Written by: Brian Paulsen
Copyedited by: Tara Kari
Halloween is growing ever closer and that means the season’s festivities are kicking into high gear. For some people, that means pumpkin patches and corn mazes. For others, it means costume parties. For me, it means watching horror movies. Horror media is one of the staples of the Halloween season here in the United States and, for many, gathering together and marathoning their favorites has become a time-honored tradition. It’s inexpensive, accessible, easy to organize and a nice way to get all your friends together for some fun. Whether you’re a horror movie enthusiast or a casual viewer, here are some of my favorite horror movies to watch during the Halloween season.
Alien is one of my favorite films. I could go on for pages and pages about the movie, its background, production, the art and design of the sets and the Xenomorph, etc. It has earned its status as a film classic and belongs on any Halloween movie list. The standout element of the film is its titular monster, the Alien. It’s a creature of pure, unfiltered malice, the kind of thing that only gets scarier the longer you think about it. A common (and frustrating) trope in horror is characters meeting their demise through illogical and idiotic behavior. This trope isn’t present in Alien and its absence only makes the film scarier. The characters are intelligent people whose decisions are understandable and rational, and yet, all their desperate planning and strategizing are no match for the Alien.
This slasher film was released during a time where horror movies had waned in popularity. Many people no longer considered the genre scary and horror movies during this period were often seen as immature and schlocky. Scream changed that, injecting new life into the genre and carrying it from the ’90’s into the new millennium. Its influence can still be felt today, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. Many of the tropes that young people are familiar with originated in this film, which may make it feel a bit stale by today’s standards. Still, the writing and acting are excellent and Ghostface (who is experiencing newfound popularity on Tiktok) is a compelling and unsettling villain.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Nightmare on Elm Street is directed by the same person as Scream, Wes Craven, so if you liked one, you’ll probably like the other. There are a few similarities between Nightmare and Scream; for example, both integrate horror and comedy very fluidly. However, I’d argue Nightmare is much scarier than Scream. The supernatural elements of the story elevate the stakes and make Freddy Krueger, the film’s dream-hopping antagonist, so much more terrifying. Its sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, also has the distinction of being one of the few horror movies with a male “final girl,” though it has almost no connection to the events of the first film.
No Halloween watch party is complete without Halloween. While not the first slasher film, Halloween is largely responsible for popularizing slashers and the horror genre in general. The score for this movie is fantastic, Michael Myers is a truly terrifying antagonist and the film fits the fall aesthetic perfectly, making it the perfect watch for the season. Pairing this film with its sequel, Halloween 2, makes for the perfect double feature. Beware of watching any further into the franchise, however. Halloween has a notoriously convoluted timeline.
Trick ‘r Treat
For our final entry to the list, I present Trick ‘r Treat. This is an anthology film that follows a set of disconnected characters living in an ordinary town and what happens to them one Halloween night. The one thread tying all these stories together is Sam, the burlap-sacked wearing figure who makes it their duty to enforce the rules of Halloween. As it takes place on Halloween night, Trick ‘r Treat fits the fall aesthetic perfectly. The different stories are varied in tone and premise and provide some truly surprising twists that I’m not even going to try foreshadowing. Just go watch them yourself, they’re that good.
This list is far from exhaustive. There are hundreds if not thousands of horror movies out there so if none of these suit your fancy, there’s bound to be something out there that will give you the chills and get you into the Halloween spirit. Happy watching and happy haunting!