13 Films to Prep You for Halloween or What To Watch Between Now and Next Thursday

A little while ago I complained about the fact that I hadn’t done much horror related stuff in the build up to Halloween. That post led to a number of people contacting me (through various electronic means) to ask me what movies I would recommend watching. I, of course, am more than happy to oblige.

I have done lists of horror movies which I enjoy, which I think people may have missed and should watch, and who knows how many other reasons. This current list will focus specifically on movies which I think are good to watch around Halloween. Either they have a connection to the season, they are particularly well made horror films, or they just feel Halloweeny to me. This list will be shifted towards ghost stories, because that is what I think of around this time of year. I should warn you that the movies represented on the list will trend towards older films. There will only be a few movies which were made within the last decade.

Note: Inclusion on the list just means that I feel that these films should be watched around Halloween. It does not mean that these are the greatest horror movies of all time (although all of them are excellent).
1 So without further ado, the list, presented in no particular order.

Halloween Obviously, when one thinks about Halloween, one thinks about Halloween. While this film is often lumped in with the slasher films of the era, I feel that this is an unfair categorization. While the series eventually spirals into slasher fodder3, the first movie is extremely suspenseful. This is a great film to watch on Halloween night. There are a number of theaters around the nation which will be showing Halloween on the 31st. Check this link for more information.4

Trick r’ Treat Another great film that focuses on Halloween night. Many people have missed this compilation film because it was released directly to video. The movie features four stories which are woven together perfectly. I know I said that I was presenting the list in no order, but if you are only going to watch one film from this list, make it this one.

The Crow Another film picked specifically for its links to a specific time of year, The Crow takes place not on Halloween, but on two successive Devil’s Nights in Detroit.5 This tale of revenge from beyond the grave features an amazing final performance by Brandon Lee. I watch it every year.

The Evil Dead Another film with local ties, I am a big fan of the entire series6/7. While many (including myself on some days) prefer the humorous remake of the first film that is the sequel, Halloween is about scares. For that we need not the slapstick, Stoogerian antics of the sequel but the original film billed as “The Ultimate Experience of Grueling Horror.”

Nosferatu The first, albeit unofficial, adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This silent film features some of the most horrifying vampire make-up in the history of the cinema. With any luck I will be able to see this on the big screen this year.

Fright Night While we are on the subject of vampires, we have to include this great film. I’ve included this one instead of other potential vampire movies8 because of the way it addresses the vampire mythos. Having the protagonists aware of vampires, at least as far as B movies are considered, gives the movie a certain meta level immersion that draws the audience in.

Paranormal Activity I know that some people don’t care for found footage films9, but I feel that the Paranormal Activity franchise is one of the rare occasions where it is done exceedingly well10. All of the films in the series deal with the idea of hauntings well, but the first one is the one to watch in the dark for true creepiness.

Poltergeist Another haunting just perfect for the season is Poltergeist. I was fortunate enough to watch this one on the big screen last year and it hold up extremely well.11

House on Haunted Hill No Halloween list would be complete without at least one entry featuring the master Vincent Price. While this is not necessarily his best horror movie12, it is the perfect movie for the Halloween season.

Alien The quintessential combination of horror and sci-fi, Alien is primarily a haunted house story set against the back drop of a space ship. That back drop, the Nostromo, along with the crashed alien spacecraft and the horrific design of the Xenomorph, are reason enough to include this fine film. The claustrophobic feel and the brilliant acting, are others. Yes, some of the other films in the series were action/sci-ci, others sucked harder than a Dyson vacuum cleaner with a nuclear power supply, but the original stands out as a great horror movie.

Night of the Living Dead You didn’t honestly think you were getting through this list without a zombie movie, did you? While there are others which may have better gore effects or tighter plots, there is something about Romero’s first foray into the field of the undead which makes us return every year. In a few days I’ll be going out to the theater to watch this classic while the comedians from Mystery Science Theater 3000 rip into it.

REC If you are looking for an immersive experience which stays with you after the film has ended, the is your obvious choice. The plot focuses on a fluff journalist whose evening following a group of Fire and Rescue workers takes a turn for the horrific when the group ends up quarantined in an apartment building facing an outbreak of an unknown origin. Get the original and read the subtitles. Avoid the inferior American remake (Quarantine).

Psycho What can I say? This one was a game changer. Even though you know the plot, the surprise one third of the way in, and the twist ending, your viewing experience is not diminished in the least. Hitchcock at his finest.

I started this post with a list of potential titles and whittled it down to 13. I could easily do another list of 13. In fact, on another day I might list 13 different titles. To be sure, a follow up list would contain these Honorable Mentions:
An American Werewolf in London, The Amytiville Horror, The Devil’s Backbone, The Exorcist, Ginger Snaps, Near Dark, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Orphanage, and Tale of Two Sisters.

The really sad thing is that instead of watching one of these movies while I wrote this I had the absolutely ridiculous
Jason X on as background noise.

1 It should go without saying that every film included on this are the originals. My dislike of the Hollywood remake machine is well documented. It would take an extraordinary remake for me to even consider it.

2 I’m not saying that there have never been good remakes. Cronenberg’s version of
The Fly is excellent as is Caprenter’s The Thing. I quite like the new version of Dawn of the Dead as well.

3 There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, by the way.

4 Bonus points to the sequel for picking up right where the original one leaves off. The two together make a great double feature if you watch them back to back.

5 I grew up in Detroit in the 70s and 80s. I will never refer to 30 October as “Angel’s Night.”

6 As I am sure you all know.

The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness.

8 Like honorable mention
Near Dark, and The Lost Boys and Dracula (both the Lugosi and Lee versions).

9 The Mrs is one of them.

10 Other found footage gems include
The Blair Witch Project and V/H/S/.

11 Although there are aspects that are dated. The iconic “They’re here” scene could no longer be done as television stations no longer play the national anthem and then go to static. Similarly, the last scene where Craig T. Nelson’s character pushes the motel television out of the room couldn’t happen in an age where everything in a motel room including the remote control is bolted down.

12 If you get a chance to watch
House of Wax in the theater, jump at the chance.