Top 5 Movies to Watch on Halloween

[Note from the author: Hey everyone, it’s the Fear Fan here! I know I usually do videos, but unfortunately, it seems that my equipment is currently busted. Sadly, that means that I’m going to have to hold off on videos for a little while, but I couldn’t let Halloween pass without putting something up.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help me get my video show back on track, you’re in luck! I made a Kickstarter campaign! Click here to check it out. Much thanks to anyone who donates, and have a fun and safe Halloween!]

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Well, it’s that time of year again. There’s a chill in the air, leaves scattering from dead trees, and jack-o’-lanterns leering at us from every doorstep. I love Halloween. Not just the candy and costumes, but the entire idea of Halloween. For just one night, it seems like everyone lets go of life’s reins and allows chaos to take over.

Ever since I was a little kid, I knew there was something amazing about having one night of the year, every year, where people could not only dress up however they wanted, but could go door to door and demand candy from their friends and neighbors.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

“Fill it up, and nobody gets hurt.”

It blew my tiny, sugar-addled brain that for just this one night, the world was turned on its head. Everything awesome that you weren’t normally allowed to do (such as: wandering the streets at night, binging on sugar, and dressing like Jason Voorhees whilst waving around a fake machete) was suddenly not only permitted, but encouraged.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

Best. Halloween. Ever.

And then, there were the horror movies.

It seemed that on Halloween, every parent’s brain suddenly shut down, and kids like me were allowed to not only run around the neighborhood dressed like serial killers to beg for sweets, but also to go home afterwards and watch things that would be strictly forbidden on any other night of the year.

Even though I’m an adult now (or at least a slightly larger kid) who can watch my favorite kind of films any time I want, I still have a special fondness for watching horror movies on Halloween.

That’s why this year, I thought I’d share some of my favorite films to watch on this special day. These are the five films that I feel best represent the spirit of Halloween: a little gruesome in some cases, but still a blast to watch with your friends over a bowl of popcorn.

Keep in mind that this isn’t a list of my favorite horror movies, and the rankings aren’t to be taken literally. I don’t really think any movie listed here is “better” than any other. This list is only meant to highlight five films that reflect the spirit of the season. These are movies that I always find myself in the mood to watch whenever October 31st rolls around.

Besides, it’s my article. So there.

Ahem.

B.S. disclaimers aside, it’s time to get on with the show, so sit down, grab a bowl of candy, and turn on the tube. It’s time for the Fear Fan’s Top 5 Movies to Watch on Halloween!

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Now, who doesn’t remember seeing this for the first time?

George Romero’s first foray into the zombie apocalypse is famous for plenty of reasons. Not only is it the film that helped shape the modern concept of zombies, it’s also a smart, subversive, and fairly well-acted look at what happens when people in a bad situation turn on each other.

Unfortunately, it’s also famous due to a copyright slip-up on the part of the distributor that allowed it to fall into the public domain. Therefore, every single person on the planet can either distribute it or show it on TV without having to pay a single cent. As you can imagine, that means it’s hard to go through a bargain bin without tripping on at least three copies in various collections.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

“Dammit! They’ve come back for their royalties! Get the shotgun!”

For those who have somehow managed to avoid seeing this one, and perhaps skipping it over for its older, sexier sibling Dawn of the Dead, here’s the basic gist:

After Barbara and Johnny visit their father’s grave, they learn that the other residents of the cemetery are getting a little restless. Holing up in a farmhouse with a few other survivors, including the supremely badass Ben, a Johnny-less Barbara soon discovers the one thing more dangerous than the ravenous undead: namely, a panicky bunch of idiots locked together and surrounded by zombies.

From the stark, black and white cinematography of the film itself, to the scenes of the survivors meticulously barricading themselves inside, Night of the Living Dead is slow-burn horror at its best. Even though there isn’t a lot of onscreen action, there’s enough to satisfy patient viewers, and if you’ve got an imagination, some of the survivors’ haunting stories of how they reached the farmhouse will be enough to chill you to the bone.

4. The Thing (1982)

For those of you looking for something with a slightly bigger budget, or who just want to see more of the red stuff, why not give John Carpenter’s The Thing a shot?

It’s the story of a group of arctic researchers who discover a “thing” buried in the ice outside the burned-out remains of a neighboring research station. Apparently, the Norwegians who found it were so desperate to be rid of it that they managed to burn, shoot, and hack their own living space to bits.

Which makes perfect sense, since when they thaw out the titular Thing, it turns out to be a hideous shape-shifting monstrosity that can absorb and imitate anything, yet chooses to have the absolute worst attributes of everything, including the beefy, be-fanged face of Charles Hallahan.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

“Hi.”

As you may be able to guess from the above screenshot, this movie has awesome special effects. They were created by Rob Bottin, who apparently slaved away so hard on bringing the film’s creatures to life that he began suffering from exhaustion and had to be hospitalized after the movie was completed.

Fortunately, all the work was absolutely worth it. The Thing still stands out as one of the best examples of practical effects to this day, and it’s a treat to watch the creature tear its way out of its various disguises.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

“Trick or treat!”

3. The Frighteners (1996)

Michael J. Fox battles the grim specter of Death, as well as Jake Busey and Jeffrey Combs from Re-Animator to stop a decades-long wave of vicious murders that extend beyond the grave.

You’re still reading this?

Why haven’t you gone out and bought this movie?!?

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

Seriously! Look at it!

For those of you that require a bit more convincing, The Frighteners is an often overlooked but still very entertaining movie. The plot follows Fox, who after having a near-death experience, decides to dedicate his life to helping the spirits of the dead find eternal rest.

Nah, just kidding—he uses actual ghosts to stage fake hauntings so he can go in and clean out the place, since actual proof of the afterlife would in no way make him one red cent.

Idiotic business plan aside, he discovers that a ghostly figure that appears to be the Grim Reaper is lurking around his town, and is murdering people by the dozens. Not only that, but his own wife may have been one of the victims, so he’s essentially obligated to solve the case.

As serious as all of that may sound, The Frighteners is actually a horror/comedy, and it relies on a weird, occasionally Tim Burton-esque tone to provide the humor. The performances are all either solid or at the very least humorously campy, and despite the primarily comedic tone, there are a few acceptably spooky moments, and one or two pretty good action sequences.

If you haven’t seen it before, I’d definitely suggest giving it a shot. Did I mention Jake Busey is in this?

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

“Who has two thumbs and is crazy as shit? I don’t know! My brain is controlled by moon squirrels!!

2. Halloween (1978)

And providing John Carpenter with his second appearance on this list is the one film that I couldn’t leave out for fear of being buried under an avalanche of angry fan mail. Luckily for me, it’s also good enough to warrant the number two slot.

Although the Halloween series has had quite a few ups and downs over the years (mostly downs, sadly), the original film that jump-started the slasher craze still holds up.

For the unacquainted, it’s the story of a psychotic murderer who breaks out of a mental institution on the anniversary of the day he murdered his parents (which also happens to be Halloween), and he begins stalking local babysitters while wearing a white-painted William Shatner mask.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

Which is only slightly less frightening than being stalked by the actual William Shatner. Think about it.

While it’s hard to divorce this one from the endless parade of mediocre-to-awful sequels and remakes that would follow, a closer look reveals a film that manages to give us something that the series never achieved again: subtlety.

In the first part of the film, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), arguably the first modern “final girl”, is entirely unaware that she’s being followed by a killer. We catch short glimpses of him, always in the background, always silent, and we feel Laurie’s unease as she slowly becomes aware that something is horribly wrong.

On top of that, the kills are never over-the-top or gratuitous, and the fact that they aren’t your usual Hollywood-style deaths only serves to make them more effective.

It’s not hard to see why this film has endured for so long, and why so many sequels have tried (and failed) to catch the same lightning in a bottle.

1. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

This last one may be a recent release, but it’s hard to think of any other movie that manages to capture the spirit of the season quite like Trick ‘r Treat.

Criminally shelved by Warner Brothers for years, this little gem never got a big screen release, but has thankfully found a fairly large audience after finally being released on DVD. And thank God for that, because it’s not only a good move to trot out at Halloween, but also the best anthology-style horror movie of the last decade.

To go into too much detail on any of the segments would ruin the fun, but here’s a quick breakdown of the individual parts: A couple learns why taking down their Halloween decorations might not be a good idea; A principal hands out very special treats to some of his students; A young girl tries to find Mr. Right for her Halloween date, only to find that someone has their eye on her already; A group of kids explores a local legend; And an old man learns just how bad the “trick” part of “trick or treat” can get.

Each segment is incredibly well-written, and each part simply oozes with Halloween spirit. If you’ve ever loved this holiday, then go out and buy this sucker now.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

Seriously, this little guy should be for Halloween what Santa is for Christmas.

For those of you wondering why Trick ‘r Treat was held back for so long, the rumor is that it was tabled after the disastrous release of Superman Returns, which shared some of the same crew. That’s right: Superman Returns was so bad, it managed to not only kill the Superman franchise for seven years, but it actually took down other, better films that were only tangentially associated with it.

Caption contributed by Fear Fan

Thanks. Dick.

Thankfully, it seems that the film’s newfound popularity has paid off, since they’re apparently making a sequel that will hopefully see the inside of a theater. Who knows? If it’s the same level of quality, we might have a new Halloween tradition on our hands.

That’s all for now! Have fun, be safe, and don’t forget to check your candy…

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  • Peter Wilson

    The fact that Peter Jackson directed The Frighteners makes it even more interesting. Very classy ghost story.

  • Zorha

    I had heard about Trick or Treat, but not actually seen it despite it being on Netflix.

    Good Luck on the Kickstarter!

  • Great list :D I’m for sure going to check out trick r’ treat today!!

  • Ørjan Hoem

    Great article, but a minor correction: ” it’s the story of a psychotic murderer who breaks out of a mental institution on the anniversary of the day he murdered his parents”

    Myers killed his sister, not his parents.

  • Endorenna

    I have something blasphemous to admit.

    I…I don’t like John Carpenter’s version of The Thing.

    I grew up watching the 1951 black and white version of it, and that version of The Thing I love! (Well, technically, it’s called “The Thing From Another World,” but it’s the same basic story as “The Thing.”) John Carpenter’s version just seems…I dunno, it just feels gratuitous to me, which isn’t really my thing. The effects are excellent, but it didn’t frighten me, or even make me tense, it just made me a little bored. Then I went and watched the original (which is excellent, by the way. Seriously, check it out. Even if you like John Carpenter’s version, the original is a good movie.)

    Good list, though! I want to check out The Frighteners now, haha.

    • Muthsarah

      If you’re not into Carpenter’s The Thing, well, I can understand that on a purely “de gustibus non est disputandum” level. But “boring”? Yeesh! Carpenter isn’t exactly the boring type. He goes all out, whether gory, or action-packed, or just austere, simple thriller-mode. Boring, that’s a little astonishing.

      Granted, I’ve never seen the original 1950s “The Thing that Whatevers Something”. For completionism’s sake, I prolly should, but…..John Carpenter….1980s John Carpenter….boring? True Blasphemy!

      Do you, at the least, like Escape from New York, or Big Trouble in Little China?

      And no, I’m not picking on you ‘cuzza Trek. :p

    • Fantasy Mission Force

      You are not alone. No, I am not here with you, but I too found Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ to be boring. I’ve never been one for ‘cree-a-chure’ movies, even the Alien in… ‘Alien’ made me laugh out loud, no joke. Well, except for the one that made me laugh. It has nothing to do with the quality of the effects, it’s just the idea of a beast or a monster, I’ve never found it the slightest bit scary.
      I think even if a real-life creature like a werewolf or some Cerberus hell-beast were actually murdering me, I’d still be just as flippant; “Oh, how jejune, its a ‘werewolf’ murdering me. Oh no, not that. Oh, please, not some creature from beyond, oh heavens no. Give me a break”.
      Aside from that, the movie had too much atmosphere, I could hardly breathe, it took so long for anything to anything that my stomach hurt.

  • freddy

    A sequel to Trick ‘R Treat? That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while. Seriously, Trick ‘R Treat is amazing. Not only it it the only movie I’d feel comfortable calling ‘ghoulishly fun’ (because it is very fun), it’s also a surprisingly bright movie, with beautiful colors. It really captures the feeling of Halloween. Alas, my copy has gone missing, so I may need to buy a new one.