It’s that time of year again! Time to throw on your costumes, fill up your candy bowls and scare your friends. Halloween has become a perfect time of year for people to come together and freak themselves out with great mood setting films. Outside of Christmas, no other holiday has the perfect library of films for a marathon. What makes Halloween-oriented films so special is that they don’t need to be tied down in horror, they just need to set a general mood for what the holiday is all about. That being said, I present my six need-to-watch films for this Halloween.
Starting with the classic itself, the original “Halloween” (dir. John Carpenter) is a staple for any Halloween movie marathon. So much of this film has become iconic, from the musical score to the concept. It was the film that launched the slasher movie craze throughout the 1980s, and several film series like “Friday the 13th” and “Scream” probably wouldn’t exist without the first “Halloween.” Sure, the effects and scares might be a bit dated, but watching the original “Halloween” for the first time is something you will never forget. You should also watch it to catch up for the new film that is in theaters now.
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is a terrifying film with plenty of tension and uncomfortable sequences. It has gone down in history as one of the scariest films of all time, making it the perfect addition to your marathon. When a blizzard hits the Overlook Hotel, the Torrance family begins to uncover mysteries regarding the hotel’s past supernatural events as they bubble to the surface. The feeling of isolation and entrapment that the film creates is perfect for watching with friends or by yourself. Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall give A+ performances that set the tone for a chilling experience. The tone alone is enough to get everyone watching in the mood for Halloween. Some of the film industry’s most iconic moments and ideas come from this film including “redrum, creepy twins, an elevator filled with blood and “Room 217.” If you haven’t seen “The Shining” yet, definitely give it a watch as soon as possible, but the experience is definitely enhanced during the season of scares.
Another film by a legendary director, “Se7en,” helmed by David Fincher, is my first pick that isn’t necessarily a horror or Halloween themed film. I’m watching “Se7en” this year for its atmosphere alone. Fincher has a knack for crafting dark and gritty films and “Se7en” is not different, featuring scenes and moments that make the viewer feel disgusting. If you haven’t seen it, the film follows Detective Somerset and Mills, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, in their attempt to track down a serial killer who is murdering people in grotesque ways in relation to the seven deadly sins. The kills are never shown, only the aftermath, which may be even more effective. “Se7en” also features one of my favorite, punch-to-the-throat endings ever put to screen. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but you can’t help but feel satisfied with the final product. This grungy feel for a film, regardless of genre, is incredibly effective for setting the tone on Halloween night. If your friends try to shut down “Se7en,” show them the opening credits and see if that gets them on board.
Moving more into the self parody part of the horror genre, “Shaun of the Dead” (dir. Edgar Wright) is a blast to watch regardless of the season. Edgar Wright has become the king of visual comedy since the turn of the century with films like “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “Baby Driver.” In my eyes, “Shaun of the Dead” is still his best work, combining a creepy and eerie zombie infested backdrop with his bumbling and ridiculous characters. The comedy works so well, mainly because the cast works well together, but also due to the contrast between the scary setting and hilarious antics. It is well written, has plenty of gore for those looking for blood in a Halloween marathon, but is also hilarious and worth watching with a big group of friends. If you skip this one on Halloween, which you absolutely shouldn’t, check it out at some other point because it is worth your time.
Another film that blends scary settings with comedic concepts is Taika Waititi’s “What We Do In The Shadows.” Aside from being a great film to add to your marathon, “What We Do In The Shadows” might be the funniest film this decade. Waititi, famous for his ability for smart improvisation in front of and behind the camera, brings so much life to a film with a great concept. The film follows three vampires who all live in the same flat and try to adjust to modern life with each other. They argue about doing dishes, getting dinner and go out to clubs. I put films like this and “Shaun of the Dead” in my marathon for their design as horror films, but with concepts that make them a wholly unique experience. They also both serve as perfect breaks between the more serious horror films on this list. It’s always great to throw in a good laugh!
My favorite film of 2018 so far is my last recommendation and something I will definitely be watching this Halloween. “Hereditary” (dir. Ari Aster) is a visceral, stunning portrait of a family being split at the seams by tragedy, while also dealing with a supernatural entity that may have manifested in their bloodline. I won’t spoil any of the film here because it is absolutely worth watching without knowing anything. The first half of the film is basically a melodrama with family arguments and tense moments. As the film progresses, Aster keys you in to some of the things that might actually be happening to this family until last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes of “Hereditary” are filled with moments that snatch your breath away without ever giving you a moment to get it back. One shot in particular makes my skin crawl every time I think of it. Not only is it an exceptional horror film, I believe Toni Collette’s performance as distressed mother, Annie, is worthy of serious awards consideration. She’s that good. Watch this one with a group on Halloween because looking at your friend’s faces when some of the more terrifying things happen never gets old.