Friday, October 22, 2010

Halloween Movies: The Essentials

In the wake of compiling all 50 of the Best Horror Movies You’ve Never Seen, and with Halloween fast approaching, one may wonder just what are the essential horror movies to watch on the nights leading up to the best holiday in all of existence. Well here is a small collection of ten flicks (in no particular order I might add) that are absolutely essential for Halloween viewing, whether it’s to prepare you for Halloween night, or to watch on Halloween night. Either way, you’re welcome:

Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, PJ Soles

You knew this was going to be on here. John Carpenter’s legendary slasher masterpiece is THE film to watch for Halloween, as it not only spawned a whole series of lesser sequels and shitty remakes, but practically created the slasher genre as a whole. To this day “Halloween” is perfect, and in no other sequel to follow has Michael Myers ever been as frightening as he is in this first film. Though light on the gore and explicit on-screen violence, “Halloween” still manages to send chills to the bone, and that my friends is what has helped make this film so timeless and enjoyable.

Director: George Romero
Starring: Duane Jones, Judith O’Dea, Karl Hardman

You knew this was going to be on here too. George Romero’s legendary black & white shocker was made all the more timeless thanks to its subtle yet cutting social commentary, which this film is as memorable for as it is for introducing viewers to the flesh-eating zombies that trap and terrify a handful of survivors in a Pittsburgh farmhouse. Though Romero’s follow up “Dawn of the Dead” is a better film in my opinion, “Night of the Living Dead” is definitely the more scarier of the two, and to this day that little zombie girl still freaks me out. What’s also worth noting here is that this film actually received a GOOD REMAKE in the early 90s, helmed by Romero’s longtime makeup effects partner Tom Savini.

Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp

The first, original, and best of all the “Elm Street” flicks, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” was a massive hit when first released, launched the career of Johnny Depp, took indie studio New Line Cinema to massive heights, and took director Wes Craven to a more sophisticated level of creativity. Most importantly however, was that it also introduced us to Freddy Kruger, the evil child murderer who takes his revenge on those who killed him by stalking and slaughtering their children in their dreams. Featuring groundbreaking camerawork and makeup effects, the original “A Nightmare on Elm Street” still scares to this day, and remains one of Craven’s absolute best efforts to date.

Director: Clive Barker
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Claire Higgins, Ashley Laurence

Adapting his own novella “The Hellbound Heart”, Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” usually gets the label of being a slasher, though it is anything but. When the wicked Frank attempts to open the Lamont Configuration Puzzle Box, he unleashes a trio of sado-masochistic demons that promptly rip him apart. However, he begins to slowly come back to life when his half-brother and family move into his home after his alleged disappearance, leading up to a brutal showdown. Demented and oh so graphic, the original “Hellraiser” spawned a ton of lame sequels, and also introduced us to the iconic villain Pinhead, who appears here for two whole scenes (and isn’t even referred to as Pinhead in the credits). No matter what reputation “Hellraiser” may have, consider it essential viewing.

Director: John Landis
Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne

Quite possibly the best werewolf movie in existence, “An American Werewolf in London” is so perfect that no other werewolf film to come out after it (save for maybe the original “Howling”) can even come close to touching it. Featuring revolutionary effects work from Rick Baker, “An American Werewolf in London” has it all: pitch black gallows humor, a surprise ending, and so many shock moments that you won’t believe what you’re seeing. It may not have aged all that well, but this is one horror film that I myself will watch any time.

THE THING (1982)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley

One of the few times a remake is better than the original, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is an underrated horror classic. Opening the same weekend as “E.T.” (and subsequently bombing), Carpenter’s remake of “The Thing From Another World” is a downbeat and nihilistic tale of an arctic expedition team who discovers the existence of a terrifying alien life-form that can mimic and imitate anything it assimilates. One part cat & mouse game, one part guess who the alien is, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” is a cult classic for sure, and features some of the most graphic (and gross) revolutionary effects work in horror history. And speaking of aliens…

ALIEN (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

Ridley Scott’s terrifying and claustrophobic space opus that launched a huge sci-fi/horror franchise and introduced us to one of the most badass female characters in all of film history, the original “Alien” is a masterpiece of “what’s hiding around the corner?” terror. It’s that anticipation of seeing the murderous alien creature, followed by bloody payoff, which still makes “Alien” so goddamned good to this day.

Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Max Von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair

An Oscar winning horror favorite, the original “The Exorcist” remains possibly THE most frightening film ever conceived. No matter what one’s opinion on horror movies is in general, they’ve seen “The Exorcist” regardless, it’s just that universal. I myself can’t even say anything about this film that hasn’t been said plenty of other times before me, and will be said plenty of times long after I’ve left this mortal coil. “Your mother sucks cocks in hell”…brilliant.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980)
Director: Sean S. Cunningham
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon

Though it isn’t a great movie per se, the original “Friday the 13th” is essential Halloween viewing regardless. A slasher that rips off John Carpenter’s “Halloween” as well as truly introduced us to the notion that if you smoke weed or have sex, you are guaranteed to die in a horrible and painful way. The film also introduces us to Jason Voorhees, though it’s before he dons the iconic hockey mask or even kills anyone. Oh yeah, this is worth seeing just to see a then unknown Kevin Bacon die one of the most creative and iconic ways in slasher movie history.

Director: Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Gunnar Hansen

Incorrectly remembered as being a gorefest (usually by people who’ve never seen it), the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” is a documentary-ish look at an insane cannibal family that is for all intents and purposes relatively bloodless. Most of the violence that occurs in the film is implied, which shockingly makes it all the more frightening. That, and lead actress Marilyn Burns has one of the most piercing screams in all of horror history, which in itself makes this film hard to watch to this day. Still though, the original and best film in the whole damn series.

Well there we are folks, ten films to scare the shit out of you for Halloween if (for some reason) you've never seen them before. And if you have, watch them again to help celebrate Halloween in style...

...or I'll swallow your soul!

What do you think I should have included and/ or omitted? Discuss!!!


  1. How about the original "Psycho" ? Though older than the others it strikes me as staple of scary movies.

  2. Agreed. Looking back on my list of essentials, "Psycho" is one of the ones that maybe should have made the cut here. But alas, it just didn't, and sadly enough among the mainstream horror torture-loving crowd of today, "Psycho" would go way over their heads.