All around the internet websites are making top 10 lists and best of articles for Halloween. I shall not be outdone! And as the self proclaimed Pumpkin King it is my duty to present you with the best movies to watch on Halloween! But where most places will simply give you a list of scary horror movies, I think we can do you one better. Halloween isn't all about the horror, it's lots of things rolled into one! It's kids and costumes, it's candy, it's pumpkins, it's spirits and monsters one night to return to this realm, it's adventure, it's staying up late, and it's that certain electricity in the air that ANYTHING can happen on this one magical evening! So why stick to horror? We can find these themes everywhere. So I decided to pick one film from each of our 12 genres plus one overall best for 13 spooky films to keep the Halloween spirit going during October. I'll be also reviewing each of these bests throughout the month, so consider this also a bit of preview of what's to come! So without further ado here is Tanked Matinee's 13 best movies to watch on Halloween! (Plus a few honorable mentions).
The Crow (1993):
This movie has it all. It takes place the night before Halloween, it's dark, has people coming back from the dead, has a guy in makeup, and a kid. It's just missing some pumpkins and candy and it could have been made the number one spot over all! Plus since Brandon Lee died during the filming of this great flick, every time you watch it it's like you really are letting him come back for just one more night! The film has garnered a bit of a cult following over the years and while it really reeks of the 90's at times, it's still solid film even now. Plus check out the sound track! From Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Pantera, to Stone Temple Pilots it's non-stop rock and roll!
Honorable Mention: Monster Squad (1987) – Think of this as the Goonies for Halloween. Bunch of kids saving the world from Dracula, Mummy, Frankenstein's Monster, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Wolfman! Really great movie for all ages, which is something I can't say for The Crow, so if you have kids in the house check out this option!
Let The Right One In (2008):
The tale of budding romance between two young kids in Sweden, this foreign film was a take on a novel of the same name. As you watch you find out some interesting things, such as the girl next door that Oskar is falling for is really a vampire! This movie can be odd and bloody at times, maybe even a bit disturbing, but the tale of love is one that grows from innocence and naivety, but in that is not marred by years of emotional baggage. It's beautiful in this way and you start to maybe wonder what made some of us so cynical when it comes giving our heart to someone. A great blend of “awww” and gross outs makes this, in my opinion, the perfect Halloween movie for the romantically inclined. You can also check out the decent American remake called Let Me In, made in 2010, if you don't want subtitles.
Honorable Mention: Corpse Bride (2005) – Sort of like earlier, this movie is one you can put on if the kids are around and not have to feel like you'll be spending thousands on therapy for them later on, unlike Let the Right One In. Here we have a young Victorian man by the name of, well... Victor... who accidentally proposes to a dead woman. Whoopsy! The corpse rises and claims Victor as her own. Dark in theme and imagery, this stop motion Tim Burton film is reminiscent of A Nightmare Before Christmas, and dances around the macrabre playfully so that kids can enjoy it with you!
Honorable Mention: I Married A Witch (1942) – Maybe you don't have kids around and you don't want something so bloody or weird as Let the Right One In. I still got you covered! This classic black and white film stars Veronica Lake as a witch who returns to life and accidentally drinks the love potion intended for her victim. A Romantic Comedy of days long past, this movie shows it's age, but has some great humor and a great tale of love conquering even spell casting vixens. You can actually find this gem on Hulu, so don't worry about it's age making it hard to come by!
Idle Hands (1999):
Anton is a stoner who lives the easy life until one day as Halloween approaches his hand becomes possessed by a killer spirit! He kills his best friends, one played by Seth Green in one of his first theatrical roles, who decide Heaven looks boring and rise from their graves to continue hanging out with Anton. Then he hooks up with a Druidic priestess to put an end to his hand, which he earlier chopped off and is now running amok in his home town. This movie is super funny in a dark way that is, again, definitely not for kids, but should be ok for teenagers. Set leading up to Halloween and even having a Halloween dance at the school this movie is a good laugh fest that keeps the holiday spirit close at hand.... get it? Close at ha... never mind.
Honorable Mention: Monster House (2006) – This computer animated feature is based on that one spooky old house with the creepy old man living in it we all had in our neighborhoods growing up. There were always rumors the place was haunted, right? But what if it wasn't haunted... what if it was ALIVE AND WANTED TO EAT YOU! This flick is great for kids and adults alike with some great laughs and ends with surprisingly a whole lot of heart. Based just days before Halloween it really makes you remember that one house we were all afraid to go up and ring the doorbell for candy!
Halloween: The Happy Haunting of American (1997):
If you're in the mood for something educational, but still holding true to Halloween, this is a pretty fun documentary. Basically it goes around talking about haunted houses of America and interviewing celebrities from horror movies and the like. Pretty simple premise, but really well done with lots of cool stories! Definitely check it out if this is your cup of tea.
Honorable Mention: The Haunted History of Halloween (2012) – This documentary aired on the History Channel, and it's not very good. But it's worth a watch for the absurdity and humor of it. It tries to come off as this historical perspective of how Halloween came to be what we know it to be today, but quickly takes a turn for Bible thumping scare tactic to demonize the holiday.
Troll 2 (1990):
Rated one of the worst films ever made, this story of a child on summer vacation who is tasked with protecting his family from the horrible goblins who... turn people into plants because they're vegetarians? Also, goblins? I thought this was called TROLL 2! Often quoted with the famous line “Nilbog is Goblin spelled backwards!” this movie is so bad on every level you can't help but laugh and have a good time at it's expense. While not really set around Halloween, the themes of kids and adventure and monsters are still present so make for addition to your All Hallow's Eve entertainment.
Honorable Mention: House (1986) - A cult classic horror comedy; this film isn't terrible, exactly, but it certainly isn't great. And ultimately what makes it so enjoyable are the ridiculous slap stick and rubber monster outfits. A Vietnam vet moves into his dead aunt's house which is supposedly haunted. He intends to finish writing a memoir about his times in Vietnam, but the house has other plans! This film is a poor man's Evil Dead 2, if you give it a watch you'll get exactly what I mean. This is a better film than Troll 2, which should have made these recommendations go the other way, but the only theme tying it into Halloween is the Haunted House and monsters. Troll 2 just feels more appropriate. House has slow pacing, but the longer you get into it the more laughs you'll have.
The quintessential giallo film by the famed director Dario Argento. I know many people think “How could you not put Carpenter's Halloween (yes, it's an exploitation film, NOT a horror film!)?! Well, because despite how great it is... it's over done. Everyone has watched this on Halloween at some time or another. It's just TOO easy of a pick. I'm not saying don't watch it, I'm just saying maybe it's time for some change? And Suspiria is GREAT change! Argento uses lots and lots of color in his scenes to evoke particular emotions instead of explicit dialogue or annoying violin soundtracks. The ambiance of this film is just breathtaking and nerve racking all at once! The story follows a young ballerina joining an academy of dance in Germany. She quickly gets caught up in strange supernatural occurrences and gruesome deaths all around her which she later learns is due to an ancient coven of witches that founded the school. Think Black Swan, but even more disturbing!
Honorable Mention: Blacula (1972) – The title says it all. This blaxploitation film from the early 70s is a paprody of the classic vampire story. If you love low budget jive talking vampires, this is for you! It's actually not a terrible film for what it is can be enjoyed both seriously and in poking a bit of fun at it (which it does to itself at times).
Night of the Demons (1988):
Another classic 80's horror tale set around teenagers and a Halloween party. See... who need's Carpenter for that? The kids decide to hold a séance that unwittingly summons a demon that was trapped nearby. It then possesses one of the girls and, in classic 80's horror fashion, everyone wanders around alone and get subsequently horribly murdered. It's cliché in every way, but that's almost what makes it so fun and entertaining to watch. The pacing is fast and campy 80's'ness of the whole thing in your face the whole time. People not accustomed to horror films will find some scares here, but most will simply be able to laugh and yell “don't go in there!” all night. I think that's the perfect sensation for Halloween; fun with just a little bit of scare mixed in.
Honorable Mention: The Changeling (1980) – A Canadian film based on supposed true events, this is another haunted house tale. Great ambiance and fantastic jump scares abound as main character John Russell finds that he is an unwanted guest in his own home. Eventually unraveling a dark secret surrounding the death of a child in the home, Russel sets out to set the spirit of the boy free by uncovering what really happened. Again, not actually set around Halloween, this picture still features ghosts, children, and spirits communicating with the living.
Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980):
Do you know how hard it is to find a martial arts film that has all the themes of Halloween?! Well, if you love old Chinese kung fu films and still want a bit of spookiness for the season, here you go! This picture was written, choreographed, directed by, AND starred Sammo Hung. It's totally cheesy in that old 70's and 80s Chinese movie way, but still super fun to watch. Hung throws in plenty of humor and there's some real talent in the choreography, though people who expect Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee will be disappointed. This film has zombies, witches, and possessions, oh my! The only thing this movie is really missing is kids and costumes (though that latter one can be argued) for it to be truly perfect for Halloween. But martial arts films aren't really known for being spooky, so I'll take what I can get!
Honorable Mention: Halloween Kung-Fu – Supposedly this movie exists. I've seen it in Google searches, but I couldn't find any reviews, any posters, any trailers, or any place to watch it. But you know, it sounds like it could be even better than Encounters of the Spooky Kind! Too bad it appears to be as ethereal as a ghost!
Sleepy Hollow (1999):
I know, I know... another Burton/Depp film on the list, but look they're REALLY good at doing dark and spooky, ok! You're lucky I didn't do Edward Scissor Hands! I saw this in theaters really thinking it wasn't going to be good, but wanting to give Burton the benefit of the doubt. Well, he actually pulls it off. This is a really great take on the Headless Horseman tale. It's one part horror story and one part crime mystery. Depp plays the famous Ichabod Crane who is an investigator with an eye for forensics. Think Sherlock Holmes, but more of a wuss. He hopes to uncover the murders in Sleepy Hollow by a headless rider in the night, unwilling to give into the superstitious tales that circulate the village. While not technically a Halloween story, the tale of the Headless Horseman has unofficially been adopted by many to be a sort of mascot for the holiday what with the Jack-O-Lantern for a head and all.
Honorable Mention: Scooby Doo on Zombie Island (1998) – It's Scooby and the gang and where the Mystery Machine goes, you KNOW there is a mystery to solve! Yeah, it's a kids movie. But that's ok. Maybe you have kids, this is great for them to watch. Maybe you don't, I'd still say give this a watch. In my adult life I've found classic Scooby Doo to be a bit trite, however this movie is the best story of the gang I've ever seen. It plays up a lot of the expectations the decades of previous cartoons build up to take you on lots of twists and turns that you don't see coming because it's always poking fun at itself. As witch all Scooby stories, this is a classic spooky who-done-it fit for all ages.
Donnie Darko (2001):
If you haven't seen this movie, you're failing at... something... life, probably. Set during the entire month of October and leading up to Halloween this is a story of the titular character of Donnie as he explores concepts of quantum mechanics and time travel from a dead guy in an evil bunny suit. Donnie knows something bad is going to happen, but he doesn't know what, who, how, etc. In his effort to stop the unknown event from happening he goes on a weird ass journey that brings him ever closer and closer to catastrophe. A brilliant script, great acting from a young Jake Gyllenhaal, and suitably disturbing soundtrack make this a must watch any time of year, just right now it seems a tad more appropriate!
Honorable Mention: Jason X (2001) – The tenth installment of the Friday the 13th series, this movie is this franchise's entry in the “Character in SPAAAAAACE!” idea that every major 80's horror series inevitably did. Why? I don't know, they were all terrible, and this is no exception. But we do have Jason Voorhees coming back from the dead and that is at least one theme for Halloween. Plus, it's so bad it's hilarious. One of the funniest things I've ever seen is Jason wrapping a naked girl up in a sleeping bag and then beating her against a tree nonchalantly. Yeah, that happens here. Plus Jason becomes all cyborg infused and... well... the movie goes to some just odd places. I figured I didn't include any traditional slashers anywhere else, so for the fans of those – here ya go.
WHAT THE @#$*?!
Essentially House in Japan, this is not to be confused with our earlier discussion of a movie with a similar title. I don't even know where to begin with this movie. Basically more haunted house stuff, but weird to the degree only Japan seems to know how to reach. We have ghost cats (not to be confused with Ghost Cat, the animal channel's made for TV movie), floating heads biting people in the ass, and the lead character spontaneously becoming a bunch of bananas. There's no real story here, exactly. It's just a bunch of junbled together things happening to the same people without giving any shits about time or place or reason at any given moment. This is the strangers God damned film ever, and it just so happens to also be perfectly themed for Halloween. So if you can find this, pop it in, sit back, and be ready to question every decision that ever brought you to sitting here watching Hausu.
Honorable Mention: Satan's Little Helper (2003) – A weird black comedy horror film about a young kid who, I'm also not entirely sure isn't mentally retarded, loves a video game about being Satan's Helper and doing terrible things to people. He then witnesses a masked murdered on Halloween kill some people, think's it's Satan, and wants to be his Helper like in the game. The premise could make for a truly frightening film, but the actuality is just weird and occasionally funny. Slowly, but surely, the film degenerates into wanting to be a metaphor for how video games desensitize kids to violence and make them unable to distinguish between the real world and that of the game; which ,I think, most of us sane adults know is all bullshit. As it progresses in this metaphor I found myself just laughing more and more at it, but not really with it as much as it would have liked. Not great, not bad, but definitely pretty weird. It's got every Halloween theme I can think of, so it'd be perfect for your holiday viewing!
OVER ALL BEST HALLOWEEN MOVIE!
Trick R' Treat (2007):
As far as I'm concerned this is the new Halloween anthem. This movie single handedly encapsulates everything Halloween is. An anthology of four stories that all take place on Halloween in the same town. We see adults, kids, teens, monsters, everything! And stories weave seamlessly together as we see characters from each moving in and out of the others. It's absolutely brilliant. Amongst it all it creates a new mascot. Forget Jack the Pumpkin King, forget the Headless Horseman, we now have Sam. He is a small child-like demon of Halloween who demands you uphold the spirit of the season or die in tribute to it! Costumes, demons, monsters, ghosts, tricks, treats, scares, laughs, seriously I can't think of a single element not here. I don't know what else to say without giving it all away. Pick this movie up, add to your instant queue somewhere, whatever... but save it Halloween night, you'll thank me.
In conclusion, I hope you guys check out some, most, or all of these films. There's reason to watch any of them and everyone has different tastes and need when it comes to movies. Just because it's Halloween doesn't mean horror movies should consume all your time, but I think it is great to get in to the mood remember what it's like to be a kid again and/or appreciate the darker parts of life we all must face and endure to become stronger people. I'll be posting reviews for “best” of each genre throughout the month, so stay tuned. Trick R' Treat I'll be saving for Halloween eve, but I think it'll be worth the wait. Thanks for reading all, and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!