Anyone that knows me knows that I love horror, sci-fi and monster movies and pretty much watch them all year-long. When it comes to October though there are a handful of movies that I feel I must watch to to help keep Halloween spirit alive. This list is not in any way meant to be a list of my top 13 horror movies of all time but a list of top 13 Halloween movies. These are movies that may not necessarily be scary as hell…some are just charming and fun! Even if these films do not fall into your top 13 list, perhaps there are some titles here you haven’t seen and may be tempted to watch!
13. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
I know a lot of people didn’t like HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, mostly due in part to the fact that it didn’t continue the Michael Myers storyline from parts 1 and 2. Even though the basic story of this movie is totally unbelievable, on the verge of being ridiculous, it is still a fun movie and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, you will enjoy it! The cast is fun and the special effects are gruesome enough for most gore-hounds. I also enjoyed the limited look at the inner workings of Don Post Studios, who actually made the skull, witch and pumpkin masks used in the film.
12. HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS (1988)
I really enjoyed this sequel and this was actually the first HALLOWEEN movie I saw in the theater. I left the theater feeling satisfied that the Michael Myers legacy was continued with respect, thanks to good writing and a suspenseful plot. Danielle Harris playing Jamie, Laurie Strode’s daughter, is excellent in this role and you genuinely feel bad for her and the terror she conveys from what is going on around her!
11. CREEPSHOW (1982)
CREEPSHOW rates up there as one of my all-time favorite horror movies and it is perfect for viewing at Halloween. The stories are short, well written and a lot of fun thanks to the top-notch cast featuring Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielson, Fritz Weaver, E.G. Marshall, Ted Danson and even Stephen King. This George Romero/Stephen King collaboration is a collection of horror stories not to be missed!
10. THE HOWLING (1981)
1981 was a great year for werewolves with the release of two of the most popular werewolf movies of all time, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and THE HOWLING. Though I love both films, THE HOWLING to me is just a tad bit better. First off, I am not a fan of werewolves that walk on all fours and though AWIL is a fun movie, I didn’t find it to be as genuinely scary as THE HOWLING. Rob Bottin’s werewolf creations, in my opinion, still have not been topped and this movie is fun because of the great cast, including many cameos! How many can you spot?
9. PUMPKINHEAD (1988)
I remember hearing about PUMPKINHEAD from Fangoria Magazine and being disappointed that it never played in my area. I also remember renting the videotape of it for the first time…eagerly excited at the prospect of a new movie monster. Let me say that this movie did not disappoint in any way! The story is really good and Pumpkinhead himself is one of the best movie monsters ever created! Stan Winston did an amazing job in his directorial debut creating a movie full of atmosphere and terror! This movie still holds up great today. You are truly missed Mr. Winston!
8. THE CROW (1994)
THE CROW is another film that I initially found out through Fangoria Magazine and I still remember hearing the news of Brandon Lee dying as a result of being “shot” on the set. I was devastated by this news as I was quickly becoming a Brandon Lee fan and had so far really enjoyed all of his movies. Other stories were circulating about problems on the set so that when it finally did come out, no one knew what to expect. Though this is not a horror or monster movie, it is a movie dealing with the supernatural and it is done tastefully and with respect! The plot takes place during the days leading up to Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween. The story is touching and timeless and the dedication to Brandon and his wife helped to make it perfect. This is a much recommended classic for the Halloween season.
7. JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING (1982)
John Carpenter was certainly riding a wave of horror movie hits in the late 70’s and early 80’s! It seemed as though everything he did was a hit and this remake is no exception. The isolation of this film…being trapped in a place with no chance of escape…while being hunted by an alien being that can mimic any living thing, sets up a story of pure terror that cannot be missed! This film still holds up really well today and Rob Bottin’s effects blow away many things being seen in today’s horror films! Modern film makers should take note: this is how horror movies are supposed to be made!
6. IDLE HANDS (1999)
I honestly do not remember much hype about this movie prior to its release. I think what initially drew me to it was because I was a fan of Seth Green (thanks to BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and Jessica Alba (thanks to DARK ANGEL). The story does take place around Halloween and concerns a stoner teen, Anton Tobias, whose hand is possessed and goes on a killing spree. It’s a simple plot and yet it works so well. This is one of those horror-comedies that will entertain you from start to finish. The cast are all perfect in their rolls. Though this did not do well in the theatres, it did obtain a cult following on DVD.
5. THE FOG (1980)
Here is another fine example of John Carpenter at his best. Not only did he create a genuinely creepy movie, but he also created one of the best horror movie soundtracks ever made. The whole concept of vengeful spirits in the fog is a simple one but it is beautifully portrayed here with a lot of atmosphere and suspense. The usual John Carpenter regulars are here too…Jamie Lee Curtis, Nancy Kyes, Tom Atkins and of course Adrienne Barbeau. Other greats include Hal Holbrook, Janet Leigh and John Houseman. For an even better experience watch this classic in the dark!
4. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)
I suppose any one of Romero’s zombie epics would be great for viewing at this time of year but I have singled out the original for inclusion on this list. This movie is a classic and can be viewed by people of all ages (unless your version has the scene showing a woman’s bare breasts). This is the original zombie film and even today it is a lot of fun to watch. It is stylish, creepy and very realistic at times! The news reports, professionally done, just add to the realism of what these people are experiencing. For me, this is one of the most believable zombie movies ever made, taking nothing away from DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) or DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) and is a must see not only at Halloween, but any time of the year! Of course you could always watch all three entries and have an awesome Halloween night triple feature!
3. THE MIDNIGHT HOUR (1985)
This hard to find TV movie is a must see at Halloween, especially for kids. I remember seeing this when it was originally broadcast on network television in 1985 and I was blown away by it. This fun movie is very well put together with some great monster makeups and an awesome soundtrack! The attractive cast includes Shari Belafonte, LeVar Burton and Deedee Pfeiffer (with cameos by Kevin McCarthy and Dick Van Patten). Why this isn’t shown every year I will never know and the DVD is now out of print making it next to impossible to obtain, unless you want to shell out collectors’ prices (used copies start at $145.00 on Amazon). I am so glad that I bought this when it came out and it has been an annual holiday viewing tradition for me every year! Either Criterion or Arrow should put together a deluxe release of this classic!
2. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)
This is, without a doubt the BEST Halloween movie to come out in a very long time and it still amazes me that it never got released in the theater. This is one of those rare gems that stands up to repeated viewings. The movie features multiple stories with different characters all taking place on Halloween night and they are all connected in one way or another. The character of Sam (as seen in the movie poster), though simple in design, is one of the scariest monsters ever created! He is genuinely creepy and absolutely brutal in his attacks. The practical effects are fantastic! I do not recommend this movie for kids but hell, if you want to torture them with a scary film like this, who am I to judge?!?
1. JOHN CARPENTER’S HALLOWEEN (1978)
What can I say about this classic that hasn’t already been covered? This is by far not only one of the best horror movies ever made but it is also the best movie to watch at Halloween time every year! What John Carpenter has done is create a masterpiece that doesn’t rely on blood and guts to get a reaction (in fact there is very little blood to be seen at all). What he does do is create suspense and tension that puts you in the movie with the characters…you feel their terror and experience their anxiety as if you are in the room with them. Though this movie was imitated many times in later years, no one has ever been able to duplicate what Carpenter has done here!
So there is my list. I am sure there are going to be plenty of you out there who would disagree with me for whatever reason. Just remember, this is my list and it is in no way set in stone that these are the only films you should watch at Halloween time. These are just the movies that I must watch every October leading up to Halloween. Yes I left out many great films…this was not an easy list to compile to be honest…but it is MY list and I stick to it. Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween (cue John Carpenters “Halloween” theme here).