For horror fanatics, the spooky season is the most wonderful time of the year. And what better way to celebrate it than by revisiting some of our most-loved films? As Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), Home Alone (1990), and It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) serve as must-see classics for the Christmas-inclined among us, so too have horror fans annointed their own Hallowe’en classics. We asked a few of our favourites to share theirs!
Kelly Gredner (Spinsters of Horror; Grim No. 8)
The Monster Squad (1987)
When October rolls around, not only is it the beginning of my favorite season (Fall) and my favorite holiday (Hallowe’en), but it’s also my birthday month! My birthday is October 13th and, yes, sometimes it does fall on Friday the 13th (every horror fan’s dream!). Every year, I watch one of my all-time favourite horror-comedies, The Monster Squad. Writer/director Fred Dekker hit an absolute home run with this movie. Though not fully realized or appreciated at the time of its release, it has become a cult favourite. The trope of kids battling classic Universal monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and The Wolf Man in order to save the world is a perfect combination and it brings me life!
Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
Before Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat, the Carpenter/Hill stalker horror classic Halloween (1978) was my go-to film to watch on Hallowe’en (I still watch it if I have time!). However, when the new, adorable, Hallowe’en/horror icon Sam walked onto the scene, my favourite day was forever changed—now, we have a true mascot! This anthology is spooky, scary, and full of sweet Hallowe’en goodness (screams, death, mayhem, and candy!). If child murder doesn’t get you into the Hallowe’en spirit, I don’t know what will.
The Guest (2014)
This Carpenter-esque action thriller IS a Hallowe’en movie and I will die on that hill defending it! The (always) wonderfully delicious Dan Stevens plays an ex-military-man-turned-murder-machine David with abs of steel that ruins the lives of a family in Smalltown, USA. With the beautiful Maika Monroe (in the best outfits seen on modern screens) in tow, and a synth/goth/New Wave soundtrack pulsing in our ears, this movie has become a pop culture phenomenon. I watch it at least once a month and definitely every October. Remember how the movie’s climax ends in the most epic haunted house/maze ever set in a school gymnasium, or are you still mesmerized by Dan Stevens shower scene? It’s ok, we all are.
Poltergeist is one of the first horror films that I saw. It found a special place in my heart because a) it’s fantastic, and b) it scared the crap out of my sister, so naturally that was very appealing to me. Not only does Poltergeist contain some iconic lines of dialogue and scenes that have gone down in horror history (real skeletons in the pool, anyone?), but it’s just a damn good, well-made film, with one of horror’s best family units. A good ghost story is a staple of Halloween, and Poltergeist is inarguably one of the best.
Jessica Parant (Spinsters of Horror; Grim No. 7)
The Addams Family (1964 Sitcom)
“They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky…” Since I was a child, I was obsessed with the two Addams Family films from 1991 and 1993; I would watch them over and over again. I wanted to be both Wednesday and Morticia Addams. When I found out that the films were based on an American sitcom from 1964 (based on Charles Addam’s New York cartoons), I knew I had to see it! When I was finally able to purchase all three seasons on DVD, watching them every October quickly became a tradition for me. It is not truly fall until I hear that iconic theme song accompanied by the black and white macabre comedy of a tight-knit family of oddities, supernatural abilities, and ghoulish interests that clash with ‘normal’ society. Also, the passionate relationship between Gomez (John Astin) and Morticia (Carolyn Jones) is such a positive representation of a married couple and was definitely ahead of its time.
Night of the Demons (1988)
I love this film! I watch it every year on October 31st since I found it over four years ago on YouTube on Hallowe’en Night. To me, this is the perfect Hallowe’en night horror movie. Directed by Kevin Tenny (Witchboard, Witchtrap), the plot of the film is about a group of teenagers gathering for a Hallowe’en party being held by the creepy goth girl Angela in an abandoned funeral parlour with a dark history. When the group attempts a séance, they unleash a demon that causes chaos and death, for a party no one will ever forget—or survive. For me, this movie carries the charm of the ‘80s with outrageous characters, dialogue, costumes, and a catchy soundtrack. Also, this movie really reminds me of my favourite R.L. Stine book, Fear Street Halloween Party, wherein a group of teenagers attend a Hallowe’en party thrown by the beautiful new transfer student Justine…and people start dying. Terrifying—and probably one of the reasons why I don’t attend Hallowe’en parties myself 😉
Mad Monster Party (1967)
Hallowe’en was an event for most of us when we were kids, with visions of tooth-rotting candy filling our bags. My ritual involved watching the 1967 Mad Monster Party on TV as I got ready for trick or treating. I was thrilled that Rankin/Bass, known for classics like Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had added Hallowe’en to their holiday roster. Baron Boris von Frankenstein (voiced by Boris Karloff) wants to retire and find a successor to his role as the head of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters. He also has a dangerous weapon he wants to reveal to his monster colleagues, so he throws a big party on his Isle of Evil and, of course, mayhem ensues. Phyllis Diller headlines this zany, stop-motion cartoon with Karloff, and jazz singer Ethel Ennis performs the film’s theme song in a way that rivals any James Bond movie. There are some brilliant gags, fun musical numbers, witty dialogue, and a little bit of romance too. I have such nostalgia for this motley crew of monsters that I own the DVD and the soundtrack, and I have my own little shindig every Hallowe’en with my horror “boyfiend.”
Valeska Griffiths (AOAS; House of Leaves Publishing; Grim)
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Always a helpless and unapologetic sucker for the supernatural, I can’t let a Hallowe’en go by without a solo, late-evening screening of Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity. This is a film that did so much with such a tiny budget; its major scares are fuelled by nothing more than a few tiny practical effects, some loud noises, and a large dollop of audience imagination. Toby, the invisible antagonist who plagues the entire series, would no doubt be an icon on par with the Babadook and Bughuul if we could only see his visage. I believe that the primary strength of the series is that we (for the most part) cannot. Katie Featherston stan for life!
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Like every character in a horror film whose production company didn’t want to shell out for the rights to include footage from any other movie, I love watching the original Night of the Living Dead, directed by the legendary George A. Romero. Even if the film weren’t in the public domain, I wouldn’t be surprised if it remained a mainstay in scenes where characters are enjoying a spooky thrill—the film is legitimately terrifying, even on the 15th watch. The cinematography, eerie scoring, and delicious tension between our group of would-be survivors perfectly complement the creepiness of Romero’s dead-eyed, slow-moving zombies; an image and concept that begat an entire horror subgenre. And don’t even get me started on that ICONIC and deeply meaningful ending.