Happy Halloween! Horror fans don’t need an excuse to watch a good scary movie. But it’s Halloween, a night where even non-horror fans can appreciate curling up on the couch with the lights out and a classic chiller. But how do you pick that one movie, or maybe two, to watch after the trick-or-treaters call it a night? Do you watch a vampire movie? What about a good haunted house flick? To help you make that tough choice, I’ve gone to the trouble of highlighting several classic options along with a few ‘dark Horse’ picks.
Bloody Fun Vampire Picks
Top Picks: Thinking of watching a vampire film for Halloween. You should probably watch a movie with the most renowned vampire, Dracula himself. To be honest, Universal Pictures’ original Dracula with Bela Lugosi was never my personal favourite. Francis Ford Coppola’s lavish version with Gary Oldman as the titular Count is my personal pick. It’s not necessarily scary, but it’s probably one of the most beautiful horror films committed to the screen. Besides, you get to watch Keanu Reeves massacre a British accent.
Dark Horse Pick: Near Dark may be the best vampire film you’ve never seen. Kathryn Bigelow wrote and directed this western vampire flick. Aside from its unique take on vampire mythology, Near Dark has Lance Henriksen and the late Bill Paxton in a scene-stealing performance.
Bark at the Moon With These Werewolf Movies
Top Picks: This category is easy – An American Werewolf in London is the best werewolf movie ever made. John Landis deftly mixes horror and comedy. In addition, special effects wizards Rick Baker created what still stands as the best werewolf transformation. If there’s a second choice, The Howling is a close runner-up with almost equally impressive make-up effects.
Dark Horse Pick: Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers is the best werewolf movie made in the last 20 years. It’s soldiers versus a pack of werewolves in the isolated Scottish woods. Scares and action are blended to near perfection with impressive werewolf effects.
Top Picks: George A. Romero re-imagined the zombie with his classic, Night of the Living Dead. His 1970’s follow-up, Dawn of the Dead, may actually be an even better horror movie. It’s bleak post-apocalyptic vision has influenced countless zombie movies. If you’re looking for something outside Romero’s work, you’re in luck. There are several excellent zombie films just waiting for you. Return of the Living Dead is a punk rock-infused 80’s zombie classic. If you prefer fast-moving zombies, you can’t go wrong with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Comedy fans will appreciate either Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.
Dark Horse Pick: Yes, Carnival of Souls is technically not a zombie film, but close enough. This low-budget, black and white classic may be the closest a filmmaker will ever get to replicated how a nightmare feels.
Top Picks: Like zombie films, there’s no shortage of good ghost movies. For 80’s kids, Poltergeist is a fun thriller that has aged considerably well over the years. Contemporary fans can take their pick between either The Conjuring or Insidious. And if you’ve been enjoying The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, do yourself a favour and check out the 1963 version of The Haunting. It’s a black-and-white classic and the original adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel.
Dark Horse Pick: Session 9 is a hidden gem, though it may not technically be a ghost movie. But it’s certainly a haunting movie set in an abandoned mental asylum. Is the main character possessed by a ghostly entity? Or is he a sick man who has lost his grip on reality?
Top Picks: Dario Argento’s Suspiria doesn’t necessarily make much sense, but it’s visually striking and downright creepy. As an added bonus, you get the classic film score by Italian band, Goblin. Found-footage classic The Blair Witch Project understands that what you don’t see is often scarier than what you can see.
Dark Horse Pick: Recent release The Witch is the very definition of a ‘slow burn’ horror movie. But don’t let the methodical pacing and ‘ye olde English’ dissuade you. The Witch is an absolutely creepy horror movie with a chilling ending.
The Devil Made Me Do It
Top Picks: The Exorcist is the best possession movie. Ever. After over 40 years, The Exorcist stills shocks and scares in equal measures. If there’s a close runner-up, Rosemary’s Baby has to be a contender. There’s perhaps no other horror movie ending ever that has so effectively exposed the banality of evil.
Dark Horse Pick: I’m sure I’ll get some flak for this choice, but I personally enjoyed found-footage flick, The Last Exorcism. It’s a tightly paced movie with more than its fair share of tense, edge-of-your-seat moments. There’s a fun twist and a perfect killer ending as well.
It Came From Outer Space
Top Picks: Alien is arguably the sci-fi/horror movie ever made. The chest-bursting scene is still one of the most shocking and impressive moments in horror scene history. Of course, John Carpenter’s The Thing is pretty damn good alien film in its own right. In fact, The Thing may be close to a perfect horror movie with its grotesque special effects and isolated winter setting.
Dark Horse: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a smart blending of political paranoia and ‘space invaders’ for horror fans. It’s a remake of a 1950’s movie by the same name, which is also worth checking out. Body Snatchers stars the always reliable Donald Sutherland. Then there’s that fantastically bleak ending.
Top Picks: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – take your pick. All three of these movies have given us heavyweight horror icons. Conversely, you could go back a little further into the past and watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. After all, Psycho arguably paved the way for the slasher film and its masked madmen.
Dark Horse Pick: The 2012 remake of William Lustig’s Maniac is a profoundly disturbing movie. Elijah Woods is perfectly cast against type as the unstable killer. Its POV-technique could have been a gimmicky stunt, but it works and raises some troubling questions about viewer complicity with onscreen violence.
The Must-Watch Halloween Pick
Top Picks: John Carpenter’s Halloween is the no-brainer choice. If you’re looking to mix it up, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a horror classic that demands multiple viewings. Whether it’s the ominous score, the isolated winter setting, or Jack Nicholson’s over-the-top performance, The Shining is a perfect selection for Halloween viewing.
Dark Horse Pick: Anthology horror flick, Trick R’ Treat, has quickly become the new Halloween classic for a lot of fans. It’s not surprising given how delightfully fun and twisted it turned out to be. In most anthology movies, there’s one standout segment and an utter downer that drags the movie down. Not the case with Trick R’Treat. It’s wall-to-wall fun for horror fans. Now can we get that sequel, please?