With Halloween right around the corner and normal festivities not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better way to celebrate the spooky season than with some movies. With so many films to choose from, this is in no way a complete list of the best Halloween movies, but these recommendations should provide some options for those who want scares, thrills or laughs.
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999), the movie that sparked the sub-genre of “found footage” horror movies, follows three film students who venture into the woods of Burkittsville, Maryland to find the fabled Blair Witch, a witch who was rumored to terrorize the forests. One year later, with no sign of the students, all that remains is the footage they shot, which was compiled and turned into a movie. The producers of the film advertised it as entirely unedited and even included missing posters of the movie’s three supposedly “real” characters on the internet. The inventive film uses its simplicity to draw the audience in and delivers a terrifying payoff. The movie can be rented or bought on Amazon, YouTube or iTunes.
Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror “The Shining” (1980), is set in a remote hotel where writer Jack Torrance is hired as the off-season caretaker. What ensues is the psychological torment of Torrance, which sends him down a dark and violent path. His son discovers a psychic gift called “the shining” that shows him horrible visions of the hotel’s past and future. Kubrick keeps the audience guessing and scared, making the nearly 2.5 hour run time suspenseful and enjoyable throughout its duration. As with “The Blair Witch Project,” it can be rented on Amazon, YouTube or iTunes.
Honorable mentions: “Get Out” (2017), ”Us”(2019), “Night of the Living Dead” (1968), “Poltergeist” (1982).
Perhaps the quintessential psychological thriller, “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991) follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling and psychiatrist-turned-cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter. With a new murderer to catch, Starling is sent to talk to Lecter, who is believed to have insight that could help catch the new killer. What follows is a mesmerizing movie that thrills and scares without relying too heavily on blood and gore. It is available on Netflix or Showtime.
A classic thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, “The Sixth Sense” (1999) takes place a year after child psychologist Malcolm Crowe is confronted by an angry ex-patient, causing Crowe to shut down his practice. Now, he has taken up his first new client: a boy who claims to have a psychic gift. The film is equal parts mystery and thriller and manages to keep the viewer on the edge of their seat. It can be rented on Amazon, iTunes and YouTube.
Honorable mentions: “Psycho” (1960), “A Quiet Place” (2018).
A horror-comedy with a social message, “Ready or Not” (2019) follows a bride, Grace, who could not be happier on her wedding day, which takes place on her groom’s luxurious family estate. However, her joy fades into horror as she is informed she must play a terrifying game of hide and seek. Giving a clear critique of the upper class, the movie delivers horror and humor with little nuance in the best possible way. “Ready or Not” is available on HBO.
Shot like a documentary, “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014) tells the tale of three old-world vampires struggling with life in the modern world. Viago, Deacon and Vladislav struggle with avoiding sunlight, paying rent and keeping up with the chore wheel. It is a fun and hilarious take on the classic vampire movie, and with the only gore and violence being played for laughs, it should be enjoyable for even the most squeamish of audiences. It is available to rent on Amazon, iTunes or YouTube.
Honorable mentions: “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” (2010), “Young Frankenstein” (1974).
This list would not be complete without mentioning “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975). With a plot so ridiculous that it cannot be summed up in just a few sentences, the movie is perfect for those looking to laugh, sing and, above all, have fun. It is a movie best watched with friends — social distanced of course — and can be rented through Amazon, iTunes and YouTube. Keep an eye out for drive-in theaters that might be showing it.
Other cult classics: “Halloweentown” (1998), “Beetlejuice” (1988).