There are plenty of amazing horror films out there, but for Halloween, we wanted to pick something special. To celebrate the spookiest day of the year, we picked out our favorite horror movies that actually take place on October 31. Trick or treat!
Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween will always be the film that defines this holiday. And its masterpiece status is more than deserved. However, despite its title, the story doesn’t actually have much to do with the holiday. It’s the series’ third installment that really embraces All Hallows’ Eve and utilizes it to its fullest potential.
The story involves a maniacal corporation that plans to return Halloween to its more sinister roots. How will they do this? Well, they happen to be the nation’s largest and most popular provider of Halloween masks. Through repeated commercials, the company instructs children to buy these masks and wear them at a precise moment while watching their TVs. And thanks to some technological wizardry that also involves small fragments from Stonehenge (yup), anyone wearing the masks and watching this program will have their heads turn into bugs and snakes.
Needless to say, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is bonkers. I didn’t even mention the evil androids, did I? Yeah, this movie has those as well. Halloween is a necessary watch for this time of year, but real fans know that Halloween III is where you go to get your yearly dose of insanity. [Drew Diestch]
Night of the Demons
When the weird goth girl at school throws a party in the town’s haunted house, just about everyone in attendance dies and gets possessed. That’s the gist of Kevin Tenney’s Halloween cult classic from the late ’80s, Night of the Demons. The film has a massive underground following with hardcore horror fans and still holds up as being one of the best creepy and scary movies of its era.
Back in the glory days of VHS rental stores, Night of the Demons freaked out curious kids looking to find thrills and chills in the horror section. The key art for this movie depicts the iconic goth-turned-bride of the devil Angela after she has been demonically possessed. It’s a striking image and one that stuck in my head for years alongside the covers for Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.
Night of the Demons starts out simple enough: dumb kids go to a dumb house and do dumb things. The elements that work best and make this one a Halloween classic are the performances, the horror SFX, and the tone. It’s all harmless gothic fun until the kids get bored and play with the occult, then all hell breaks loose. The movie is chock full of tropes shared by similar films, but no other haunted house picture is quite like it. Night of the Demons is fun, frightening and a definite must-see for Halloween horror fans. [Andrew Hawkins]
Trick ‘r Treat
Michael Doughtery recently gave the world a wonderful dose of holiday horror with his Christmas film Krampus. Before that, he set his sights on highlighting the mythic qualities of Halloween in Trick ‘r Treat. Although it’s an anthology film, the stories all intertwine and connect in some way. The stories range from hilarious to bone-chilling, but they all convey that adrenaline rush of being scared.
But, Trick ‘ r Treat’s real accomplishment is Sam. Dougherty created Sam — named after the original pagan name for Halloween, Samhain — because he felt Halloween needed a mascot. Christmas has Santa, Easter gets a bunny, so why doesn’t Halloween have its own figurehead? Sam embodies the sweet and scary aspects of the holiday perfectly. His raggedy costume is instantly iconic, and wait until you see what’s under that mask…
Trick ‘r Treat is definitely one of the new classics in the horror genre. It’s a gorgeously shot film that captures the glow of Halloween like no other movie. The film is littered with jack-o-lanterns and warm light and it just feels like Halloween. There is no way to describe it. Just watch and you’ll see what I mean. [Drew Dietsch]
After the success of their 2011 horror film, You’re Next, screenwriter Simon Barrett and director/editor Adam Wingard teamed up for The Guest. The Guest doesn’t have to take place around Halloween to be effective, but the final sequence involving a homemade haunted house in a school gymnasium is gold. The Guest features Dan Stevens as David, a soldier who came back from Afghanistan and wants to visit the family of his fallen comrade. He also isn’t exactly who he says he is, though the family he infiltrates seems to like him well enough.
As teenaged Laura uncovers more about David’s past, things start to get scary. He’s one seriously unhinged dude, and he comes after Laura with a vengeance when she threatens to reveal the truth about him. Sharing too much more could spoil the movie, so let’s just say the film’s climax takes place in a haunted house. Complete with fake fog, black lights, and spooky surroundings, it’s the perfect setting for a particularly memorable chase sequence. [Danielle Ryan]
The very first image we see when Creepshow starts is a jack-o-lantern. The film makes its intentions known right out the gate: it’s time to have some frightful fun. And boy, is Creepshow the definition of frightful fun. This celebration of EC Comics is an absolute joyride through the horror genre. These five tales — plus the wraparound — spare no expense when it comes to dishing out some colorful spooks. It’s a treat.
The stories run the gamut from zombies to alien organisms to killer cockroaches and more. All the horror bases are covered and always with a gleeful attitude. Director George A. Romero and screenwriter Stephen King act like kids in a blood-soaked candy store. Their obvious love of the old Tales from the Crypt comics shines through in every lurid second of the film.
Creepshow is grade-A Halloween fare that exemplifies everything exciting about the holiday. There are loads of laughs and technicolor terrors bursting from every seam of this patchwork nightmare. It’s a great flick to show people how much fun you can have being scared. And thanks to that opening shot of a jack-o-lantern, it makes the cut for this list. [Drew Dietsch]
Much like The Guest, Ginger Snaps doesn’t really need to be a Halloween movie to work. But the October setting fits the film’s tone and structure so well that Ginger Snaps is now a cult Halloween gem. This bitingly funny werewolf movie is the brainchild of Orphan Black producers Karen Walton and John Fawcett.
Set in the fictional Canadian suburb of Bailey Downs, protagonist sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) use their gothy angst as a way to get through the nightmare of high school. But as summer turns to fall, something awful happens — family dogs start dying, shredded by some unseen creature in the night. And when the Fitzgerald sisters try to play a prank on a nasty classmate, the beast snatches Ginger and mauls her. Miraculously, Ginger heals. But in the following weeks, she begins a slow transformation into a wolflike monster.
Culminating on Halloween night, the story of the Fitzgerald sisters is a descent into bloody terror. And while you don’t need Halloween to make an effective horror movie, this film’s fall setting is thematically appropriate for a story about slow change. The third act’s Halloween party only shows up for a few minutes, but when Ginger shows up looking like a complete nightmare, it’s yet another moment that makes this movie so appropriate for the Halloween season. [Travis Newton]