As I finish writing this we’re just two days away from Halloween, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be doing much more than settling down with some movies thanks to a certain C-word of a virus floating around. So I thought I’d share my personal favourite movies to watch on Halloween. Now, I’m a big horror fan, but when it comes to Halloween I switch over to more goofy horror flicks and such, so there’s only a couple of films on this list that could be classed as true horror movies.
As always, keep in mind this is just all my own very subjective opinion and there’s probably movies on here you dislike, and ones missing you reckon should be here. Let me know your favourite Halloween Movies.
Trick ‘R Treat
We’re kicking off with what I deem to be the pinnacle of Halloween viewing. In fact, watching Trick ‘R Treat has become my Halloween tradition, and I look forward to it every year.
Trick ‘R Treat is actually an anthology movie, telling several tales that all take place in a single town on Halloween night. Look hard enough and you’ll notice people from other tales in the background of a different story, but the big thing that connects them all is little Sam. Sam looks just like a kid in a pumpkin-head costume, but in reality, he’s more like the spirit of Halloween and doesn’t like it when people fail to adhere to the rules. Sam has gained a huge following of horror fans, and rightfully so. The little dude is violent but cute, deadly yet kind of adorable.
As for the stories, they’re all great! Trick ‘R Treat perfectly captures the playful horror tone I love. There’s a wicked Werewolf sequence, a darkly funny father/son relationship, some bullies getting their comeuppance and more.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a bunch of teens are going to hang out in the woods, get drunk, get high and have some fun. Before reaching their destination a weird hillbilly with a scythe walks up to them and starts acting strangely before laughing oddly, so the teens bundle into the car and zoom off. That’s a pretty bog-standard setup for some hillbilly horror, right?
WRONG! The hillbilly in question is just Dale, who was nervously approaching the group because he wanted to try and talk to the pretty girl at the behest of his best friend, Tucker. Unfortunately, Dale is so nervous that he comes off creepy. Despondent, Dale goes back to Tucker and the two of them head off to the new lakeside cabin that Tucker has spent his life savings on so that he and Dale can have a vacation spot. Once they get there they spot the group of teens out swimming and witness one of them fall into the lake and not resurface. Dale rescues her, but unfortunately after yelling, “Hey, we got your friend!” the teens take it the wrong way and panic. From there, it becomes a story of survival as the teens attempt to “rescue” their friend from Tucker and Dale but actually wind up accidentally getting themselves killed in a variety of hilarious and gory ways, including diving headfirst into a woodchipper. As for Tucker and Dale, they’re freaking, thinking they’re caught up in some kind of insane suicide cult.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil is one of the best horror comedies around and massively overlooked. There’s a moral lesson about not judging people by their looks alone, some terrific performances and plenty of proper gut-busting sequences.
Ready or Not
The plot is the kind of horror movie nonsense that I love: new bride Grace (as played by the excellent Tamara Weaving who appears elsewhere on this list) has married into a wealthy family who made their fortune from games. Her new husband reveals that family tradition dictates they need to play a random game at midnight. Unfortunately for Grace she picks Hide and Seek, the worst possible outcome. You see, in this version of the classic game, the family need to find and murder Grace by sunrise or face the consequences.
This is a goofball movie that’s seriously entertaining. To give you an idea of the vibe, one of the family members accidentally murders a maid with a crossbow. It’s hilariously played. But there’s still a hint of genuine tension, too, and Grace is a likeable lead character, largely because Tamara Weaving is downright charismatic.
What we do in the Shadows
If you like loads of blood and off-beat, pitch-black humour then What We Do In The Shadows is going to be for you. Directed by Taika Waititi (who also did Thor: Ragnarock and the truly amazing JoJo Rabbit) and Jemaine Clement, this movie follows a group of vampires who share a flat, with each vampire representing a different depiction of vampires in pop culture. The premise is that they’re being followed around by documentary makers who film their night-to-night activities.
Trying to describe What We Do In The Shadows is a difficult task. It’s a surreal movie because these four vampires are out hunting for people to drain, but at the same time, they’re a quirky, weird and likeable bunch who are also dealing with typical humans issues like nobody doing the dishes or how they have to be invited into places, which makes just getting into a bar tricky. On top of that, there’s a brand new vampire whose modern views are clashing a bit with the other vampires who have been around the block a few hundred times. If that wasn’t enough, Nosferatu is living in the basement.
What We Do In The Shadows is absolutely hilarious from start to finish with unique, interesting characters and one of the most fun premises in years.
Alright, time for a more serious horror flick. You’re Next was released in 2011 and follows Erin and her boyfriend as they attend a family reunion at a house in the middle of nowhere in Missouri. But aside from fractured family feuding, there’s a more serious threat in the form of a bunch of masked attacks laying siege to the house.
You’re Next is a tight, tense flick that has the perfect tinge of reality. I’m a fan of these kinds of movies because it feels like it can actually happen, and You’re Next uses its gritty presentation and savagery to heighten that effect.
Erin is a great lead character, too, because she isn’t just a hapless victim making dumb choices. The movie provides good context as to why she takes charge and starts saving people, before eventually having to take up arms and start taking on the intruders. Meanwhile, the story features a neat twist that sets up for a great ending that cements Erin as one of the best heroines in horror.
Tamara Weaving makes her second appearance on this list, this time playing the titular Babysitter in charge of looking after our protagonist, Cole. Cole is a bit old for a babysitter, but he’s also a bit of a geek and shy to boot. He harbours a crush on his babysitter (who wouldn’t?) because she treats him nice, even defending him from some bullies early on. Things take a turn, though, when Cole heads to bed but ends up hearing some noise downstairs. Creeping down the stairs, he discovers his babysitter and some other teens playing spin the bottle, all seemingly innocent until the babysitter slams two knives into some guys head. Turns out, the teens are performing some sort of crazy ritual, and they need some of Cole’s blood.
This movie his hilarious, crazy, entertaining and has a fun storyline with some neat twists. The best sequence might just be Robbie Amell’s constantly shirtless character, Max, chasing poor Cole around before trying to make him stand up to a bully. Max might want to kill Cole to make a deal with the Devil, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to help the little dude out, right?
At this point, the Halloween timeline is absolutely baffling. There’s a total of eleven movies in the series, and three of those are simply titled Halloween. More bafflingly, there are three different timelines and the newest film to just be called Halloween is actually a direct sequel to the original Halloween, replacing Halloween 2 and thus creating a whole new timeline. Oh, and the third Halloween has nothing to do with the rest of the movies and is actually an anthology.
So, which ones do I pick? That’s tricky, but I’d say go with Halloween and Halloween. Er, I mean Halloween, and Halloween 2018. Jesus, this is confusing.
The original Halloween is an icon of horror, and for good reason. Micheal Myers is pretty much a household name, and many would argue he’s the definitive slasher villain. Even in 2020, Halloween is a tense, exciting horror flick, and Michael Myers remains a creepy figure. Later films in the original Halloween timeline attempted to add supernatural elements to Michael, but that spoiled the truly terrifying thing about Michael Myers: he’s evil, plain and simple. He’s a human in a mask that picked up a knife and set about killing people. There’s something scary about the very real possibility of that happening.
As for the 2018 sequel. it’s also quite a good time. I’d argue that Halloween 2 is the better sequel, but for this list, I thought it would be nice to mix and old and the new. Halloween 2018 takes place 40-years after the original movie. Michael has spent those years locked up, while Laurie Strode went on to have a daughter. Sadly, Laurie was left traumatised by Michael and she still bears the physical and psychological scars. So when Michael breaks out, intent on hunting Laurie down, we get to see old Laurie Strode go toe-to-toe with Michael Myers. It’s a good romp, and actress Jamie Lee Curtis does an outstanding job reprising her role as Laurie Strode.
Hellboy (2004) & Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
While neither Hellboy movie is a horror flick in the proper sense, there’s definitely a horror vibe to these supernatural action romps, and director Guillermo Del Toro’s love of awesome monster designs certainly fits the Halloween theme.
Hellboy follows the titular Hellboy, a baby demon that gets brought to Earth during World War 2 by Rasputin. Hellboy is rescued by the Allies and adopted by a scientist. Skipping forward, an older Hellboy now works in a secret organization where he helps control, contain and capture supernatural forces. And all the time he does this, Hellboy longs to be more human, to fit in on a world that doesn’t know about him.
Both movies are fantastic action films filled with gorgeous scenery and amazing creature designs. There are great action sequences, sharp humour and loads of practical effects. Meanwhile, Ron Pearlman embodies the role of the grumpy Hellboy, making him feel badass and yet vulnerable at the same time. A third movie has long been asked for by fans, but sadly what we got was the inferior Hellboy reboot in 2019 which didn’t even come close Del Toro’s two films.
Scream (1, 2 & 4)
The Scream franchise is what brought me into horror. One day I was ambling through Asda and spotted a boxset with the first three movies for £10 or something like that. I don’t know why I picked it up considering I wasn’t a horror lover, but I did. I’m glad I made that choice because Scream is one of my favourite films of all time.
Director Wes Craven is a legend in horror, and when he came up with Scream he managed to reinvigorate a genre he had helped to popularise with the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street. The key idea behind Scream was Wes Craven wanted to make a movie where the hapless teens had actually seen horror movies and were aware of the typical tropes. As such, Scream is a meta-movie that works best if you already have a good knowledge of horror but is also entirely enjoyable even if you’ve never watched a scary film in your life.
Scream also isn’t overly gory and there’s a comedic tone running throughout. But it’s still tense as Ghostface hunts down Sydney, one of the best “final girls” in all of horror. I also love how Ghostface isn’t a supernatural killer, instead, he frequently swipes with his blade and misses, or stumbles, or just gets whacked. It makes it more believable. And then there’s the mystery of who Ghostface actually is, which leads to a great reveal.
As for the sequels, Scream 2 is excellent, but Scream 3 can be skipped. As for Scream 4, it came out 11-years after Scream 3 and combined the original cast with a bunch of newcomers. Sydney once again is at the centre of things as Ghostface returns to wreak havoc. Scream 4 ties with Scream 2 as the second-best movie in the series, featuring some great characters and sequences, and a terrific finale. I’m still hoping for a Scream 5.
Time for a Disney classic: released back in 1993 you’ve probably already seen Hocus Pocus, but if you haven’t it’s about a trio of witches who are resurrected on Halloween some 300-years after their supposed deaths. This is thanks to Max accidentally lighting a black candle in order to impress a girl. Way to go, Max, you dickhead. But more importantly, Max is a VIRGIN, and so because he hasn’t yet found the right girl, boy, monster, monkey or alien to boink, he unleashes magic upon the world. So…basically this whole movie is about why you should get laid as quickly as possible because otherwise, you might accidentally go around triggering ancient spells?
Hocus Pocus is the best kind of campy, goofy fun. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy play the three witches and appear to be an absurd amount of fun doing so. Technically the witches are the villains of Hocus Pocus, but they’re so goofy and funny that you’ll probably wind up rooting for them to murder all the kids and have a happily ever after of their very own.
Highlights of Hocus Pocus include pretty much everything Max’s little sister says and does. That kid is awesome.
But be careful watching this one with kids if you don’t want to have to explain what a virgin is.
Cabin in the Woods
Cabin in the Woods is a movie I adore, but it’s worth saying that it’s one for existing horror fans. Unlike Scream where a knowledge of the genre makes the film more fun but isn’t really needed, I don’t think Cabin in the Woods works unless you know your horror tropes. That’s because Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard set out to make a movie that is both a loving homage to all-things horror and a critical essay on what’s wrong with horror and why horror movies are often stuck in a rut.
The premise is typical stuff: some teens are heading to an isolated cabin, and before long terrible things befall them. But things aren’t as they seem, because behind the scenes there’s a group controlling every aspect of their trip in order to appease the Elder Gods. They mess with the group’s personalities through chemicals, unleash monsters and carefully curate everything so that it fits into the classic horror template.
Cabin in the Wood’s smartly uses all the classic horror clichés but in a new and fun context. Highlights include someone being impaled by a unicorn, the stoner exclaiming, “Really!?” when splitting up is proposed and the awesome ending.
Jennifer’s Body kicks off with our lead character Anita stuck in a mental asylum where she begins to narrate her story. You see, dear reader, Anita was a shy, studious teen who happened to be best friends with Jennifer Check, the hottest girl in high school. Anita and Jennifer attend a gig at a local bar where a mysterious fire burns the place down, and Jennifer decides to leave with the band, leaving Anita behind. Hours later, Jennifer crashes into Anita’s kitchen drenched in blood and demanding food, but as soon as the eats she vomits up a black liquid. It turns out, Jennifer ain’t quite human any more and starts killing boys.
Jennifer’s Body is a black comedy with a cool premise and fun characters, and it helps that Jennifer is played by the smoking hot Megan Fox who seems to be having a blast in the role. It fails at being scary but makes up for it by being funny and quirky. It’s just a shame that we’ll never get the sequel the ending sets up for.
Evil Dead (The remake & Evil Dead 2)
Let’s be clear, the original Evil Dead is a legendary piece of horror history from one of the genre’s most respected directors, Sam Raimi. However, for this list I’m recommending the remake (there’s actually debate as to whether its a remake or sequel) released in 2013 because as much as I love the original Evil Dead it’s a difficult movie to watch for many people due to its tight budget and filming style. I just don’t think it holds up very well. Sorry!
In Evil Dead (the remake) a group of young friends heads to a cabin in the woods, but not for a weekend of drinking and orgies. Instead, they’re there for Mia, the younger sister of David. Mia is a recovering heroin addict, and the group intend on staying in the cabin to help her through the process. As setups for a bunch of people being in an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere, this is one of the better ones.
However, one of the group reads an incantation in a strange book, causing Mia to start seeing bloody figures in the woods. Naturally, the others write this off as symptoms of Mia’s withdrawal, but we the audience know better. There’s evil afoot.
The Evil Dead is the only movie I’d call actually scary on this list with very little in the way of humour. Instead, it’s a pretty savage ride from start to finish and includes some brutal deaths. While the original Evil Dead wasn’t funny, it was definitely a campy film, but the remake takes the same idea and throws the camp out the window in favour of being disturbing, gory and frightening. Awesome stuff.
And once you’ve watched the remake, go ahead and watch Evil Dead 2 for something completely different. Despite being a sequel, you don’t need to watch the original to enjoy it. Evil Dead 2 goes down the completely wacko route, with Bruce Campbell hamming it up all over the place.
Happy Death Day & Happy Death Day 2U
From the scares of Evil Dead we return to the more goofy side of horror with Happy Death Day, which can basically be described as Groundhog Day with a lot more murder.
Tree (yup, that’s her name) awakens on her birthday in the dorm of classmate Carter, who she pretty much shuns as she heads out the door. But Tree is going to have a bad day because she gets murdered by someone wearing the school mascot’s head. And then she wakes up again, on her birthday in Carter’s room. And then dies again. And wakes up in Carter’s room again. Get the idea?
Tree starts out as a bitch, but Happy Death Day does a fun job of using her repeated attempts to thwart death and figure out what the hell is happening to turn her into someone you actually like.
It also uses Tree’s looping through time to great comedic effect, including a fun death montage. But if you aren’t a fan of gore or over-the-top violence then you’ll be happy to know that Happy Death Day is only rated 15+, so the deaths are mild.
As for the sequel, it jumps into sci-fi realms as Tree once again finds time repeating. Cue some nerds doing some nerdy science shit and a lot more wacky scenarios. Neither movie is a horror classic, but both are the kind of light-hearted good time I love on Halloween.
Okay, so maybe Beetlejuice hasn’t aged amazingly well when you consider Betelgeuse perving over a teenage girl. In today’s politically correct landscape that probably wouldn’t fly. But it sure does do a good job of portraying Betelgeuse as a wierdo, slobtastic, creep.
So, if you’ve never heard of Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice, here’s the general gist of things: a couple buy a new house, and then suffer a tragic car accident which kills them both. They wake up back in the house, scared and confused, finding that they can’t leave due to the massive sandworms outside. They stumble across the Handbook for the Recently Deceased and come to realise that they drowned, and are now kind of stuck. Their home gets sold to a new family, but they aren’t happy about this and try to scare them away. Ultimately they wind up summoning Betelgeuse, a freelance “bio-exorcist” who promises to get rid of the family.
The summary doesn’t really do this crazy film justice. Michael Keaton puts in an amazing performance as the scummy, sleezy, creepy Betelgeuse while Tim Burton’s warped imagination spews out amazing visuals.
A Nightmare On Elm Street & A Nightmare On Elm Street 3
We’re going to finish up with a classic in the form of A Nightmare on Elm Street which introduced the world to Freddy Krueger. If you don’t know, Freddy haunts people’s dreams, murdering them as they sleep in a variety of delightfully horrible ways. Why does he do this? Well, watch the film and find out.
A Nightmare on Elm Street is still reasonably creepy even today, and watching Robert Englund start his long journey as Freddy Krueger is awesome. Sadly the second movie was kind of crap, but A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors is a great sequel that uses Freddy’s dream powers in much more imaginative ways. The third film is also where Freddy Krueger changes into a more comedic character, shifting away from the raw horror focus of the first film. Technically the second movie is serious as well, but…yeah, you can’t take it seriously. From Dream Warriors on, Freddy becomes a wise-cracking slasher. While this does mean he feels less scary, it also means Freddy is a horror movie villain with real personality unlike characters such as Jason and Michael Myers.
After 3, Freddy becomes even zanier, to an annoying amount, in my opinion. Dream Warriors strikes a good balance of Freddy being funny but funny in a brutal, dark way, whereas later he’s more like a goofball who just happens to occasionally kill people.
Categories: Opinion Piece