Top Five Halloween Movies

I have read far too many blog posts of “the best Halloween movies” that are totally uncreative lists of classic horror films that have nothing whatsoever to do with Halloween. Come on, is it really that hard? Here are five of my favorite horror movies that actually take place on or around Halloween:

  1. Halloween (1978). Well, of course this one has to go on the list. Halloween has long been considered to be the first true slasher film, and laid down several of the genre’s “ground rules”: teenage sex = death; tomboyish Final Girl (“Laurie”) saves the day; killer POV shots a-plenty; and probably a few more elements that aren’t coming immediately to mind.

    When John Carpenter made Halloween, he never intended it to become a franchise centered around the character of Michael Meyers. Instead, he wanted to do a series of films that all took place on Halloween—hence Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which has nothing to do with the previous two but does have a lot to do with Halloween itself.

    When I watched this as a kid, what most scared me was a memorable scene in which Jamie Lee Curtis actually makes it out of the house and runs down the middle of the empty suburban street screaming for people to help her; nobody answers, leaving her alone to fight back against the killer.

  2. Trick or Treat (1986). High school outcast Eddie Weinbauer worships heavy metal musician Sammi Curr. After Curr dies in a mysterious hotel fire, Eddie is given a demo copy of Curr’s last—unreleased—album by his friend “Nuke” (played by Gene Simmons). When Eddie plays the record backwards (of course he does), he unleashes the evil spirit of Sammi Curr himself, who takes revenge on all the jocks and jerks who torment Eddie, his biggest fan. Also features Ozzy Ozbourne as a TV evangelist! It’s a really well-done little horror flick, with above-average acting and effects. Oh, right—the climax of the movie takes place on Halloween at the high-school dance.

  3. Night of the Demons (1988). Ten high school kids have a Halloween party in a creepy old mortuary. A seance awakens the demon within the house, and the body count rises as the night goes on. It’s your classic dumb-teens-get-killed film, with plenty of gore (enough that the filmmakers had a hard time finding a U.S. distributor) and scream queen Linnea “Trash” Quigley! This is also one of the only horror films I’ve seen in which the token black friend survives the entire film.

  4. Ginger Snaps (2000). “I get this ache… I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.” Probably the most interesting werewolf movie made after The Howling. I absolutely love the lead characters, sisters Ginger and Brigitte—they’re well-defined and realistic personalities, and sympathetic to anyone who was a little “odd” in high school. While some critics found the lycanthropy = puberty metaphor a little overdone, I found it perfectly fitting. It’s a conscious metaphor, and treated with the same dark humor that pervades the rest of the film as well, and so I think the viewer can forgive the heavy-handedness a little more easily. The least Halloween-related movie on this list, but there’s a crucial scene at a Halloween party near the end of the film.

  5. Murder Party (2007). An amazing film festival favorite, now on DVD. The supremely boring Christopher, a meter maid who lives alone with his cat, finds an invitation to a Halloween “murder party” in a Brooklyn warehouse. Having nothing better to do, he constructs a last-minute costume and makes his way to the party, where he finds a group of pretentious art-school students intent on staging a murder as a work of art to impress a wealthy patron. Heavy amounts of drugs and alcohol give way to gruesome violence as Christopher tries to make it home alive.

    …did I mention it’s a comedy?

    Well-scripted, well-acted, with fantastic gore effects for a low-budget indie flick. Definitely check this one out!

October: Disasters of Horror

When “Masters of Horror” make bad movies. C’mon, all of them screw up from time to time…

October 3: Diary of the Dead (2007): George Romero’s worst movie yet, though I haven’t seen Survival of the Dead. Absurdly heavy-handed social commentary and cliches abound. None of the characters are interesting or likable. There’s a good scene with an Amish man and a pitchfork, though, if I remember correctly.

October 10: Opera (1987): Dario Argento’s “cursed” film: during production Argento’s father died, Vanessa Redgrave dropped out of the project, and the cast and crew were plagued by minor accidents and mishaps. (Also, I hear it’s sort of terrible.) UPDATE: I finally got around to watching this movie (we skipped it at potluck) and, to my surprise, absolutely loved it. Beautifully shot in typical Argento fashion, and while the plot “twist” left a lot to be desired, I think this film has some of the most creative and gorgeous torture and deaths ever staged. (If I can say that without sounding like a total creep…)

October 17: Ghosts of Mars (2001): John Carpenter directs an action movie set on Mars. Starring Ice Cube and scored by Carpenter with a little help from Anthrax, this one has “potluck movie” written all over it.

October 24: Space Truckers (1997): Another space odyssey, this one by Stuart Gordon. In the year 2196, blue-collar freight pilot John Canyon (Dennis Hopper) takes a job transporting a secret cargo. When space pirates seize their ship, Canyon and crew discover the deadly nature of what they’re carrying. (I think it’s supposed to be a comedy. Looks pretty awful, though.)

October 31: Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992): Clive Barker took a backseat role on this as producer, so maybe it’s not fair to attribute this disaster to him…but I think this may be the worst of the Hellraiser movies, and that includes the one that’s 80 percent flashback and 20 percent on a spaceship. I mean, this one has a Cenobite that shoots CDs. (Hey, it was 1992.) Has a bitchin’ soundtrack with a theme song by Motörhead.