Michael Myers is sitting this one out…
So, as if 2020 hasn’t been horrific enough already, it’s now Halloween – the perfect time of year to put scary decorations up around the house, spend money you don’t have on creepy costumes, then lock the doors, close the curtains, and pretend you’re not home.
What could be better when trying in vain to hide from the snot-nosed little brats across the street than watching a scary, Halloween-themed movie.
The thing is, when you use the phrase “Halloween Movie”, every man and his Werewolf will automatically think you’re talking about the Michael Myers movies starring Jamie-Lee Curtis – all 47 of them.
So we’re gonna do things a bit differently here and offer up some alternative movie goodness to get your pumpkin juices flowing. There are a ton of great movies set either on or around All Hallows’ Eve which don’t feature a massive dude in a boiler suit and William Shatner mask, so here are the top ten Halloween movies which aren’t “Halloween” movies.
(10) May (2002)
This 2002 psychological horror, written and directed by Lucky McKee, tells the story of a young woman – the titular May – who has been left traumatized by her difficult childhood.
Incapable of making any real, meaningful connections with other people, May’s only real friend is her doll Suzie, and her increasingly bizarre and desperate attempts to interact with her peers pave the way for all sorts of grizzly shenanigans, culminating in a truly twisted sequence revolving around May’s presence at a Halloween party.
The film did not do well at the box office, and was met with a luke-warm reception by cinema goers and critics alike in 2002, but has since found a loyal audience and is now considered something of a cult classic.
(9) 31 (2016)
It should come as no surprise whatsoever that this 2016 movie, directed by the inimitable Rob Zombie, is weird in the extreme.
Set during Halloween 1976, 31 tells the story of a group of carnival folk (is it okay to say “Carnies?”) who are kidnapped by a gang of malicious clowns and forced into a life or death game of survival -“31” – in a labyrinthine maze of kill rooms, lest they be tortured and murdered by this creepy John Wayne Gacy fan club.
With typical Rob Zombie-esque blood, gore, screaming, and scares aplenty, the movie was slated upon its release and current sits at 47% on a certain tomato themed review site, but has its own loyal fanbase, and is definitely a good one to bust out at the end of October.
(8) Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, written directed by Michael Dougherty, is not simply a straightforward, 3 act movie but a collection of four short stories which each feature one common element: a creepy as all hell child in an orange romper suit with a burlap sack over its head.
Sam – the creepy kid – is here to enforce the rules of Halloween, and crosses paths with each of our protagonists when one of said rules is broken.
No movie on this list arguably captures the spirit (no pun intended) of Halloween better than this anthology film, with all of the iconography and tenets of this most unholy season in evidence.
Trick ‘r Treat actually boasts an impressive cast, too, with both Anna Paquin and Brian Cox of X-Men fame being the most recognisable participants in this thoroughly entertaining movie.
(7) Hell Fest (2018)
When a group of friends score VIP tickets to this year’s Hell Fest – a horror themed festival of ghouls, shots, and general debauchery – scaring themselves shitless is most definitely the order of the day.
They had not, however, banked on being stalked, tormented, and ultimately murdered by a maniac in a hoodie and creepy mask who takes a liking to our pretty protagonist, Natalie.
Wandering the themed areas and haunted houses of the park, there are jump scares to be had for both the characters themselves and us as viewers, and the descent from fun night out to literal fight for survival is satisfying and entertaining.
This 2018 movie directed by Gregory Plotkin is a Halloween must, and even features a cool cameo from Candyman himself, Tony Todd.
(6) Night of the Demons (1988)
So we’re winding the clocks back a bit for our next movie. Another which failed impress upon release, 1988’s Night of the Demons – like so many others – is now considered a cult classic.
When a group of teenagers decides it would be a good idea to hold a séance in an abandoned mortuary on Halloween, they unwittingly release a demon who had hitherto been locked inside the crematorium,
Over the moon at its newfound freedom, the demon proceeds to possess and kill the group one by one for its own amusement, – it is Halloween, after all.
The movie divided audiences at the time, and has since been followed by two sequels and a remake, but the original is still worth a watch at this time of year.
Happy Halloween, Dear…
(5) The Changeling (1980)
Not to be confused with the Angelina Jolie movie of the same name, 1980’s The Changeling is the story of a famous New York composer who relocates to a mansion in Seattle. Once there, he begins to suspect the place is haunted, and all manner of ghostly goings-on ensue.
An interesting anecdote, the screenplay is actually based on events that writer Russell Hunter claimed to have experienced while living in the Henry Treat Rogers mansion in Denver, Colorado.
The movie itself is a sombre affair, with periods of dread and suspense complimented by some terrifying moments centred around the experiences of the main character, John Russell.
The film is generally well reviewed, and is definitely worth a watch if you’re in the mood for a good old haunted house tale.
(4) Pet Sematary (1989)
Sometimes, dead IS better…
Though only tangentially related to Halloween, it totally still counts.
When the Creed family move away from busy Chicago and out to the sleepy rural town of Ludlow, Maine, it seems the perfect setting to start their new lives.
When the family cat, Church, is killed their elderly neighbour, Jud, takes Lewis Creed to a nearby Indian burial site – known locally as the “Pet Sematary” – which has been know to resurrect the dead.
The cat comes back to life even more evil than cats are usually, and when the Creed’s son Gage is knocked down and killed by a truck, Lewis – against Jud’s advice – takes his son’s body to the burial site in a bid to bring him back.
The film is as famous for its scares as it is for its exploration of grief and desperation, and is definitely one to watch.
(3) Poltergeist (1982)
Based upon an original story by Steven Speilberg, and written in conjunction with director Tobe Hooper, Poltergeist tells the story of the Freeling family, living a happy life in a California suburb. When their home is invaded by malevolent ghosts that abduct their younger daughter, the family try everything they can to bring her back to the real world.
Poltergeist was a hit upon launch, and has continued to terrify and traumatise people for decades at this point, with its sequels continuing that trend.
Speaking of the sequels, if there was ever an award for “Creepiest Old Man in a Horror Movie”, the preacher from Poltergeist II would win, hands down.
(2) Donnie Darko (2001)
Featuring the brother and sister team of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Donnie Darko is one weird-ass little movie.
Very nearly a straight-to-video release (remember videos, kids?) the movie tells of the titular Donnie who, over the course of 28 days leading up to Halloween, must try to make sense of his apocalyptic visions and the mystery of the giant, creepy rabbit named Frank.
Donnie Darko is yet another example of a movie which was originally met with a general disinterest and shockingly mediocre reviews, but has since gone on to become a classic and was even featured in Empire’s “500 Greatest Movies of All Time” list; no mean feat for an easily-dismissed indie movie.
Not scary in the traditional sense, Donnie Darko is just a weird, abstract sort of film which is a perfect accompaniment to a Halloween movie night.
(1) The Exorcist (1973)
Generally considered one of – if not the – scariest film of all time, The Exorcist was adapted from William Peter Blatty’s novel of the same name and directed by William Friedkin.
The movie tells the story of a 12 year old girl – Regan – who becomes possessed by the demon Pazuzu, and her family’s attempts to cast out the malevolent presence with the help of two priests, Fathers Merrin and Karras.
The reaction to The Exorcist on release was brutal, with reports of heart attacks and miscarriages in cinemas, people fainting and vomiting in the aisles, and even a piece appearing in a leading psychiatric journal on “cinematic neurosis” triggered by the film.
The Exorcist, while it may seem a little quaint viewed through modern eyes, is undoubtedly an absolute classic, and its connection to the Halloween season make it the perfect movie to sit down and/or throw up to.
And to all you dyslexics out there, your mother does in fact cook socks in Hell.
Stay spooky, people… Stay spooky.
Article written by Chris Joyce