes I can be really into a nice psychological thriller, or I can even be into a nice action/comedy/horror mish-mash and be satisfied with what I am seeing on-screen. So even month to month, what I would consider my favorite horror movies can change and vary. So, as I was coming up with this list, I wanted to focus on those movies that consistently appear on that list and share them with you here. Still, keep in mind that as new horror movies are released every year, some even changing the landscape of the genre for the better. So, this list may not be the same this time next year, though I am sure that 75 percent of this list will consistently remain the same. That being said, here is my list of 15 horror movies to watch this Halloween.
Oh, and happy Friday the 13th.
Attack the Block
Directed by: Joe Cornish
Genre(s): Horror, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Release date: March 12, 2011
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whitaker, Jumayn Hunter, Nick Frost
Synopsis: Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing estate into a sci-fi playground. A tower block into a fortress under siege. And teenage street kids into heroes. It’s inner city versus outer space.
There is something fun and refreshing about Attack the Block as the plot, acting and overall feel of the film is incredibly smart and cunning. And the monstrous designs for the aliens that are attacking the teens in the film are one of the most unique creature designs I have ever seen. This one is definitely worth checking out this Halloween for a new kind of horror kick.
Directed by: Takashi Miite
Genre(s): Horror, Drama, Mystery
Release date: October 2, 1999
Starring: Eihi Shiina, Ryo Ishibasi
Synopsis: When a Japanese widower holds an audition to search for a potential mate, he finds more than he expected in this eerie thriller.
Oh man, I just can’t get over how unnerved watching this film makes me feel. I’ve seen this film numerous times since it was released at the end of the 1990s, but that ending sequence is just so… it makes me feel so… I can’t even fully explain just how terrifying and mind-blowing that ending is. Just watch Audition to see what I mean and I’ll bet you’ll never forget this film for the rest of your life.
The Cabin in the Woods
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Genre(s): Horror, Comedy
Release date: March 9, 2012
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford
Synopsis: Five friends go to a remote cabin in the woods. Bad things happen. If you think you know this story, think again. The Cabin in the Woods is a horror film that turns the genre inside out.
I love how this film manages to take everything that makes horror movies and the genre as a whole and completely disassemble and turn it all on its head while still managing to be scary and thought-provoking. With an incredible ensemble cast that plays their parts to perfection, and a surprise cameo from Sigourney Weaver, The Cabin in the Woods is always worth a viewing – especially for Halloween.
Drag Me to Hell
Directed by: Sam Raimi
Genre(s): Horror, Comedy, Supernatural
Release date: March 15, 2009
Starring: Alison Lohman, Justin Long, Lorna Raver, Dileep Rao, Adriana Barraza
Synopsis: Christine Brown is an ambitious L.A. loan officer. Life is good until the mysterious Mrs. Ganush arrives at the bank to beg for an extension on her home loan. She denies the extension to impress her boss, shaming Mrs. Ganush and dispossessing her of her home. In retaliation, the old woman places the powerful curse of the Lamia on Christine, transforming her life into a living hell.
Leave it to Sam Raimi to come along and do something like Drag Me to Hell that manages to scare me and make me laugh in equal doses. And a lot of credit for making this film as entertaining as it is goes to lead actress Alison Lohman for making a believable and relatable character. And man, does that ending sequence really hit hard. I never saw it coming and when it does, it breaks you right down to the core.
Directed by: William Friedkin
Genre(s): Horror, Supernatural
Release date: December 26, 1973
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Jason Miller, Linda Blair
Synopsis: In this horror classic, a 12-year-old girl becomes possessed by a malevolent spirit, and her only hope is an exorcism. Two priests are summoned to exorcise the demon and save the young girl’s life… and soul.
This is a terrifying horror classic that is definitely worthy of all the praise it has received since it was released almost 45 years ago. And for The Exorcist to be just as scary, thought-provoking and engaging as it was when it was first released says a lot about the film’s staying power. There is no higher praise that I can say with regards to this film that hasn’t been said for decades.
Directed by: John Carpenter
Genre(s): Horror, Slasher
Release date: October 25, 1978
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles, Nancy Loomis
Synopsis: On Halloween night in 1963, 6-year old Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death. After being in a mental hospital for 15 years, Myers escapes and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois to kill.
How can you make it through the Halloween holiday without watching what is perhaps the quintessential Halloween film? Halloween is a landmark for the horror genre and brought us one of the best movie monsters/villains ever created – Michael Myers. Just go and watch this once this month to keep that traditions alive. This film is well worth watching year after year.
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Genre(s): Horror, Supernatural
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer
Synopsis: When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.
Okay, so seeing the 2017 version of It for Halloween may be tricky for some of you, but if you have a budget or value theater near you that shows slightly older new movies, than it is worth tracking this film down and giving it a view. I mean, of man, what director Andy Muschietti was able to produce with this film, the story and horror it delivers – this is a new benchmark for the horror genre.
Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Genre(s): Horror, Psychological, Supernatural
Release date: March 13, 2015
Starring: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe
Synopsis: For 19-year-old Jay, fall should be about school, boys and weekends out at the lake. But after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she finds herself plagued by strange visions and the inescapable sense that someone, or something, is following her. Faced with this burden, Jay and her teenage friends must find a way to escape the horrors that seem to be only a few steps behind.
I’m glad that as the months pass by, more and more people are watching and talking about It Follows and what the story and the actors involved have been able to deliver to viewers. It’s an amazing twist on the unstoppable force trope in the genre and really has you wondering just when it will all end and if the characters on screen will find a way to outsmart this unyielding force of terror.
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre(s): Horror, Psychological
Release date: June 16, 1960
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, Janet Leigh
Synopsis: A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man, Norman Bates under the domination of his mother.
If you love twist endings, then you have to check out the 1960 version of Psycho as it is the best example of a twist ending that I have ever seen. What director Alfred Hitchcock was able to commit to film in this classic horror film is simply incredible. But aside from the ending, this film is a twisting and suspenseful film from start to finish, making this film a must-see film all year round, not just on Halloween.
Directed by: James Wan
Genre(s): Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Release date: January 19, 2004
Starring: Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, Michael Emerson, Ken Leung, Tobin Bell, Leigh Whannel
Synopsis: Obsessed with teaching his victims the value of life, a deranged, sadistic serial killer is abducting morally wayward people and forcing them to play horrific games for their own survival. Faced with impossible choices, each victim must struggle to win back his/her life, or else die trying.
And speaking of twist endings, the ending of the first Saw film is my favorite twist ending in modern horror film history. As you are watching the film, trying to figure out who has imprisoned the two subjects of the film in that dilapidated room with only one chance to escape. As the films builds to a climactic and bloody end, the tension and suspense builds – and just when you thing that the film is done, it all gets turned around, shocking the viewer on a whole new level.
The Silence of the Lambs
Directed by: Jonathan Demme
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
Release date: January 30, 1991
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine
Synopsis: In pursuit of one serial killer, ambitious FBI student Clarice Starling is forced to enlist the aid of another notorious killer, the incarcerated ex-psychiatrist known as “Hannibal the Cannibal” Lecter.
I know that others will go for more obvious horror choices than 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, but in my opinion this film is pure horror perfection, even winning over mainstream film audience as it won numerous awards even winning the BAFTA, Golden Globe and Academy Award equivalents for best Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay, Director, and Picture. It presents a horror film for the audience unlike anything they have ever seen before and is always worth a viewing – especially during this time of year.
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Genre(s): Horror, Supernatural
Release date: March 11, 2012
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Clare Foley, Michael Hall D’Addario
Synopsis: A true crime novelist discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.
The last time I had a nightmare that was a direct result of viewing a horror movie was way back when I saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time when I was a kid back in the early 1980s – that is until I saw Sinister in 2012 and I had a few nightmares because of the film’s subject matter. I don’t know what it was about the movie exactly, but it filled me with a sense of fear, suspicion and an unnerving sense that something was there beside me.
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre(s): Horror, Psychological, Thriller
Release date: January 20, 2017
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula
Synopsis: Though Kevin has evidenced 23 personalities to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him – as well as everyone around him – as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.
When Split was released earlier this year, it not only marked a return to form for director M. Night Shyamalan but also a new step forward for the psychological horror film. And that’s not even including the acting that was presented in the film, including an award worthy performance by James McAvoy.
Train to Busan
Directed by: Yang Sang-Ho
Genre(s): Horror, Action, Thriller
Release date: May 13, 2016
Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee
Synopsis: Train to Busan is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller that follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak while trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to Busan, a southern resort city that has managed to hold off the zombie hordes… or so everyone hopes.
If you have the chance, you need to track down a copy of this movie and check it out for yourself. It is an emotional, unnerving, and frantic take on the zombie apocalypse trope of the horror genre. While it doesn’t do anything new for the genre, what it does do it does nearly perfectly.
Trick ‘r Treat
Directed by: Michael Dougherty
Genre(s): Horror, Anthology, Comedy
Release date: October 6, 2009
Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Leslie Bibb, Quinn Lord
Synopsis: Four interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the one guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband.
I have always been a fan of the horror anthology film, and up until I saw Trick ‘r Treat in 2009 I had been a fan of the 1990 film Tales from the Darkside. But what this film did better than its predecessor was organize thet way that the stories fit together while making the viewer try and piece together the exact order of the film. Funny, frightening and engaging, this is my favorite horror anthology film to watch on Halloween. I mean, the name itself is a dead giveaway.