October is the spooky season, and it’s the time of year when everyone gets much more interested in binging scary movies. For those of us who watch horror films year round, the Halloween season invites us to get a bit more creative in what we choose to watch throughout the month. With that in mind, here is a ranking of thirteen of the best movies that take place at least partially on October 31st.
Shot in a “found footage” style, The Houses October Built follows a group of friends as they take a road trip to find the most extreme haunt (aka haunted house attraction). Their path leads them to searching for a secretive group only referred to as Blue Skeleton. As their trip moves on, the friends start to suspect they’re being followed. Have they found Blue Skeleton, or has Blue Skeleton found them? The Houses October Built is sufficiently creepy, and the found footage aspect of it is used well to heighten the tension.
14. Hell Fest (2018)
Hell Fest is a bare-bones slasher movie with enough blood and violence to entertain those of us who have seen just about everything in the subgenre, but it’s not so gory that it remains inaccessible for wider audiences. In other words, Hell Fest is good Halloween entertainment for just about everyone. In the movie, a group of young people go to a haunted house theme park on Halloween night, and they end up being stalked and killed by a man in mask and hoodie. The characters fit into typical slasher film archetypes, and the real fun here is watching the kills play out while wondering if the reserved female lead, this movie’s “final girl,” can survive the night.
Eddie (Marc Price), who prefers the name “Ragman,” is a teenage metalhead obsessed with shock rocker Sammi Curr (Tony Fields). Eddie’s life is shattered when Sammi dies in a mysterious fire, but he is consoled when he is gifted a vinyl record of the only known copy of Sammi’s final unreleased recordings. Eddie discovers that Sammi Curr was into some dark and demonic practices, and his final recordings have the potential to resurrect Sammi so he can go on an electric-charged murder spree on Halloween night.
Trick or Treat is a fun supernatural horror movie with lots of 80s metal music. The British metal band Fastway did the music for the film, and plenty of other bands are featured in posters and photos (from Judas Priest and Megadeth to less well-known acts like Impaler and Exciter). On top of that, Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne make memorable cameos in the film.
Trick ‘r Treat is a horror anthology film containing multiple stories which are more or less self-contained. Stories include a murderous school principal, a local urban legend about a massacre on a school bus, a shy girl looking for a date for a party, and a home invasion by a child wearing a burlap mask. The stories aren’t kept completely separate like in other anthologies such as Creepshow (1982), and characters coming in and out of the stories show that everything takes place in the same general location on Halloween night. Trick ‘r Treat has a nice mix of horror and comedy, and it’s a bloody good time for a yearly viewing in October.
Christopher, a quiet and lonely man, finds a a discarded invitation to a Halloween party (referred to as a “Murder Party” on the invitation) while walking down a street. Like any normal person would do, Christopher builds a knight costume out of cardboard and goes to the party in a nondescript warehouse. To his very subdued surprise, Christopher is now the guest of honor at a party where a group of art students try to come up with artistic ways to kill him. Christopher’s night is spent tied to a chair while the incompetent art students discuss, debate, and fight about their art and their feelings. Also, there’s a lot of murder.
Ginger Snaps is a brilliant coming-of-age story about a teenage girl dealing with the effects of becoming a werewolf. Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and her younger sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are high-school outcasts who have a fascination with death and a pact to get out of suburbia or die. They are extremely close to each other, but on the night Ginger discovers she’s having her first period, she’s attacked by a beast and is doomed to turn into a wolf. Ginger’s body and personality begin to change, and Brigitte has a hard time dealing with her sister’s altered state. The situation builds to a climactic conflict on Halloween night.
On Halloween night, a scary clown in black and white clothes and makeup stalks a pair of young women after a long night of partying. The women become stranded when their tires are not-so-mysteriously slashed, and that begins a night of terror as Art the Clown brutally murders everyone he comes across. There’s not really much more to the story than that. That’s all you really need for a basic slasher movie though, and Terrifier is a great slasher with lots of blood and gore. The scary clown genre has been done to death, but Art the Clown’s look is so unique and intriguing that it helps the movie stand out from the crowd.
8. May (2002)
May Dove Canady (Angela Bettis) has never had any real friends. May was always made to feel different and weird by her peers, and as an adult she lives a solitary life with her only true companion being a doll made for her by her mother. May’s complete inability to understand and connect with the people around her leads her down a path of pain and violence as she tries to find a friend who will accept her for who she is.
May is a great psychological horror movie that gained a cult following after its initial release. The movie is full of obvious yet effective visual metaphors signifying May’s fragile mental state. The final sequences of the movie take place on Halloween, and the violence taking place on Halloween night is a superb contrast to the touching and sad drama building up to the film’s climax.
Though it unfairly received a lot of criticism for not being a Michael Myers movie (and not even a slasher movie), Halloween III: Season of the Witch truly is one of the best movies about Halloween. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy horror flick featuring magic, technology, and, most importantly, Halloween masks that kill children and cause bugs and snakes to crawl out of their faces. The film stars Tom Atkins as a doctor who is drawn into a murder mystery by the daughter of a man killed in the doctor’s hospital. Their search leads them to a quiet town that seems to be controlled by the mysterious Silver Shamrock novelty company, and the final act of the film is a race to save the lives of countless children on Halloween night before Silver Shamrock can enact its deadly plan.
House of 1000 Corpses is Rob Zombie’s bloody tribute to classic horror movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). After picking up a hitchhiker on the night of October 30, 1977, four people are taken to an isolated house owned by a demented family of serial killers. Over the course of the night and through the next day (which is Halloween), the young men and women are tortured and toyed with, becoming just the latest victims in the Firefly family’s history of violence. House of 1000 Corpses is a fantastically trashy horror movie featuring genre-film icons including Sid Haig, Karen Black, Michael J. Pollard, Bill Moseley, and more.
Terrifier 2 is bigger and deeper than the movie that preceded it, but they have one main thing in common: Art the Clown is chasing after a woman in costume on Halloween night. This time Art’s main target is Sienna Shaw, a young woman with a knack for making costumes. Sienna’s winged warrior costume contrasts with Art’s black-and-white demonic clown outfit, giving the movie a strong Heaven versus Hell vibe.
In a stylized version of Detroit on Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancé Shelly (Sofia Shinas) are murdered by a group of thugs working for the city’s crime boss, Top Dollar (Michael Wincott). One year later, Eric returns from the grave to embark on a two-day journey of revenge. The Crow stands out as one of the best Halloween movies by being different than many other films that take place over the holiday. Lots of Halloween movies are outlandish with their fun and scares, but The Crow‘s dark and gothic sensibilities help it to earn a unique spot among the holiday’s finest films.
Angela (Amelia Kinkade) is considered a creepy weirdo in school, but that means she would probably throw a great Halloween party. At least, that’s the reasoning done by a group of high schoolers who meet up with Angela and her friend Suzanne (Linnea Quigley) at an old, abandoned mortuary on the outskirts of town for a night of debauchery. Angela’s party games inadvertently awaken a demonic force though, and everyone must try to survive Halloween night without getting killed and/or possessed. Night of the Demons is gory movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, much like Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead (1981).
Scream VI contains some brutal kills and is a lot of fun, and its Halloween theme helps elevate it to a “yearly watch” status. Now living in New York City, sisters Tara (Jenna Ortega) and Sam (Melissa Barrera) are once again targeted by Ghostface. But now, in the Halloween season with Ghostface becoming a popular costume, the killer(s) could be anywhere and could strike at any time.
No Halloween-themed movie list would be complete without mentioning the best of the best, John Carpenter’s Halloween. The first film in the long-running series encapsulates the feeling of the holiday fantastically. It’s tense and scary in ways that many other Halloween related movies aren’t, and it achieves its effectiveness with a restrained approach to the horror.
As most of you reading this probably already know, the movie focuses on a babysitter, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), as she becomes the focal point of a series of murders on Halloween night. The basic premise is simple, but the movie really shines in the details. From the creeping fear, to the sharp music cues, to the film’s ability to tap into childhood fears in adult ways, Halloween deserves its spot as one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Good movies stick with people long after the credits roll, and Halloween has stuck with legions of people for decades. For these reasons and more, Halloween should be on everyone’s movie list for the month of October.