Darkness falls at evening’s song, as frightful folk their masks shall don. Doth thee bored without Halloween plans? For once fear not, for Moviedash has got you back, man! I don’t know about you guys but I love Halloween! The candy, the decor, the scantily clad costumes and even the occasional prank. One hallowed tradition kept during this time would be the classic horror movie night. Call a few friends over and pop in a scary flick or two. This year we didn’t want to do the cliche thing and just give you a list of great horror film recommendations because already we have a perfectly good list for crybabies right there. No, we’re looking at films that truly capture the spirit of Halloween.
We’ve consulted our crack team of experts and exorcists to give you the very best films that embody the season. So grab your crucifix and a healthy helping of popcorn because here are five harrowing films to ring in Halloween.
1. Insidious (2010)
Too cheap to visit a haunted house attraction? Too scared to visit the real thing? Well watching Insidious with the volume cranked up to the max is certainly the next best alternative. During a time of Blair Witch knockoffs and budget horror films that focused on “realism”, Insidious was just the film to smash the mould. Pure, unadulterated haunted house scares served up with outrageous title fonts and all. The film follows the Lambert family who has (you guessed it) just moved into a new house. Parents Josh and Renal get worried when their son falls into a mysterious coma after falling from a ladder. This is no accident however as the family begins to experience strange sounds and see demonic visions. There’s something odd going on. Something insidious…
Insidious is at its best when it makes full use of its carnival style horror attractions. Each scene provides a unique form of dread and suspense. Sometimes, it’ll come from the sides. Sometimes, it’s a sudden bump. And sometimes, it comes when you least expect it, when you feel the safest. It’s a shame that the follow-ups have forgotten the foundation of what made the original so great: variety. Even when the film dips into the realm of cheesy, it plays it up with such confidence. I don’t care how much you laughed at that “Tiptoe Through The Tulips” scene, that was still creepy as all hell. Insidious is that dorky friend from high school that wears his heart on his sleeve. You just gotta love it.
2. IT (2017)
Though a relatively recent film, IT has easily earned a spot as one of our favourite horror films of all time! It combines two the scariest things in our childhood: puberty and demon clowns. No doubt you’ve seen someone don the costume and perhaps seen a rendition of this on TV. I can honestly tell you that no one nails the sinister clown act quite like Pennywise. There’s an evil in the town of Derry, Maine. A force that corrupts the inhabitants and brings an air of despair and misery, and every 27 years it emerges to feasts. Bill Denbrough’s brother just so happens to be one of its first victims. Bill along with six other friends form a gang, the Losers’ Club and must confront Pennywise before it destroys everything they hold dear.
Whether you love clowns or hate them, this is the perfect film for you. It’s rare to see a horror movie have so much character development. Throughout the film, you really get a sense that these people are friends and that together they can defeat anything. Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise is phenomenal. Sometimes, I don’t even know if I should laugh or scream at his performance. There are all these little disturbing idiosyncrasies about it like the way he drools when he talks or when his eyes are moving in separate directions. IT manages to reach that sweet spot between heartwarming and terrifying, so if you’re looking to have a feel-good Halloween, this is it!
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Long has The Nightmare Before Christmas been a topic of debate within the film community. I stand firmly on the side that Nightmare is a Halloween film first and a Christmas film second. Halloween is all about the invasion of the weird and the macabre and this film has it in spades. This deliciously dark stop-motion animated film follows the story of Jack Skellington, an undead resident of Halloween Town, who has grown tired of the annual traditions of Halloween. One day, he stumbles onto the concept of Christmas and begins obsessing over it. Skellington, now in love with the most wonderful of the year, intends to celebrate it his way. He along with the ghouls and beasts of Halloween town bring a little bit of terror and sinister fun to the holiday.
Veteran stop-motion director Henry Selick is a freaking genius! Before the man brought us the eerie adventures of Coraline or touched our hearts with James and the Giant Peach, this was his magnum opus. From the character design to the movements to the lighting, it all has so much personality and energy. All of it wonderfully compliments writer Caroline Thompsons’ charming script that will have you in stitches. The songs here are absolute earworms that will burrow deep into your cerebral cortex and lay eggs there. I dare you to not at least hum “This is Halloween” or “Kidnapping Sandy Claws” the next day. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those rare films that reminds us of that notion that monsters have dreams and feelings too.
4. Halloween (1978)
Nobody should be surprised by this pick. Besides the obvious nod to the holiday itself, Halloween preys on a very plausible fear. That on the one night when everyone is dressed up in a costume, a serial killer could walk among us unnoticed. A premise that fits well with horror legend John Carpenter’s m.o. of playing off people’s paranoia. In the town of Haddonfield, Illinois a disturbed young boy named Michael Myers (no relations the Shrek voice actor) stabs his sister Judith to death while she and her boyfriend were getting intimate. Myers is sent to an insane asylum. Flash forward 15 years later, he breaks out of the facility and begins stalking high school student and babysitter Laurie Strode, who has a mysterious connection to the killer. Armed with a knife, a white mask and a will to kill, Myers will carve his way through Haddonfield to reach his prey, Laurie. This is going a Halloween she won’t forget.
Halloween was one of the films to usher in the golden age of slasher films of late 70’s and early 80’s, not unlike Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. In Myers, Carpenter created a character that would pave the way for Friday the 13th’s Jason to be possible. A silent and menacing monster that existed somewhere within the realm of the human and inhuman. An unstoppable force of pure hate and evil that would stalk his prey to the ends of the earth. We’re getting a sequel/soft reboot to Halloween come this month. We can’t say for sure that it’ll be any good but we can certainly say that this one is a killer.
5. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Nothing quite sets the atmosphere for Halloween like a good scary story and Trick ‘r Treat nails all the right sweet spots. Much like Tales from the Crypt and V/H/S, the film follows an anthology format of five different Halloween stories woven together on one fateful night. There’s one about a couple who argues about holiday tradition and the consequences of not following it. Another one about dead special needs children returning from a bus crash. A serial killer also stalks the streets at night, using killer candy to snatch his prey. Then, there’s Sam, a sort of guardian who oversees the gory proceedings of Halloween. Himself at some point being a participant in the murderous merriment. Remember the rules and you should be fine but break them and you may yet find yourself a victim on this late October night.
Trick ‘r Treat is the perfect Halloween film. This cult hit has everything you could possibly want during this time. There’s plenty of nightmare fodder and horrifying imagery to keep you up at night. Yet, there’s a sort joviality about Trick ‘r Treat as it never takes itself too seriously. It doesn’t try to set up too complex or convoluted of a universe. Its sole focus is to thrill and entertain you with creepy, campy stories that are meant to emulate those nostalgic campfire feels. The effects do look a little dated at times but hell, you’ll can’t help but smile and clench your teeth when it all goes down. Buy it, rent it or maybe get it on Netflix. Either way, you’re in for a…treat.
Hey you! Yes you, hot stuff. Like my article? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. Also, don’t forget to share it with your buds. And if you’d like to talk movies you can hit me up here: @cinesam