It’s a terrible time to be a busy horror fan. Our friends all have endless amounts of energy and are currently killing us with their 31 Days of Halloween Watch-a-Thons. They fill our Twitter feeds with screenshots of their nightly watches and force us to hate-like their posts out of raw jealousy. If you are anything like me and absolutely cannot keep up with their spooky schedule, you start to feel the Halloween spirit drain from your body. This is the one time a year where it’s socially accepted to be a Horror Freak, and you feel like less of a fan if you can’t hold up your end of the bargain.
I get it. You’re talking to the busiest man on Earth. When you combine day jobs and kids and family obligations with second jobs, third jobs and trying to find a few hours at night to sleep, there’s no way you will be able to keep up with their watching habits. I’m here to tell you that we here at Pixel Elixir completely understand and are here for you. It’s okay to not fill your calendar with 31-40 titles to watch this year. You only really need the necessities. So, we've compiled a list of 10 Must-Watch movies to help you keep your Halloween spirits high all October. There’s no schedule, no order, no rules. Just find a way to get these ten films in front of your eyeballs and you'll have a spooky Halloween, guaranteed.
This list doesn’t include the staples. There’s no Halloween, The Exorcist or Nightmare on Elm Street to fill in the rankings. We didn’t include these classics because if you’re anything like us, you watch them all year long no matter the date. The films below are the ones that you may not watch year-round but are necessary to get you in the Halloween spirit. So, pull out your planners and make time to watch these ten films right away!
Ernest did a lot of things in the 80s and 90s. He went to camp, saved Christmas, went to jail, joined the Army, went to school and even found the time to slam dunk. None of these adventures meant as much to us Horror Freaks as when he was Scared Stupid back in 1991.
This silly family film sees Jim Varney’s Ernest battle an evil troll named Trantor who has been released from his prison beneath an old tree. Ernest and his friends must find a way to stop Trantor and his minions before he turns the entire town into wooden dolls. It’s a perfect Halloween movie for the kids and has enough scares for the adults to enjoy as well. It also has a very pro-milk message running throughout the film. So, if you're really into calcium, you’re in luck!
Night of the Demons is a movie that I slept on for far too long. People always told me that I needed to watch it, but I’ve never been known to listen very well. It took me until this summer, my 33rd on this mortal coil, to finally rent this film. Don’t be a Tyler. Be an awesome person and throw this movie on tonight!
Aside from the cheesy 1980s party attitudes and blatant stereotypes, Night of the Demons delivers on all the Halloween goodies. It has beautiful people, amazing dance moves, demonic presences and an interesting tutorial on lipstick application. I expected camp when I watched this movie, but what I didn’t expect were the scares. Night of the Demonshas a ton of truly disturbing makeup effects and dread-inducing horror sequences. It’s 100% Halloween, and I couldn’t love it more.
Watching that trailer again made my blood run cold. It takes me back to the first time I watched this film (when I had to shut it off and finish it during the daytime...please don’t tell anyone. It’s embarrassing). There are bigger horror films out there, but there are few that create the same sense of dread as Ti West’s House of the Devil.
Some people call it “slow”, but guess what? They're wrong. This film delivers on all of the promises it sets up in the first half with a gonzo payoff and truly terrifying visuals. The entirety of House of the Devil is a masterclass in anticipation and dread. You have an idea of what’s coming, but there’s nothing you can do to stop its slow approach. Although this film doesn’t take place on or around Halloween, it still needs to be on every Horror Freak’s list of Must-Watches in October.
As someone who routinely dressed up as Snoopy for Halloween, there are few television specials that touched my heart as much as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This television program from 1966 is one of the most wholesome, pure, and nostalgic programs you can watch to get ready for the Spooky Season. One viewing of this show will have you out hanging decorations and buying candy in no time.
It’s ok, as adults, to believe in something as strongly as children do. Linus is absolutely sure that the Great Pumpkin will appear, and even his eventual disappointment immediately turns into hope. It’s a lesson we can all take away from Halloween and apply to our everyday lives. Sitting alone in a freezing pumpkin patch all night might not be the smartest thing to do, but doing it and failing to see the Great Pumpkin isn't the end of the world. There’s always next year, you know?
We initially saw trailers for Trick ‘r Treat back in 2007. It was set for an October release that year, but it was pulled (by someone who probably lost their job) and released on video TWO WHOLE YEARS LATER! It is a travesty that this film didn’t receive the theatrical run that it so richly deserves, but it has become an all-time favorite of all Horror Freaks and helped launch a new icon in Sam.
Trick ‘r Treat is one of the best Halloween films of all time. I place it behind only a few of the Halloween installments themselves in my pantheon of Samhain Screeners. It seamlessly combines four separate tales of horror into one film that focuses on the “rules” of Halloween. We all know that these “rules” don’t really exist, but be sure to at least write them down. Just in case.
This film is high on both my “I love it” and my “I hate it” lists. I love it because it is a special film that scared me half to death with good, old fashioned terror, and I hate it because some of its visuals still enter my head when I’m trying to fall asleep. It’s been over a year since I first watched it, and it still haunts me to this day.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe, which mostly takes place in the basement of a funeral home, does more with its time and budget than some blockbuster horror films do with twice as much of both. It has an incredibly creepy and fascinating central story and it allows you to play detective alongside these characters. You sit on your couch and try to figure out who this woman is and why she was so brutally murdered. If you do this at night, I guarantee that your feet will be up off the floor and your eyes will be covered by the end of it.
I no longer feel like I have to defend my love for this film. For many years after its release, people had to explain how they could love a Halloween film with no Michael. They used to laugh, oh how they used to laugh and mock. That isn’t the case anymore. Film fans of all types have finally come around to the idea that what Tommy Lee Wallace did back in 1982 was decades ahead of its time and will go down as one of the absolute best in the franchise.
With horror anthologies like American Horror Story, Channel Zero and Castle Rock dominating the television game, it’s easy to get in line with the idea of a Halloween anthology. People in the early 1980s didn’t have the same mindset, however, so this film went criminally underrated for a long time. I’m here to tell you that there is no finer Halloween film out there, and it is the perfect way to spend your Halloween night. In fact, we love this movie so much, we even made this enamel pin, inspired by Halloween III and the proverb of the Three Wise Monkeys.
The Monster Squad is by far the best of the “Kid’s Halloween Movies that Adults Love More than the Kids” films. It is funny, spooky, and surprisingly heartfelt for a movie about a group of friends trying to murder monsters.
This film has given us so much joy over the years. From “Wolfman’s got nards” to the awesome “Stephen King Rules” shirt Sean wears throughout the film, The Monster Squad has spooked generations on Halloween night. Make sure that you add it to your list so that your kids can feel the same love for Universal Horror Monsters and Michael Sembello’s “Rock Until You Drop” that you did growing up.
I know, I know… This movie is “terrible” and signaled the downfall of Rob Zombie’s film career. It was overwrought and lacked any scares. You’re wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. There's just no other way to put it - you’re wrong. RZ’s The Lords of Salem is my second favorite of his films and deserves a second watch using today’s eyes.
It is beautiful. It is haunting. It is a fever dream of possession and destruction. I enjoy this film a lot (if you couldn’t tell) and its theme and setting make it the perfect October watch. If you haven’t watched TLOS since 2013, do yourself a favor and try it again. If it were released today by anyone not named Zombie, its gorgeous aesthetic and slow burn would be hailed as groundbreaking and important. Try it again this Halloween season. You won’t be sorry.
This 1963 classic finishes off our list in perfectly spooky fashion. Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s superb novel The Haunting of Hill House, this version is the haunted house film to end all haunted house films. Even with the restrictions placed upon it by its time, The Haunting has become a classic tale of obsession, possession, and unreliable narration.
With its long hallways and innovative camera techniques from director Robert Wise, The Haunting keeps you off balance from start to finish. The film is almost warped by the house itself, and you feel the same disorientation that the characters do during their stay. The ghosts of Hill House roam the halls, bang on doors, and scare the living daylights out of anyone watching. Give this classic a chance this Halloween and then try to not stare at your closed bedroom door all night.
MANDATORY BONUS SELECTIONS:
If you’re in the mood for one of the best independent horror movies of all time, then make time to watch WNUF Halloween Special this October. This film is Halloween personified, and the people behind the film are some of the finest people in the horror community. It takes you back to the late 80s and reminds you why you fell in love with horror in the first place. It’s funny, it’s spooky, and my Halloween season wouldn’t be complete without it.
There you have it, Freaks! These 10 (plus two mandatory bonus selections) movies are the Must-Watch films you need to make room for this Halloween Season. Even if you are as busy as a bee and can’t keep up with those other Halloween Watch-a-Thons, you can still have a perfect October! Just follow this handy guide and you'll be in the Spooky Spirit in no time! What are some of your other staples that you absolutely have to watch every October? Hit us up on Twitter @pixelelixir and let us know!
Tyler Liston is a contributor for Pixel Elixir and lives in the Midwest with his wife and son. He's staying up late for the Big Silver Shamrock Giveaway on Halloween night.