With Halloween just around the corner, what better time to turn the lights out, get the popcorn ready and watch some spectacularly spooky films.
From dark and sinister to campy and gory, there is no genre quite like horror. Horror films can leave you shaking in terror behind your sofa or leave you laughing at the absurdities you’re witnessing.
Horror has always been an incredibly diverse genre, one with almost everything to offer and Halloween is the perfect time of year to celebrate the very best. Whether you want to enjoy some goofy gory fun, or be unsettled to your core, these are some of the best horror movies to get you in the Halloween spirit this weekend.
Well, this one is a no-brainer. It may not be the best horror movie, or the scariest, but it’s one that captures the spirit of Halloween.
John Carpernter’s 1978 classic about a masked figure hunting down and murdering teenagers, is arguably responsible for kick-starting the ‘slasher’ genre. Films such as Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream all owe a lot to Halloween.
Yes, it may be considered predictable, tropey and tame by modern standards, but this was a film that started virtually every trope present in it. Not only is it an important film for the genre, it’s one that oozes with atmosphere.
In almost every shot there is something that reminds us of the season, be it pumpkins, trick or treaters, autumn leaves or masked serial killers. This is a perfect movie to get the ball rolling every October.
- The Decent
Since the turn of the century, the UK has produced some of the genre’s greatest low budget horror movies. Dog Soldiers, 28 Days Later and The Borderlands all offer simple yet effective scary stories that trap viewers in the narrative. However, when it comes to sheer terror and anxiety, none have come close to 2005’s The Decent.
Written and directed by Neil Marshall, The Decent follows a group of women who decide to go cave diving in North Carolina. Things soon turn awry when they find themselves trapped underground, and to make matters worse, they are not alone.
The genius of this movie is just how scary it is based on the initial insisting incident. Being trapped underground, crawling through tight jagged airways, scrambling to find a way out. It’s a claustrophobic nightmare. And that’s before creatures begin to emerge out of the darkness.
This is one of the most nail biting horror movies ever made, it never lets you out, never lets you breathe, it traps you in the film.
This is an incredibly brutal and unpleasant film in all the best ways. The gore isn’t just intense, it has a sense of realism that makes it genuinely stomach turning, and this is aided by some brilliant practical effects and set designs.
If there is one challenge to set yourself this Halloween, try and watch this film alone in the dark and see how long you can last.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
The magic of The Nightmare Before Christmas is the debate surrounding it. Is it a Halloween movie or is it a Christmas movie? This is an argument that film lovers have been fighting over since the film’s release in 1993. However, the important question is, why can’t it be both?
Despite being directed by Henry Salick, this movie has writer Tim Burton’s fingerprints all over it, and the film is all the better for it. With beautiful gothic imagery, incredible stop motion animation and of course, the real star of the film, Danny Elfman’s music.
Not only did Elfman write some hypnotically catchy songs, he also lends his own singing voice to the leading character himself, Jack Skelington.
Not only does this find a perfect blend between comedy and horror, it manages to find a way to blend two vastly different celebrations together in a natural and organic way.
It pushes the boundary for dark comedy, especially for a children’s film. Most importantly however, it has given Halloween it’s own unofficial anthem with the track, This is Halloween.
- Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
The title alone hints at just how meta this movie truly is. As it suggests, this is Wes Craven’s return to the franchise he started in 1984 with A Nightmare on Elm Street. After ten years and several sequels, this movie series, and its signature recurring villain Freddy Kruger, became less scary and more comical.
However, in 1994 when Wes Craven began to direct another Elm Street movie, he decided the franchise needed a new direction, one to bring the fear back into the nightmare. Instead of rehashing what came before, he brought Freddy into the real world.
This film pays homage to greater aspects of its predecessors, but also criticises them. Bringing Freddy into the real world, where he hunts down and torments the real life actors creates a scenario that takes full advantage of breaking the fourth wall.
Most of the original actors, as well as Wes Craven, appear in the film as themselves. This movie did what no one thought was possible, it made Freddy Kruger scary again, and made the audience think twice about falling asleep.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
If you’re planning to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre this Halloween, it’s recommended you don’t eat while watching it. Directed by Tobe Hooper, this movie was originally released in 1974, but wasn’t released in the UK until 1998. This was because, in the UK and several other countries, this movie was banned. It was deemed too violent, too disturbing and too shocking for general audiences. But of course, this reputation only made the film’s appeal even greater.
If you’re curious about the plot, the title does a fairly good job summing it up. What the title doesn’t do is tell you just how visceral and intense it is. This is masterfully directed with beautiful cinematography, where almost every shot seems meticulously crafted.
Despite not showing very much gore, the implications of violence are incredibly uncomfortable. Hooper knew that the audience’s own imagination is far worse than anything he could have put on camera.
- Lake Mungo
Chances are, most people have probably never heard of this film. Not only was it not released in cinemas outside of Australia, it wasn’t even available on DVD in countries like the USA until 2010, two years after the film’s release. Box office in Australia wasn’t particularly impressive either, ranking up a mere $29 850.
However, over the years it has slowly built up traction, and has now gained itself a cult following. Why? Because it is one of the most terrifying movies ever made.
Directed by Joel Anderson, Lake Mungo didn’t use a traditional script. This was because the film plays out like a documentary. Actors didn’t use scripts, they were given detailed descriptions of their character’s backstories, and simply answered the interviewer’s questions in character.
This creates a grounded sense of realism which in hand with the supernatural elements, make the film even more horrifying. At times you almost forget its fiction. It feels like you are watching real people experience these nightmares.
Lake Mungo will send shivers down your spine and leave your hair standing on edge. Following the story of a grieving family, they begin to notice strange happenings in their home, and haunting images in their photos. Anderson uses simple still images to shake audience members to their core.
This is arguably one of the most underrated horror movies ever made and will have you asking yourself, is there something lurking behind you?
- The Lost Boys
There have been countless movies about vampires, many of which would be perfect for Halloween. But what are you in the mood for? We already have plenty of dark, creepy and scary vampire movies. Just look towards 1992’s Dracular, 1994’s Interview With a Vampire or any of the 1950s Hammer Horrors starring Christopher Lee. But when it comes to pure unadulterated fun with an enormous eighties twist, seek none other than Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys.
Is this the best film on the list? Not by a long way. Is it even scary? Not really. But this film takes the crown for pure entertainment factor. The film was made for Halloween parties. It is stupidly over the top, filled to the brim with blood and studded leather jackets. Do you want to see some teenagers start a vampire hunting club? It’s here. How about vampire motorcyclists who attend heavy metal concerts? Or what about some dated yet incredible practical effects, ranging from bloody water fountains to exploding heads?
This film is essentially an over the top, violent and silly version of The Goonies that just oozes unfiltered eighties magic. It is a film drenched in the decade. Big hair, glam metal, pop culture references, it’s all here. It may not be the best vampire movie ever made, but it might just be your favourite.
Audition is a film with a reputation. If you haven’t seen Audition, you’ve probably heard about it. Needless to say, this movie is not for the faint of heart. Is it scary? Yes! Is it gruesome? Yes! Is it masterfully crafted? Yes! Is it for everyone? No.
Japan is famous for its unsettling horror movies. Films like Ringu, The Grudge and Pulse have audiences biting their nails and looking under their beds. But, it requires a particularly strong stomach to sit through this one. Arguably one of the kick-starter movies for ‘shock horror’ and ‘exploitation horror’, Audition is a very hard film to watch.
Ironically, to the uninitiated, this film initially seems like a fairly run of the mill drama, one that doesn’t really seem to be about anything that interesting. That is until the third act.
By far the most graphic and disturbing film on this list, Audition captures the audience and forces them to endure horror like no other. If it’s challenging to watch The Descent in the dark, it’s an even bigger challenge to watch Audition without looking away.
If you are feeling particularly brave and if you haven’t eaten too much, this is definitely a creepy movie to check out this Halloween. But be warned, once you see it, you can’t unsee it.
From the master of horror himself, Stephen King, comes one of the most bizarre, unique and well crafted horror movies ever put to the screen. Directed by horror icon George A. Romero, this 1982 classic has everything you want from a creepy horror anthology. From goofy gory fun, to stylistic and scary. This film will have you laughing and shivering.
What makes this movie so unique is just how bizarre it is, but more importantly how it blends elements together that shouldn’t work, but work perfectly here. This is a film that stands out, a film that doesn’t stick to rules. One minute you’re laughing at King as he slowly turns into a plant, the next you’re hiding behind your fingers as you watch Leslie Nielsen hunted down by rotting corpses seeking revenge.
This is an anthology like no other, and one that throws everything at the wall. Countless horror anthologies have tried to recapture the magic of Creepshow, but none have even come close.