October has an important holiday for fans of everything spooky, Halloween. Arguably the best way to celebrate is by watching the scariest and sometimes most gruesome movies from cult classics made decades ago to newer films coming out throughout the month. Here are 15 horror movies that you have to see by the time Halloween comes around.
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#15: Halloween (1978)
By the time this comes out, the reboot/sequel will not be out yet. While I am excited about the new movie, I can’t wholly recommend it right now.
Until then we have the original, which I just saw for my first time recently. Michael Myers remained to be creepy and a relentless force that kept the movie together. While the classic slasher is dated by some of the more intense scenes, plenty of elements hold up wonderfully, or in this case, terrifyingly. Subtle moments such as Michael watching Laurie then disappearing were disturbing. He is just a man but manages to be so much more.
#14: 28 Weeks Later
While the first film, 28 Days Later, should be seen, I prefer the sequel. I know that is an unpopular opinion, but I feel the story is more compelling with more excitement than the first film. A family is trying to survive as the military is doing their best to contain the rage virus, all hell breaks loose. Along with the brutality and intensity, the theme song to the series is one of the best in horror history. Once the tune starts, you know trouble is coming.
Many fans of the genre are divided on the Saw franchise. I love the first few films, and I will still watch the later trashy entries. The first is full of the best twists along with enough simplicity that makes it perfect. The others go overboard with their stories and traps. Here you get a concise story that has its surprises and enough violence to satisfy bloodthirsty fans.
#12: Dawn of the Dead (2004)
I said it before in another list, and I will repeat it, the remake of Dawn of the Dead is so much better. Better pacing and overall better ending help to outshine the George A. Romero classic. The film has the best opening credits of all time easily with the world collapsing and Johnny Cash’s When the Man Comes Around as its soundtrack. While there are glaring flaws with Zach Snyder’s take on the iconic zombie flick, he nails so much right.
#11: The Thing
John Carpenter’s classic is my favorite horror movie of all time. While there are plenty of great vintage films out there, many tend to feel out of date in some areas. The Thing is a masterpiece that holds up with its incredible practical effects and acting. Full of suspension as you wonder which form the alien has taken as the crew is driven to madness. Paranoia stricken scientists are at each other’s throats in fear that their colleagues are a creature that will rip them apart. The film is a classic that will satisfy fans who want suspense or extreme violence. Carpenter delivers everything you could want.
#10: Green Room
Some of these movies may not scare you, but that does not take away from their quality or level of horror. Green Room may lean towards a crime thriller in many aspects, but from the terrifying performance by Patrick Stewart and one of the final performances from the late Anton Yelchin, you get some phenomenal acting in this low budget film.
A punk band stuck in their green room after discovering a murder. The venue is a front for a group of Neo-Nazis who need to take care of the band who witnessed the killing. The story is full of relentless intensity and some of the hardest to watch brutality you will ever see. A physical and emotional rollercoaster that will rip you limb from limb, it is impossible to resist Green Room once you start.
#9: Let Me In
Here is another divisive entry. I could have listed the Swedish film, but I did not see that one, I saw the American version directed by Matt Reeves who is a brilliant director. The other controversy with choosing Let Me In is that in many aspects it is not necessarily a horror movie. At least you can debate it, but the film is staying on the list.
The most moving entry on the list by far. The real horror of the film is not the vampire, but the trauma that can be inflicted upon such a young boy by his wretched home life and ruthless bullies. The troubled boy befriends a strange girl, who turns out to be a vampire. For those who have never seen or heard of Let Me In or the original film based on the novel of the same name, Let the Right One In, you may wonder how this is any good. Watch for the emotional story, and you will see. Along with some fantastic development of characters and their relationships, there is plenty of violence to make people happy who want to see some death.
#8: The Shining
While the film and novel by Stephen King are entirely different, the film manages to be a beloved classic. Despite Stephen King hating it, many fans and critics will say how much they adore the film. Jack Nicholson delivers his best performance to date, partially due to Stanley Kubrick being too much of a perfectionist. The film had its issues due to Kubrick being incredibly difficult to work with, especially for Shelley Duvall (you can look up the trauma she had to endure on YouTube). What Kubrick managed to deliver is a psychological trip full of physical and emotional violence. To fully explain the events during the film’s final act would be too difficult, but the confusion adds to the insidious masterpiece that manages to shine just as bright despite being 38 years old.
#7: The Cabin in the Woods
A mix of horror and comedy, The Cabin in the Woods is the modern equivalent of Evil Dead. The two tones of comedy and horror have an impeccable balance. Fans get goofy characters that are meant to be stereotypical along with plenty of jabs at classic horror movie tropes. The scary side unleashes every killer and monster idea imaginable along with being a complete bloodbath in the most literal sense. If you need to catch your breath with something fun, there is not a better choice than Drew Goddard’s brilliant horror-comedy.
Another older film that holds up well. A few moments while watching don’t hold up as well, but 99% works just as well 39 years later. The audience not seeing the alien in its entirety for over an hour is a genius move that creates mystery and horror about the creature. Alien and Jaws set something that many modern movies fail to do. Having a balance with pacing tends to be the problem, but Ridley Scott makes every minute valuable. Along with its pacing, the film manages you to rarely feel safe. Once the chestburster is loose and starts to grow into the Xenomorph, you will be on the edge of your seat.
Sadly, after the first two films, the rest of the franchise goes down in quality. Maybe we will get a sequel that is just as good as Alien or Aliens.
#5: Get Out
Jordan Peele’s debut with Get Out blew me away. The film is one of the best from 2017. A genius thriller that perfectly balances many tones on one plate. Peele delivers horror, violence, psychological trips, comedy, and a rarely discussed side of racism. The movie even does something we never see, it puts the TSA in a positive light.
#4: IT (2017)
While I thought the horror aspects could have been stronger, IT delivers a great adaption from Stephen King’s classic book and a facelift to the beloved tv series (that is beyond out of date). The strength is found in its characters and acting. Bill Skarsgard as the evil clown was disturbing and phenomenal. All of the kids in the Losers’ Club are fantastic. Child actors get some flak, but the casting choices with Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Wyatt Oleff, and Jaeden Lieberher are perfect. With a sequel on its way next year, I am beyond excited.
#3: Train to Busan
A South Korean zombie film that takes place on a speeding train is the premise of Yeon Sang-ho’s gory flick. The zombie genre has had its ups and downs, and Train to Busan manages to be a shining star in the genre. A man is trying to protect his daughter during a zombie outbreak when a trip to Busan turns into a nightmare. Imagine 28 Days Later styled zombies with the cultural significance from South Korea. The film is full of constant intensity and some social commentary to rise above the rest of the million other undead films out there.
A Spanish found footage zombie movie, that is precisely what you are getting with REC. America made their adaptions with the two Quarantine films, but the Spanish original is excellent. The film is easily the best found footage movie I have ever seen. The genre of the shaky camera and the distorted sound is not for everyone, but if you can handle it, then you won’t want to miss out.
A reporter and her cameraman follow along a team of firefighters for a special about their careers. Once they get a call to a distressed woman at an apartment building, the cheery tv special goes down a dark road. A zombie outbreak occurs, and everyone is trapped inside the building with the flesh-eating monsters.
I rarely find zombie films scary, but the mix of the POV and a twist on how zombies react, REC manages to be a horrifying movie. Maybe leaning on a more uncomfortable and disturbing side of scary, but is easily one of the most terrifying films on this list.
#1: It Follows
An admittedly silly premise, It Follows executes its idea excellently. A creature that slowly follows until it kills its target unless you have sex with someone. Yes, having sex will save you in this movie. However, the film is not full of sex and violence. The focus is more on the characters, a group of teenagers and leaving the audience in suspense as you get teased about where the threat is located. The monster has its own rules like many classic horror movie monsters tend to have. The film handles giving the audience questions and answers in a way to lead through the bizarre story.
Hundreds of amazingly terrifying horror movies are out there over the years. I only managed to scratch the surface with 15 choices. What are some of your favorite scary movies to watch during the Halloween season? Are you going to watch anything from this list, if so then which ones?
Header image via A24