It’s that time of year where every streaming service is packed with suggestions for horror movies to fulfill all your Halloween needs. If you’re like me, you’ve got a huge watchlist ready for October, filled with more movies than you could possibly squeeze into the month. Just in case you need help picking a few movies this month to get you in the mood for Halloween, I’ve got four themed lists coming your way. These are some suggestions of my favorite films, great for watches or rewatches all throughout the season. You may notice classic franchises such as Halloween and Nightmare On Elm Street are missing, but those iconic staples are probably already on your mind. For all of these films, I highly suggest using the site doesthedogdie.com for various content and trigger warning needs.
Our first week is Classic Horror and New Modern Classics. These are some great foundation films, both for the history of horror and the new pop culture that’s changed history. Some of my favorite older films on this list very much hold up today regardless of their earlier dates. The new classics at the end may be debatable, but they are very much in our current discourse.
The Thing (1982)
The Thing (1982) dir. John Carpenter | R 1h 49m
Caught in a storm in remote Alaska, a group of researchers begin to turn on each other after their base is infiltrated by something from the outside. A shape-shifting alien hunts them one by one, assuming the identity of anyone and any thing.
Based on a novel from the 1930’s, John Carpenter’s The Thing is still hailed as a groundbreaking visual feat of practical effects. It’s often used as the benchmark to compare all effects by, even many digital effects done today. This is one of my new favorites that I’ve added as a yearly watch for my own list. I love one location, isolating films, and that easily checks that box for me. I’m not a huge fan of the 2011 film, but it’s worth a watch if you love this.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
House on Haunted Hill (1959) dir. William Castle | NR 1h 15m
An eccentric millionaire invites five people to a haunted house to spend the night with himself and his wife under one condition: They stay locked inside until sunrise. They’ll each be given $10,000 in the morning… if they survive.
If you’ve never seen a Vincent Price film (no, Edward Scissorhands does not count), this is a great start. He was a horror icon, one of several you’ll find on this list and others to come, who’s name is synonymous with all things macabre. House On Haunted Hill doesn’t have a rating, but I’d be comfortable watching it with family and depending on how spooky your younger ones are, it may be okay for them, too.
Psycho (1960) dir. Alfred Hitchcock | R 1h 49m
A young woman checks into the first hotel she finds while on the run, and meets the shy young man who runs it along with his controlling, aging mother.
Psycho is possibly the most classic of all horror movies. The shower scene has been parodied possibly a hundred times by now. But have you ever actually watched the original? If you haven’t, it’s a must-see. Psycho has twists that still hold up and the tension isn’t outdated. Janet Leigh, who played Marion Crane, is the mother of Jaime Lee Curtis, another famous horror lead.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
An American Werewolf In London (1981) dir. John Landis | 1hr 37m
Two Americans on a backpacking tour through Europe are bitten by a werewolf.
This movie has one of the longest seemingly uncut werewolf “transformation” scenes of the time. What makes that special is that it was shot all in bright light, with no shadows to hide makeup and practical effects. Everything looks incredible. I really suggest checking out this classic, and if you’re ever backpacking through England I suggest staying off the moors at night.
Child's Play (1988)
Child’s Play (1988) dir. Tom Holland | R 1h 27min
The most popular toy of the year finds its way home at a suspicious discount to a single mother and her young son. Their lives take a sudden dangerous turn when the doll comes to life, possessed by the soul of a serial killer.
Child’s Play still holds up today. Honestly, I finally watched this movie in 2018 on a whim and I was shocked by how good and how scary it was. I’d never watched it because I have an irrational fear of dolls, and if you do too, this might not be for you. The Chucky films spawned a legion of sequels, even up to this year, with a new Chucky tv series including Oscar winner Jennifer Tilly’s Bride of Chucky appearing. The movie sequels go from horror to horror comedy as time goes on and as all good horror does, so there’s plenty of Chucky if you have a new favorite toy.
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy | R 1h 28 min
A policeman arrives on an island searching for a lost girl who no one has seen nor heard of. The charitable locals challenge his religious beliefs and offer their own enticing religion.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way. If you’ve seen the Nicholas Cage version of The Wicker Man, this is not the same movie. Its similar, but the only thing the 2006 version gave us that is unfortunately missing is the “Not the bees!” scene. I want you to enjoy this great movie without waiting an hour for the bee scene. Spoiler: it doesn’t happen. Christopher Lee, another horror legend, is wonderfully enigmatic. If you enjoy his acting, he has an absolutely massive catalogue of films to choose from, especially as a horror fan.
They Live (1988)
They Live (1988) dir. John Carpenter | R 1h 34min
They influence our lives in order to gain our total submission. One man’s discovery of a unique pair of sunglasses sets off a chance to fight back at the unbelievable, horrifying discovery of humanity’s downfall.
This gem of late 80’s one-liners will have you laugh-cringing at some of the dialogue, but the societal message it sends still gets through and is more true than ever in our current year. If you’ve ever felt a little weird about people buying things like the Supreme branded crowbar for $345 after waiting in a line outside for hours (or days), this is definitely a movie for you.
Ringu (1998) dir. Hideo Nakata | NR 1hr 36min | Audio: Japanese
A cursed videotape promises to kill those who watch it in seven days. A reporter tries to uncover the tape’s mysterious origin before her time runs out.
The American remake does this movie absolutely no justice. The remake holds your hand and drags you along, overly explaining the plot while forcing you to watch extremely gorey images. Ringu is not like that. It trusts you to be smart enough to just watch the film and connect the dots. It’s simple and beautiful in comparison. The 90’s was an amazing time for Japanese horror. There are quite a lot more films to check out, from similarly themed ghost stories to more intense films. If you like foreign films, there will be a few on an upcoming list! By the way, if you’re struggling to place the familiar face, that is indeed Hiroyuki Sanada, who has a huge list of acting credits, even in America, but who you might have seen recently in Mortal Kombat (2021).
Trick r' Treat
Trick ‘r Treat (2007) dir. Michael Dougherty | R 1h 22min
Four tales intertwine on Halloween night in this anthology. Make sure you follow the rules of Halloween and respect the customs, or else…
Trick ‘r Treat has really exploded over the past decade, with merchandise popping up everywhere as it grows in popularity. It deserves the attention; its one of the few genuinely good anthology movies out there that is still mainstream enough to be enjoyed by everyone at a Halloween party. There’s something fun about feeling like you need to obey the rules set out for you after watching the movie. This would be a great one to watch while carving your jack-o-lantern for the year (and making sure the candle doesn’t go out).
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Jennifer’s Body (2009) dir. Karyn Kusama | R 1h 42 min
Hot high school cheerleader Jennifer is turned into a succubus and begins killing off all the boys in school. Her homely best friend, Needy, has to try to stop her, because that’s what best friends do.
We’re having a lot of conversations about this film in the last few years, especially about how it was marketed completely differently than what was intended. Its a queer feminist horror film, not a teen comedy centered around “Megan Fox hot” aka the actual marketing notes for the film. This movie did Megan Fox dirty, and she and the director have finally had the chance to speak about it publicly. It’s a great movie and definitely deserving of a second viewing if you’ve tossed it aside in the past. This is one of my favorite movies. I’m so glad it’s finally getting the attention it deserves because Jennifer’s Body was ahead of its time.
Hereditary (2018) dir. Ari Aster | R 2h 7min
A family’s grief grows exponentially as disturbing occurrences continually worsen following the death of the grandmother.
Please do not take these cautions lightly. This is a disturbing movie. I’m going to put this right out there: You are a different person after you watch Hereditary. I used to work in a theater and there was one scene where the servers refused to go in the theater during it. You’ll know when you see it. But let me say these things as well: Ari Aster may be the most talented filmmaker of our time. I don’t mean that in the way like people in the past used horrific tactics to get great performances out of their actors (cough, Kubrick, Friedkin) and then we gave them Oscars for it. Ari Aster writes, directs, and styles his movies in a way that will have you stand up and just walk in a daze in contemplation. This is a movie about grief and loss, not just on the surface, but so much deeper. This movie makes me feel like I’m in a therapy session now that I’ve seen it a few times and it’s less shocking. If you’re okay with this kind of horror, this movie lives up to all the hype and more. We’re in a horror renaissance right now, with some of the best movies of all time being made, and this is truly a new classic.
That’s it for this week. How do these movies stack up against your list of classics? I’ll be back next week with another list and a new theme. Until then, get those skeletons out of your closet in time for Halloween.
- Scary Jess 🖤
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