Halloween is creeping up on me much quicker than usual this year. I’m used to turning Halloween into a month-long event, one where I spend all of October huddled under a blanket with popcorn or chocolate, watching horror films on my laptop. This time, however, October has simply been a whirlwind of activity, and all of a sudden, we’re less than a week away from Halloween!
So to make up for lost time, I’m breaking out the Halloween films! The creepy, the dark, the gothic, the grotesque, the terrifying – and boy, do I have a collection of them! Year after year, I find a new film to become a tradition. And the funny thing is that when you search online for good Halloween films to celebrate the season with, you typically get the same films over and over again (The Exorcist, Halloween, Carrie, ect.), and as much as those are all great movies, there are still plenty that I have to watch year-after-year that tend to get overlooked – including horror sequels, films that are either too old or too new, and overlooked remakes.
So this year, I feel that it is my responsibility to bring these films to the light – to call out all those forgotten nightmares and celebrate them the way they deserve to be celebrated.
Without further ado, boils and ghouls, let’s pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, and begin.
1) Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
Year of Release: 2010
Director: Eli Craig
I discovered Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil only shortly after its release, and I’ve been watching it religiously ever since. Like, it’s kind of sad. I think I can quote whole scenes by now. Focused on subverting classic horror tropes, this horror comedy takes the stock characters of the masochistic hillbillies and turns them into totally endearing goofballs who will make you hope and pray that they turn out okay. It’s a story about overcoming judgement, about seeing people for what they are beneath the surface, and about college students diving head-first into woodchippers. Altogether, a Halloween film that cannot be missed this season!
2) Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Year of Release: 1987
Director: Chuck Russell
I’m not going to lie, I’m a big fan of the entire Nightmare on Elm Street series. Some sequels are weaker than others, but this is definitely the strongest of them all. In fact, if you ask any fan of the series, they’ll probably tell you that there are only two Nightmare on Elm Street films that you should take seriously: the first one, and this one. While the first film was a straight-forward slasher film, this one changes it up slightly by setting it in a mental hospital, where a group of teens are being persecuted by your favourite burn victim and mine, Freddy Krueger. This is around the time in the series where Freddy started to gain a sense of humour, so he’s a bit more than the simple monster he was in the first two films, but it hasn’t quite crossed into the realm of ridiculous yet. Instead, we get great performances by a talented cast, memorable and gory death scenes, and a plot line that provides the ultimate power fantasy for troubled teens.
3) Bride of Chucky
Year of Release: 1998
Director: Ronny Yu
For those of you who aren’t as sadly obsessed with horror movies about killer dolls as I am, this is the fourth movie in the Child’s Play series. Coming off of two lackluster sequels, this film breathes new life into a dead series by doing something that I particularly love to see in a horror film: adding comedy. Like Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, this film is a straight-up horror comedy, focusing equally on the humour as it does on the gore. If you’ve ever seen a Child’s Play movie, then you pretty much know the plot, but giving Chucky a partner to work off of – particularly a partner who doubles as a love interest – works greatly in the film’s advantage, giving them plenty of material to work off of. If you’re looking for a horror film that you don’t have to take too seriously, but that will bring you plenty of enjoyment this Halloween season, then this one is definitely for you.
4) Evil Dead 2
Year of Release: 1987
Director: Sam Raimi
Now, I can’t say for sure that this one counts as ‘overlooked’, but it is a horror sequel so I’m counting it. It also happens to be one of my all-time favourite movies. A good portion of this movie’s strengths comes from its focus on the walking charisma-ball that is Bruce Campbell, but it’s also just written wonderfully, filled with memorable scene after memorable scene. This is just one of those movies where every time the action changes, I find myself cheering, “oh, this part!” to myself, drawing closer and closer to the screen in anticipation of what’s to come. It is a somewhat old movie, and the special effects are somewhat dated (not to mention, it is a Sam Raimi film – cheese is to be expected), but if you’re the sort of person who can either overlook it or enjoy it altogether, then this is definitely a film you need to watch.
5) The Exorcist 3
Year of Release: 1990
Director: William Peter Blatty
I know, I know, I said that the Exorcist wouldn’t be on this list – but this doesn’t count. It’s a sequel, and that’s within the rules! And, to be totally honest, I personally think this sequel is better than the original (shock, horror). Maybe it’s just because I wasn’t raised with a belief in the devil, but the original just sort of struck me as another horror film, whereas this one stood out as special. The pacing is a bit on the slow side, but that creates a very eerie atmosphere that allows for a lot of great scares. The dialogue is long, but never ceases to keep me interested. And if none of that is enough to convince you to check this film out, then let me just say this: Brad Dourif as the Zodiac Killer. His performance is truly fantastic – one of the best in horror movie history, I’d say, especially considering he delivers it from a straight jacket the whole film through. If you don’t have time to watch the whole film, or if you just can’t find it for whatever reason, at least look up clips of Brad Dourif in this film, because trust me, it’s something you need in your life. But, then again, so is the entire film.
6) The Crow
Year of Release: 1994
Director: Alex Proyas
I wouldn’t count this film as a horror movie – more of an action movie, really – but as it deals with plenty of dark themes and is set around Halloween, I think it more than earns its place on this list. This is another of my all-time favourite movies – a love story about a murdered man returning from the grave to avenge his girlfriend’s death. Every single actor in this film delivers a wonderful performance (I would give particular shout outs, but the list would be too long), and the film packs in plenty of emotion, even while portraying enjoyable over-the-top villains. If you aren’t a fan of horror films but are in need of a Halloween treat this year, or if you’re just looking to watch a great movie, I’d definitely recommend this one.
7) The Lost Boys
Year of Release: 1987
Director: Joel Schumacher
Vampires. What could ever be wrong about vampires? And these are the best kinds of vampires – 80’s vampires, with great hair, motorcycles, and a badass taste in music. Again, this film is more of a horror comedy, which, as you may have noticed, is a favourite genre of mine. Some of my favourite movies jokes come from The Lost Boys, and I will never pass up an opportunity to quote it. It’s not a particularly brutal film, so even if horror films make you squemish, I still recommend it. Another one of my all-time favourite movies, this one will make you laugh until you cry, and then race to your computers to purchase the soundtrack on iTunes.
8) Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight
Year of Release: 1995
Director: Ernest Dickerson
I’m a huge Tales From the Crypt fan. Every October, and sometimes just randomly throughout the year, I’ll pull up an episode on YouTube and settle in for some good cheese and 1950’s horror comic nostalgia. But when I’m more in the mood for a film, Demon Knight is the one I always turn to – and I’m not going to lie, a good part of that is Billy Zane’s performance. Portraying the head demon, the word ‘devilish’ is definitely a good way to describe him in this film. He’s charming, manipulative, intelligent, tricky, and (of course) hilarious. If you like Tales From the Crypt, then you’ll definitely love this film.
And just as a side-note, if you enjoy Demon Knight and are hunting for a similar film to satisfy your tastes, I’d definitely recommend watching Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood next. I didn’t include it on this list because I don’t tend to watch it as often, but it’s definitely the obvious next step to take from here.
9) Crimson Peak
Year of Release: 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro
This film is much more recent, so it’s difficult to tell if it’ll gather more of a cult following as time goes on, but I do find it to be a somewhat overlooked gem. I think that the thing that turns most people off of it is the simple fact that, despite looking like one on the surface, it isn’t a horror film: it’s a gothic tale, complete with a decaying castle, a persecuted heroine, and hints of the supernatural. But that’s part of what I love about this story. I’m a huge fan of the gothic genre, and have dedicated the last two years of my life to studying the progression of the genre, so when I saw this film, I definitely regarded it as a breath of fresh air. It’s classic enough to hearken back to the old genre, but still modern enough to turn the old conventions on their head. I particularly like what the film does with gender, introducing a hero, a persecuted heroine, a patriarchal villain, and then, by the end, subverting all of them. In order to enjoy this film, however, you do need to go into it without expecting a horror film, and if you can do that, then you will find an intriguing mystery, unique characters, and brilliant visuals that could only have been provided by the great Guillermo de Toro.
10) House on Haunted Hill
Year of Release: 1999
Director: William Malone
I find this movie to be a somewhat polarizing one – people who I have spoken to about it either love it or they hate it. I fall into the former camp. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why some people hate it – it is a remake of a very classic horror film starring Vincent Price, and much of the plot was very much lost in translation. Both films feature a party in an old house and… that’s about it. I personally find that all of the changes made to the plot help me to see the two films as just that – two separate films. And there is plenty to like about the 1999 adaption – particularly the visuals. I find that the movie has a very unique aesthetic to it, incredibly gruesome and nightmare-inducing in a manner all its own. Doctors perform surgeries on completely conscious patients, corpses are dismembered and displayed for viewing, and all within the dark, creepy confines of a castle with flickering lights. It’s not a horror film for those who prefer subtlety (which is really bad news for fans of the original), but if you’re okay with the extreme, sometimes to the point of ridiculous, then I definitely think you can find some enjoyment out of this film.
11) Sleepy Hollow
Year of Release: 1999
Director: Tim Burton
Ah, 1999. Back when a film being directed by Tim Burton was a good sign.
Again, I find this film to be a somewhat polarizing one. Fans of Washington Irving’s short story might find themselves disappointed by all the changes, but fans of Hammer Film Productions will be delighted by the way that it pays homage to the old horror movies. And even if you aren’t a fan of Hammer Film Productions (truth be told, I haven’t even seen one of their movies, and that’s something I’ve always meant to rectify), there’s still a good bit of Tim Burton charm to the picture. The styling is gorgeous, and the added witch subplot is one that never fails to draw me in. I recommend this movie for anyone who isn’t too attached to the original short story, and who is perfectly willing to accept a little supernatural into your horror.
Year of Release: 2006
Director: James Gunn
Another horror comedy! Or, does it count as horror? Is it more of a sci-fi? Who cares, it’s about creepy little worm aliens that crawl into your brain and take control of your body, that counts as horror to me! This film is filled with jokes from beginning to end, but it doesn’t let that distract from a few good, creepy scenes. And if you need one good reason to seek this movie out, let me just say that Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame is in it, who, like Bruce Campbell, is really just a walking ball of charisma.
Year of Release: 1992
Director: Bernard Rose
Considering how many horror comedies there are on this list, maybe I should start designating the films that aren’t funny. And this one isn’t. At all. It deals with a lot of uncomfortable themes surrounding poverty in the United States and racism. It’s based off a story from Clive Barker, who you might recognize as the writer of Hellraiser, and while I don’t think that his name is always a surefire sign of quality, he doesn’t disappoint here. One big reason that this film is such a classic to me, though, is simply Tony Todd’s performance as the Candyman. There’s something incredibly charming and alluring about him, making you want to know more about his character despite his brief appearances on screen. And, I mean, come one, the guy held a whole bunch of bees in his mouth for this movie. The least we could do in return is regard this as a Halloween classic!
14) The Haunting
Year of Release: 1999
Director: Jan de Bont
Another polarizing movie, this one is based off of one of my favourite novels, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. I don’t know why I mention this, because it really has nothing to do with the novel – and, oddly, I’m okay with that. It’s sort of similar to how I feel about the two House on Haunted Hill movies – they’re so different that I can’t bring myself to compare them, but I think that these differences are part of what makes audiences hate the movie so much. After all, the novel is subtle, tricky, difficult to understand, and the movie is… not. But it definitely makes up for this with stunning visuals and with creepy ghost children that whisper your name in the night. This may not be a movie for you if you’re looking for one that will make you think, but it is definitely one to check out if you want a good, creepy horror movie that just looks the way a ghost story should.
15) The Craft
Year of Release: 1996
Director: Andrew Fleming
For my last film on this list, I chose one about witches, because I love witches. Witches are amazing. There should be more horror films about witches. Witches who represent female power and feminine bonding. Witches who deal with the everyday issues of a teenage girl. Witches who look like Fairuza Bulk I mean… witches who can act like Fairuza Bulk, yeah, that’s what I meant. Because Fairuza Bulk does give an amazing performance in this film, representing the witch who’s just had enough with society and is going to begin using her power to get her way, no matter who she hurts in the process. I don’t know if I’d classify it as a straight-forward horror film, but I definitely think it works as a good Halloween film, particularly one that you can watch with all the girls together, snuggled close against the cold in your costumes with bowls of candy nestled between you all.