Halloween and Samhain have always been some of my favorite times of the year. The trees and plants are beginning to prepare for winter. The weather turns cool and crisp, at least hopefully it will since that’s not a guarantee in the American south.
When the weather starts changing and the autumn vibes start to take hold, for some reason it feels like the perfect time to kick back and watch some horror movies.
So, I present to you some of my favorites that I frequently visit around this spooktacular time every year!
PS: This list is in no particular order, and I tried to put some less predictable entries into this list.
Not only is this one of my absolute favorite movies to watch during the Samhain season, but it’s also one of my favorite overall movies. This movie sets the standard, in my mind, for what makes a great slasher film. This film establishes a foundation for the genre while not taking things over the top like many of its predecessors.
For example, there is very little gore in this movie. It’s truly scary in more of a conceptual way. The central antagonist of the film is incredibly ambiguous and is even referred to as simply “The Shape” in the closing credits.
Trick r Treat
I remember when I worked at Blockbuster and the movie 300 came out on DVD. One of the big selling points was that it contained the long-awaited trailer for a movie called “Trick r Treat.”
I remember watching the trailer and being absolutely blown away. A few years later when the movie itself was released on DVD, my expectations were far exceeded. I turned to Aurora Moone and said, “oh we are watching that again!”
This movie is centered around several small stories that end up being interconnected revolving around happenings in a small town on Halloween night. The central character is Sam who acts mostly as an observer of the going ons and almost like an enforcer of the rules of All Hallows Eve. This is a super fun movie and usually the one that kicks off the season for me.
I grew up on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice so naturally, I gravitate toward Tim Burton films. (Yes, I know NBC wasn’t directed by Tim Burton).
So when I was old enough to watch Burton’s adaptation of the Washington Irving classic, I was instantly hooked. I’m pretty sure I wore out my original VHS copy from watching it so many times. While it’s highly stylized like any other Tim Burton film, this one feels the most grounded in a believable reality, other than maybe Big Fish.
I mean, who doesn’t love a good haunted house/ghost story movie?! James Wan takes the real-life events of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s case of the Perron family haunting and turns it into a really interesting visual journey.
For many, including myself, this was the first encounter with the story of the Warrens; it does a fantastic job of building and developing characters that you truly care about and want to see them make out of their situation.
While the Warrens were very outspoken against the occult and witchcraft (understand that at that time there wasn’t a lot of available information so it’s understandable to an extent) I still find the films of The Conjuring universe very enjoyable, particularly the first two Conjuring films.
If you are a fan of horror films that are incredibly atmospheric and artistic, you probably know the works of A24. If not, definitely check out this gem.
This film centers around an outcasted puritan family that finds a new home and quickly begins dealing with strange happenings that continue to escalate and fragment the family at its core. One of the most interesting pieces of the film is the period-accurate clothing and dialogue.
As a bonus, if you are a fan of metal, particularly doom metal, this movie is really fun to watch on mute while listening to Bell Witch’s masterpiece song Mirror Reaper.
I’ve always been a fan of the original Tim Curry version of IT, but once this version came out, I became obsessed with the story of the Loser’s Club and their battle with the entity known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
This adaptation of Stephen King’s novel does a great job of crafting a very modern take that keeps a lot of the same ideas of the original story but creates an appeal to fans of stories like Stranger Things. I’m not the biggest fan of IT: Chapter Two but that’s an entirely different rant.
House of 1,000 Corpses
This movie has the biggest potential to be a bit touchy for folks reading this list who aren’t huge fans of horror movies. Rob Zombie’s first adventure into film is incredibly polarizing. If this movie came out today as opposed to when I was a teenager, I’m not sure I would like it as much as I do because this is a very nostalgic film for me. There were several years where my best friend and I kept this DVD on repeat.
For those that haven’t seen it, this film is a bizarre dive into a home of a serial killer family by a traveling group of 20-somethings. It’s definitely incredibly graphic, a bit touchy topically, and incredibly artsy. There are several sections that just don’t seem to make sense from a traditional storytelling perspective. At the same time, Zombie himself has talked at length about how difficult it was to make this movie with the studio which is a big part of why it’s so disjointed.
But, at the end of the day, it introduced the world to Captain Spaulding, and that’s good enough for me!
Night of the Living Dead
If you are a fan of zombies and haven’t seen this film, you are truly missing out. Most consider this the movie that established the modern-day zombie and their rules.
On the surface, George A. Romero’s zombie masterpiece created a genre that gave us the ability to have shows like The Walking Dead. Under the surface, there is a lot this movie has to say about society and race relations in its time. Plus, with the way the copyright is on this film, you can find it pretty much anywhere to watch so it’s an easy choice for any Halloween party.
Much like House of 1,000 Corpses, this movie is incredibly nostalgic for me. I think this was the first rated R horror movie I ever watched at my friend’s birthday party.
I remember being blown away by the overall concept of a creature terrorizing a town to achieve its goal (trying to not spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film). I’m not the biggest fan of the following sequels of this movie but this first one is certainly something special.
In recent years, this film has been somewhat blacklisted for the actions of its creator so I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to support this film but if you are okay with separating the art from the artist, I highly recommend this film.
Interview with the Vampire
If you are a fan of vampires that don’t sparkle (sorry for the dated jab at Twilight), then this is the vampire movie for you. This adapts Anne Rice’s first novel in the Vampire Chronicles series focusing on Louis and Lestat with their implied romantic relationship as the centerpiece of the story.
I’ve always loved how this movie deals with the themes of a vampire being reluctant to kill, toxic relationships, and searching to find one’s self.
For my money, along with Dracula (1931), this is a necessary watch for any vampire enthusiast.
It’s hard to not include all the original Universal Monster movies on this list since they are all absolutely brilliant, especially in the context of the time they were made. Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon are some of my favorites, but since I’ve already covered vampires with Interview with the Vampire, I figured speaking to Frankenstein would be a good choice.
When people have a visual of Frankenstein’s monster, most commonly known as simply Frankenstein, they are thinking of Boris Karloff’s interpretation of The Creature from Mary Shelly’s original novel. So if you think of Frankenstein as a gigantic green monster with a flat-top head and bolts in the neck, you are thinking of this version of the character.
I’ve always loved how this film speaks to the outcast of society that just wants to fit in but people just can’t see what’s there underneath the surface. I think as witches, a lot of us can relate.
James Wan gets another nod on my list with this film which came after the first three Saw movies. This was Wan’s first major departure from the torture style he became known for with the Saw films and moved more into the supernatural.
One of the major components of this film is everything going truly silent during the supernatural bits so I would say that seeing it in Theaters or with a really nice sound system is the way to go. I remember seeing this in theaters when it was initially released and was blown away by the sound design of the film.
I don’t scare easily but the way this movie played with sound got to me a bit for a couple of days after seeing it.
Freddy Vs. Jason
I tried my best to not put something predictable like Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street but I couldn’t resist giving Freddy and Jason the respect they deserve.
Now, while this film is not considered one of the best of either franchise, it’s super fun and kind of gives you the best of both worlds at once. If you want to watch a movie this Halloween that has horror elements but is not exactly scary, this is the movie for you.
I hope this list gives you some ideas for movies to watch this Halloween season. I’m always looking for new movie recommendations so I would love to know what movies you think are essential for Halloween viewing.
Tag @plentifulearth on Twitter and use #peHalloween with your lists or what your favorite movie from this list is.