Updated: Oct 5, 2020
October is finally here, and that can mean only one thing… The spooky season is upon us. For us at reelhorrorshow, Halloween is like our Christmas. We love nothing more than throwing up a few scary decorations and carving a few pumpkin lanterns.
Sadly, due to the world still being in the grip of a pandemic, it looks as if this Halloween will be spent indoors. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, though. There are plenty of ways to keep yourselves entertained this autumn. We were hoping to have a big party this year to celebrate the fact that Halloween falls on a Saturday. While that doesn’t look likely anymore, we still plan on throwing a party, but it will just have to be a small family gathering.
If, however, a party isn’t your thing, why not have a crack at 31 films for Halloween. The idea being that for the entirety of October; you work your way through a list of 31 horror movies on the run-up to Halloween night.
I know that seems like a daft concept, if like us you watch horror movies most nights, anyway. The difference here is that you are working through a tailor-made list. Besides, it’s far more enjoyable watching a horror movie around Halloween time. It’s a bit like flicking through the tv channels and finding a film that you already on DVD. You have to watch it, because, well, it’s on tv and that’s different.
For those who wish to partake but are struggling to compile a list of 31 movies that are deserving of being included on the ultimate, Halloween watchlist, look no further. For I have put together a list for you. I’m good to you folks.
So, feel free to join me in celebrating 31 nights of Halloween horror. Without further ado, let’s get to the list…
The Babadook (2014)
Directed by Jennifer Kent
Australian single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis) is a woman on the edge. Not only must she contend with her deeply troubled son. Samuel (Noah Wiseman), but also a demonic entity known as The Babadook, that she accidentally released from a creepy book while reading Samuel a bedtime story.
Chock full of well-timed jump scares and unsettling imagery. What elevates The Babadook above other films of this type is that it works as an allegory for Amelia’s declining mental health. Is The Babadook real or simply a metaphor?
The Babadook is a dark film with no lighter moments to lift it from its constant sense of paranoia or foreboding, and because of this, it divides its audience. Some love it, while others hate it. I fall into the former camp. The Babadook is one of the most interesting horror films of the last decade.
Directed by F.W. Murnau
Let’s not beat around the bush. Nosferatu is a knockoff of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The story is virtually identical in every way. But don’t let that put you off, because it’s a damn good knockoff.
Estate agent, Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) heads off to Transylvania to assist the mysterious Count Orlok (Max Schreck) in purchasing some land in Germany. Hutter soon discovers that Orlok is, in fact, a vampire and finds himself trapped in the castle while Orlok sets sail for Germany and Hutter’s wife, Ellen (Greta Schröder).
Nosferatu is a seriously creepy film. Being from the era of silent movies only adds to its creepiness. Its imagery is equal parts art-house gothic and beautifully unsettling.
It’s Max Schreck’s performance as the rat-like count that leaves an indelible image on the brain of anyone who watches this movie. Nosferatu is a timeless classic.
House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Directed by William Castle
Eccentric millionaire Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price), offers a cool ten-thousand-dollars to five strangers if they agree to spend the night in his spooky-ass mansion. Being of a sound, rational mindset, they all jump at the chance. Little do they realise that they are about to become trapped in the house with ghosts, mass-murderers and things that go bump in the night.
Most people who read this will have likely seen the god awful remake that came out in 1999, unaware that it was a remake of a far superior film. With a brilliant performance from the late Vincent Price and some wonderfully haunting cinematography, I implore you to forget the remake and check out the original instead.
The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
What is there to say about The Shining that hasn’t already been said? This Kubrick directed horror film is possibly one of the most interesting, most debated movies of all time. Every frame has something going on in the background that has had critics and conspiracy enthusiasts going crazy for decades. Don’t believe me? Check out the documentary Room 237.
We all know the story. Father gets a caretaker job at an isolated hotel over the winter. Takes family along. Father runs afoul of the hotel’s ghosts, goes crazy and tries to kill said family with an axe. It’s a simple enough story told in a less than simple way. Kubrick’s unmatched direction and killer performances from Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall have led The Shining to achieve masterpiece status. Even its original creator, Stephen King, going on record to say how much he dislikes it, has done nothing to tarnish its reputation.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
The Blair Witch Project might just be the mother of marmite movies. You either love it or detest it. I know that Mark and I have vastly different opinions on this movie. I fall into the love camp while Mark feels exactly the opposite.
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny its impact. A group of student filmmakers went into the woods and made a movie that is still being talked about over twenty years later.
The premise is simple. Three people head into the woods to make a documentary about a witch. They get lost and some scary shit happens until they are eventually dispatched and never seen again. The witch or whatever the antagonist is is never seen on camera, but its presence is felt throughout the film and this is one of the many reasons I love this movie. It’s left to your imagination to decide what it is that is after the trio. Throw in one of the cleverest marketing campaigns ever and you’re left with a film that in my humble opinion is nothing short of brilliance.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Directed by George A. Romero
It’s been said many times, but George Romero is the undisputed king of the zombie movie. Sure, the quality dipped during the Land of/Diary of phase, but you can’t deny the quality of his original trilogy.
Night of the Living Dead is Romero’s black and white masterpiece. Taking place over the course of… well, a night, a group of strangers find themselves under siege in an old farmhouse as hordes of the undead rise up to attack them.
What makes Night stand out above the others is a couple of brave and radical for its time scenes. The first involving a recently reanimated little girl murdering her mother with a trowel. The second, and most important, is having an African-American as the last man standing. It’s not so significant by today’s standards, but you have to remember that NOTLD was made during the height of the civil rights movement, meaning that this movie was light years ahead of its time.
Directed by Dario Argento
Dario Argento, in my opinion, is the Italian Stanley Kubrick of horror, and Suspiria is easily his magnum opus.
Young Suzy (Jessica Harper) travels to a prestigious ballet school in Germany and soon comes to realise that all is not as it seems. Suzy quickly becomes ill, the school becomes infested with maggots, and the pianist is mauled to death by his own dog. Things soon take a supernatural turn and as the bodies pile up, Suzy learns that the school was once a front for a witches’ coven.
The cinematography is gorgeous. Argento obviously gave a great deal of thought where each and every camera should be placed for optimum effect. Throw in a killer, unsettling score by Goblin and it’s easy to see why Suspiria is loved the world over.
The Witch (2015)
Directed by Robert Eggers
The Witch is an odd film. Nothing really happens for most of its runtime and it is easy to see why someone might not like it, for that reason. What they are missing, however, is a fuck-ton of atmosphere. A foreboding sense that something terrible could happen at any moment hangs over every scene. And when it does eventually kick-off, the scenes of violence are more impactful, because of the slow buildup. The performances from all involved are incredible. Especially Anya Taylor-Joy as Thomasin, a young woman whose family come to suspect might be a witch.
The Witch is a film that gets under your skin and stays there, long after the end credits have rolled.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
I’ve spoken of my love for this movie on many occasions and there aren’t many lists that I wouldn’t wind up adding it to.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a masterclass in modern, gothic filmmaking. Everyone knows the story of Dracula so I won’t waste any more time going over that, but this version is by far my favourite. The acting by almost all the cast is flawless. I say almost all, because, well, Keanu Reeves…
The special and optical effects are breathtaking. Especially once you learn that they were all achieved practically and in-camera. I have seen this movie hundreds of times and will undoubtedly see it a hundred more. No Halloween is complete without it.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
A simple tale of a boy with serious Mummy issues, as told by the master of suspense. Psycho, adapted from the novel by Robert Bloch, is the story of Norman Bates. A seemingly mild-mannered Motel owner who harbours a dark secret. Sometimes Norman goes a little mad. “We all go a little mad, sometimes.” Only, we don’t all dress up like our dead mother and knife people while they shower.
If you have never seen Psycho, then where have you been and do you even like horror? Psycho was years ahead for many reasons. The main one being that it was the first film to kill off its main star before the film even hit its halfway mark. Scream copied this 36 years later, but Hitchcock did it first and he did it best.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Directed by Robert Wiene
Another silent horror movie makes the list. This time in the form of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The titular Dr (Werner Krauss) runs a carnival show where he claims ownership of Cesare, the 23-year-old Somnambulist who has supposedly been sleeping for 23 years. Two friends, Francis and Alan, visit the attraction and ask to have their future read. The Somnambulist complies and informs them that Alan will die that very night. Sure enough, Alan pops his clogs as predicted. Cesare then kidnaps Francis’s girlfriend. Francis gives chase and eventually tracks down Cesare, before learning that the sinister Dr is hiding out in an insane asylum.
To reveal any more would be to spoil the movie. Dr Caligari is a very old film that I doubt many younger viewers would have seen. I Strongly recommend hunting it down, though.
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
When compiling this list, I didn’t want to bog it down with too many entries in the Halloween series. I feel comfortable adding this sequel, however, as it’s so drastically different to the others.
Folks new to this movie might find themselves baffled by the absence of Michael Myers. Hell, we all were at some point. I and many likely have come to love this film for having the brass balls to try to be different. It doesn’t hurt either that the story is superb.
Instead of focusing on our beloved babysitter stalker, the menace this time involves an evil toy-making company called Silver Shamrock who make masks designed to kill the children who wear it, to appease some mysterious entity.
We don’t get Jamie Lee Curtis in the hero role. This time it’s the always likeable Tom Atkins. I know some people hate this film, but I urge you to give it a chance. Take Halloween out of the title and it’s actually a fantastic, seasonal horror movie.
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
Directed by Sam Raimi
Arguably the best of the bunch, Evil dead 2 combines gore, scares and laughs in equal measures. Bruce Campbell gives a madcap performance as our reluctant hero Ash. A man who makes losing an appendage ‘groovy.’
The film plays like a horror movie forced into a blender with a Looney Toons Cartoon and then doused in a bucket of blood.
It’s sequel, Army of Darkness took a more comedic route, although I still love that movie too. But for me, Evil Dead 2 is Raimi and Campbell’s finest hour.
As Above, So Below (2014)
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
Found footage is a hit-or-miss affair. For every great FF film, we get about ten duds. AASB, thankfully, falls into the great column.
The film follows a group of urban explorers as they head into the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. As they head deeper, things get creepier and it soon dawns on the group that they may have crossed over into the very depths of Hell.
Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s not.
The film pulls off a decent atmosphere of dread and menace, and at no point during its runtime does it feel daft.
As Above, So Below is one of the better found footage films of the last decade.
The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin
No horror list worth its salt would be complete with the daddy of devil movies. Surely, there can’t be any horror fans who haven’t seen this movie.
In case you’re very late to the party, The Exorcist tells of a couple of priests who are called upon to deal with a case of demonic possession. The possessed, in this instance, is young Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) who has taken to rotating her head 360 degrees, spewing green bile and masturbating with a crucifix. Bloody kids…
The Exorcist is a masterclass in unsettling. If you haven’t seen it then hang your head in shame.
Blood and Black Lace (1964)
Directed by Mario Bava
I’ve included this film because of one scene and one scene only. A beautiful model having her face melted off with an iron.
Blood and Black Lace has everything you could want from a Giallo movie. Naked flesh, striking colour choices and moments of vicious, brutal violence.
It’s not Bava’s finest hour. That accolade goes to A Bay of Blood, but it is a close second, so check it out.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
Directed by Rob Zombie
Otherwise known as the film where Rob Zombie tried something a little different and got lambasted for it.
To be honest, on first viewing, I didn’t like LOS either. It’s a film that has grown on me over the years to a point where I genuinely consider it to be an underrated work of art. It is also, without a doubt, Sheri Moon Zombie’s finest performance.
Sheri Moon plays Heidi Hawthorne, a radio DJ and ex-junkie who finds herself under the spell of a record sent in by a band called The Lords of Salem. Things take a turn for the weird and Heidi discovers that the older, female residence in her apartment block may, in fact, be witches.
For those who only ever saw this once and didn’t think much of it, I recommend giving it a second chance. It might just grow on you.
When A Stranger Calls (1979)
Directed by Fred Walton
When a Stranger Calls is a seriously creepy movie. I’m not kidding. I recently re-watched this after having not seen it for years, and I was blown away by just how scary a film this is.
Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is babysitting a couple of young children when she starts receiving sinister phone calls. The voice on the end of the phone asks if she has checked the children. Naturally freaked out, Jill calls the cops who inform her that the calls are coming from inside the house.
Freaky shit, right?
Any film that dares to have its antagonist kill off two sleeping children in the first act gets a thumbs up from me.
The rest of the film becomes a game of cat and mouse between Jill and the killer.
When a Stranger Calls is a classic that deserves a revisit.
Let the Right One In (2008)
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Let the Right One In is a Swedish vampire movie based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and it’s a beautiful, gore-soaked tale of loneliness and friendship. It’s also one of the best Vampire movies of the 21st century.
Young Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) spends his days and nights alone and trying to avoid the local bullies. That is until he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson) a strange girl who has recently moved into his apartment complex.
As their friendship blooms, Oskar realises just how strange Eli is. So strange, in fact, that she might not be a little girl at all.
Let the Right One In is a captivating movie, with a killer ending and fantastic performances from its two young leads.
Deep Red (1975)
Directed by Dario Argento
Argento makes his second entry onto this list with arguably what is his second-best film.
Deep Red is basically a whodunnit. A Musician and a journalist team up to try to solve a spate of gruesome murders in Rome.
While not the scariest film on the list and with a fairly convoluted plot that requires you to really pay attention, Deep Red is still a great movie. It’s more character-driven than many of Argento’s other efforts, and the film delivers a killer payoff of an ending that I’m not about to spoil here.
Directed by James Whale
There have been countless screen adaptions of Mary Shelley’s Novel, but only one deserves a spot on this list. All credit for this film’s longevity should rest at the feet of Boris Karloff, whose performance as the misunderstood monster has never been equalled.
Even behind all that make-up and prosthetics, Karloff gives the performance of his career, elevating the monster from mere horror villain to sympathetic and suffering from a child-like innocence. His evil doings are simply a reaction to the wrongs that are done on to him by others.
This is the Frankenstein movie that should make everyone’s Halloween list. Even the acting chops of DeNiro couldn’t top Karloff.
The Fog (1980)
Directed by John Carpenter
Post Halloween, John Carpenter found himself contractually obligated to make another horror movie. He chose The Fog, and the rest is history.
There is something about this movie that I find deeply eerie. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, exactly.
A strange fog rolls into the coastal town of Antonio Bay, exactly 100 years after a ship sank in the town’s waters. The fog brings with it the spirits of those souls who lost their lives on that day. The victims of a crime committed by the late town elders, the entity’s within the fog, want revenge.
The Fog is the perfect Halloween film that isn’t called Halloween.
The Strangers (2008)
Directed by Bryan Bertino
I think the reason films like The Strangers resonate so well with horror fans is that the world is a scary place. The one place that you should be able to relax and feel safe from the horrors of the outside world should be your home. So, what happens when the horrors of the world arrive at your front door.
It’s a very primal fear that The Strangers taps into, perfectly.
Throw a trio of freaky mask-wearing psycho’s who only want to kill you because ‘you were home,’ into the mix and you have the recipe for a great movie to curl up with on a crisp autumn night.
The Thing (1982)
Directed by John Carpenter
More John Carpenter, I hear you say? Well, the dude has made so many great movies that it’s difficult to avoid multiple inclusions.
The Thing is possibly one of the greatest remakes of all time, with the possible exception of The Fly. I’ve never quite made my mind up on that.
A group of Arctic researchers find themselves isolated and under attack from a shape-shifting alien that has been dug up out of the ice and defrosted by some thoughtless Norwegians.
Leave it to Kurt Russell, with a flamethrower and some killer dialogue, to save the day.
What first hooked me in when I saw The Thing all those years ago was the mind-blowing special effects. Dogs turn inside out, right before your eyes. Heads turn into spiders. A stomach with teeth bites off an unlucky doctor’s hands. It’s all very inventive stuff.
I can’t mention The Thing and not reference that intense blood test scene. Just go watch the damn movie and see for yourself.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Directed by Charles Laughton
Robert Mitchum plays against type as Harry Powell. A deranged killer/priest with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles. Powell bullshits his way into a woman’s life in order to her wealth and it becomes the job of her children to band together to stop Powell from robbing them blind before killing them all.
The Night of the Hunter is beautifully presented in black and white and boasts a chilling performance from Mitchum.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Directed by Wes Craven
From Last House on the Left to The Hills Have Eyes through to Scream, the late Wes Craven was responsible for some of horrors most beloved films. But it’s 1984s A Nightmare on Elm Street that Craven will always be remembered for.
In a genre dominated by indestructible boogeymen, silently stalking babysitters and hapless campers, Craven injected new blood by introducing the world to Freddy Krueger.
What makes Krueger stand out from the likes of Jason and Michael is that he is refreshingly vocal. Rather than just stand and watch quietly from the shadows. Freddy would prefer to verbally mock and taunt his victims.
In many ways, the premise for Nightmare is far scarier than a summer camp killer on the loose. We can avoid going to camp or heading off to Texas. We can’t avoid sleep, and Craven used that knowledge to create something truly original.
Sure, Freddy has been done to death now and the quality of Nightmare films dipped with each subsequent sequel. But we will always have the original.
Directed by Rob Reiner
Misery marks the second Stephen King adaption to make this list, and with good reason. Misery is brilliant.
Whether it be the cast, especially Kathy Bates stunning turn as Annie Wilkes. Or the feeling of helpless isolation, or the sudden, brutal acts of violence. All the elements come together to make one stunning film experience. It also helps that it is an adaption of one of King’s best books.
As a writer myself, this film has made me incredibly wary of the day I meet my number one fan. If I ever make a fan…
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Directed by Dan O’Bannon
While I am and forever will be fanatical about George Romero’s Zombie movies, the whole notion of the dead rising from the grave to feast on the living is a bit daft. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright realised this which led to Shaun of the Dead, and thank god it did.
Pegg and Wright were not the first to realise the comedy potential of the walking dead. That accolade goes to Dan O’Bannon, writer of Alien.
TROTLD is an example of how horror and black comedy can gel perfectly together.
Two Moron workers at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a noxious gas from a military drum stored in their basement. This gas has the power to reanimate the dead, which it quickly does. All hell breaks loose as the dumb duo and a gang of punks find themselves besieged in a funeral parlour.
The Return of the Living Dead delivers gore and laughs in spades.
Directed by Clive Barker
If S&M demons from Hell are your thing, then Hellraiser is the film for you.
Actually, the beauty of Hellraiser is that while the movies poster suggests that the Cenobites and especially Pinhead are the films Antagonists, this is far from the case. It is Frank and Julia who are the villains of the piece. Two very human characters, willing to commit very inhuman acts to get what they desire. The Cenobites only show up when summoned.
Clive Barker’s directorial debut is an exercise in low budget film making done right. Everything from the outstanding practical make-up effects to Christopher Young’s haunting score makes Hellraiser appear as a far grander production than it really is. That and the superb performances from the cast make this film one of my all-time favourite movies.
Basket Case (1982)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Meet Duane and Belial. The most unlikely twins since Schwarzenegger and DeVito. They don’t resemble each other much. Duane is tall, handsome and charming, while Belial is small, deformed and lives in a basket.
The two were once conjoined until Dr’s separated the pair. Duane just wants to fit in, while Belial just wants to kill anyone who gets close to his brother.
Basket Case is another example of horror and comedy working in harmony together, although this film isn’t as blatantly comedic as some of the others on this list. In fact, at times, it’s downright vicious.