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31 Days of Horror 2018

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.

Want more recommendations? Be sure to check out our previous lists for more must-see horror: 31 Days of Horror 201731 Days of Horror 2016, 31 Days of Horror 2015

October 1: Hocus Pocus (1993)

Hocus Pocus

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)

The Exorcist

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.

Nekromantik

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)

Halloween 3

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)