Halloween is creeping up soon, and the best way to get into the mood for Halloween is to torment and indulge your senses (for all you horror junkies out there, we see you!) But for the faint of heart, we’ve still got you!
This list includes family-friendly Halloween movies that are guaranteed to be a light-hearted antidote to the campy and often nightmare-inducing films that we have put on this list, just to spice up your October scares.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Let’s start off with something light-hearted.
Often movies can create entirely new worlds for us. Tim Burton and Henry Selick have certainly created a stop-motion delight that is both haunting and strange. The film gives us a glimpse into the different towns that are based on individual holidays, like Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day. The main course is without doubt, Halloweentown.
We are introduced to Jack Skellington the mayor of Halloweentown, a misfit who desires to bring the joy of Christmas he feels to the rest of the world, but is cursed with a spooky personality fit only for Halloween. With the amount of detail put into crafting these towns, each having their own distinct personality, furniture and energy of their own, the audience feels the care and detail that was put into the making of the structure. The result: a magnificent unique and gothic world. Coupled with music by Danny Elfman, this quirky but eerie film is nothing short of a spectacle. It is a light-hearted film, but it is a definite watch if you are a fan of stop-motion animated films or the works of the immortal Tim Burton himself.
The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 (1981) (1987)
Source: Evil Dead Wiki Fandom
From the director that brought you the original Spiderman Trilogy, Sam Raimi, we explore the gory, gruelling and terrifying world of Evil Dead.
It is a story about five friends who go up to a cabin in the woods, where they find unspeakable evil lurking in the forest where they fine a tome, the Naturan Demanto, translated to the Book of the Dead. Being teenagers, of course they had the terrific idea of reading the book and unleashing unspeakable evil onto the world. We as the audience, who probably yelled at those dumb kids to stop, had to endure the campy nightmare that followed.
The way Raimi visualises evil and suspense is superb in the way he creatively uses sound and perspective. The whole film serves us tonnes of over-the-top fake blood and severed limbs, brilliant in aiding the film’s hurtling plot that pits the teens in bloody situations that get very bad, very fast.
As for Evil Dead II, Sam Raimi was graced with a huge budget as a result of the first film’s success and it, quite rightly, became a fan favourite and cult classic for the ages. When I said The Evil Dead was out there, you haven’t seen Evil Dead II: a film so extreme that it no longer falls under the tent of plain “horror”. It does throw in the occasional jump scare and plentiful amounts of gore, but it does so as an obvious wink to the audience, a form of satire that is chocked full of the horror genre’s best tropes. Sam Raimi and his team so an excellent job at poking fun of the sheer ridiculousness of it all and it is [tears of joy] MAGNIFICENT.
The Evil Dead franchise has influenced many contemporary films like Cabin in the Woods, Shaun of the Dead and much more, through the use of blood and gore, comedic elements and campy aesthetics that gives the films a certain charm that I can’t really place. Please do watch both of these films if you love B-rated horror flicks, it is definitely worth the watch.
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The plot goes like this, two siblings and a few friends head for Texas when they find out that their grandfather’s grave has been desecrated. Like all responsible citizens, they try their hand in forensics which leads them to a house of ex-slaughterhouse workers that love power tools a bit too much. It is sweet and simple, and that’s why they’ve earned their spot on this list.
If you didn’t know, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the granddaddy of all slasher films, a film that spotlights human savagery in a bluntly bone-chilling way. Tobe Hooper, the director and his team created an amazing and terrifying film with a small budget, it hits you hard with its rough look and disturbing overtones.
Fun fact: the main villain, Leatherface like other famous psychopathic villains (Norman Bates from Psycho) draws inspiration from real life stories. Ed Gein, a serial killer is the muse of the character, a man that made trophies out of human remains.
The film has a nasty, grubby sensation and gives the movie a disturbing verisimilitude (real life feel) that has been emulated in many contemporary films but who’s success still cannot be matched in all its countless sequels and remakes. A definite watch for lovers of slasher films.
How do we even classify this film? Is it haunted house horror? High school romp? Demon killer flick? Surreal fantasy? There is no one way to describe this majestic mess of a film.
When watching this film, you will feel like you’ve fallen into the world of this hungry house that dismembers and devours everything that is living in the most absurd, cartoonish waves of carnage that more closely resembles artsy performance pieces than the sadistic exploitations of a typical horror flick. I feel the director puts no effort in scaring the audience, but places emphasis in messing with our minds through its constant movement, never letting its audience stop or take a breath for even a second. The screen is always filled with creative detail in every corner, with the sound and music of the film growing as prominent as the movie’s imagery as well, mixing well with the messed-up mosaic worldliness of the film.
It is like a mad fairy tale left to run wild that blasts psychedelic creativity. What else could you ask for? Highly recommended for those who do not want a conventional horror movie.
ACTUALLY JUST WATCH IT, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT I JUST WATCHED BUT I LOVED IT.
Source: Stephen King Wikia
The first Stephen King entry on the list. Stephen King a household name for horror, and this was the first of his novels to be ever adapted into film, the OG King film.
This film is debatable for many newer fans of the horror genre because it is not scary in the conventional sense. But what solidifies this film’s place in the hearts of die-hard horror fans is it’s truly gruelling nature. If you read the plot, it would seem like a standard teenage drama family, but with telekinesis powers. She is bullied, she is sexually confused, her mother suffocates her and there is so much happening in her life that she simply can’t cope with it. That is why we like her, we empathise with her. Another thing that is great about her is that Carrie is both the hero and the villain of the story, we root for her regardless of whatever horrendous or vile thing she is doing. She is just like any other teenager.
The film also possesses one of the most simultaneously beautiful and creepy moments in film. The cinematography, the music just moves in tandem and the symbolism just sends chills to my spine.
Stephen King’s Carrie is true horror story and with Brian De Palma’s direction, the eeriness of Carrie is brought to life on the big screens.
And on a personal note, don’t skip a wonderful movie by watching the 2013 remake. We promise you won’t regret it.
The Shining (1980)
Source: Roger Ebert
The second film on the list adapted from a Stephen King novel was dreaded by the author himself, he felt that Jack Torrance’s character was wrongly interpreted by Kubrick. We will talk about this film through a purely cinematic lens, and what I will be talking about will based on that lens. I’ve watched The Shining at least 3 times, and it never loses that overwhelming sense of dread.
It’s a film you can watch over and over again, because there will always be a scene or two that scares you or brings you to the edge. How we perceive horror films evolve at different stages of our lives. You can be fascinated by the grotesque or unmoved by it. This film offers it all at any point of your life.
The film provides memorable performances that genuinely capture total despair and isolation. Jack Nicholson and Shelly Duvall gave us a performance that will never be forgotten as we see a character descent into madness, while the other is caught in the crossfire by what happening to her life and the mysterious and supernatural elements of the story.
For fans of the suspense genre, you will fall in love with this piece. The hotel possesses a sense of chilling isolation, set high up in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with no one but the family of 3 occupying its large and hallowed halls. The film’s slow building anxiety creates the sense of vulnerability, every corridor can be horrific and be an unnerving experience for both the characters and the audience. The building tension and awkward atmosphere designed by Stanley Kubrick could be cut with a knife. The film is a roller coaster that goes from bad to worse, it is a film that haunts people, a movie that, through it’s meticulous construction creates a tiny horrifying world that is just too easy to get lost in. We promise you, this Halloween you will be equally captivated and terrified by this masterpiece.
“Black cats and goblins and broomsticks and ghosts, / Covens of witches with all of their hosts / You may think they scare me, / You’re probably right / Black cats and goblins / On Halloween night / Trick or treat!”
John Carpenter’s Halloween may be the only film on this list that effectively captures the quiet beauty and terror of Halloween. You get the children, candy and fun night out feel, but also a harrowing disturbed look at the dealings of a deranged man. Yes, it is a slasher film. Who cares as long is a good one?
Why is it so good? Do you remember any musical score as memorable as this, from any horror movie? Rarely. Carpenter’s iconic score in this film is enchanting and haunting, with the visuals he provided in collaboration with his Director of Photography, Dean Cundey, they created an effective eerie or horrifying feel from the beginning frames of Halloween to the end of the film.
Innocence and evil are a key theme in this film, like the holiday itself. It examines evil and how it affects somebody, and how it can just take over your life. EVIL, a timeless subject – it just works.
Halloween is a visceral experience — we aren’t seeing the movie, we’re having it happen to us. It’s frightening. The title of the movie itself makes it a go-to movie to watch on the big day itself.
Trick ’r Treat (2007)
Source: Fright Site
It is a devilishly gleeful and beautifully constructed love letter to Halloween. The Season of Ghouls, Tricks ‘r Treat wrapped into an interconnected web of plot and narrative.
We are presented with four seemingly separate horror stories happening around the same time on Halloween night. As the film progresses, you will see different perspectives of the characters that brings all elements together. The narrative is also non-linear and eventually circular, and I have to admit that it is a bit bewildering at first if you’re unfamiliar with it. Nevertheless, there is much praise to be given to Michael Dougherty, the director. The writing was extraordinary for a horror film and all of the stories pulled together so smoothly and the dialogue was surprisingly original.
Only one person that appears in all four stories and that is Sam, a mysterious trick o’ treater that wears a burlap pumpkin mask. He is a menace to those who disrespect Halloween traditions and his presence just oozes eeriness into the setting. Don’t ever break the rules of Halloween when he’s around.
This weird combination of cuteness and cruelty rolled up into a delightful film that if anything, teaches us one thing – don’t you ever break the rules of Halloween.
The Thing (1982)
Of course, another John Carpenter film, but this time, it’s a body horror classic that you would not want to miss. A parasitic alien infiltrates an arctic research centre.
This film is filled with relentless suspense and grotesque visuals that are going to wreck your retinas. The extraordinary and slime special effects still meet the standards that modern cinema holds to this day. Just google it and you’ll see. The film score and performances by the cast creates a daunting sense of paranoia that overwhelms both the audience and characters.
Overall, it’s SUSPENSE, SUSPENSE and dare we say it again, SUSPENSE GALORE. If you love slow and chilling thrillers and call yourselves fans of psychological horror, watch and experience it yourself.
The Wicker Man (1973)
For those who enjoy going deeper and darker into this twisted world, The Wicker Man is the type of horror that surprises audiences, relying on carefully-nurtured suspense instead of cheap, theatrical shocks. It is terribly unique even in comparison to some of the classics and masterpieces on this list.
IN 1973, Robin Hardy gave birth to a fascinating film that is a mixture of horror, eroticism and religion. It is thoughtful, challenging and highly provocative. This is the movie that Christopher Lee (Saruman in LOTR) is most proud of throughout his acting career. Enough said.
The Wicker Man can be considered to be a horror film, a psychological thriller, a musical and or even a melodrama. Music plays an important role in relation to the rituals performed by the Celts and their Druid priests, this film delves deeply into the world of pagan religions of the Celts. Besides that, the film boasts impressive set designs that calls attention to accuracy in historical detail, and devilish performances from Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward.
WARNING: Pervasive tension and sense of menace; sexual references and ritual erotic activity with explicit nudity; ambiguous treatment of Christian and neopagan themes; a few disturbing images, some violence and a vivid, disturbing death scene.
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922)
The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Source: Movie Poster Shop
The Witch (2015)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
The Babadook (2014)
It Follows (2014)
Source: Rotten Tomatoes
The Green Room (2015)
Source: It Movie Posters
The Exorcist (1973)
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
For you movie junkies, what kind of films would you like to see here next? What are some of your favourite films to watch for Halloween or just any horror films in general for all occasions? Share them in the comments and we’ll be sure to put a twist to them you wish you saw coming (*ahem* The Sixth Sense).
By Tyler Lai