This was the hardest list to do because I kept going back and forth between the ones I wanted to list. What criteria was needed. I decided to just list the movies that I watch or make me think of Halloween. Some are obvious and some aren't. Some of them are just because I probably saw them for the first time around Halloween so I just happen to associate them with this day.
There is no lack of movies to watch. I always recommend the old Universal classics - 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein', 'The Wolf Man', 'The Mummy'. You just can't lose there. All of the great Vincent Price movies - 'House of Wax', 'The House On Haunted Hill', 'The Abominable Dr. Phibes'. What about Robert Wise's 'The Haunting'? Don't forget the many adventures of Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface. And any of George Romero's zombie films. In fact, I debated whether I should list 'Dawn of the Dead' but I decided to leave it off because those films work at any time of the year. I could sit here forever listing movies. This is why I knew I had to go with the more personal picks. This is not a one is better than the other list. By all means I encourage everyone to tell other people what they love to watch on Halloween. This should be about fun and not competition. No matter what you choose just make sure you have a good scary night ahead.
On with my picks.
CLASSIC HALLOWEEN MOVIES
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON - John Landis jumped from comedy to horror with a film that became an instant classic although he had written the script years before he ever became known for comedy. Werewolves freak me out so it's only natural that one of the films I recommend is 'An American Werewolf In London'.
David and Jack (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) are backpacking through England when they come across a small town where the villagers inside the local pub (called The Slaughtered Lamb which for those of you familiar with pubs isn't really a farfetched name) warn them to beware the moon. They take off into the night where they are attacked by a giant wolf. David awakes in the hospital in London where he is having odd dreams and getting visits from his dead friend Jack warning him he will become a werewolf. He falls for a nurse, played by Jenny Agutter, and goes back to her place only to find out that Jack warnings are true.
While Landis' flare for comedy is apparent in many very funny scenes the horror is played completely straight. So much so that when I saw this as a kid I was freaked out for a long time that a werewolf would jump out of the woods and attack me.
This film was the first film to win a competitive Academy Award for Best Makeup. Rick Baker did amazing work on this film. The transformation still stands as the best werewolf transformation ever. Even by today's standards it holds up.
It's one of those films that has everything - horror, comedy, a love story. One that for me is a perfect fit for Halloween. Afterall, aren't we all looking for some scares, some laughs, and a little lovin' this time of year?
FRIGHT NIGHT- Tom Holland's vampire film 'Fright Night' is one of my all time favorite films on vampires. This is one of those films that I have yet to meet anyone that doesn't like it and when introduced to the film I get people thanking me.
It has the Hitchcockian idea of the kid next door who peeks into his neighbor's window and sees some odd things. He soon discovers that his new neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. Needless to say no one believes him. Not his friend Evil (Stephen Geoffreys) or his girlfriend Amy (a pre-'Married With Children' Amanda Bearse). He even seeks out the help of a local TV host Peter Vincent (played perfectly by Roddy McDowall) who plays a vampire killer in the movies. A nice undertone of comedy but much like 'An American Werewolf In London' the horror is played straight.
I can't tell you how many times I've seen this film and it is just as entertaining every time I watch it. Do yourself a favor and track down this film. Or if you haven't watched it in a long time dust that copy off the shelf and pop it in. What better time of year than now.
TRICK R' TREAT - I know this one is too new to qualify as a classic. And I was even tempted to go with something else but not in a long time has something come along that so fits Halloween like 'Trick r' Treat'. I've seen the film three times now and it just gets better with each viewing. Plus watching it at this time of year is just perfect.
I wrote about this film in a previous post so be sure to check that out HERE.
CREEPSHOW - My love for this film knows no bounds. I first saw this when I was a kid in the theatre. I think it was several years later until I could watch "The Crate" with my eyes open. George Romero's and Stephen King's homage to EC comics is, in my opinion, the greatest anthology film ever. And what better name than 'Creepshow'? Five tales of horror which you would think might be boring at a 2 hour running time but the film is completely entertaining. And each story is told so well there isn't a weak one in the bunch.
This film is basically like five short films blended together. They're not linked in anyway outside of the fact that they are stories out of a comic book. However the mood and atmosphere of them is what links them together. The mix of horror and comedy is perfectly blended.
The cast is made up of a young Ed Harris (fresh off of Romero's previous film 'Knightriders'), Hal Holbrook, E.G. Marshall, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau. They all approach the film with such honesty that it makes the stories all the scarier because while the humor is there it's never winking at you so you're never pulled out of the story.
Featuring the great effects of Tom Savini and a great creepy score from John Harrison, 'Creepshow' is such a great fun ride that is perfect anytime of year as I have watched it I am sure at some point in every single month of the year. Matched this up with the other anthology film 'Trick r' Treat' and you have quite a night ahead of you. It's definitely the most fun you'll ever have being scared. To steal the tagline.
This is one of my all time favorite films so don't be surprised if this shows up on several lists from me.
HALLOWEEN - I am sure no one is surprised by this one. Let's face it though this film is an absolute classic. Can you not think of this film on some level when you think of Halloween? I know I can't. John Carpenter crafted a low budget phenomenon with 'Halloween'.
One thing John Carpenter does well is create an atmosphere and that is why this film works outside of its title during this time of year. It feels like Halloween.
Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Laurie who is being followed by Michael Myers, an escaped patient from an instituion where he was staying since he murdered his sister when he was a child. His doctor, Sam Loomis played by the great Donald Pleasance, is after him since he knows how evil Michael Myers really is.
I think most of us know the story. This film just works on every level. Who can forget the great score also done by Carpenter. The theme is one of the best themes ever written. Yes. I said ever because everyone knows it.
Every year I end my Halloween night watching this film. This will be the first year I watch it on Blu-ray so it's a little extra special. I think I've watched it in every format over the years. VHS then laserdisc then DVD and now Blu-ray. In the last 20 years I think I missed it twice. I did not watch it one year. Once I watched it the night before so that one is a little iffy but still. It is my Halloween tradition.
Happy viewing and most importantly - Happy Halloween everybody!!!