The Morbidly Beautiful writing staff shares their favorite horror film recommendations to fuel your month-long Halloween movie marathon.
31 Great Horror Films (Plus 5 Killer Bonus Recommendations)
It’s time for a Morbidly Beautiful annual tradition, this year with a new twist. For the past couple of years, we’ve rolled out a new review every day in the month of October. This year, we’re kicking off the month with one mega list of essential horror, curated from the personal favorites of our amazing team of writers. There’s something for everyone here, and enough to keep you entertained throughout the month leading up to the greatest day of the year.
October 1: Hocus Pocus (1993)
The film Hocus Pocus isn’t usually synonymous with horror. In fact, I get a few scoffs and sneers when I mention it in the same conversation. But it should, with enough witches, spells and zombies to go around. Maybe take a look back at it, and open your mind a little bit. This beloved classic might surprise you.
Hocus Pocus, written by Mick Garris, David Kirschner, and Neil Cuthbert, is centered around three witches, Winifred (Bette Midler – the Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker – Sex in the City), and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy – Sister Act) who who return to present day Salem to wreak havoc with the intention of casting a spell on the town and reclaiming their lost youth. What they didn’t intend was to have three misfits on their tail adamant about sending these three hags back to where they came from.
With the company of Thackery Binx, a talking cat (Jason Marsden – The Fairly Oddparents), Max (Omri Katz- Eerie, Indiana), Dani (Thora Birch – Now and Then) and Allison (Vinessa Shaw – Ladybugs) begin to think they have bitten off more than they can chew. Chaos ensues, the dead start walking, and hilarity abounds, so snuggle up, light the black flame candle, and get ready to run amuck amuck amuck. (Tiffany Blem)
October 2: Little Monsters (1989)
Little Monsters takes the age old thought of “monsters under the bed” and turns it into a uniquely realized reality with a funny, often touching, coming of age twist. With the every-kid quality of Fred Savage and the manic, high energy of Howie Mandel, Little Monsters is a film that I absolutely fell in love with as a kid. Watching it today as an adult, the film still gives me that magical, whisked away feeling I get from such films as E.T. and The Goonies.
With some of the monsters looking like something out of a Stuart Gordon movie and being genuinely terrifying, I was fascinated by the makeup effects. The makeup in this kids film from 30 years ago blows away the films of today, and I actually credit Little Monsters for getting me into horror in the first place. It’s a fun movie with good and evil monsters for the kids and fleshed out characters with dramatic subplots for the adults. All of this makes Little Monsters a great Halloween season watch for the whole family. (Jason McFiggins)
October 3: Green Room (2015)
A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar.
Green Room is a film which really stands out on its own in the modern horror genre. With a fairly simple premise, the isolated location and limited chance of survival creates a surprisingly taut thriller. Taking its time to build up the tension it keeps you gripped throughout the film, which builds up to some surprisingly shocking moments.
It may not contain the most violent or bloody scenes, but when it does occur the violence is raw and the execution extremely personal. It is effective because it feels so grounded in reality. An invincible maniac walking through the woods decapitating people with a machete, is entertaining because it suspends belief, but the idea of being stuck in a room at the back of the bar, whilst a group of individuals who will do anything to stop you getting out alive, that feels very real. (Philip Rogers)
October 4: Behind the Mask – The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2007)
Mockumentaries rock! Taking a fictional subject and presenting it as a documentary is fun way to pay homage to a film genre. My favorite part is that sometimes you can almost fall for it at first, and as the realization hits that it’s not the truth, you are in too far and are compelled to see where the story will go.
One of the absolute best genre examples of this style is Behind the Mask- The Rise of Leslie Vernon. This film is a genuine cult favorite! Clever and entertaining, it is about a documentary film crew following around a self-promoting serial killer on a night of murder, mayhem and revenge.
This movie-within-a-movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. What starts as a horror documentary morphs into a full-on horror film! Director Scott Glosserman brings us a masterpiece of misdirection. Once a victim and left for dead, Leslie Vernon (played by a very funny Nathan Baesel) plots how to exact his retaliation on the teens that left him behind. But letting the audience in on the charismatic killer’s elaborate plan, the videographers have now put themselves in danger.
This study in sensationalism and slasher film tropes also stars Scott Wilson (The Walking Dead) as Leslie’s murder and mayhem coach, and a perfectly cast Robert Englund plays the psychiatrist trying to track down and catch the killer. Any of this sound familiar? This film is full of clichés and scenes torn straight from all our favorite horror films!
If you ever wanted a slasher film explained — for example, why the killers are always so slow, yet always catch up to their victims — this movie examines it from the actual serial killer’s point of view. And don’t think you know what is going to happen. Because even seeing what is up this killer’s sleeve, Leslie, always the showman, will turn it around and you won’t have a clue what’s coming next! There is something for every type of horror fan. Behind the Mask- The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a must see! (Vicki Woods)
October 5: The Exorcist (1973)
I will always remember the first time I saw this movie. I was about nine and my cousin bought it at blockbusters. We had also gotten Wrong Turn and decided to watch that first. So it was about midnight when we started The Exorcist, and I started nodding off immediately. But I became fully awake during the spider walk scene, and I remember never feeling so scared in my life. I knew I had just seen the most frightening thing in my life. We stopped the movie and finished it in the morning.
If you have not seen this movie, you are in for a frightening treat. The Exorcist is a horror movie that is timeless, and its story begins on Halloween. The performances in this movie are breathtaking, and Linda Blair gives a performance that will haunt you until the day you die.
A young girl becomes possessed by a demon after playing with a Ouija board. Her mother goes to every type of doctor imaginable, while her daughter becomes worse. Finally, she seeks out the help of a priest who knows the perfect man to help. The Demon won’t go down without a fight and if it’s sent back to hell, it’s taking someone with it. (Miss J)
October 6: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
This movie doesn’t really have anything to do with Halloween, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make the perfect movie to watch during the month of October. After all, Dracula is a classical monster and the Francis Ford Coppola version of the Bram Stoker’s novel is a masterpiece. If you are feeling a bit romantic this Halloween season, this is the perfect movie of lust, romance, fangs and werewolves. Starring one of the best character actors of all time, Gary Oldman, and Winona Ryder, who we all know and absolutely love watching in Netflix’s Stranger Things. This movie also has Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves starring, and they both give brilliant performances as Professor Abraham Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker.
Count Dracula has been cursed to live as a vampire for all eternity after losing the love of his life. Centuries later he comes across a young man named Jonathan Harker who is engaged to the reincarnation of Dracula’s long-lost Queen. He uses the power of darkness to lure victims to him and to bewitch them into doing his bidding. He will stop at nothing to get back the woman he once loved so dearly, and Van Helsing will stop at nothing until he has a stake through Dracula’s cold, dead heart. This movie has some of the best visual effects and cinematography for its time. It is a must see for the Halloween season and it will definitely put you in the mood to cuddle up with your lover Werewolf/Werelady. (Miss J)
October 7: REC (2007)
[Rec] is a 2007 horror film from Spain that follows a journalist and her cameraman as they are quarantined inside of a building where a terrifying infection is spreading rapidly. The movie falls into the found footage subgenre as well as the infected/zombie subgenre, and it’s one of the best movies to come out of either category. The 2008 American film Quarantine was a direct remake of [Rec], and while it wasn’t as captivating as the original, it was a strong remake.
Manuela Velasco, who stars as the on-scene reporter, is perfect as the excited, intrepid journalist whose terror grows as the problem gets more and more out of hand. The film uses the tension that we’ve come to expect from found footage, in addition to its share of jump scares, to keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen to the people trapped in the building. The director, Jaume Balagueró, uses darkness and night vision to his advantage, especially toward the last act of the movie. (Jackie Ruth)
October 8: Nekromantik (1987)
Nekromantik tells the story of Rob, who works at a street-cleaning Agency and visits roadside accidents to clean up the scene. Incidentally, Rob collects the body parts and shares them with his girlfriend Beatrice. When Rob presents a complete corpse taken out of a swamp, their undying love reaches its peak. But soon after, Betty gets more of a liking towards the corpse and leaves Rob, which takes him to the sick end of his destruction.
Movies like this are often overlooked and considered gore for gore’s sake, but Director George Buttgereit weaves many complex layers into this story. From a societal standpoint, the film touches upon several topics, including the German working class, depression, the desensitization of violence in film and television, sexual dysfunction and fetish.
By the end of the film, you actually start to empathize with the main character and the intense struggles he goes through to try and find a level of normalcy that many people take for granted on a daily basis…
Certainly not for the weak at heart (or stomach), this is a boundary pushing film that in many ways could be a fascinating character study for a psychology class. There is also a morbid yet somewhat sweet romantic side to this story as well. Who amongst us has never felt isolated against what is considered the societal norm? Also considering the fact that so many taboos and fetishes are becoming more and more acceptable, this film will certainly make you question what is acceptable and what isn’t… (The Dedman)
October 9: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
The outlier of the Michael Myers film series, for he has nothing to do with this movie. The storyline is outlandish, with the always steady Tom Atkins, as the lead and the villain played by Dan O’Herlihy, best known for his role in RoboCop, gives the story a mastermind of a twisted James Bond arch villain with a grandiose plan.
Our payoff is the most overplayed jingle in cinema history, the countdown song to Halloween.
The film ending is over the top, in that John Carpenter style (he and Debra Hill produced) but he doesn’t direct this look at the dangers of over marketing of a holiday, (Tommy Lee Wallace does) when madness creates horror and our most wicked of holidays goes sinister.
“…more days till Halloween…Halloween…” will float in your head for weeks. (Tavera Del Toro)
October 10: Heathers (1988)
Facing its thirtieth year, this cult film has only gotten more relevant and more beloved with age.
There are those who say Heathers isn’t a horror movie, it’s a teen drama. There’s a simple solution to this argument: it’s not only a fusion of both, it’s one of the few examples of where it works. Heathers is horror on the same level of American Psycho except there’s no arguing that the crimes in Heathers are mere hallucinations, in the film they’re as real as that bottle of Drano you might have under your sink.
There’s a justice that isn’t in American Psycho either, but also a palatable bitterness you can feel in your throat like drain cleaner that these awful things are happening to teenagers. That’s part of why it’s captured a lot of young people in the last few years (along with the musical adaptation in 2014): they connect deeply with scared teenagers in a world that sometimes doesn’t seem to care that they’re in danger.
There’s a certain refuge they find in the story of Veronica Sawyer, played by Winona Ryder (Beetlejuice, Stranger Things), who arises from the ashes of an entangled and strange friendship with the most popular girls in school (of which one is played by Charmed’s Shannen Doherty), three murders-turned-faux-suicides and an abusive relationship with Jason Dean, played by Christian Slater (Mr. Robot), to emerge triumphant with a glimmer of hope still in her eyes after all she’s been through: there’s still a chance that things can end up beautiful despite all of the destruction that surrounds her. That connects with teenagers. It connected with me back then, and it still does.
Heathers is a perfect blend between a horror film and a teen drama because, although it shows us the darkest parts of our youth, it also shows that there’s still hope for a better, more beautiful day ahead. (Kirby Kellogg)
October 11: The House of the Devil (2009)
Writer and director Ti West (The Innkeepers) creates a lovely homage to the horror movies of those decades, mimicking everything from the shooting style to the creation of the opening and closing credits.
Samantha (Jocelin Donahue, Insidious: Chapter 2) is a broke young college student who takes a job as a babysitter for Mr. Ullman (Tom Noonan, The Monster Squad) and his wife (Mary Woronov, Night of the Comet). After arriving at the house with her friend Megan (Greta Gerwig, Isle of Dogs), Samantha finds out that the babysitting job is for Mr. Ullman’s elderly mother, not the children she is expecting. While her first instinct is to bail, she stays when Mr. Ullman offers to pay her four times her original fee. What’s a starving college girl to do?
Soon after the Ullman’s leave, Samantha gets spooked by sounds in the house. Investigating, she soon discovers that things are not what they seem and her being there has nothing to do with watching the Ullman’s ailing mother. Instead, she finds herself trapped in a bizarre ritual.
Watching The House of the Devil, one can’t help but think of classic 70s horror films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. Careful attention was paid to every detail, and we get a beautiful, slow-building, tension-filled modern classic. Ti West crafted a mini masterpiece with The House of the Devil, and it is a perennial favorite for me. (Todd Reed)
October 12: Tales of Halloween (2015)
This anthology (filled with giggles, screams, and a lot of weird stuff in between) is the black cherry on top of the Halloween marathon cake. Narrated by Adrienne Barbeau, this wonderfully quirky collection of Halloween stories is chock full of cameos from your favorite scream queens, directors, and personalities. The diversity of the shorts acts like a variety bag of candy; there’s a little something for everybody. Tales of Halloween simply bleeds orange and black — there’s zero percent chance of this not putting you into the holiday spirit. (Ahlissa Eichhorn)
October 13: Ghostwatch (1992)
One of the most notable Halloween gags was the 1938 Halloween Eve radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” hosted and read by Orson Welles. The broadcast starts as a straight read of “War of the Worlds” before it becomes something else – a real time news report of aliens landing at Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. As someone who grew up about an hour from where the aliens invaded in this fictional farce, and eventually employed at a location just a few blocks away from the landing site, I became well aware of the story of the broadcast and the ensuing panic caused by listeners who had no idea it was a radio play.
Being a fan of Welles’ unforgettable prank, and being a little more than gleeful about the response, I was incredibly interested in a BBC broadcast called “Ghostwatch” which aired in 1992 on Halloween night. I had heard whispers about this show, but had never actually seen any footage until the streaming service Shudder obtained the rights to the broadcast.
“Ghostwatch” was presented as a live broadcast, though it had been filmed in the weeks prior to airing. The broadcast airs from a studio with a host, a parapsychologist, and a phone bank to take calls from viewers. “Ghostwatch” is an investigation of a poltergeist haunting at a home in Northolt, London. When watching, you will begin to see similarities between the events in “Ghostwatch” and the purportedly true events of the Enfield Haunting, upon which THE CONJURING 2 is based.
The broadcast starts light and airy with the studio host and the on-site reporter playing along, but not believing the house is haunted. As the broadcast goes on, proof of the haunting begins to appear. As the haunting intensifies, the phones in the studio light up with viewers calling in to tell their stories and give some background on the history of the home being investigated.
Like the 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” BBC’s “Ghostwatch” created a firestorm of controversy with many people believing the haunting depicted on screen to be real. It even lead to an 18-year old factory worker with learning disabilities to take his own life because he thought the loss of heat in his home meant it was haunted (thanks Wikipedia!).
It’s hard to say, so many years after the fact, if I would have thought the broadcast was real. There are certainly moments in the broadcast that lead you to the conclusion that it’s not real, and the wild ending seems to scream, “this is not real!” “Ghostwatch” is a pretty solid haunted house story, even knowing that it’s not a real news broadcast. It’s effectively creepy in many places, and will be a fun watch with your friends at a Halloween party. Maybe you can trick some gullible friends into believing that what’s on screen is all too real.
“Ghostwatch” has never re-aired on the BBC, but has released it on home video. The entire broadcast is currently streaming on Shudder. (Patrick Krause)
October 14: No Solicitors (2015)
No Solicitors is an intelligent new horror which takes a satirical look at a model American family, where things are very different behind closed doors. In a fresh take on the cannibal genre, the Cuttermans are cannibals who feast upon the bodies of unwanted solicitors who were unlucky enough to knock on their door — farming their internal organs for needy patients.
The film has plenty of graphic bloody violence to please the gore hounds, although it is the balance of apprehension and dark twisted humor which really makes it so entertaining. The brilliant execution of the match cuts work especially well for the comedy, having you wincing at the violence one minute but laughing out loud the next. A pre-warning however, some of your favorite foods may not be so appealing after viewing.
The most surprising element of the film is, despite the heinous crime which are being committing by the family, they are surprisingly likable. Although with that being said, I still wouldn’t want an invite to attend a Sunday lunch. It does however leave you torn because you want the prisoners to escape, but you still want the family to get away with the crime. After all, they are not all bad — solicitors can be annoying, and some good is being done by harvesting the organs. (Philip Rogers)
October 15: Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)
Leprechaun in the Hood (2000) is directed by Rob Spera. The film stars Warwick Davis, Ice-T, Dan Martin, Red Grant, Rashaan Nall and Anthony Montgomery as Postmaster P. The ugly, evil and vile leprechaun is back for revenge, only this time it’s in the Hood.
Warwick Davis once again bloodies the screen as our beloved iconic horror slashing Leprechaun, in this bizarre mixture of hip hop and horror. The film is so overtly bad, it’s best to watch it with some friends. This hilariously awful comedy is bound to have you rolling in your seats.
When his magic flute is stolen, the legendary Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) returns to collect and kill! Local Pimp, Mac Daddy (Ice-T), discovers a fortune hidden inside a tree. After removing a small golden flute from around the neck of a statue that looks like a Leprechaun, nothing can protect the Hood from what happens next.
With dreams of being a famous rap group, friends Postmaster P (Montgomery), Stray Bullet (Nall) and Butch (Grant) will do whatever it takes to get their hands on the flute. After takes a turn for the worst however, as the Leprechaun and Mac Daddy are hot on their heels. The trio does their best survive, and become famous…of course. (Monster Dugan)
October 16: Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Johnny Depp is my all time favorite actor, and he has a lot of spooky movies on his resume. But Sleepy Hollow is the perfect Halloween movie. Johnny Depp actually adopted the horse Goldeneye, who is named Gunpowder in the movie, when he found they were going to be putting him down at the end of the film. This Tim Burton film is filled with Iconic horror actors like Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, and Christina Ricci. Christopher Walken also gives a haunting performance as the headless horsemen.
Ichabod Crane is called upon to the little town of Sleepy Hollow to inspect the murders of three victims who have been decapitated. The town believes that someone has awoken the headless horsemen and hes come to collect the heads of all those who come in his way. (Miss J)
October 17: Night of the Demons (1988)
Picture this: an intimate Halloween party in an abandoned funeral home with blasting Goth rock. Now add demon blood, lipstick boobs, and cheeky puns. You’ll get Night of the Demons, one of the greatest Halloween horror movies in the genre. Even its 2010 remake deserves a watch or two. Both films have KILLER soundtracks and could be used for your own wicked party. This late 80s treasure is campy, spooky, sexy, and thrilling — all the things a Halloween night should be! (Ahlissa Eichhorn)
October 18: The Blob (1988)
The remake of the 1958 sci-fi horror classic The Blob, which was released 30 years after the original, is one of the best reimaginings in the genre and often forgotten about in my opinion. With a screenplay by Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead, The Mist) and a cast that included your quintessential rebel, jock, and cheerleader portrayed by Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch Jr, and Shawnee Smith — The Blob has stood the test of time.
It’s up to Brian (Dillon) and Meg (Smith) to save the day and convince their sleepy town that shit is about to go down. A meteorite has landed nearby and it has brought a destructive, parasitic specimen from Outer Space which will undoubtedly wreak havoc upon anything in its path.
I remember this one freaking me out when I was younger, with the scene in the movie theatre basically traumatizing me, and for years to come I would remain silent during a film as I quietly munched on popcorn, sipping my soda, slinked down in my seat as I suspiciously eyeball the ceiling.
I recently revisited The Blob after years of me neglecting to do so, and I was pleasantly pleased with its pace and level of effective gore that I fondly remember terrifying me as a child.
There’s motorcycle jumps, kids getting killed, a dude being forcibly shoved through a sink, a cop getting broke in half….. all courtesy of this gumwad of perfect cheesy 80s horror highlighted with some strokes of brilliant FX all attached to an already beloved installment into the History of Cinema. (Danni Darko)
October 19: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
Most people don’t really think of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003) as a Halloween horror movie, but it is! For one, the film does take place (mostly) on a rainy Halloween evening and, if you want to over-simplify the plot, is about one crazy family’s way of celebrating Halloween. A more complete summary of the movie is a group of teens on a road trip to find the US’s best creepy hidden gems, finds the ultimate pit stop with the Firefly family who turn out to be homicidal maniacs.
House of 1000 Corpses is Rob Zombie’s first feature film and, in my opinion, best exemplifies his filmmaking style. Like most of his films, the movie is grainy, distorted, dirty, very 70s grindhouse-esque; and the characters are batshit crazy. The Devil’s Rejects (2005) is Zombie’s sequel to 1000 Corpses, so we have the same great characters of Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) who are all reprising these roles on the upcoming 3 From Hell (set for a 2019 release).
I would venture to say 1000 Corpses is a bit wilder compared to The Devil’s Rejects, but it is still a great Halloween watch! And, if you feel like adding 1000 Corpses to your horror collection, the DVD has one of the best menu screens I’ve ever seen for a movie, but you’ll have to check that out for yourself! (Vicky Cirello)
October 20: The Devil’s Rejects
The Devil’s Rejects is the second film from rocker- turned writer/director Rob Zombie. The sequel to House of a Thousand Corpses is brutal, and the kind of film that only certain grindhouse loving, horror fans eat up. But when they love it- they love it forever, putting it up high on the cult classic list!
Sadistic, sexual, abusive, violent and crude are all apt descriptions of this film. The main characters, Otis B. Driftwood (Bill Moseley) Captain Spaulding, (Sid Haig) Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie) and the rest of the family are horrible human beings. We should want them all dead, but we don’t. They are monsters, but for some reason we root for the Devil.
The main gist of the story is that Sheriff Wydell of Ruggsville, Texas, attacks the family in retaliation for his brother’s death at the hands of the Firefly’s. He arrests Mother Firefly (Leslie Easterbrook) but Otis and Baby escape. The duo holds up in a remote hotel along with their buddy, Captain Spaulding. The Sheriff is still hot on their trail, but they bide their time in hiding by doing horrible things to a country singing family.
There is something raw, gritty and unapologetic about this film that is intriguing. The characters are sociopaths, they are sick and twisted, but have a family code. Their antics are nightmares to the poor family they have kidnapped, but there is something that draws me to this film like a person to a train wreck. Its’s rough, dark and straight-up obscene, yet the characters are so beyond insane I couldn’t stop watching it.
Another reason to see it is Three from Hell. Rob Zombie is bringing us the next installment of the series in 2019! The family that never seems to die, is back again and we will see what carnage and mayhem they bring out of hell with them. If you are really a masochist, watch House of a Thousand Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects back to back, and then you will be ready for Three from Hell! (Vicki Woods)
October 21: Rojo Sangre (2004)
By starring in 123 films, writing 21, and directing 23 (in a career spanning 1966 to 2007), Paul Naschy has become known as the Spanish Lon Chaney. Although he has dabbled in many genres, he is without a doubt best known for his horror films, more than anything his franchise of werewolf films, called the Hombre Lobo series, in which he plays a werewolf named Waldemar Daninsky. In Rob Zombie’s Halloween, little Tommy makes a quick reference to seeing a “Danny the Werewolf” movie, which was the name of the Daninsky character in American versions of the films.
By the time Rojo Sangre was made, Naschy’s star had faded considerably. Time, trends, and the Spanish filmmaking industry left him behind. In a bittersweetly clever and mischievous move, he made Rojo Sangre, which could best be described as the Naschy version of Fulci’s Cat in the Brain. In it he plays Paul Thevenet, a cynical and miserable elderly horror actor who can’t find gigs anymore. Nobody wants him, and no one is at all impressed with his past genre accomplishments. His agent grows increasingly frustrated with him, until he talks Thevenet into taking a unique new role.
He will be the doorman/front decoration at an upscale gentleman’s club. Each night he will play a different legendary villain (Rasputin, Gilles des Rais, and so on). He scoffs at this in the beginning, until he discovers the tremendous amount of money he is going to be paid for doing it. All he has to do is sign the dotted line, on a contract written up by club owners Senor Reficul and Dora Grizzel. Do I need to lay down any more of the groundwork for where this gem is going?
Naschy has constructed a script that perfectly balances showbiz satire, operatic and gory set pieces, and an intimate and personal story. There are some truly great films to discover in the Paul Naschy filmography (Horror Rises from the Tomb, Panic Beats, Hunchback of the Morgue, Vengeance of the Zombies), but this one is actually a decent place to start. (Jamie Marino)
October 22: May (2002)
Yes, the outcast girl, haven’t we been there? Poor May, a loner tries to make friends and attempt a love life. Unfortunately, some of us don’t have the mental fitness and May has an issue with social manners and behavior. Things get weird and then she goes off the deep end.
This film is a mix of many films, twisted into one story. Director Lucky McKee has a gentle touch, as we endure every cringing moment of May’s confusion and behaviors, and it leaves one with a feeling of despair and even pity, even as she loses her sanity. One wants to hug and comfort her, she is so lost and confused.
The ending is disturbing and a shocker and leaves you with a question: what happens next? (Tavera Del Toro)
October 23: As Above So Below (2014)
One of my favorite entries in the found footage genre is 2014’s is the claustrophobia inducing, As Above So Below, directed by John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine) and starring Perdita Weeks (Ready Player One) and Ben Feldman (Friday the 13th, 2009).
Weeks plays Scarlett, a young alchemy student searching for the philosopher’s stone. After discovering the Rose Key in Iran, she heads to Paris where she enlists her ex-boyfriend George (portrayed by Feldman) to translate Nicolas Flamel’s headstone. From that clue, they determine that the stone is hidden in the catacombs under Paris. Enlisting a guide and his team, they venture down into the catacombs where they are forced to confront their personal demons.
The movie is very well done, aided by being strong performances and a story that is a cut above your standard found footage film. Adding to the overall atmosphere, the movie was actually filmed in non-public areas of the famous Parisian catacombs, and it uses its location to great effect. With shades of Indiana Jones and some great chills, As Above So Below will keep you on the edge of your couch. (Todd Reed)
October 24: Maniac (2012)
Elijah Wood stars in this 2012 remake of a 1980 slasher. Maniac follows a disturbed man, Frank, as he stalks and kills women around the city, then scalps them to top the mannequins in his family’s mannequin restoration business. We find out that Frank was traumatized at a young age by his mother, though it hardly makes him a more sympathetic character.
What differentiates this slasher film from many others is that we get to see the events from Frank’s point of view. He is both the protagonist and antagonist of the story, so it does make sense, but it adds an extra layer of creepiness to the already horrible events of the movie (the film’s climax is particularly disturbing). Wood has never seemed so creepy, and his performance is the film’s greatest strength. (Jackie Ruth)
October 25: The Strangers (2008)
After too much alcohol and a failed marriage proposal, the former couple just heads a family owned cottage in the middle of nowhere. A trio of unexpected mask wearing guests begin appearing and playing pranks on the couple. As the night goes on, the pranks escape into a full blown nightmare for the former couple. The director/writer is clever about how he/she disarms the couple from being able to fight back and call for help.
Being a horror fan I’m often asked what I believe is the scariest movie out there. My response always the same. “Halloween” is my favorite, but “The Strangers” is the scariest. The writer/director makes the viewer feel like it could happen to them, or a neighbor, a friend, or a relative. It was the randomness of the selection process by the masked people that makes them scary. What makes these people creepy is they never run after their victims, but instead play with them like a cat and mouse.
People might call me crazy, but I will stand behind my decision of 5 out of 5 scary pumpkins. I am still waiting for a movie to dethrone it, but right now it is the reigning king. (Josh Ludwick)
October 26: One Dark Night (1983)
In a good-natured review of the film Mausoleum (also 1983, starring Bobbie Bresee and her demonic Madball toothy boobies), Kim Newman jokingly said it was the third-most important mausoleum-based horror movie, behind One Dark Night and Phantasm. We all know about Phantasm, of course, but I was intrigued by One Dark Night. No way in hell was I going to let the second-most important mausoleum-based horror movie escape my radar!
I found a copy of the Code Red re-issue on Amazon, and gladly paid my hard(ly)-earned digital dollars. Since this is quite old, and not one of the more thought-provoking horror films of the era, there really isn’t much to say about it. A sorority pledge (Meg Tilly) must spend the night alone in a mausoleum as a hazing initiation. Little does she know, the other sisters are going to be in the mausoleum too, all set and ready to go with silly shit to scare her with.
But, little do they know, one of the most recent tenants is an evil telekinetic, and just because he’s dead doesn’t mean his power (or will to do big bad stuff) is gone. So the sorority sisters scare poor Meg, and eventually the undead evil psychic legitimately – and lethally – scares everybody. For whatever reason that I either missed or doesn’t exist, the psychic begins reviving all the corpses sealed up behind the mausoleum’s marble walls.
I don’t mind being honest here: the zombies scared the shit out of me! See, none of them are performed by actors. They are all puppets and animatronics, which means the special effects crew could make them look as decayed and desiccated as possible. Try to imagine the segment in Poltergeist when the ground begins spitting up old coffins and spilling petrified bones everywhere. Now move that to a mortuary and have it last about 45 minutes. Seriously scary stuff, and it was directed by the same filmmaker who directed Friday the 13th: Jason Lives (one of the best in the franchise, I think). There are some truly frightening husks of dead flesh floating up and down the hallways of the mausoleum killing college girls.
This is classic and fun material for a Halloween sleepover, whether it be for middle school kids or stoned, drunken “adults”. Plus, it has Adam West! And Dottie from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure! (Jamie Marino)
October 27: Jenifer (Masters of Horror) (2005)
Masters of Horror: Jenifer (2005), is directed by the Legendary Italian Horror Maestro, Dario Argento. The film stars Steven Weber, Laurie Brunetti and Carrie Anne Fleming as Jennifer. After saving a seemingly innocent girl from a vicious murderous assault, Detective Frank Spivey’s life will quickly spiral into a descent of unknown evil as he falls victim to the curse of Jennifer..
Argento’s Masterpiece is a harrowing tale that continues to haunt the screen, and it’s viewers, long after the film has ended. It’s a terrifying, demented, brain pounding film that will leave mental scars upon those not strong enough to withstand its power. Nothing can prepare you for the mesmerizing and maddening celluloid that is Jennifer! (Monster Dugan)
October 28: Monster House (2006)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a good scary movie. But now is the time that I’m allowed to get nostalgic and dust off those old VHS tapes of Charlie Brown and Ernest. Sometimes, though, I find myself feeling nostalgic for a movie that wasn’t made during my childhood — but one that was made far after I had become a grown man. Yeah, I have to admit it, I’m a sucker for “Monster House.” That’s right, you heard me! The 3D motion capture family horror flick about a demonic house that tries to eat children and must be stopped by three unlikely preteen heroes! Ya know, the movie that came out in 2006… it’s amazing.
I was the manager at a theater when this one came out and I was “required” to watch it. Remember this was before digital and in the time of actual film, and we had to ensure it was cut together properly. After the first scene with an animated Steve Buscemi yelling, “You think you can terrorize my lawn?! Do you wanna be a dead person!?” I was hooked. That cartoon character looked more like Buscemi than Buscemi did in real life.
I had never seen a kids cartoon look quite like that, and it was kind of terrifying. Buscemi looked just like the crazy neighbor we all had and (SPOILER) we watch a kid KILL HIM! This is on par with Pet Sematary when the kid played sumo with a truck and lost. This cartoon had some serious balls. I started noticing all of these characters and how they reminded me of people I grew up with. Gil Kennan killed it with his casting. Maggie Gyllenhaal as “Z”… I’m pretty sure she was my babysitter, and I hate to admit it but I was (and still am) the fat nerd, “Skull,” played by Jon Heder.
However, despite this impressive cast of well known stars, it was the kids that made me fall in love with the film. Those kids weren’t acting to me. They were living out what it was like during my last Halloween. The one that you know you were too old to go out anymore but too young to do anything else. Add that on with all kinds of puberty and the first brushes of a crush and your only choice… to quote the wise Chowder, “I got three words for ya, Trick or Treat!”
Yes, they literally fight a sentient demon house. Yes, they make a bomb to blow it up. And yes, it even has a happily ever after ending that brings back all of our dead and eaten characters (even Buscemi). It’s an amazing trip, but none of that matters. The thing that made me steal the poster from the display case and made me force the projectionist to thread up that flick every night after close for two weeks was how this movie was able to captivate me for an hour and half and make me feel like I was 12 again. (Richard Tanner)
There’s nothing more perfect for a Halloween movie than a haunted house. But what if the house wasn’t just haunted, but a living, breathing monster? That’s the premise for Monster House, a movie I watch every October that never gets old! Every scene of this movie is dripping with gorgeous animation of autumn colors and scenery. The bright yellows and oranges of the leaves are vibrant and festive while the dull, wooden clapboards and creaky hisses of the house bring the fright of the Halloween season front and center.
Taking the viewer along with them on their housing track adventure in the suburbs are 3 young teens who make me laugh every time I watch the movie. There’s plenty of young teen hi-jinks and clumsy slapstick that will have younger audiences laughing and a number of jokes and comments that will have the adults smiling. It’s a very funny, fast paced and enjoyable Halloween season watch that leaves the viewer with a great story and message. Turn off the lights, light the pumpkin scented candles, and gather the family for Monster House to get into the Halloween spirit. (Jason McFiggins)
October 29: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL (2013)
Watching something Halloween themed or a horror movie in October is a tradition that casual and hardcore horror fans share. Depending on your feelings about the holiday and horror movies, your viewing intentions may span anywhere from making sure to catch the Charlie Brown special, to planning out how many horror movies you can watch in the 31 days of October.
In my case, I start my Halloween movie celebration near the end of September by watching the classic Universal Monster movies. Then I try and watch as many horror movies as I can leading to Halloween. On Halloween night I’m usually busy handing out treats and scaring neighborhood kids with my son, so I generally watch one or two movies. But Halloween night will always include a watch of THE EXORCIST, and depending on what time I’m home and if I work the next day, I will watch George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. These two horror films are classics and my all-time favorites.
I recently added a new movie to the Halloween celebration rotation: WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL. This movie isn’t so much a horror movie as it is a celebration of some of the things that make Halloween such a great holiday. It also celebrates an era of local news broadcasts on public access channels. As I’m closer to the wrong side of 50 years old now, I recall the days of watching cheesy local news broadcasts. The terrible but charming commercials for local businesses, the newscasters trying their best to feign interest in the local story that’s being covered, and trying to muster up excitement for an investigative story that will play out as well as Geraldo Rivera’s legendary opening of Al Capone’s hidden vault.
WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL is a VHS recording of a local news broadcast done on Halloween in 1987. Investigative journalist for WNUF, Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf), is broadcasting live from the Webber House. The house was the site of a brutal murder of a husband and wife by their son, Dennis. Tormented by demons unleashed by use of a Ouija Board, Dennis claims he had no choice but to kill his parents. Since the murder, the house has become the subject of rumor and speculation that it’s haunted. Frank takes in a team of psychics and a priest to determine, on live television, if the house is haunted or if the rumors are false.
The broadcast from the house is broken up by reports from the newscasters in the studio who plaster smiles on their faces, tell some terrible jokes, and look uncomfortable wearing cheap Halloween costumes. The broadcast also includes local commercials that include one from a dentist looking to trade cash for candy.
WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL is a loving ode to the past. While some fans may find the movie a little slow with almost no gore or traditional horror, WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL has something that is sometimes missing from the current era of horror films: fun. WNUF HALLOWEEN SPECIAL is a fun, enjoyable movie and is worthy of being added to your rotation of movies celebrating the 31 Days of Halloween. It is currently available on Amazon Prime. (Patrick Krause)
October 30: The Houses October Built (2014)
Five friends travel across the country in search of the United States most extreme haunt. As the friends travel, they record their journey by making a documentary. Word spreads the friends are in search of a no-holds-barred scare, but they know that with confidence that every haunt would always break first — that was until they met the blue skeleton group. Suddenly members of the blue skeleton group started popping up everywhere and scaring the friend group.
At first, the movie was approached with a raised eyebrow. I thought the movie would focus exclusively on haunted house, but later it revealed that is more about the extreme scare. The movie has the right mix of scare build up and lets the subtle become the creepy. I got so lost in the movie that I actually believed it was a real documentary. The ending is intense. For me, I’d give The Houses October Built 4 out 5 scary pumpkins. It was a great find on the ole Netflix. (Josh Ludwick)
October 31: Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat (2007) is the ultimate Halloween horror anthology; it’s gore, scares, and monsters all packaged neatly in a Halloween bow! Trick ‘r Treat has endless re-watch potentially because the stories all take place over one Halloween night in the same town. Not only that, but the stories overlap and cross paths throughout the movie – may favorite thing to do when watching is trying to figure out the timeline of the events! With one story dealing with werewolves, one about a serial killer, one about vengeful spirit, plus even more, there is something for everyone in this film.
Trick ‘r Treat’s, for lack of a better term, protagonist is Sam. Sam appears in all of the stories in some way, making sure the rules of Halloween are obeyed; he only interferes when someone has broken a rule. So, basically, Sam is every Halloween fanatic during October and it’s kind of awesome.
Without giving too much away, the other characters are awesome. I’m particularly drawn to the female characters throughout the movie, they’re intelligent and headstrong (even if in a misguided way) and some are badass beyond belief (hint, hint, Anna Paquin’s segment).
I could go on and on about Trick ‘r Treat; it’s a very well-thought-out anthology and it’s guaranteed to get you in the Halloween spirit in the best way. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out! (Vicky Cirello)
And just in case you’re not crazy about one or more of our picks, here are five more bonus films we think you’ll love to help flesh out your October/Halloween viewing schedule!
Bonus #1: Inferno (1980)
This is the second blaring, blasting, blazing, and blinding horror film in Argento’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. In case you aren’t familiar with what that is, it was inspired by Thomas de Quincey’s “Our Ladies of Sorrow” concept that he detailed in his book Suspiria de Profundis. It details the story of three all-powerful witches who secretly rule over Earth and cause widespread disasters and tragedies. Sort of like an evil cosmic Illuminati. I recommend you look it up.
Inferno deals with Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness), and her dwelling in New York City. After discovering an ancient text written by an alchemist named Varelli, Rose (played by a heart-melting Irene Miracle) is convinced she is living in Mater Tenebrarum’s building. She investigates outside the building, then accidentally drops her keys down a deep pool of water that seems to somehow be under the structure. Since we are NOT worrying about common sense choices here and suspending disbelief like a madcap high school principal, we won’t question why she just carelessly dives into the hole. The sequence that follows is known by fans all over the world as one of Argento’s best and most innovative set pieces.
Mater Tenebrarum’s building is a maze of traps and hallways, and anyone who dares to enter it will encounter a very abrupt and crimson death. Inferno shares much with Suspiria stylistically, although there seems to be a slightly brighter color palette in Inferno (strange, since it’s the Mother of Darkness) and a bigger sense of space. A truly dizzying throat-slice spinning color wheel, Argento’s Inferno itself seems to be haunted by a witchy third eye – the one in your head. Yes, you do see the actual witch at the end, and when you do she’ll claim a permanent place in your nightmares. (Jamie Marino)
Bonus #2: Paranormal Activity (2007)
Katie and Micah move into new house. With that new house also comes hearing things, seeing things and being touched. In the paranormal world, moving into a new house is the oldest cause of disturbing the spirits. This movie shows the spirit actually moving around a room without ever showing a human like form. There is some down time between the scares which tends to slow the film, but the filmmakers are clever because about the time you start to lose interest then they use a loud boom to enhance the presence of the spirit.
Had I started out my filmmaking career before 2007, then this would have been my movie. It was like they got inside my head and stole my future idea. It was clever how they pulled off the low budget gem. Keep the cast numbers low, one primary set, use some clever special effects, and poof movie magic. Even though it would have also been my movie idea, I am gonna give it only 4 out of 5 scary pumpkins. The ending was something that I never saw coming, and definitely worth a watch. (Josh Ludwick)
Bonus #3: Down a Dark Hall (2018)
Based on the young adult novel by Lois Duncan, Down a Dark Hall is a well produced and satisfying adaptation. The casting of AnnaSophia Robb in the lead role as Kit Gordy is an inspired choice. She brings a vulnerable maturity to the role that is essential to the film and she does a great job. The other bit of inspired casting is Uma Thurman as the headmistress, Madame Duret. Thurman has a wonderfully Gothic appearance in the film looking like a direct descendant of Hitchcock’s Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.
And who doesn’t love an old, sprawling, secluded mansion in the country with grand staircases, faded, dust filled sun beams, and never-ending, dark hallways with countless doors leading to mysterious rooms? I give Down a Dark Hall a lot of credit for not dumbing down its approach to appeal to its young audience. The filmmakers made an excellent, old fashioned, slow burn ghost story and paid enormous attention to detail.
The superb production value, great casting with strong performances, and engrossing Gothic story make Down a Dark Hall a perfect Halloween season watch for kids and adults alike. (Jason McFiggins)
Bonus #4: Happy Death Day (2017)
One of my favorite horror movies of recent years, is 2017’s Happy Death Day, a near-perfect blend of comedy and horror combining everything you love about slasher movies with 1993’s Groundhog Day.
When Tree (Jessica Rothe) wakes the morning of her birthday with her classmate Carter (Israel Broussard), she has no idea the day is heading towards her own demise. After running into a killer dressed as our school mascot and getting stabbed, Tree wakes up the next morning and soon realizes her life is in repeat mode. Desperate to break out of the cycle, Tree begins to try to figure out who is trying to kill her.
Like Scream and A Cabin in the Woods before it, Happy Death Day both honors and skewers the movies that inspired it, creating a solid horror entry that Is sure to delight this holiday season. (Todd Reed)
Bonus #5: IT (2017)
I know this movie is set in the summer, but you will no doubt be seeing a lot of Pennywise costumes this Halloween. If you haven’t seen the movie yet or planned a costume, then maybe this will help inspire you this year. A group of misfits become friends and bond over the fact that they have all seen It, a dark entity that appears as a clown named Pennywise, but he can also appear as your worst fears. They begin to uncover what truly happened to Bill’s little brother Georgie, who was murdered savagely and what will happen if they don’t try and stop Pennywise.
The film takes a more serious approach to the novel written by Stephen King and has been credited for being more similar to the book. Bill Skarsgard wanted to make Pennywise as sinister as possible and did extensive research on previous psychopaths. He was also kept away from the children cast up until the moment where they all encounter him in the haunted house. This allowed them to have a genuine reacting to the frightening performance.
Bill kept his Pennywise from being anywhere remotely close to the original performance done by legendary actor Tim Curry; he admired Tim’s adaptation of the character so much that he didn’t even want to attempt it due to fear of not even coming close to him in comparison. Bill was very compassionate towards everyone during takes to make sure no one was actually frightened of him, especially the children actors, but as soon as the camera rolled it was all business and he was serious about it. This is no doubt one of the best horror movies to come out in a long time and I can’t wait for the sequel! (Miss J)