Halloween is almost upon us for 2021, which means we should have our costumes in order, a large supply of candy on hand and creepy decorations ready to adorn our walls.
While all of these elements, of course, contribute to a memorable Halloween, it’s surely horror movies that really take the occasion to its spooktacular best. And the best part is, you don’t even have to wait until Halloween to watch them!
In recent years, there have been some stellar horror releases both original and of the reboot variety.
Think Jordan Peele’s utterly brilliant Get Out, which was even more terrifying thanks to its underlying social commentary on the way Black folx are treated in America, or the spine-chilling remake of Stephen King’s It which I took as a personal attack on me because of my deep-seated hatred of clowns.
Even more recently, movies such as A Quiet Place 2, The Conjuring 3 and Spiral From the Book of Saw have had us positively quaking in ourWhy Wait For Halloween? Get Your Scare on With These Horror Films Landing In Cinemas Soon boots (while simultaneously loving every second.)
Of course, special effects have come a long way which means horror films today are well ahead of how they used to be, but sometimes the simplicity or downright absurdity of some of the older titles is what makes them so great to watch. Here are our favourite classic horror films to re-visit on Halloween, or any time of year when you fancy a little jolt of adrenaline.
A Nightmare on Elm Street – 1984
The original Nightmare on Elm Street marked not only Johnny Depp’s film debut but the first in what would become a multi-film franchise with Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) — a deceased child killer who seeks revenge on the residents of Springwood, Ohio via their dreams as retribution for the fact their parents burned him alive.
Written and directed by Wes Craven, the mastermind behind the Scream films, A Nightmare on Elm Street is considered to be one of the best horror films of all time and, personally, I agree.
And, bonus fun fact: Nancy’s house from the cult classic film is currently up for sale in Los Angeles for USD $3.5 million and potential buyers have until Halloween to make their offers.
The Blair Witch Project – 1999
In a stroke of movie marketing genius, The Blair Witch Project was allegedly based on a true story about three student filmmakers who disappeared while making a film about the Blair Witch, only for their cameras to be found a year later – a tall tale that was kept up until well after the film’s release.
Largely credited with pioneering the found-footage technique of horror filmmaking, The Blair Witch Project was the first film marketed primarily by the internet and basically went viral before that was even a term.
Even more notable was that film was made on a budget of just AUD $84,948 and yet grossed around AUD $346,797,500 million at the worldwide box office.
The Exorcist — 1973
The Exorcist follows the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, Regan, and her mother’s attempt to rescue her through an exorcism conducted by two priests.
Based on the 1971 novel of the same name, The Exorcist was directed by William Friedkin and stars now recognisable names such as Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair. Standout scenes would have to include Regan’s head twisting around 360 degrees and her famous spider walk down the stairs which she does both backwards and with a mouthful of blood.
The Exorcist is so good that it became the first horror film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, one of the ten Oscars it was up for in 1974.
Child’s Play — 1988
What’s not to love about Child’s Play? The plot is simple: a dying serial killer performs a Haitian voodoo spell to transfer his soul to a doll, which then becomes the “must-have” Christmas gift of the season.
Then, a widowed mother buys the possessed doll and gives it to her young son, and then everyone blames him when the doll, Chucky, who is really a grown man with an appetite for gruesome murder, starts, well…murdering people in gruesome ways.
It — 1990
Yes, the 2017 version was terrifying but the 1990 miniseries version of It will haunt your dreams for eternity.
In case you’ve never seen it, the plot follows a monster who can transform itself into its intended victim’s worst fear (like the boggarts from Harry Potter) but, because clowns are the worst, it typically takes the form of Pennywise, the demonic clown who likes to kill kids.
A group of kids who call themselves The Losers club then make it their mission to vanquish Pennywise once and for all and the miniseries explores two different timelines — the first when the Losers first confront Pennywise as children in 1960, and the second when they return as adults in 1990.
Evil Dead 2 — 1987
In this scare-tastic offering from Scott Raimi and Scott Spiegel, a man named Ash Williams (not the Aussie comedian) discovers an audiotape of recitations from a book of ancient texts called Book of the Dead, Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, while on holiday with his girlfriend, Linda, which all sounds super romantic.
However, when he plays the recording, it unleashes a number of demons that possess and torment him and who also kills and later possesses Linda, turning her into a “deadite”, forcing Ash to have to decapitate her with a shovel.
Maybe next time he’ll read his lover one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, instead.
Braindead — 1992
Long before he brought the epic Lord of the Rings books to life for the big screen, Peter Jackson loved a good B horror film and Braindead is a perfect example of that.
The plot follows Lionel, a young man living in Wellington with his strict mother Vera. After Lionel becomes romantically involved with a girl named Paquita, Vera is bitten by a hybrid rat-monkey creature and begins to transform into a zombie, while also infecting the other townsfolk.
Considered to be one of the goriest movies of all time, my favourite scene is where Lionel tears through his uncle’s housewarming party with a lawnmower to kill his zombie foes while Paquita’s weapon of choice is a blender.
I Know What You Did Last Summer — 1997
I Know What You Did Last Summer, which starred Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Freddie Prinze Jr, was so popular that not only did it spawn a couple of sequels, but Amazon Studios has now adapted it for modern audiences.
The story follows four young friends who are stalked by a hook-wielding killer one year after covering up a car accident in which they killed a man. Let’s just say it doesn’t end well for most of them but it ended very well for Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr who fell in love on the set of the film and are still married to this day.
In case you need further proof of this cult classics place on our list, it was penned by Scream scribe Kevin Williamson who is also the creator of Dawson’s Creek, which was pretty scary in its own way, to be honest.
Gremlins — 1984
I have written before about my love of Gremlins 2, so now allow me to preach from the gospel of the original Gremlins film.
In a very last-minute effort to buy his son a Christmas gift, an inventor named Randall Peltzer buys his son, Billy, a mogwai named Gizmo, against the warnings of a mysterious shop owner named MrWing. The rules for owning such a creature are simple and yet thoroughly annoying: don’t get them wet, don’t them eat after midnight (although it is never clarified at what point after midnight does it become safe again — 6am? 11am? 3:17pm? Like, help a sister out here) and don’t expose them to bright light.
Of course, all of the above happens and cute, cuddly little Gizmo soon becomes patient zero for an army of scaly, mannerless gremlins who run amok in Billy’s small town of Kingston Falls.
The film is definitely a great combination of scary and hilarious, but legend has it the first script for the film was way darker than what eventually made it to screen.
Little Shop of Horrors — 1986
Puppeteer and filmmaker Frank Oz isn’t just all about cute characters like Sesame Street‘s Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover, he is also the director of cult horror/comedy classic Little Shop of Horrors which stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, Vincent Gardenia, Steve Martin, and Levi Stubbs.
Set at a flower shop in a less than desirable part of New York City, the film follows the misadventures of Seymour Krelborn who buys a mysterious plant that he names Audrey II (after his co-worker) only to realise that his new herbaceous friend has an appetite for human blood. Oops.