Halloween is like no other holiday. It stands apart. It's truly unique.
Every other holiday we have is based around love, or the sadness of love lost; they all inspire feelings of reverence, or togetherness.
Halloween is a perversion of all these traditional holiday qualities. The love celebrated is more about lust, and sexy nurses. The sadness of love lost is more about spooky horror. We revere powerful demonic forces, and people who have cool costumes. People only get together to get wasted or to scare the crap out of strangers on their doorsteps before taking their candy.
Halloween is the most sadistic, riotous, and exciting holiday. It has the best movies celebrating it. I mean, what was the last good movie you saw advertised as: “The thriller of the year, just in time for Thanksgiving?” (“'It will thank you senseless' says the Daily Inquirer!") Or even a good Christmas movie for that matter?
For your holiday viewing pleasure while you’re stuck inside salvaging the remains of your flooded wind-thrashed home, (Thanks, Sandy [<-- Great Halloween costume, either the Frankenstorm or the character from Grease]), treat yourself to some of to the best horror films in existence. Trick your more spineless friends into watching them with you.
13. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
I was originally thinking of starting the list with Friday the 13th. The 13th= Number 13. It would satisfy the number scheme very nicely. But Jason can go wank it in his cabin by the lake. He doesn’t get to be on my list. I will say that Freddy vs. Jason was a great idea, though. It was poorly executed, like most movies with the word versus in their title, but it was a great idea.
In contrast to Jason being a big dumb idiot that bleats like a cow, Freddy is the best horror film villain ever. He is more awesome than any zombie, any ghost, any monster; he is more terrifying than Satan.
The setting of Friday the 13th, in the unpredictable, half-coherent realm of dreams, is also a fantastic idea. Any fantastically horrific image or scene a writer can think of is fair game.
A torrent of blood cascading through an opened bed-vortex? Yeah, sounds cool. Knife-claw shadows stretching over entire neighborhood streets? Yeah, that’ll work.
Friday the 13th is the OG Inception.
12. PLANET TERROR
Planet Terror an atypical zombie film set in Texas. The action is split between a hospital and a BBQ joint.
The movie has awesome protagonists — a BBQ maestro who perfects his sauce with the addition of his own blood, a maimed stripper who replaces her lost leg with an M16 machine gun.
Very gory, lots of bubbling flesh, an evil Bruce Willis character. All good things.
11. SHAUN OF THE DEAD
A zombie movie that is atypical in a very different way.
Shaun of the Dead is a farcical British romantic comedy zombie film.
Two deadbeats — a semi-responsible one and a lovable, clumsy fat one — decide to ride out the zombie apocalypse by holing up in their favorite pub. Very, very funny, and still kind of scary, the movie establishes a good balance between the two, which is rare really.
Movies that try to do mostly come out like Scary Movie (complete farse) or Frankenfish (a cheezy-ass sci-fi made-for-TV kind of film).
10. HOCUS POCUS
I loved it as a kid. It warms my heart.
Witch #3 is quite possibly Sarah Jessica Parkers’ best film performance.
9. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
Goddamnit Paranormal Activity creeped me out. I found it very hard to sleep after watching this movie, probably because all the scary things happen in bedrooms while the characters are asleep.
The movie’s durable formula — home movie/documentary style, attractive suburban family, powerful demonic force — has spawned four sequels. I wouldn’t bother with the newest one, unless you really liked numbers 1-3.
8. EVIL DEAD
Low-budget, super-campy Evil Dead, one of Sam Raimi’s first films, made on a budget of $4.97.
There are some very disturbing scenes. One of the female protagonists is held down raped by vines. Sam Raimi has said in interviews that he regrets including that scene. Finding that interview was hard because Google search results are clogged by news of a possible Evil Dead remake.
This is strange because Raimi already did that. It’s called Evil Dead 2. It’s essentially the same movie as the first (without the tree-rape scene) with a slightly higher production value.
7. PREDATOR & 6. ALIEN
Alien vs. Predator.
Alien. It has less ridiculous Schwarzenegger-based action. It’s gruesome in better ways. It’s a way more biologically frightening, less rational, less human creature. It uses people as its brood sacks.
The predator is a Rastafarian with high-tech weaponry. Compare with one of the oppressive military leaders of Haiti or the DR.
5. 28 DAYS LATER
The best zombie movie that has ever been made, plain and simple. The zombies are fast, the action is compelling, the characters are deep, and the pacing is perfect.
Walking Dead ripped the narrative of their opening episode straight from 28 Days Later — main character awakes from a long coma in an abandoned hospital to a full blown zombie apocalypse — because it’s such a haunting scenario.
4. THE SHINING
The Shining is masterful. Kubrick builds the subtlest human fears to mind-destroying heights. Silence, isolation, cold, boredom, the fear of stagnation, insanity, the fear of having a weird kid that doesn’t like you, the fear of having an ugly wife.
Watch this. It’s a compilation of all the creepy zoom shots from the film. It inspires the same poignant, oppressive feelings of doom that the movie builds over two hours, and condenses into a minute:09! Great for the super busy and the attention-deficient.
Vampires, dude, it’s scary! I am completely kidding. It is scary is how much teenage girls and middle-aged housewives liked these movies, though. But, now they have Fifty Shades of Gray, and Twilight is obsolete.
2. ERASER HEAD
This movie tries very hard to convince you that you’re going insane, and it nearly succeeds. Just try to remember: it’s the movie, not you; it’s the movie not you.
I love David Lynch. He can make anything scary — the whistling of teakettle, an ant climbing a blade of grass, a steaming cup of coffee — anything. Everything.
1. THE EXCORIST
What can I say about The Exorcist that hasn’t been said by a hundred better film critics?
The fear this movie inspires will always be relevant and gripping, even if religion fades from our lives completely. Maybe The Exorcist will be scarier when less people heed the faith. But it's also a warning; we that think to turn our backs on God — we’re next.
It will suffice to say that The Exorcist scares the [any and all expletives] out of me. That's what makes it the #1 choice for movie watching this storm-torn Halloween night.