Every year on Halloween I host my own ‘HORROTHON'; a night where we watch horror movies from 3 in the afternoon till early the following morning, accompanied by a vat of pumpkin soup, home made toffee apples & plenty of booze refreshments.. I always spend quite a bit of time beforehand trying to plot the best order of films to screen in the same way a band tries to determine the perfect set list for a live show. The pacing, the tone, the content & the durations all have to be considered to make for a killer fun night & to get as many movies in as possible.. Yes, it’s serious stuff planning a horrific night.
So this year, When October kicked in, I decided to post a trailer every day in the lead up to Halloween of my 31 favourite movies to watch on that special night. It was interesting for me to try and pin-point specific horror movies from different eras that in my experience truly captured the spirit of Halloween, & so I decided on some basic criteria to aid my selection; you see these couldn’t just be a countdown of my favourite horror movies, because some of those, despite being the greatest films of the genre, for one reason or other don’t necessarily work great on Halloween.
My loose criteria for each one of my selected films goes something like this:
– Short run time & big thrills – a terrifyingly exciting party film!.. I want to cram as many in as possible.
– The atmosphere… It’s all about the setting, the lighting, generally takes place in the dead of night, in the woods or a dark house or feels autumnal.
– The ‘threat’ is monstrous, demonic or supernatural but not torturous – I like my Halloween movies to be eerie & scary & gory but not gruelling or bleak or plain out nasty.
– Extra points if its an original monster, double extra points if the FX are incredible, & practical…
– They don’t have to be lauded as the perfect film, they can be a schlocky gore-fest or a B-movie creature feature, so long as their heart was in the right place..
And that’s about it. So subsequently – some of my favourite horror films are missing from this list, but the ones I’ve chosen are here for a reason, and that reason is H-a-l-l-o-w-e-e-n & I strongly stand by each & every one of these films & I did my best to write a few words on each in order to explain why. I hope that if you are reading this you might discover one or two that you’ve never seen before & take a chance this Halloween & put one on at your own HORRORTHON..
Whenever possible I tried to choose my favourite trailer & image for each movie, all of which you can now check out below in one killer list..
So without further bloodloss… Please enjoy
31 MOVIES FOR HALLOWEEN.
Halloween Movie Countdown, Oct 1st.
#1. PUMPKINHEAD (1988)
“For each of mans sins a demon awaits”
A creature based folk-revenge horror, debut directed by practical FX pioneer Stan Winston. Its a darkly atmospheric fairy-tale of love, loss, vengeance & redemption starring Lance Henriksen with a great monster in Pumpkinhead & a perfect start to October…
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 2nd.
#2. THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985)
“They’re back from the grave and ready to party”
Inspired by the garish & nihilistic EC comics of the 40’s & 50’s this is a real party of a zombie horror flick with a great script & eclectic, imaginative & gorily glorious practical effects. It’s both hilarious & scary and is directed by Dan ‘writer of Alien’ O’Bannon. “Brrrraaaaiiiinnnnssss”.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 3rd.
#3. SALEM’S LOT (1979)
“Where evil thrives on evil… and feeds on human blood”
Back when vampires were actually scary, this creepy & atmospheric Stephen King adaptation directed by Tobe ‘Texas Chainsaw’ Hooper stars David Soul as a man returning to his small-town to discover scary-eyed vampires are making it their home. This was originally made as a pair of TV movies for the US but it makes for a decent watch with some inspired moments, particularly the terrifying scene with the boy floating outside his brothers window, scratching the glass to be let in…
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 4th.
#4. DEAD & BURIED (1981)
“It will take your breath away… All of it”
There’s a great mystery at the core of this creepy, deeply atmospheric & underrated movie in which the townsfolk of seaside town Potters Bluff are getting gruesomely offed one by one, only to return… Stand out makeup FX sequences by Stan Winston set it apart from the others, seek Dead & Buried out this Halloween!
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 5th.
#5. THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK (1972)
“Today the legend comes true.”
This mockumentary from Charles B Pierce, about a creature that lurks in the Arkansas swamps terrified me as a child & laid the roots for The Blair Witch Project. It’s still my favourite ‘bigfoot’ movie & the look of the twilight soaked crackly 16mm film accompanied by the often glitchy, sometimes out of synch soundtrack & ‘real interviews’ with the locals of Fouke, make for an authentic & eerie Halloween viewing, particularly the scene where the family cat is found ‘scared to death’.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 6th.
#6. CREEPSHOW 2 (1987)
“Tales of terror that will make your skin crawl.”
This American anthology horror & sequel to the original (& probably superior) Creepshow is comprised of three ghoulish stories; Old Chief Woodenhead, The Raft & The Hitchhiker, interlocked by neatly animated EC style comic-book episodes. Written by George Romero based on tales by Stephen King, it’s schlocky, cartoonish fun & the individual stories also work well as mid-Halloween movie marathon fillers.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 7th.
#7. PLANET TERROR (2007)
“Part of the double creature / feature from Rodriguez / Tarantino.”
Making up one half of the Grindhouse experience, Planet Terror is a garish, grotesque, grainy & gloriously gory roller-coaster ride of exploding zombies, psychotic surgeons, machine gun-legged-go-go dancers & an abundance of OTT insanely mutated murderous mayhem. Eg, a perfect Halloween Party movie.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 8th.
#8. THE MIST (2007)
“Fear Changes Everything”
Best viewed as it was intended in Black & White this is a tremendous 50’s B-Movie throwback played straight by Frank ‘Shawshank’ Darabount, written by Stephen King about a group of small town locals stranded inside a supermarket by a mysterious & deadly mist that contains something nightmarish & terrible. It has a great cast featuring Thomas Jane & Toby Jones & some wonderfully hideous Lovecraftian beasties… Although the true monsters may well be our own good selves…
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 9th.
#9. NIGHT OF THE DEMON* (1957)
“Chosen… Singled out to die… Victim of his imagination or victim of a demon?”
Adapted from an M.R James story, Jacques Tourneur’s gripping tale of a sceptic investigating a satanist who may have put a demonic curse on him has a stand out performance in Niall MacGinnis’s creepily jovial cult leader Dr Julian Kasswell & some imaginative effects as a demon gets summoned.. To be watched on Halloween afternoon whilst carving pumpkins.
*US title was Curse Of The Demon
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 10th.
#10. THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001)
“What is a ghost?”
Set in a boys orphanage in the middle of the desert during the Spanish Civil War this magnificent chiller is not your regular gothic ghost story. When Carlos the newest boy is stalked by the ghost of a murdered orphan he teams up with the other children & attempts to uncover the dark mystery & face up to his fears. The look & design of the film & the ghost itself is incredible & original. It’s my favourite Guillermo Del Toro movie.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 11th.
#11. THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987)
“You know who to call when you have ghosts.
But who do you call when you have monsters?”
This under appreciated gem is the horror equivalent of The Goonies, as a group of plucky kids save their town & the world from Universal monsters Dracula, Wolfman, Gillman, The Mummy & Frankenstein. It’s a ton of fun, written by Shane ‘Lethal Weapon’ Black & the sensational practical creature FX by Stan Winston. A scream for the Halloween kids.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 12th.
#12. PRISON (1987)
“Horror has a new home”
Eerie prison-set, supernatural horror starring a young Viggo Mortensen (in his movie debut). The vengeful spirit of an innocent man given the electric chair in 1964 returns to haunt the newly opened Creedmore prison, terrorising the violent inmates & the shady prison warden. Its a simple, dark effective premise & something of an underrated, stylish horror directed by Renny ‘Die Hard 2′ Harlin.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 13th.
#13. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009)
“Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend & a bright future. But in three days, she’s going to hell.”
Riotous demonic horror comedy from Sam Raimi. After a curse is placed on her by a shamed Romanian gypsy, an ambitious bank worker has 3 days to stop a demon from dragging her to hell! Raimi’s return to horror roots is Loony Toons in style & tone with echoes of Night Of The Demon & a joy to behold, indeed the audience screamed & laughed in equal measures when I saw this originally & that can only be a good thing for a Halloween screening.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 14th.
#14. FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
“If you love being scared, it’ll be the night of your life”
When he suspects a vampire has moved into the house across the street, Charley Brewster enlists the help of a jaded TV horror show host to help him battle evil. It’s wildly entertaining, with numerous impressive creature FX by Steve Johnston & darkly humerous performances from Roddy McDowell & Chris Sarandon as the imposing vampire next door. Perfect Halloween movie!
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 15th.
#15. HOUSE (1986)
“Ding dong you’re dead!”
Sharing the dark-humoured spirit of Fright Night & Evil Dead 2, House is a lesser-known schlocky-horror about ex-Vietnam vet Roger Cobb, who following the mysterious death of his aunt, decides to move into the strange old house he has inherited. But when things start to go bump in the night, Roger enlists the help of his nosey-neighbour to investigate the haunted vicinity & stop the monstrous evil lurking inside his closet from stealing his son… It’s a goofy & scary blast in equal measures & directed by Steve ‘Friday 13th’s/Lake Placid’ Miner.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 16th.
#16. THEM (2006)
“You’ll never feel safe in your home again”
A French couple move into a remote but idyllic country house in Romania only to be woken in the night by noises inside the house. It’s best not to know any more about this one as it’s simple, effective, paired down-to-the-bone stuff & in its own right a masterclass in building nerve-shredding tension & suspense. At just 74 minutes in duration this has to be one of the shortest horror features, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in sheer nerve-shredding terror that builds & builds throughout its brief runtime, making it a perfect frightener to screen as part of a double bill as we approach the middle of October.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 17th.
#17. TWILIGHTZONE THE MOVIE (1983)
“Wanna see something really scary?”
The first of two anthology ‘horrors’ for the weekend; Twilightzone The Movie features four otherworldly stories including one from Steven Spielberg, but it’s John Landis’ ghoulish intro starring Dan Ackroyd & Albert Brooks as a pair of friends driving through the night that gets the fear-ball rolling. Joe Dantes’ segment about a petulant boy tormenting his family in a nightmarishly cartoon house & George ‘Mad Max’ Millers hellish closing story about a paranoid plane passenger (played by John Lithgow) convinced there is a malevolent demon living on the wing of his night flight that make this worthy of Halloween fare.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 18th.
#18. TRICK ‘R TREAT (2009)
“If you don’t follow the rules tonight, you won’t live to see tomorrow.”
My second anthology horror of the weekend is this fantastic lesser known ode to the Halloween night. Four interwoven stories of murderous neighbours, undead children, costumed she-wolves & jack ‘o lanterns galore are linked together through appearances of a mysterious pint-sized pumpkin boy ‘Sam’ who deserves his own series & this darkly atmospheric Halloween treat a sequel. See it if you haven’t already.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 19th.
#19. A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 : THE DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
“If you think you’re ready for Freddy, you must be dreaming.”
Written by Wes Craven & Frank ‘Shawshank’ Darabount & directed by Chuck ‘The Mask/The Blob’ Russell, this is my favorite of the Elm St sequels. Taking on a lighter & almost fairy-tale-tone it’s sees the last of the Elm St children led by Kristen (Patricia Arquette in her movie debut) sharing group psychosis nightmares in a hospital ward for troubled teens. Harryhausen-esque stop-motion features amongst the notably imaginative & gory creature SFX sequences (by Greg Cannom, Mark Shostrom & Kevin Yagher) as Robert Englund’s wise-cracking razor-fingered dream demon sleep-stalks them one by one. Some great supports from Lawrence Fishburne, John Saxon & Heather Langenkamp’s returning ‘Nancy’ make this a fun, chunky rollercoaster ride, esp on Halloween.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 20th.
#20. RE-ANIMATOR (1985)
“Death is just the beginning.”
Adapted from an H.P. Lovecraft story this is a science-horror with a riotously wicked sense of humour. Med student Herbert West has found a way to bring the dead back to life by injecting them with his bright green ‘Re-agent’. As he begins to carry out a series of tests on dead specimens his arrogance & excitement knows no bounds. But when Dr. Hill, a jealous tutor intent on stealing his formula, intervenes, West struggles to remain in control of his walking dead, with increasingly disturbing & thrillingly gruesome consequences. Stuart ‘Dolls/From Beyond’ Gordon directed & like many others in my countdown, there are some fantastically imaginative & gory makeup FX on show here – they reportedly used 24 gallons of fake blood…
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 21st.
#21. THE FOG (1980)
“Bolt your doors. Lock your windows. Theres something in The Fog.”
Approaching the big night we’re into the final 10…
I’ve tried to keep my selection so far driven not only by some of my favourite horror movies, but more specifically by movies that best encapsulate the atmosphere & spirit of Halloween, or make a great party movie to watch on the wicked night. That said the final 10 are also some of the greatest horror movies of all time & naturally John Carpenter weighs in pretty heavily now.
With it’s ‘ghost stories read around the campfire’ opening, this eerily atmospheric supernatural spine-chiller about a heavy fog blanket descending on a coastal village bringing with it a boatload of vengeful ghostly mariners is a ghastly treat starring Jamie Lee Curtis & Hal Holbrook & goes down well with a bottle of spiced rum… Carpenter wrote, directed, scored. Please don’t confuse with the lacklustre 2005 remake.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 22nd.
#22. SUSPIRIA (1977)
“The Only Thing More Terrifying Than The Last 12 Minutes Of This Film Are The First 92..”
American ballet student Suzy Bannion enrols in a prestigious German dance academy surrounded by a dark ominous forest, but her arrival is accompanied by a series of gruesome murders & mysterious behaviour from the tutors suggest all may not be well behind the whispering walls of the school. Stylishly graphic & garishly rendered in anamorphic primary colours Dario Argento’s abstract Giallo classic could be the closest a filmmaker has come to capturing a nightmare on film. It also has a Halloween-tastic Goblin score, “Witch witch witch…”
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 23rd.
#23. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
“Think you know the story? Think again”
If you haven’t seen this before & want to watch an original modern horror film this Halloween I highly recommend, but don’t even watch the trailer. Giving away where this film goes spoils the unique experience, but needless to say it’s a rollickingly crazy ride & one of my favourite recent horror films. As the tagline goes… ‘Think you know the story?… It was written by Joss ‘Buffy/Avengers’ Whedon & debut-directed by Drew ‘writer of Cloverfield’ Goddard. It’s a thrilling, strange, witty & monstrously nutzoid blast. Also stars a young Thor.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 24th.
#24. THE OMEN (1976)
“You have been warned.”
As the night draws in & Halloween beckons… Following the death of his own newborn, US Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) adopts an orphaned baby that he names Damien. But on his 5th Birthday a series of disturbing events reveal the true nefarious identity of the boy with the 666 birthmark in his hairline.. Directed by Richard ‘Superman, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon’ Donner. The original & best Anti-Christ.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 25th.
#25. THE EXORCIST (1973)
“Nobody Expected It, Nobody Believed It, And Nobody Could Stop It. The One Hope, The Only Hope, THE EXORCIST..”
An awe-inspiring & terrifying supernatural horror film about a 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil & her mother’s desperate attempts to save her, resulting in an intense exorcism carried out by a pair of priests. Truly one of, if not the greatest horror movies ever made, (& first horror to be nominated for best picture Oscar) with stand out performances from Ellen Burstyn, Max Von Sydow, Jason Miller & Linda Blair, directed by William Friedkin from a book by William Peter Blatty this also has some of the most memorably macabre & exceptional makeup FX courtesy of Dick Smith. The atmosphere alone floors me every time. I love this film.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 26th.
#26. THE SHINING (1980)
“A masterpiece of modern horror”
Not just one of the greatest horrors of all time, but one of the greatest films of all time hands down. Stanley Kubrick’s psycho-supernatural masterpiece based on Stephen Kings story starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall & Scatman Crothers, concerns a haunted hotel & a family sent to caretake it over winter & a boy who can see dead-people. Everything about it is tense & unnerving & re-watching this trailer still makes my hair stand on end; the location, fluid camerawork, the score, the performances & the production design. For quality scares (what is behind door 237?…) you could do no better than to watch a double bill of this & the last entry on Halloween.
Halloween Movie Countdown, October 27th.
#27. THE LOST BOYS (1987)