Halloween Horror Movie Essentials

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Halloween is upon us! Where some people decide to go out trick or treating and partying; there are those that get in the spooky mood with watching horror movies. That is what this article is for, a list of chilling and truly scary films to give you goose bumps. From crazed masked maniacs, to the supernatural and to descents of insanity, here are some essential films to watch on Halloween: 

 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”(1974)  

The slasher genre has created some of the most notable horror icons of all time, but “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was the first to have its killer don a signature mask with an equally recognizable weapon, the chainsaw.  

Before Michael Myers haunted Haddonfield, Ill. or Jason Voorhees terrorized Camp Crystal Lake, there was the Sawyer Family and Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) capturing hippies to quench their cannibalistic behaviors. Director Tobe Hooper was also the first to create an incredibly successful horror film with an ultra-low budget, a strategy that influenced others like Sami Rami with “The Evil Dead” (1981).  

For those looking to truly scare themselves, look no further than this 70’s slasher. Where the film lacks in having little to no blood, makes up for in its grotesque atmosphere with scenes of grimy insanity. Surely, a movie that will leave the viewer most uncomfortably entertained from start to finish. 

Movie poster courtesy of Legendary Entertainment

 “The Cabin of the Woods” (2011) 

This fun horror movie flew past the radar when it was originally released in 2011. The plot and even the title itself gives the impression of it being another standard horror movie about a group of teens who get killed in a remote cabin, but the result is actually a twisted, fun and unconventional horror movie that is self-referential to the genre. It plays with the conventions of the traditional horror movie, and basically acknowledges the cliches and traditional tropes that have been a part of the genre for many years.  

You should be aware that “Cabin in the Woods” is not your typical scary movie, so if you find yourself laughing at certain moments and scenes, it’s intentional, because the whole idea of this was to poke fun at the structure and logic of horror, creating a unique creative vision that stands quite well by itself.  

Movie poster courtesy of Lionsgate

Shaun of the Dead” (2004) 

If you are looking for a funny zombie movie, look no further than Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead”. With exceptional, fast-paced editing and a killer soundtrack, there’s no better blend of the zombie movie with a comedic approach. With all its funny characters, hilarious set pieces and ridiculous situations, Wright compensates with gory and over-the-top violence. While there are some great zombie movies out there, such as “Zombieland”, and the more recent “Army of the Dead”, “Shaun of the Dead” is unparalleled as an effective comedy movie. All in all, it’s a bloody good time that will definitely set the mood for Halloween.  

 

Movie poster courtesy of Universal Pictures

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)  

“The Blair Witch Project” is the mac-daddy of all-found footage, horror films. It is creepy and thrilling and puts viewers on edge. The movie blurs the lines between fiction and reality. Without jump scares, the film begins to climax in an anxiety-inducing slow burn. The low-quality shots make views seem like something is always on the edge of the screen, waiting for the characters to make their next move.  

The plot consists of three film students (Heather, Mike and Josh) heading out into the woods to film a documentary on the legend of the Blair Witch. However, as things take a turn for the worst, viewers begin to see the reactive nature of the film. Later learning it is the genuine reactions of the cast due to the minimal script, thus making “The Blair Witch Project” a must-see. 

 

Movie poster courtesy of Artisan Entertainment 

“The Babysitter” (2017) 

“The Babysitter”, a beautifully campy film directed by McG, stands out as a soon-to-be classic. It has all the markers for a fantastically bad movie, famous cast, hilarious dialogue and bloody comedic deaths. The film stars the magnetic Samara Weaving as the babysitter, and the star-studded cast includes celebrities like Bella Thorne, King Bach and Amanda Cerny. 

The plot quickly increases with intensity after you fall in love with Bee, the babysitter, and the kid, Cole. Viewers are quick to see Bee as the world’s best babysitter, or so it seems. However, after Cole is convinced by his best friend to spy on Bee after he goes to bed, things quickly take a turn for the worst. The film is an ironic bloody horror show. It’s funny, gory and great, an absolute must see. 

Movie poster courtesy of Netflix

“It: Chapters 1 and 2” (2017 and 2019) 

Horror films have been home to some of the most iconic monsters. From beasts beneath the sea to invaders of the sky giving nightmares to a film’s characters and the audience. But none embody fear like the antagonist from 2017 and 2019’s “It: Chapters 1 and 2” Pennywise the Dancing Clown (Bill Skarsgård).  

Directed by Andrés Muschietti, the films take place from the 80’s to current time. We follow the Loser’s Club, a ragtag bunch of outcasts going against the killer clown. Both films were adapted from the bestselling thousand-page novel by Stephen King. What makes Pennywise so terrifying is its ability to take the form of anyone’s fears, it simply chooses to be more recognizable as a clown for the kids.  

To those looking for an entertaining modern horror experience, these movies deserve your time. With the Loser’s Club being full of personality from kid to adult and an excellent villain, both “It” movies are horrifyingly fun.  

Movie poster courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures 

“Midsommar” (2019) 

There’s no need for bloodthirsty killers nor devilish spirits in the folk horror tale that is “Midsommar”. An exciting journey to the Swedish countryside turns incredibly dark when a group of American friends are victims of a cult that is celebrating a once-every-so-many-years-type of festival.  

Not only is director Ari Aster shining, but also lead actress Florence Pugh. She delivers one of 2019’s best performances playing the part of Dani, a grief-stricken girl who is looking for an emotional release after a grim loss. Aster plays with the environment in masterful ways, making the natural world that surrounds the characters a living, breathing entity that encompasses everything and everyone to a menacing effect. Nothing is quite what it seems in “Midsommar” and it is full of shocking turns and surprises that build a slow momentum right up to its fiery end.  

Also, if you’re looking for an equally creepy double-feature companion, I would recommend “Hereditary” (2018), also directed by Aster.  

 

Movie poster courtesy of A24

“Saw” (2004) 

James Wan kicked off his impressive horror career with “Saw”, a horror movie that was unlike anything ever put on screen at the time of its released. There’s no doubt why it spawned so many sequels, even if none of those ended up being as good as the first one. “Saw” is a dirty, grimy movie that floods the viewer with uneasy environments and terrifying images. Unlike all the sequels that followed, “Saw” wasn’t as interested in being a torture movie; the story is darkly fascinating and interesting while also being shockingly gruesome. Although it does get graphic at times, at least there’s a solid thread to follow along as the investigation for the Jigsaw murderer unfolds while we get a look at a twisted view on life, death and justice. 

Movie poster courtesy Lionsgate Films

The Shining (1980) 

From its opening credits to the final frame, “The Shining” is a haunting exploration of psychological horror at its best. It’s based on the Stephen King classic about a family of three that have to caretake a haunted hotel up in the mountains during the harsh winter. There’s nothing not to appreciate; the music is otherworldly, the masterful camerawork moves and distorts perception of the Overlook Hotel to a terrifying degree and veteran actors Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall at the top of their game. It’s a story about addiction, but director Stanley Kubrick famously pushed the boundaries of King’s novel to craft one of the creepiest horror movies of all time. As characters start losing their grasp on reality, the viewer also starts to wonder exactly what is and isn’t real inside the Overlook. Kubrick plays a lot with this concept of the haunted hotel, and the images that resulted of this are among the most well-crafted in the history of cinema.  

 

Movie poster courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

“The Thing” (1982) 

Horror and science fiction, in a way, go hand in hand as they tend to explore the weird and unnatural. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” provides that in droves with utilizing both genres through a terrifying premise.  

The film takes place in Antarctica with a group of scientists suddenly encountering a mysterious creature that can imitate human form to become a disgusting amalgamation. “The Thing’s” discussion on the scientific unknown coupled with tackling the fear of isolation makes for an entertainingly uneasy experience. Without the usage of any CGI, the film stands to be one of the most important sci-fi horror films of all time.  

For those interested in wanting a suspenseful time with Cronenberg-esque monstrosities, this film will surely fill the criteria. With a story of deception and engaging characters like R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), the viewer will be on edge until the ending.  

 

Movie poster courtesy of Universal Pictures

“The Exorcist” (1973) 

There’s an extensive variety of supernatural horror flicks out there. Ghosts, spirits and demons are a common trademark of the genre. From “Poltergeist” to “Paranormal Activity”, there’s a lot of options from which to choose one, but it has to be one of the first options. In 1974, the story of a little girl who gets possessed by an ancient demon was not an everyday type of movie. When The Exorcist first released in the United Kingdom, the Catholic Church was not happy at all, and it’s no wonder that it got banned for a while. By today’s standards, it’s nothing out of the range of an average horror movie. It still holds a lasting impact; although the special effects have fallen behind, The Exorcist is as compelling and absorbing as it was in the 1970s. It might not scare new viewers to the core, but it is definitely a great addition to a horror movie marathon and a must watch for the month of October.  

Movie poster courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (2007) 

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, a beautiful, classic musical horror movie. The director, Tim Burton, classically pulls together his star-studded cast, Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter, to create an on-screen chemistry that sends chills down your spine. 

The movie is a creepy and epic retelling of the classic musical. The film grips its grotesque style in beautiful Tim Burton fashion and displays its gothic roots through its lack of color and macabre plot. Through each scene, you will fall in love and out of love with Sweeney Todd while watching him spiral into his final deranged form.  

Movie poster courtesy of Paramount Pictures Studios

“Fear Street1997, 1978 and 1666″ (2021) 

Inspired by the young adult series created by R.L. Stine, “Fear Street: 1994, 1978 and 1666” is a teen horror trilogy that pays respect to other well-known horror films. Directed by Leigh Janiak, the films released on Netflix throughout the month of July.  

The plot revolves around an odd history of murderers in the Shadyside, a fictional location which is  the main setting in Stine’s series. Each film takes place in different times to uncover Shadyside’s mysterious past. The film’s gratefully wear its influences on its sleeve, using each film is a homage to films like Wes Craven’s “Scream” (1996), “The Friday the 13th Series” (1980-2009) and Robert Eggers’s “The Witch” (2015).  

For horror fans or just anyone that wants to binge something for Halloween, these movies fill the void with an entertaining linear story and likeable teenage characters.   

Movie poster courtesy of Netflix

“Train to Busan” (2016)  

Zombies in horror have become saturated to where there are shows, video games, books and film. Yet there are still works that transcend the overloaded in the subgenre and Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” does exactly that.  

Where the film sticks out is its focus on the theme of humility. When multiple South Koreans are trapped in a zombie infested train, their main objective is to work together against the horde and survive.  

For those interested in watching a zombie flick, definitely give this foreign horror film a shot. Not only does “Train to Busan” keep the viewer interested with its gripping suspense with genuinely likeable (and hateable) characters. Zombie fans can find this film being a good spin on the subgenre as it does explore more on the nature of the monsters. They can also appreciate the brutality and grit present in action throughout.  

Movie poster courtesy of Next Entertainment World
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