Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Horror Films to Watch on Halloween

In need of Halloween viewing suggestions? Guest contributor Kate Voss has you covered.

Halloween only comes around once a year, and there’s really no reason to squander it watching crummy movies. The problem is, the horror market is oversaturated with mindless and forgettable tripe.

There is no dearth of horror titles out there. If you’ve been searching for Halloween viewing material on Netflix, you’ve probably felt a little overwhelmed by the bevy of films with words like "blood," "chainsaw," "cannibal," or "zombie" in the title.

If you’re uncertain about what to watch, and need a hand to help you select viewing material, look no further! Here is a list of tried-and-true classics. So finish carving that jack-o-lantern, pop your popcorn, and rally around that television set/laptop/iPhone 5...

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Tobe Hooper’s grindhouse-crossover classic, which follows the exploits of a deranged, hillbilly family who make their living as butchers. And let’s just say that their choice cuts are... not quite like anything you’d expect to find in any Whole Foods aisle. I mean to say that they butcher tourists and sell the meat at the family owned gas station. While it may sound like a dubious business model (hardly sustainable), this film has stood the test of time, and (unlike its slew of imitators) favors psychological manipulation over explicit on-screen blood-and-guts.

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2. Halloween (1978)

It was made on a shoestring budget, with most of the film featuring Jamie Lee Curtis making concerned faces and standing around the suburban "Haddonfield, Illinois" (actually a neighborhood near Beverly Hills) while ominous music plays. This film (like the aforementioned Chainsaw) helped to cement the slasher formula. Michael Myers is the speechless, masked murderer, who cannot be stopped! In an interesting homage to Alfred Hitchcock, director John Carpenter cast actress Jamie Lee Curtis (daughter of Janet Leigh, who was famously murdered in the shower in Psycho) in the lead female role -- this was incidentally Lee’s first role in a feature film.

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3. Creepshow (1982)

George A. Romero directed it. Stephen King wrote it. It pays homage to the controversial (and ultimately banned) EC horror comics from the 1950s (which contained titles you may be familiar with, like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror). It’s a self-aware, hyper-stylized, humorous, grotesque, and thoroughly entertaining film. Even if you’re not an avid gore-hound, there’s enough schticky humor to make this palatable to a fairly wide audience. The segment with Stephen King playing an east coast bumpkin alone... you know what, just stop reading this. Watch Creepshow right now.

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4. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

You simply cannot watch enough George Romero films tonight. This is the second film in his Dead series, which was preceded by Night of the Living Dead (1968), and followed up by Day of the Dead (1985) and Land of the Dead (2005). This one pits a band of S.W.A.T.-like military experts (and company) against a legion of zombies aimlessly puttering around a shopping mall (and I’ll leave you to ruminate on the oh-so-subtle socio-political implications of this.) The film also answers that age-old question: who would win in a fight, a gang of zombies, or a gang of bikers? Added bonus: film special effects makeup wizard Tom Savini’s role as the head of the biker gang.

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5. Psycho (1960)

What more could possibly be written about this exploitation gem, heralded by fans and critics alike as a true cinematic masterpiece, and one which transcended. It’s only so low on the list because you’ve probably already seen it a thousand times, and know what a magnificent trendsetter it was. This was the true godfather of the slasher film, and it’s still chilling to this day. It featured every Hitchcock signature (the maniac with crippling mommy issues; peculiar erotic motivations for violent crimes; and a couple of monumental twists and turns to subvert your expectations. We take certain tropes for granted now: kinky, gender bending murderers, family members preserved in basements, people getting carved up frivolously with butcher knives. But for Hitchcock to make this film back then... and to have enough faith in it to fund it entirely on his own! Watch it, and maybe even pick up a copy of Robert Bloch’s book by the same name which inspired the film.

View the trailer

Author Bio: Kate Voss is a freelance film and entertainment writer for, covering everything from tv dramas to horror flicks. She lives and works in Chicago and loves the band Broken Social Scene and the tv show How I Met Your Mother.


  1. I'd swap 'Dawn of the Dead' with Trick 'R Treat.... otherwise, it's an almost perfect list.~Monkey