(Originally published October 26, 2018)
With gravestones and cobwebs showing up on front lawns, spooky scary skeletons on every channel, and the beautiful colors of fall giving way to the cold winds of ghosts and ghouls, it’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween. But don’t hide from the monsters crawling out of the dark, instead, grab a blanket, hold your facehugger close, and cuddle up next to your favorite billy puppet, because it’s the perfect opportunity to watch some of the greatest classics to ever come out of the horror genre. Just try to remember the rules, and maybe you’ll make it out alive.
Candyman is a terrifying tale of the ghost of a murdered man becoming an urban legend to haunt the public. Say his name five times into a mirror, and you’ll feel him breathing down your neck. So when college students Helen Lyle and Bernadette Walsh do their thesis paper on this urban legend, one can imagine all that could go wrong. While at surface level Candyman might seem like just another slasher movie, its expert use of suspension, comparable only to Psycho levels of frightening, will have you quickly turning all the lights on. Director Bernard Rose clearly spent a lot of time perfectly constructing this psychological-slasher picture, because every scene, every line of dialogue, and every camera angle works to bring the suspense to a boiling point. This movie is the perfect example of how to terrify an audience without relying on cheap tactics. Its creative use of jump scares, this being one of the few movies that uses them correctly, doesn’t release the tension, but it actually builds on it, leaving you holding your breath every pan of the camera or turn of a corner. Candyman is simply one of the greatest examples of how to portray psychological horror in a movie, and you won’t be disappointed with it.
9.Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
While Candyman is a terrifying psychological-slasher, if you’re looking for a straight psychological masterpiece, Jacob’s Ladder is the movie for you. Jacob Singer, played by Tim Robbins, is a Vietnam Veteran who is suffering from PTSD. But when the hallucinations get worse and he finds himself questioning what is and isn’t real, he tracks down his old friends from his squadron to get some answers. The second you think you know what is going on, it’ll throw you for another loop and you’ll be lost again. Director Adrian Lyne used progressive and creative camera and editing tricks to make you feel as confused and baffled as Jacob. Similar to The Shining, it builds up until the suspension is unbearable, and then shatters the reality you thought existed within the movie. When the final credits roll, you’ll have no option but to sit there and try to figure out what masterpiece just played out in front of your eyes. This movie will play you like a fiddle, and you’ll be enjoying it the entire time.
8.Funny Games (1997)
Funny Games is a twisted and demented film not recommended for the faint of heart. And while an American remake was made in 2007, the original Austrian film is without a doubt the better movie. Two well dressed and polite young men knock on the door of Anna’s summer cottage in where she and her husband, Georg, and their young son, Georgie, are staying, and ask for some eggs for breakfast. When they take the family hostage in their own home and force them to play their ‘funny games’, it quickly spirals into a nightmarish and bloody image. Similar to the 2008 American movie The Strangers, this film portrays how nothing is more blood-chilling then killers without a motive. Normally while watching a movie, you always have that idea that this would never happen to you, you wouldn’t go to a sleepover in the middle of the woods, or investigate it weird noise in the middle of the night. This movie is horrifying because it shows how sometimes, there simply isn’t anything you can do.
7.The Thing (1982)
With CGI technology looking more realistic and becoming more accessible than ever, the use of practical effects has seen a heavy decline. And while there is a good argument to be made about practical effects being obsolete in the modern day, The Thing is a prime example against that argument. With a simple story of American research scientists in Outpost 31 in Antarctica being trapped with a shape-shifting alien that takes the shape of any human it kills, this movie uses incredible character building and great camera work to create a feeling of suspicion and claustrophobia. The cherry on top is the groundbreaking practical effects that are without a doubt the greatest example of practical effects in film history. Veteran director John Carpenter (remember this name; he’ll be showing up again) does everything right with the filming of this movie, and it’ll be one that you’ll not soon forget.
6.Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)
Freddy Krueger has ascended beyond film knowledge and into the world of pop culture. With references to the revolutionary Nightmare on Elm Street seemingly everywhere from TV Shows to book series, Krueger is truly universal. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is based outside the canon of the original series and brings back the original star, Heather Langenkamp, to play herself in a story in which an evil identity takes the shape of Krueger to hunt Langenkamp and her son. While today Krueger has ascended back to his godlike status in pop culture, in the early 1990s people were getting sick of him. After four disappointing sequels the excitement surrounding the series had significantly decreased. If anyone could bring back the magic to Krueger though, it would be the director of the original and many other blockbuster classics, Wes Craven. Not only did Craven succeeded in reviving the franchise, but he also did it with a meta and genius storyline. This movie throws out the comic like character Krueger had become by the time of the sixth movie, Freddy’s Dead, and brings in a darker, scarier version that won’t only haunt you your every waking moment, but in your nightmares too.
5.Silence of the Lambs (1991)
You know a movie is incredible when two of the main characters are serial killers, and you find yourself rooting for both of them. Silence of the Lambs exploded upon the movie industry 27 years ago, and took the entire world by storm and became only the third film ever to win the big five at the Oscars, winning best picture, best screenplay, best actor Anthony Hopkins, best actress Jodie Foster, and best director Jonathan Demme, there is little I can praise about this movie that others haven’t before. Jodie Foster plays Clarice Starling, an FBI student who gets assigned to profile Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins. Lecter is an imprisoned serial killer famous for cannibalizing his victims, to see if he can help solve the identity of another serial killer currently on the loose, Buffalo Bill. As the mystery spirals farther, and Clarice gets deeper into the disturbing world of these two serial killers, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat until the final credits roll. This movie’s screenplay is without a doubt one of the greatest of all time: every conversation, every line of dialogue is beautifully written to create a masterpiece that will most likely never be surpassed.
The slasher genre of horror has fallen a long way since the days of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea of one unstoppable monster killing a group of stereotypical teenagers doesn’t work with today’s horror audience. People expect more than clichéd characters and cheap jump-scares. Many believed that it was impossible to create a good slasher in the modern day, but Terrifier silenced those claims quickly. It doesn’t have a complex plot, or complex characters, or a huge and impressive setting. But Terrifier succeeds in creating a modern slasher that will leave chills down your spine. The plot is simple — two girls get stuck when they find their cars’ tires slashed. When they go into a building looking for help, they find themselves being chased by the star of this movie, Art the Clown. The incredible performance by David Howard Thornton makes Art the perfect modern slasher monster — scary, but entertaining. He creates a character that will be a classic in films for decades to come, all without saying a word. There isn’t much more I can say about this movie, as it’s just simply terrifying.
3.Blood Fest (2018)
If you just aren’t a huge fan of horror movies, but still want to take part in the Halloween spirit, then this is the movie for you. Blood Fest isn’t your average horror. It isn’t really scary, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s a fun action movie that uses horror themes to create an interesting and refreshingly new plot. It all revolves around the greatest horror convention to ever come into existence. A gigantic empty plot of land was turned into a horror fan’s dream, with sections dedicated to everything from zombies, to vampires, to clowns, to slashers, and more. And when the conversation begins, the doors close, and they won’t be opening up again, because it’s revealed that the whole convention was actually a trap to create the greatest horror movie of all time with all tropes of horror emerging to murder the attendants. A group of friends finds themselves stuck in this situation and create a plan to escape. What follows is an entertaining and adventurous romp through the tropes of horror that will leave you entertained, but not frightened.
2.Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
You wouldn’t be blamed if you haven’t heard of Trick ‘r Treat. It was originally slated for a theatrical release, but after its studio went under it was ceremonially released on DVD years later. But this wasn’t the end for Trick ‘r Treat, because while it took a while, horror fans eventually and slowly started taking notice, and its current cult status cinemas it as a staple of the horror industry. With a combination of five different storylines played out throughout the movie, and while they don’t directly relate to each other, director Michael Dougherty does uses incredible world building to cleverly connect them, and you’ll be left wanting to watch it over and over to find all the connections. But while they’re indirectly connected in many small ways, Dougherty does use one repeating character to tell his story, named Sam. While Sam might just look like a small child in a clever costume, you’ll quickly learn that there is a lot more under the button-eyed sack over the head than it seems. Trick ‘r Treat is a smart and creative horror movie that is a breath of fresh air in the modern day of sequels and remakes.
This list changed many times during its writing. Movie’s orders were moved, some were added, many were removed. But one thing that stayed the same since the beginning, was number one, John Carpenter’s Halloween.
It’s the father of modern horror and the movie that kicked off the slasher craze of the 80s. Some of the greatest movies of all time, Friday the 13th, Scream, I Know What you did Last Summer, all of them were inspired by this movie. Introducing Jamie Lee Curtis in the role for which she would forever be remembered, Laurie Strode, this movie perfects the slasher genre in its first time. The film created Michael Myers, one of the most famous characters of all time, one that has ascended beyond the film industry and into pop culture history. The blank mask of Myers hides all emotion and creates a spine-chilling image that you’ll see around every corner. Its slow start all helps to build up the paranoia that will cap off in its exciting and terrifying ending scene where you’ll never be confident that Myers is down for good. And the famous score is just the cherry on top of this unnerving ice cream, creating the perfect feeling of suspicion and eeriness that will leave you unable to shake the blood-chilling feeling it will leave you with. If you want to end your Halloween in the perfect way, there is no other option besides this movie.
So sit back, lock your doors, and close your windows. Because the Boogeyman has come to our little town.