It’s Halloween and you’re desperately pondering whether to go watch Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse in theaters, or to netflix & chill with that dtv Tremors sequel starring Jamie Kennedy? Pal, I might be able to help you out there. Like the coach in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II. While preparing my own Halloween-a-thon for this year, I’ve gathered a handful of recommendations, each one loosely representing a certain horror category. I also throw in what I think are essentials for those specific categories, so all in, you should absolutely find something to watch. If you happen to know EVERYTHING named here, help me out and add your own recommendations in the comments!
Note: Regarding those so-called essentials – I haven’t named every single essential movie in existence, just what quickly came to my mind. Categories might not even fit every time. I’ve added years to some of the entries to make sure that, most of the time, we’re not talking remakes (sorry, Zoe Saldana). Feel free to comment on any of my terrible choices, or categories, and name any obvious titles I forgot.
ANIMAL ATTACK / MONSTER MOVIES
Essentials: Jaws, Anaconda, Deep Blue Sea, Tremors, Jeepers Creepers, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Host, Critters, Prophecy, Pumpkinhead, Arachnophobia, Alligator, The Birds, The Edge, Night of the Lepus, Them, Tarantula
Try: The Reef
Remember Open Water? The movie about two divers losing their diving team, then being circled by sharks? Filmed with real sharks? This is a way better version of the same concept, and the shark footage caught for this is simply amazing. It’s tense as hell and just when you thought it’d be safe… you’ll remember this movie. Believe me. The one-sheet suggests that it’s the scariest shark movie since Jaws, and I’d slowly nod in approval.
CLASSIC HORROR FIENDS
Essentials: Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931) + (1958) + (1992), Frankenstein ( 1931) + (1994), Bride of Frankenstein, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man (1941), The Thing (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon, Night of the Demon, (sorry, no fan of The Mummy), The Fly (1985)
Try: Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed
The same old story of mad Frankenstein playing god? If you wanna be harsh on this, yes, it is pretty much the same story. But if you’re open for some sweet 60s horror, you’ll experience what’s probably the second best Hammer Frankenstein movie starring Peter Cushing (I’m sure you’ve seen their classic first one, The Curse of Frankenstein, right?). Cushing is a delight and just amazing as the power hungry doctor, and this entry (the fourth out of six) features the most interesting creature. As nearly every Cushing / Frankenstein movie is a standalone story, don’t bother watching the series in sequence. Just watch this, and see how a desperate couple tries to outsmart the doctor.
EXORCISM / OCCULT
Essentials: The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Omen (1976), Candyman, The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Wicker Man (1973), Carrie (1976), Phenomena, Prince of Darkness, Suspiria, The Beyond
Often confused with the works of Dario Argento, this Andrezj Zulawski thriller has Sam Neill and Isabelle Adjani getting torn apart in a bloody, scary, paranoia-infused love triangle. It is basically one terrible downward spiral into madness, and it’s easy to see why people would think of Argento. Tonally and stylistically, the giallo master was obviously a big influence.
Essentials: The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocast, Rec, Rec 2, Cloverfield, Cannibal Ferox, Grave Encounters, Man Bites Dog
Try: Willow Creek
Remember the goofy Police Academy cop with the screechy voice? He’s directed this barely known found footage Bigfoot movie, and it’s a good one at that. Yes, there’s nothing original about it, but the actors sell their fright really well, and the final thirty minutes will have you at the edge of your seat.
Essentials: The Amityville Horror (1979), Amityville 2: The Possession, The Ring (2002), The Grudge (2004), The Changeling, Poltergeist (1982), Paranormal Activity 3, The Haunting (1963), Stir of Echoes, The Entity, Silent Hill, Onibaba, The Others, The Uninvited, The Orphanage, The Fog (1980), The Shining, Kairo
Consider: The Eye (2002)
After having lived in blindness, a woman gets eye transplants. Soon she begins to see more than us, spotting ghosts. It’s a really effective ghost story, and while there is a rather expensive remake starring Jessica Alba, that one is not half as intense, and it screws up the wonderful original ending.
Essentials: Black Sabbath, The Innocents, Sleepy Hollow (2001), Red Masque of Death, House of Wax (1953), House on Haunted Hills (1959), basically most movies starring Vincent Price, From Hell
The Woman in Black (2012)
Daniel Radcliffe in a serious horror movie? Nah? No, really. This is actually one of the first movies of the newly resurrected Hammer Productions, and it’s a total blast of a comeback. It’s absolutely gorgeous as a period piece, and it has quality jumpscares the Paranormal Activity franchise can only dream about. I prefer this slightly over The Conjuring.
Possibly essentials: Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness, Shaun of the Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Gremlins, Dead Alive, Zombieland, The Wicker Man (2006), Slither, The Fearless Vampire Killers, House, The Frighteners, Young Frankenstein, Dracula: Dead and Loving it, Drag Me To hell, Fright Night
Slumber Party Massacre 2
One rainy night I sat down and watched the first two Slumber Party Massacres, because that’s what grown ups do. The first is a very traditional slasher movie. Not bad, nothing special. The sequel though is suddenly a full-blown parody of slasher movies, and it has an outrageously insane killer with a driller guitar. It is as good as it sounds.
MEAN / TERROR HORROR / REVENGE
Essentials: The Evil Dead (1981) + (2013), Straw Dogs (1971), The Devil’s Rejects, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Funny Games, The Hills have Eyes (2006), Maniac, Audition, Inside, I Spit on your Grave (1978), The Last House on the Left (1972)
The Loved Ones
I’m not going to spoil this little gem for you, just expect one fun psycho performance. It’s a very small movie and it’s mostly reduced to a bunch of people sitting at a table and getting tortured, but it’s not just plain torture porn. Robin McLeavy is front and center, and she easily sells the movie on her own.
Essentials: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, Halloween (1978), Peeping Tom, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Black Christmas (1974), Child’s Play, Sleepaway Camp
If you’ve seen every 80s slasher movie, you’ll call The Burning one of your dearest. It’s mind boggling that everyone even talks way more about Sleepaway Camp all the time when this is better in so many ways.
TERROR FROM OUTER SPACE
Essentials: Alien, Species, Event Horizon, The Thing (1982), The Blob (1988), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Fire in the Sky, Sunshine
The director of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre redefines the term “gratuitious nudity” in this bizarre, fascinating, ultimately sluggishly told tale about space vampires. However, it’s really fascinating in its ideas, and it’s not just a simple carbon copy of an existing vampire or alien flick. Strange brave movies like this aren’t getting made anymore, and the fact that this actually ran in theaters always sparks enough discussions.
VAMPIRES / WEREWOLVES
Essentials: too many, but how about Thirst, Near Dark, Salem’s Lot, Interview with the Vampire, An American Werewolf in London, Shadow of the Vampire, The Howling
You’ve probably seen Katharine Isabelle as Mason Verger’s sister on Hannibal. Maybe you’ve even seen her fun body modification drama American Mary. However, her most important work is this low budget piece which is both a great werewolf flick, and a great coming of age story.
Essentials: Altered States, Lost Highway, Antichrist, Suspiria, Jacobs Ladder, Audition, In the Mouth of Madness, Hellraiser, Dead Ringers, The Demon Seed, Eraserhead, Halloween 3, The Skin I Live in, Repulsion, Hausu, Long Weekend
Imagine some kind of subhuman species having an orgy, joining into one pulsating mass of flesh, limbs, genitals, faces just everywhere. A face grown from an ass. Yeah, you need to see this.
Essentials: Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), White Zombie, 28 Days Later, Zombie (1979), Return of the Living Dead, Cemetary Man, I Walked with a Zombie, Re-Animator
This sweet little zombie flick set in Africa has something many other entries forget lately: tension. It’s probably the weakest of my recommendations, but if you feel bored by The Walking Dead by now, this might be something.
I don’t know where to put these, so I’ll just leave them here: Psycho (1960), Carrie, Don’t Look Now, Phantasm, Hostel , Final Destination 2, From Beyond, Hardware, Saw, Resurrection (1999), Frailty
Thumbs up for: It Follows, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, The Babadook, Dream Home, Evil Dead (2013), Let the Right One in (2008), The Descent and I Saw the Devil
Kill List (2011)
Don’t wiki this, don’t watch the trailer, don’t look up spoilers. This little British beast seems to be about an assassin who gets to do an ordinary job. Everything looks familiar at first, but when it goes down into tunnels, the shit hits the fan. Be sure to keep the lights low, and bring extra pants.
In case nothing really works out for you, pick one of these. Last resort. If these don’t work, nothing else will.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Man’s best Friend
Silent Night, Deadly Night
The Night Flier