I’m one of those Halloween fanatics, one of those people who live to be scared, who’d rather it be October all year
long, who’s dying to live in a real haunted house. But of course, the terrifying events, the Halloween parties, the decorations, the pumpkin-carving, all only come for those precious 31 days in the middle of the fall. The scary movie marathons on TV only last so many days (Syfy actually has a full 31 days of Halloween marathon that I highly recommend). But to keep the spirit alive all year long, I keep my DVDs stocked with plenty of horror flicks, ranging from the insanely gory to the horrifyingly insane. Before Halloween comes and goes- we have less than a week left- treat yourself to some of the best horror flicks out there.
10. Beetlejuice. It’s not exactly scary, but this Tim Burton classic is one that never fails to entertain. With stars like Michael Keaton (’nuff said), Alec Baldwin (when he was still relevant), Catherine O’Hara (before Home Alone) and Winona Ryder (before she turned klepto), you’re guaranteed some serious tricks and treats. Though the special effects would be deemed “cheesy” by today’s standards, there’s something comforting about the simplicity of the horrific in this Halloween must-see.
9. Donnie Darko. This movie is less scary and more weird, but if you’re easily disturbed by otherworldly occurrences, then this is the movie for you. Bear in mind it is a very strange movie, and can be difficult to follow at times, but if you remove expectations and open your mind to the impossible, you will be delightfully entertained. A younger, more baby-faced Jake Gyllenhaal plays the troubled Donnie, who finds himself plagued by visions of a perverse rabbit throughout the film. I highly recommend this if you enjoy movies that require you to pay attention more intently and think outside the box.
8. Funny Games. Both versions are very similar- as they should be, they were both done by Mike Haneke- but I’ll admit I’m more partial to the 2007 version. It’s more modern, in English (subtitles are a bitch during scary movies) and Naomi Watts does a fantastic job of being every part the distressed mother and wife. It’s a shocking movie, different from what we’re used to with Hollywood scares, but it’s probably more paralyzing than the jumpiest, goriest movie to-date. For me, the best scares are those you get from a horrific reality, and Funny Games is every bit the gruesome truth.
7. The Strangers. Liv Tyler shines in this all-too-realistic thriller about a couple who faces a terrifying bout of ding-dong-ditch. Similar to Funny Games, The Strangers takes it up a notch by adding fear to the drama and torture. It’s all about the scare in this movie, with unknown antagonists lurking behind closed doors and dark fences. With its dark lighting and troubling camera angles (you’ll find yourself desperate to know what lays just behind a corner wall or a closed pantry), prepare for some lip-biting, fist-clenching terror as you endure the suffering along with the characters. If you’re easily spooked by movies that could happen in real-life (we call them “realistic”), make sure you are not alone when watching this tormenting thriller.
6. Hellraiser. An oldy, but goody. Make sure you watch the original,- Clive Barker did a decent job with all his movies, but the first is the best- with Doug Bradley as the ghastly Pinhead. The special effects are simple, but they do the job in creating a hideous and bloody otherworldly dimension. Some scenes can be quite gruesome and hard to watch, so keep a pillow close by to hide behind when the guts get to be too much.
5. Poltergeist. Who doesn’t remember the movie with the creepy girl stuck in the TV? The image of little Carol Anne staring into the static black and white of the haunting TV is usually the first thing you think of when you hear the title. Sadly, Heather O’Rourke, who played the five-year-old, died at age 12, but her rendition of the precocious tot is one still praised to this day. Like most older movies, the special effects are what they are, but the feeling of fear and haunting stands strong on it’s own- it’s only reinforced with the addition of monsters and corpses. This is one that usually tops most lists, but it’s definitely one worth watching at least once. Or twice…
4. Insidious. It’s been a very long time since Hollywood has produced anything remotely close to the mind-thrillers of the old days. But in 2010, hope was restored that true horror still existed in the realm of cinema. Insidious will scare you in ways you never thought you could be scared again. It will be the opposite of what you’re expecting, and, though some critics complain the ending turns too sci-fi, it truly is a terrifying thriller up to the very end. Keep in mind, it’s unlike the cheap thrills we get from modern-day horror movies, so go into it with an open mind. And consider watching it with a friend, or during daylight hours- I still can’t watch it alone in the dark (hard as I try!).
3. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ah, my ultimate fear. Chainsaws. Due to a childhood incident that scarred me for life, chainsaws have always been my Everest; I’ve watched the Texas Chainsaw movies many times, and have silently screamed my way through many haunted chainsaw houses, but until I faced my fear just several years ago, this movie was the epitome of terror to my influenced mind. It still rattles me nowadays, and with good reason- everyone loves a movie that portrays real events. The actuality behind it is what increases the intensity. Amidst all the blood and guts and loud chainsaws and scary, twisted faces, the lingering notion that what you’re watching actually happened keeps the fear alive in you every second of the movie.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Most people forget Johnny Depp was one of the teens in this 80s horror flick. But Depp, along with Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss and Jsu Garcia, find themselves terrorized by a child murderer the second they fall asleep. And unlike most villians, whom you can usually escape by hiding or running away, there is no escaping Freddy Krueger. Because, after all, how long can you keep your tired eyes from closing and sending you off into Freddy’s nightmare? One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…
1. The Shining. One of the most classic horror films around, Stanley Kubrick forces your mind to the brink of insanity in this famous Stephen King tale. The Shining is what horror should be, what current Hollywood cinema has forgotten. It moves somewhat slow-with a runtime of 146 minutes- but the long, drawn-out scenes are what keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Personally one of my all-time favorites, this movie represents the epitome of what a scary movie should do. It’s less about the gore and special effects and more about playing tricks on your mind. As the first horror movie I ever watched (surprisingly, at the age of 8), The Shining is the reason I’m in love with everything spooky and horrific. It is definitely a must-see that should be on the top of your Halloween movie marathon list.
There are so many more fantastic horror flicks, but this list would never end if I tried to include every one of them. All-in-all, whatever your Halloween traditions are, one scary movie has to make it’s way into your priorities. It’s a Halloween right-of-passage you just have to give into. Again and again and again…