After a certain age, many people see Halloween as a children’s holiday. In my opinion, you’re never too old to not take yourself seriously and put on a costume you probably paid too much for, but if you’re looking for other ways to celebrate, turning out the lights and popping in a scary movie always does the trick for me.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself an “expert” when it comes to scary movies and horror flicks, but here are a few favorites that always put me in the Halloween sprit.
1. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy
In Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s, three sister witches, Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson are accused of killing village children in order to cast a spell that allows them to stay alive forever. Just before they are hung, they conjure up a curse that will bring them back from the dead on Halloween if a virgin lights the black flame candle.
Three hundred years later, teenager Max Dennison moves to Salem with his parents and younger sister from California. While out trick-or-treating with his younger sister, he ventures off, finds the old Sanderson house and lights the candle. The sisters then come back from the dead and continue their mission to steal the souls of children and attain immortality.
Okay, before you completely dismiss this extremely underrated Disney movie, you should definitely consider giving it a chance. Although this film isn’t what you would call scary, it’s good for laugh when you’re looking to make light of the holiday.
Children of the ‘90s may be a little bit more familiar with this hilarious cult classic that has since been written off as a box-office failure, but the humor, which is delivered flawlessly by Midler, Jessica Parker, and Najimy is what really makes this film so entertaining.
2. The Strangers (2008)
Starring Liv Tyler and Speedman
There’s nothing scarier than seeing horrifying things happen on the screen that you know could easily happen in real life. The Strangers is terrifying for many reasons but mostly because of how realistic the situation is.
A young couple that is going through a rough patch after Liv Tyler’s character has just turned down her boyfriend’s marriage proposal goes out to a remote vacation home. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, someone knocks on the door but no one is there. From then on out, the couple is tortured and made to feel helpless by three masked people who we know absolutely nothing about besides the fact that they are intent on killing the couple.
The most disturbing part of the film for me was when Liv Tyler’s character begs the question, “Why are you doing this to us?” and one of the killers, clad in a doll mask, answers simply, “Because you were home.” There is no rhyme or reason to the couple’s misfortune and it makes you feel like it could happen to anybody – maybe even you.
The film was advertised as based on true events, but that has since been debated. Either way, The Strangers is one of those films that will have you making sure every lock and bolt in your house is secure.
3. Halloween (1978)
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis
A list of Halloween films just isn’t complete without this horror classic. Putting Halloween on the list may seem like a cop-out, but I’m not lying when I say that it is truly is one of my favorite scary movies and one of the first I ever saw. My parents obviously never thought that the ratings system needed to be applied to their children and for that I’m grateful.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a quick summary. In 1965 on Halloween night, a six-year-old Michael Meyers murders his older sister by stabbing her to death and is placed in a mental health facility. Thirteen years later on the night before Halloween, he escapes the facility and continues to murder people in the town.
High school student Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is babysitting on Halloween night. Laurie’s friend also happens to be babysitting, but in order to spend time alone with her boyfriend she sends the child in her care over to Laurie. But as we all know in horror films, the sexually active friend is always the first to go and horror ensues after Laurie discovers her friend has been murdered.
Halloween isn’t the scariest movie out there, especially by today’s standards, but the image of Michael Meyers’ white hockey mask has become an iconic symbol that many people associate with fear.
4. The Shining (1980)
Starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duval
Sure, blood and guts makes for a great scary movie, but I’ve always preferred the type of horror film that causes you to think. I can’t get enough of psychological thrillers and The Shining is the greatest of them all.
Jack Nicholson is especially creepy as the recovering alcoholic and writer, Jack Torrence, who brings his wife and son to a secluded hotel in the mountains in order to write his new novel. The hotel has a very dark history that begins to reveal itself in spooky ways, particularly to their son Danny who has some psychic abilities. Soon, it is clear that Jack starts suffering from a case of cabin fever with a dash of psycho killer. To this day, the phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” still gives me goose bumps.
5. Drag Me To Hell (2009)
Starring Alison Lohman and Justin Long
When loan officer Christina Brown, played by Alison Lohman, refuses to extend the loan of an old gypsy woman in order to impress her boss with her assertiveness, things take a turn for the worst. After being humiliated, the old gypsy woman places a spell on Christine that gives her three days to live (all of them filled with horrible torment) before she is dragged to Hell to burn forever.
The best thing about this film is that, although some of the more horrific moments in the film are incredibly gross, they are just disgusting enough that it can be comical and often leaves the audience laughing and cringing at the same time. Director Sam Rami does a fantastic job of making sure that gross-out humor doesn’t cheapen the film due to the film as a whole having a very high production value.
Even though some of these films may be considered “mainstream” to horror buffs, there’s something to be said for classic films like Halloween and The Shining that have been terrifying audiences decade after decade. So if you’re planning on staying in this Halloween or you just want to get into the spirit of it all, any one of these films is guaranteed to give you a good scare and maybe even a few laughs.