Ah, Halloween. One of the best holidays of the year! Free candy, an excuse to dress-up, decorations and, of course, the perfect time for spooky movies! With the season here once again, it can be tricky to pick which films to watch; so with that in mind, here is a list of movies for those looking for scares and also for those looking for some popcorn flicks!
Cult classic films can be hit or miss depending on the viewer, but “Hocus Pocus” is a special case. The film bombed upon release, but gained a cult following over the years, enough to warrant a sequel. The film follows a teenage boy, his little sister, his high school crush and a magic cat who accidently releases three witches imprisoned since the Salem Witch Trials and has to stop them from becoming immortal. The film is certainly bad, but it is enjoyably bad all the same for its campy charm! Plus, it’s Halloween themed so there’s no better time to watch it!
No other horror film is as much a staple of the season quite like John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film, “Halloween.” It introduced to the world John Carpenter as a talented filmmaker, gave us the wonderful Jamie Lee Curtis and produced one of horror cinema’s iconic villains: Michael Meyers (aka “The Shape”). The plot is straightforward: Michael Meyers, a deranged serial killer, escapes from custody and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois where he killed his sister years ago. Laurie Strode, a high-school babysitter looking after two kids on Halloween, must survive the night when Michael targets Laurie and her friends as his new victims. The film isn’t a masterpiece, with some segments feeling a little too long and a little too slow paced, but the film works masterfully in its simplicity. Sure, it didn’t break new ground with its knife-wielding villain like “Psycho” did, but its element of mystery surrounding its killer, its iconic score, its simple but effective camerawork and its focus on suspense rather than bloodshed make it iconic for a reason.
Evil Dead 2
If it were not for this iconic horror film, director Sam Raimi would not go on to direct Spiderman! “Evil Dead 2” is a sequel and remake to the original film as series protagonist Ash Williams and his girlfriend Linda go to a secluded cabin in the woods. However, upon discovering a cursed audio tape and the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, Linda becomes possessed and the Evil attacks the cabin, forcing Ash Williams and a band of new to fight to survive.
What makes “Evil Dead 2” a treat is that it is the quintessential horror comedy! The film is darkly funny, from flying eyeballs and Ash getting beaten up by his own hand just to name a few! Speaking of Ash, Bruce Campbell’s performance steals the show as Ash goes from hapless jock to the wise-cracking, Deadite-slaying anti-hero we all know and love. With the low-budget special effects and clever shaky cam, this horror comedy is a must watch for the Halloween season!
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1978)
Toby Hooper helped innovate the slasher sub-genre with his wildly successful and highly controversial slasher film: “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The film follows Sally and her brother as they investigate reports of vandalism of their grandfather’s grave, bringing their friends along for the ride. While heading to their family’s old home, they accidentally run across a ramshackle house inhabited by “Leatherface,” the chainsaw-wielding villain, and they must escape with their lives.
The film’s innovative cinematography, which Daniel Pearl helped tailor, makes the film feel dirty and sweaty. Despite the title, the film is restrained in its violence, especially when compared to its contemporaries like “Saw.” The sense of direction the film has is also incredible, with the dinner scene and the final chase sequence being two of the most iconic scenes in the film!
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Speaking of cult classics, “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” is a great fit for somebody in the mood for something equally as silly as “Hocus Pocus,” but for more mature audiences. The film follows Janet and Brad who end up at the mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who is set to unveil his newest creation, “Rocky.” The film is nothing spectacular from a filmmaking perspective, but it’s campy nature and loving homage to ‘50s B-horror shlock make it perfect for the Halloween season for those in the mood for a grand old time! If nothing else, watch for Tim Curry, who is undeniably the force that makes this film so iconic among movie lovers.
This iconic adaptation of Stephen King’s famous novel is considered one of the best psychological horror films for a reason. Starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duval and directed by filmmaking icon Staley Kubrick, the movie follows Jack Torrance as he is hired to be the winter caretaker for the secluded Overlook Hotel. After he arrives with his wife and son, Wendy and Danny, things quickly begin to spiral out of control as the supernatural force of the hotel drives them out of their minds. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat until the climatic finale that will leave you speechless!
When it comes to horror filmmaking, Wes Craven is a household name for a reason. However, with his 1996 slasher-horror film, “Scream,” the director broke all the tropes and cliches of the slasher sub-genre and rebuilt them in such a clever and funny manner, it made the film an instant classic. The film follows Cindy Prescott as she and her friends are stalked by “Ghostface,” a serial killer wearing a cheap Halloween mask with a penchant for horror movies and killing teenagers. The film was ahead of its time and holds up really well even today, twenty years later. If you’re looking for a smart horror film, this is the one to choose.
With all of these movies, you are set for a great Halloween watch party! Happy Halloween!
Kelly Baker is an alumnus of West Chester University.