Nothing says amateur hour like watching Friday the 13th On Halloween. To each their own, but for me this is diluting the Halloween experience.
The annual celebration of all things horror this time of year is what makes it great; from dismembered corpses scattered across boring suburban lawns, to highly dubious true ghost stories dominating the news cycle, to finally the costumes and night itself.
It’s without a doubt the best two weeks or so of the year, right before the oppression of Christmas cheer rolls in.
The great wealth of horror films all have a place in this somewhere, but only a select few really capture what it’s all about. It boggles the mind that The Shining is suddenly all over the television come October. Sure it’s an absolute classic, but snow drifts and 70s fashion clearly make this more of a dour mid-January offering.
Don’t let your Halloween party be hampered by the urge to screen the first horror flick that comes to mind, it will steer you wrong. Luckily, I’ve got you covered. Here are the Top Ten Essential Screenings for your Halloween get together.
Yes, John Carpenter’s 1979 classic has been purposefully omitted due to its’ obvious domination, and the fact it’s probably already in your streaming queue.
10. The Omen
This film both serves as the template for what it’s all about, as well as an appreciative nod to the satanic horror film, this being it’s only appearance on this list.
The terrifying soundtrack alone will keep your guests on edge better than any mix you put together, so make sure the sound system is cranked. From witches to demon dogs, to creepy graveyards, you just got to love this movie, even if you don’t like it.
You don’t necessarily have to pick Dracula, but it has to be one of the classic, and preferable Universal monsters.
With all their latex, fog machines, and gothic sets, they virtually are Halloween parties on film. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula in particular is a financial pillar of the holiday, and the legions of kids who dress as him know the impersonation without ever seeing the movie.
8. The Abominable Dr. Phibes
We’ve got to get Vincent Price in there somewhere as well, and you can only play Thriller so many times before people head for the door.
This deeply weird and mask centric horror film, loaded with hilarious deaths, will undoubtedly intrigue those guests who haven’t seen it before, and be a welcome part of the programming for those who have. All hail the king of Halloween.
This is one that cable programming usually gets right. It’s dark, it’s spooky, and there’s always something new to discover with each screening. From a film standpoint, it also goes without saying that everything leading up to and including the infamous shower scene is a master class in creating tension.
6. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Okay, let’s dial it back just a little bit for the kids. But even adults should be able to appreciate this classic cartoon that taught us all to love Halloween before we ever had our first trick or treat.
5. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Okay, the kids are in bed, let the skull crushing masks out of the bag. This bizarre anomaly about murderous masks is stands alone in what is otherwise a formulaic slasher franchise.
It goes to show that you can still make a good sequel without retreading the same material over again. It was a message that we all still hold out hope may be received by the studios someday.
4. Plan 9 From Outer Space
Nothing compliments your party better than a film that looks like it has a lower budget than your party. Besides all of the fun this notorious “flop” will inspire with its’ insane dialog and wobbly cardboard sets, it’s definitely going to hold everyone’s interest.
Say whatever you want about Ed Wood, at no time did he ever fail to entertain. There’s many-a-critically beloved director I can’t say that about.
This is a no brainer. It’s about a pumpkin monster brought back to life by a witch. It’s got special effects by Stan Winston, and it’s starring Lance Henrikson wielding a grandpa shotgun through Appalachia. Think Aliens meets Deliverance.
2. The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (Seasons 2 through 10)
It’s hard to choose a favorite installment in these, but back when this show was in its’ prime, these were the best episodes of the year.
They lampooned classic horror films and literature alike, and used Halloween to break out all of the weird stuff they couldn’t quite justify during a normal day in Springfield. This is several hours of greatness.
1. Night of the Living Dead
Yes, this is another one that you’ll no doubt find playing on television somewhere as Halloween night approaches, and as it should.
This claustrophobic classic has miraculously never lost it’s punch, and still has the creepiest zombies this side of the apocalypse (if not the most efficient.) You simply cannot go wrong.
Mike is our staff film writer, mediocre guitar player, and filmmaker. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Film and Media Arts, and continues to adore films of all stripes and other unidentified markings-but with a natural preference for ninjas and demons. He’s that guy who was downtown shrieking obscenities at the lamp post when they let Rob Zombie remake Halloween.