Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Motel Hell, this is only because for me those lovelies are reserved for summer and other seasons. The selections below are specifically spooky and suited for the time of Halloween. 1. Suspiria
Dario Argento’s Suspiria in my opinion is a true masterpiece of fantastic horror. It includes visual elements of terror that are so unique they make modern horror movie techniques seem mundane. With a spectacle of stark, striking colors, strange lighting and architectural designs, a jolting, nightmare-inducing soundtrack, and a plot which involves a seriously sinister bunch of old witches who run a dance academy in Germany, Suspiria is the quintessential Halloween movie. Filmed in 1977 and starring the multi-talented Jessica Harper, this movie is available from Netflix. If you have never seen Suspiria before, be prepared to be surprised as it delivers quite a distinctive punch… perfect for Halloween!
2. Rosemary’s Baby
From suspense wunderkind Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most perfect examples of a horror movie which does not rely on gore to produce frights, rather it is a spine-chilling parade of evil playing out before the viewer, making it a must for Halloween. In it, viewers watch as Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) becomes unwillingly entangled in a web of evil, like a fly caught in a web, as much as she tries to escape she becomes more trapped. Rosemary’s Baby plays on some of the most primal fears we as humans have such as evil clothed in the trappings of normalcy, betrayal of the most depraved kind by those closest to us, and the presence of the Devil himself, topped with the chilling prospect of bearing his child.
3. Halloween (1978 Original & 2016 Remake)
Those crisp fall days leading up to Halloween are enchanting, aren’t they? Fallen leaves, kiddies in their costumes, all the parties, but just hope you don’t look out your window to see Michael Myer’s standing in your front yard! Without a doubt one of the king’s among slasher movies, Halloween is the perfect spooky movie to watch on the very day. From the get go the story line of Halloween moves into anxious territory, with unnatural, masked puppet of evil Michael Myers making early appearances lurking about in the bushes, the viewer knows nothing good will come of it. What follows is a terrifying ride full of suspense and lots of unapologetic gore and blood-curdling screams and some of the most iconic horror scenes of all time. Halloween is a must for your All Hallows Eve viewing.
Worthy of note is Rob Zombie’s 2016 take on the original which goes back to the origins of Michael Myers and features some of the best Zombie-approved actors like Sid Haig, William Forsythe, and the great Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis.
4. The Shining
My personal all-time favorite horror movie, The Shining delivers a frigid punch of eerie mood from the start as the viewer is taken on a ride to watch the terrific haunting of the Torrence family; Mental breakdown, primal fears, cabin fever, telepathy, hideous specters and one of the most scary places of horror legend, the fictional Overlook Hotel. Visually, The Shining is stunning and there is a decidedly strange feeling, an odd flavor, that The Shining generates, that like other horror greats cannot be duplicated. The dynamics between the cast of characters in undoubtedly one of the best, with Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duval and Danny Lloyd being the main characters featured in most of the 1 hour, 37 minutes it runs. It stands alone as a masterpiece full of blood-filled elevators, ghostly soirees, truly bizarre apparitions, and a menacing array of evil at work. As with Suspiria, The Shining’s soundtrack cranks up the creep-factor by volumes that only geniuses like Stanley Kubrick can pull off. In fact, just writing about the jangling, startling chords played through certain scenes is giving me chicken skin!
5. Burnt Offerings
The 1970s produced some of the greatest horror of all time, and Burnt Offerings is among the cream of the crop. With a cast of professionals including the legendary late Bette Davis as the wary Aunt Elizabeth, horror mainstay Karen Black, and prolific late Oliver Reed, the character development is top notch, making the increasingly stressed dynamic between the doomed family build up to a point of anxiousness that only great films can do. All of the themes of helplessness, haunting and a truly baleful old building are included. Also, as with all great horror films, Burnt Offerings does not rely on special effects or gore to translate some seriously scary stuff. Rather, the psychology of a haunting is portrayed through the family and other characters involved. If you have not seen Burnt Offerings, Halloween is a perfect night to schedule a viewing.
6. Salem’s Lot (1979 Original & 2016 Remake)
From fear-master Stephen King, Salem’s Lot is an excellent Halloween movie. A small town, a seriously haunted house, and vampires make Salem’s Lot a Halloween mainstay. It usually airs a lot in October too. Also, unlike most remakes of classics, the 2016 remake of the 1979 version is actually worth watching, featuring a likeable Rob Lowe, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer and one of my favorite underrated actors, Dan Bryd. The vampire-at-the-window scene in both of these adaptations is good, but the original is probably the most unnerving and unforgettable. You will likely find yourself closing the curtains on Halloween night after watching Salem’s Lot.
7. The Others
This period piece is reminiscent of Gothic ghost stories such as those penned by Victorian writers J. S. Le Fanu and Vincent O’ Sullivan. Set in post WWII England, The Others starts out profiling the poignant struggle of a war widow played by Nicole Kidman. She does a stunning job as a stressed, anxious yet strong and voraciously protective mother Grace Stewart to children, Anne and Nicolas, played by uber-talented Alakina Mann and the adorable James Bentley. As the storyline progresses, new characters are introduced who hearken a dark change for the family. The uncanny reappearance of Grace’s war-weary husband, played perfectly by Christopher Eccleston, is a clue to the state of existence in which the small family, now plus servants, are living. Ghostly footsteps, strange goings-on and the revelation of a dark secret make The Others an excellent Halloween choice.
8. The Exorcist
The Exorcist caused a stir when it came out in 1973, causing some movie-goers to pass out, others to flee theaters, flailing in fear. What could have caused such a reaction but one of the most graphic displays of a phenomena that most of us have a great fear of, whether a real thing or not: Being possessed by a demon, or maybe even the one and only Satan. Besides spewing green vomit and rotating her head 360 degrees, little Regan, played by a young Linda Blair, does other grotesque acts while consumed by the evil within her, among which are talking in different languages and doing obscene things with a crucifix. Add to the mix a young, well intentioned but self-doubting priest, Father Karras (played by the late Jason Miller) and an older, wiser priest, Father Merrin (Max von Sydow), with experience in the demon area, hence with a damaged heart, and you have an exorcism scene that is legendary. The Exorcist is not for the faint of heart and may cause sleeplessness! So then, it is a naturally prime selection for Halloween.
9. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
This movie may not be the most cinematically brilliant and is actually pretty campy, but it is pure Halloween and has a purely bizarre storyline that makes it perfect for Halloween viewing. A mustachioed Tom Atkins plays Dr. Dan Challis who stumbles upon a sinister plan, landing him in a whole big pile of witchcraft and Halloween masks. Halloween III: Season of the Witch includes all types of strange elements that make it one of a kind such as androids, killer-computer-chip Halloween masks, demented music & a crazy TV ad, Stonehenge and Samhain all accented with suspense and adventure as Dr. Challis tries to beat the bad guys. A twist at the end makes it even more memorable and should be reason enough to add it to your Halloween TV agenda (it plays all the time around Halloween).
10. House of 1000 Corpses
Rob Zombie truly understands horror and as a result, us lucky horror fans have House of 1000 Corpses to appreciate. You might not agree with me, but this movie has so many of the essential elements of horror all wrapped up into a darkly comic yet terrifying package. House of 1000 corpses tickles the bad horror movie bone by featuring the best of classic B-movie including a bunch of naïve young people, depraved clowns, terror rides, fried chicken, human taxidermy, an underground body locker run by a demon doctor, cold blooded murderers and a spooky old farm houseful of complete psychopaths. Oh, and it all takes place on Halloween. To me this movie is pure fun. It features the likes of Sid Haig as the strangely endearing yet psycho Captain Spaulding and Karen Black as the matriarch of one of the most twisted clans around. Not recommend for the kiddies, but if you like campy horror but still like to be scared, this movie is a honey, and the soundtrack is quite freaky as well.