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Let's Talk About... The Best Halloween Films

I've lived through nearly 28 Halloweens in my lifetime. I got this!

Best Halloween Films!

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

Tis the Season to be Spooky!

We find ourselves in the month of October once again, since I’ve already listed off what I consider to be cream of the crop for my all-time favorite horror films (see link down below), now I find myself realizing that the true spirit of All Hollows Eve wasn’t exactly the heart of that previous list. They were more or less the terrors that I adored most from the entire horror genre library. Afterwards I began asking myself, “What about the other films that truly capture the essence from this time of year?” I’m talking about the movies that someone looks at a single frame and they instantly feel as though they have been dropped smack dab into the middle of Fall with Halloween right around the corner; atmosphere full of pure Autumn color palettes and Halloween imagery scattered everywhere, the works of art that scream “this is Halloween!”

The list that I am about to present here is comprised of the titles that I tend to watch every year during the month of October because that is when it seems most appropriate for these cinematic creepy adventures. Films that relish in the yellows and oranges of fall, the ominous greens and blues of the cold full mooned nights, the dark contrasting shadows of the unknown, and occasionally the deep reds of bloody frights. Let it be clear that this isn’t a collection of what I perceive to be the scariest that horror has to offer, these are specifically the flicks that elicit the spirit of Halloween the most in my eyes. Regardless of MPAA rating, subgenre, intended age demographic, or even quality to an extent, whatever strikes me personally as being filled with the Halloween spirit in one way or another is the sole factor of what makes the cut. Without further ado, here is my list of the best Halloween films of all time. Spoiler Alert! No, John Carpenter’s Halloween is not on the list. I’ll explain why later.

The Honorable Mentions

Turns out that when I began my researching for Halloween pictures, there was actually quite a lot that fit the mold. Honestly, it was rather difficult to whittle my choices down for what made my top ten and what was unfortunately left only slightly behind. So I figured that I would include a section to highlight the many runners-up that were close, but not quite accomplishing the Halloween spirit. Try to keep in mind that this is completely subjective and not representative of anything official. This is for funsies because I love Halloween!

HAVEAHAPPYHALLOWEENEVERYONE!

The Exorcist (1973)

Night of the Demons (1988)

Coraline (2009)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Halloweentown (1998)

Sleepy Hollow (1999)

IT: Chapter One (2017)

IT: Chapter Two (2019)

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Monster House (2006)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Goosebumps 2: A Haunted Halloween (2018)

The Fog (1980)

Silver Bullet (1985)

Beetlejuice (1988)

Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Pumpkinhead (1988)

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

Frankenweenie (2012)

Under Wraps (1997)

10) Hocus Pocus (1993)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: Teenaged Max (Omri Katz) and his family are new in the sleepy town of Salem. Finding it troublesome to fit in, this boy’s attempts to woo the pretty girl in his class goes horribly wrong when he accidentally awakens a trio of 17th century witches who seek revenge on the town of Salem. You know? As most teen boys tend to do on their first date. It’s up to Max, his little sister, the girl of his dreams, and a talking cat to save everyone from these kooky witches before sunrise.

MY THOUGHTS: Growing up with Hocus Pocus, I tend to think of this flick often when I yearn to get in the Halloween spirit. Not only does the time in which the plot taking place during All Hallows Eve make me think of Halloween, but also the perfectly warm colors, festive costumes, and witchy special effects are what gets me in the right mood when October arrives once again. When someone seeks a picture filled with the gleeful Halloween tone with a hint of dark edges, this is pretty perfect for the whole family to get together and have a decent time with. Reason why I rank this so low on the list is because there are definitely elements that have not aged all that well and can be rather obnoxious in particular scenes. Hocus Pocus is ‘90s as hell, I mean, the 1990s really spewed their essence within the production value here. Sometimes I can get a kick out of it, sometimes it resulted in me being annoyed by douchebag characters mugging to the camera. All in all, a fun flick, especially for nostalgia reasons. Overall, it does contain some issues with obnoxious characters, but they're easy to ignore when watching with friends and family looking for a spooky good time.

Do You Hocus Your Pocus, Witch?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The Disney Original has been a cult classic for over two decades now, but when was it officially released on Blu-Ray?
    • 2009
    • 2018
    • 2014
    • 2012
  2. What famous young actor turned down the role of teenager, Max?
    • Craig T. Nelson
    • Corey Haim
    • Johnny Depp
    • Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. 'Hocus Pocus' is set in Salem, Massachusetts. Where was the majority of principal photography actually taking place?
    • Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Burbank, California
    • New York, New York
    • Springfield, Illinois

Answer Key

  1. 2012
  2. Leonardo DiCaprio
  3. Burbank, California

9) The House with a Clock in its Walls (2018)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is a recently young orphaned boy who must now live with his uncle, Jack Black (Not really named Jack Black in the movie). As it turns out, his uncle has a bit of a secret, revealing to Lewis that he is in fact a warlock. Teaching Lewis the ways of witchcraft, it seems that a diabolical spirit haunts the walls of Jack Black’s home, with the help of awesome witch Cate Blanchett, the three must work together to put an end to the evil.

MY THOUGHTS: To this day it surprises me that Eli Roth was actually capable of making a good movie. Seriously, I hate Eli Roth as a director and as a writer. I understand that he has his fans and I’ve certainly enjoyed him strictly as an actor, but when he’s behind the camera I can’t stand him. Cabin Fever is dreadful, Hostel Part I & II were not for me at all, The Green Inferno was a valid effort at a throwback to pictures like Cannibal Holocaust while being nowhere near as good, Knock Knock was a return to Eli Roth being a terrible writer again, and his Death Wish remake was mediocre. Then along came The House with a Clock in Its Walls, which was a genuine Halloween treat with lovable characters and an atmosphere filled with fun imagery for the dark holiday. If I were to guess, I’d say the reason this movie works so well as opposed to the rest of Roth’s filmography is likely due to the fact that he had nothing to do with the script. Eli Roth’s greatest weakness has always been in his writing of dialog and character, meaning the man can’t write those two departments to save his soul.

The tone of the movie dances along with a joyous celebration of all things spooky extremely well, Autumn and Halloween staples seeping into the visuals thoroughly. Cool sequences of magic, quirky sight gags and side characters, lovable leads performed by Jack Black and Cate Blanchett, there’s even occasionally a creepy scene here and there. Balancing comedy along with mystery in a fun way that makes it a pleasure adding this to a Halloween marathon. Not exactly a perfect film as there is one or two special effects that are horrendous to witness. However the bigger problem resides in the lead child actor, Owen Vaccaro; for the most part he holds his own fine enough, with the exception of when he must attempt to handle his more emotional lines. Whenever Vaccaro has to cry, he’s pretty terrible in portraying his character with sadness. To the point where I originally was under the impression that his character was “fake crying” in order to garner sympathy from other characters. Nope, that’s not the case at all. The kid simply can’t cry, making for scenes that are supposed to be legitimately sad to be unintentionally funny. Other than those minor complaints, The House with a Clock in Its Walls deserves the title of newest Halloween classic and should be watched every year around the month of October. Likely the most recent Halloween treasure to be perfect for the whole family.

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8) The Guest (2014)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: A mysterious soldier named David (Dan Stevens) shows up on the Peterson family doorstep, claiming to be an old friend of their son who died in combat. Shortly after David is welcomed to stay in their home for a brief period, a series of strange accidental deaths begin to occur. Is David really who he says he is or is there more hidden behind that handsome face?

MY THOUGHTS: To many, director Adam Wingard struck gold on his surprise smash-hit in You’re Next. Frankly, I didn’t much care for that movie and didn’t remotely relate to anyone’s praise of it. Moving onto The Guest… This… This movie… This movie right here is what Halloween 4 should have been. The Guest is the spiritual successor to Halloween III: Season of the Witch in so many ways. Anyone unfamiliar with Halloween III, let me debrief real quick. No, not my underwear. Halloween III is the installment of the franchise that took a different approach by going down an anthology avenue rather than resurrecting the ‘burnt to a crisp’ Michael Myers storyline. Centering on a relatively weird premise that takes place during All Hallows Eve; injecting Halloween into the very soul of the scenery and tone of the film. The Guest appears to adopt that mentality, not necessarily delving into the lore of the holiday, but rather giving a totally absurd story isolated from anything else while paying homage to select horror classics and filling the screen with everything Halloween. Seriously, look all around in the movie’s set decorations and the atmosphere of this midwest town, anyone can see that The Guest also loves to celebrate this magical time of year.

Going back to Halloween III paying respect to features such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers; The Guest, narratively speaking, feels more in-line with the spirit of The Stepfather crossed with a B-Version of The Terminator. Although there is a nod made to Halloween III within the climax and It’s pretty amazing! Dan Stevens, by the way, is unbelievably extraordinary in the role of David. Ridiculously suave and a total badass from beginning to end. Seriously, David is one of my favorite horror antagonists since Conal Cochran played by Dan O’Herlihy. Every second he is on screen I can’t look away with literally the subtlest of mannerisms and Stevens can have me laughing my ass off. Intentionally so. He’s that great! Part of the fun in dissecting Stevens’ performance is also trying to figure out how much of his character motivations are genuine and how much of what he claims is actually a fabrication. Piecing all the details together to not exactly have a clearcoat answer on where David’s intentions truly lie. At no point is he cartoonishly evil, nor does he come off as the boy scout either. Dan Stevens effortlessly dances the line of villainy and charismatic guy trying to do good for a grieving family in a twisted manner. Like I said, he’s great.

In the background is the "Halloween 3" Silver Shamrock masks from 'Halloween III'!

In the background is the "Halloween 3" Silver Shamrock masks from 'Halloween III'!

To me, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers never happened. The Halloween series back in the ‘80s made the intelligent move after Season of the Witch by keeping Michael Myers dead and carrying on with the anthology idea in their next sequel, Halloween 4: The Guest. I will live in this imaginary land of denial for the rest of my days. Thank you for stopping by, now go watch this awesome movie!

7) The Halloween Tree (1993)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: On Halloween night, a group of four friends find themselves chasing after the dwindling soul of their sick friend. With the help of a mysterious old man, the kids take a journey through time learning the origins of All Hallows Eve while trying to save their friend before it’s too late.

The Halloween Tree!

The Halloween Tree!

MY THOUGHTS: When it comes to Ray Bradbury, the man definitely shows an affinity for Autumn; The Halloween Tree is no exception as every minute devotes wholeheartedly to the season and especially to Halloween. Unlike the majority of the other entries on this list, not only does the movie drip profusely with the essence of Halloween around every corner, this also actually teaches some of the origins that come from this special holiday. Seriously, Ray Bradbury’s writing here is just as darkly entertaining as it is educational. Which is honestly perfect for any younger viewers to get the visually spooky treats filling the screen on top of a clever plot that tricks its audience into learning some neat facts about Halloween, as well as maybe even learn a bit of a life lesson along the way. Deep and thought-provoking themes interwoven into a creepy yet innocent tale is one of Bradbury’s strengths, evoking us to reflect upon our own lives and how we choose to live with our decisions made in this short life.

As much as I respect and admire the movie, it does have some minor hiccups. Not even anything all that bad, simply a few aspects that don’t hold up all that well. In terms of the animation, it’s mostly fine and even can spark some creative imagery. Although there are occasions where, specifically the character animation, looks a touch awkward and even downright weird at times. Again, not terrible, it’s just a detail that distracted me from the story is all. Along with the awkward animation also comes some fairly awkward line deliveries as well. Not to say any of the vocal talents were awful, only somewhat untrained. Other than that, most the animation is pretty solid and the environmental paintings for the backgrounds are absolutely gorgeous to say the least. Plus, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Moundshroud is totally unrecognizable in such a fantastic way. What else can be said? This is a movie that deserves recognition of being a Halloween classic. Fingers crossed that can happen for this televised animation celebrating and educating on everything that makes this holiday what it is today.

HIGHLIGHTS: Dracula, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, etc.

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

MY THOUGHTS: Is it cheating to basically insert a whole subgenre as an entry in this list? Probably, but I don’t care. This is my Halloween list and I’ll do what I please with it! Thank you very much. Alright, all shenanigans aside, when I think back on what is the classic idea of Halloween; dark shadows, gothic environments, thick blankets of fog and mist, tragic yet scary monsters that go bump in the night. In other words, the Universal Monster movies. In my early years, films like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man were the heart and soul of Halloween. Largely, the special effects to this day still hold up unbelievably; every shred of makeup, miniature model work, set design, costuming, prosthetics, backdrop paintings, everything is meticulously well crafted. Every attentive detail and creative visual adds massively to the tons of thrills to be had with these movies. In a sense, are they dated? Sure. In my opinion, dated doesn’t necessarily mean bad though. These are products of their time and they obviously show it, that’s also part of the fun though.

So why not sit back and enjoy the rides for what they are? They’re a blast with loads of gothic scenery and cool monsters flooding the terror. Are there more accurate adaptations of the novels that some of these monster flicks are based on? Sure. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) are certainly far more faithful to their respective source materials. As time has passed though, the original Universal Monster pictures are the ones that have better stood the test of time and remained in several fan hearts over the many decades since their release. The black and white flicks are the versions I most revisit and continue to revisit every year in the midst of October. Won’t you join me for a bite? I mean… would you care to watch Dracula with me?

How Monstrous Are You?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Which movie poster holds the record for 'most paid movie poster art' at an auction, for the price of $453,500?
    • Dracula (1931)
    • The Invisible Man (1933)
    • The Mummy (1932)
    • Frankenstein (1931)
  2. The Frankenstein Monster's shoes were heavy, how much did they weigh each?
    • 13 Pounds Each
    • 10 Pounds Each
    • 6 Pounds Each
    • 16 Pounds Each
  3. Evelyn Ankers suffered a massive scare on the set of 'The Wolf Man'; what happened to give her such a fright?
    • The Wolf Man's makeup was to startling when first introduced.
    • A random black cat kept popping out and scaring her around the set.
    • A 600 pound bear chased her up a latter.
    • Someone pooped in her personal trailer.

Answer Key

  1. The Mummy (1932)
  2. 13 Pounds Each
  3. A 600 pound bear chased her up a latter.

Thank Rachel Johnson For the Fun Facts!

  • 24 Bewitching Facts About Classic Horror & Monster Films
    Moviegoers and audiences everywhere can't get enough of a good horror flick. Some of the most acclaimed and iconic films of the genre shined during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and this period during Tinseltown introduced beloved movie monsters like

5) The Monster Squad (1987)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr) has returned after hundreds of years at rest, now his plans of taking over with his league of monsters are set in motion. The only thing standing in the monsters’ way are a young group of horror fanatics that are determined to save their hometown.

MY THOUGHTS: Fred Dekker and Shane Black are truly some entertaining as hell filmmakers with a fairly solid filmography; between the two of them their credits include Lethal Weapon, Night of the Creeps, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, House, Ricochet, The Predator (2018), Iron Man 3, and so on. These two are genuinely geniuses injecting fun cinematic rides from behind the camera and for them coming together on The Monster Squad makes for quite the unparalleled treat. While Black has mostly shown his love for combining action with another popular holiday, Christmas, Dekker has shown a bit more fondness for the horror genre. The Monster Squad, I believe, is the one of his pictures which displays that affection for Halloween the most as it features some of cinemas most classic movie monsters inside a rather kick-ass “kids versus evil” story.

The Monster Squad is a basic childhood fantasy come to life for any horror fan; what if all of the classic Universal monsters were real and the youngsters had to defeat them. Seeing all the awesome baddies from old school monster flicks like Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, wolfman, and the creature from the Black Lagoon come together in one movie to create some fun adventures. Perfect for Halloween if you ask me. What is there not to love about this movie? The 1980s vibes and tropes are at an all-time high in glorious fashion, the child led cast are a bunch of lovable goofballs, the gore is pretty spectacular along with other more mature content and jokes to give it a slight cool edge to stand out in the crowd of other kids’ flicks. Monster Squad is a one of a kind movie that I wish had been given more love upon the time of its release, although thankfully has garnered somewhat of a cult following in more recent years. It’s a movie that treats kids like adults and takes adults back to being kids… in the ‘80s! Seriously, if you haven’t already given this film a watch then do yourselves a favor and pop this one in just in time for the October fun!

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

Also, we cannot forget that The Monster Squad is very educational as well. Remember kids, Wolfman’s got nards! There, that makes up for the fact that Fred Dekker made RoboCop 3… I hate RoboCop 3… but at least he gave us Monster Squad.

4) Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: The circus is in town, only this particular roadshow has something diabolical in mind for the fates of this small Illinois town. Promising to give the aging residents the opportunity to be young once again, to be rid of all their past mistakes, but at what price shall they pay? Two youngsters, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade (Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson) discover the curse that this sinister carnival plans to bestow onto the town; it’s up to them to stop Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his no-good circus.

Jonathan Pryce as my nightmare fuel for the next century.

Jonathan Pryce as my nightmare fuel for the next century.

MY THOUGHTS: Venturing into another Ray Bradbury original; another tale involving the plot of “kids versus evil”, although this particular story delves quite deeper than being only that. Bradbury loves to inject much deeper themes in his writing and in regards to Something Wicked This Way Comes, this is arguably is his most poignant work. Touching on the fact that as we grow older, the more regrets we find ourselves living with; “what could have been” or “should have been” are now faded dreams as the distant memories still affect us to this day. What if there was a way to change that? Reset the clock and have a fresh start, would it be better the second time around or is it best to lay rest to those inner demons we live with? These are important questions that I can appreciate from a film that does a great job terrifying me with those burning inquiries as well as with what terrorizes our protagonists. Striking a perfect balance of what haunts us emotionally and visually from a cinematic viewpoint.

Setting aside the film’s interesting themes, this also plays well as a spooky family picture with plenty of creepy crawlies to spare. Much like Bradbury’s other feature on this list, The Halloween Tree, Something Wicked This Way Comes has a love for the Autumn setting. The weather’s atmosphere is about as perfect as one can get mimicking that sense of nostalgia felt in the faintly chilled breeze. Then when we get to some of the utterly horrifying elements, especially coming from the performance of Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark, who is mesmerizingly creepy in every single word spoken from his devious lips. Let all parents beware that, yes this is a family flick, but it’s one with a PG rating for a reason. 1980s PG at that. Not to be taken lightly. Be responsible parents and take into account what you believe your child is capable enough of visually digesting. And please, I’m begging all parents who may be reading this, don’t blame the film or filmmakers for whatever disturbing imagery that you had full control of shying your little one away from. Apologies for that random tangent, it’s a pet peeve of mine when parents blame certain media they subject their kids to when they could have easily avoided such by simply using their brains. I guess it’s just easier to not accept responsibility while projecting onto other sources instead. Adulthood in a nutshell, right?

3) Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

lets-talk-about-the-best-halloween-films

PLOT: A series of interwoven stories all centering around the strange happenings occurring on this one night of Halloween involving murder, mayhem, mystery, vengeful ghosts, creepy homicidal trick-or-treaters, vampires, werewolves, and candy!

Hmm... I dunno. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Hmm... I dunno. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

MY THOUGHTS: Trick ‘r Treat may not necessarily be the greatest anthology film ever made, but it certainly is the most ‘Halloween’ anthology ever made. Seriously, this rivals Halloween III a little bit with how much love is shown for the holiday. There’s practically not a single frame that doesn’t have something Halloween oriented plastered somewhere on the screen. Every color is drenched in Fall, every shadow supplies just the right creepy contrast for October, the gore is deliciously bloodthirsty, and most of the individual stories accomplish celebrating multiple horror subgenres that’s reminiscent and beloved by horror fans. The movie is a lot of fun to get in the right mood for this time of year.

Although, there are a couple of hinderances that I would say holds this movie back from being a little higher on the list. One being that every character, and I mean every character, is either a detestable twat or generically bland. Granted, some fun can be had with how awful of human beings these characters can be. For instance, Dylan Baker seems to be having a pretty terrific time portraying a fairly vile father figure/school principal and he has a few lines that got a laugh out of me. Unfortunately though, every character is pretty much an unlikable jerk in one fashion or another which honestly diminishes some of the fun to be had. This was possibly a product of the time as a somewhat new trope that was beginning to popularize in mid-2000s horror movies was the writing of characters to be less sympathetic in order to ensure the audience doesn’t grow too fond of someone before getting the axe; sometimes figuratively speaking, other times literally. Either way, it made for some annoying experiences which slightly taints my enjoyment of Trick ‘r Treat. Thankfully not the worst offender by any means when in terms of that specific trend in horror, but it’s still present in the majority of the picture regardless.