Like a lot of people, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s been so ever since I was a kid tramping through the neighborhood in my homemade Spider-Man costume (thanks, Mom!), gathering enough candy to rot several the teeth of seven people. Naturally I don’t go trick-or-treating anymore, but I still find ways to have fun. In fact, I’d say that Halloween is the holiday that makes me feel most like a kid again.
And I’m not the only one. Joe Corey, Jenny Rushing, Rob Sutton, Trevor MacKay, and myself decided to put together the biggest, baddest, scariest Halloween movie list ever with occasional comments and some memories of our first experience with scary movies thrown in for fun.
So, on to the list!
1. King of the Zombies – Joe Corey: “During World War II, a small plane carrying Mantan Moreland and two other guys make an emergency landing on a small Caribbean island. They become guests of Dr. Sangre at his creepy mansion. They discover that not only is their host a Nazi spy, but he creates zombies. This was a Creature Double Feature classic for Mantan’s amazing reactions to the supernatural staff.”
3. Halloween (DVD / Blu-ray) – Josh Begley: For my money, Michael Myers is one of the scariest supernatural slashers out there. Plus, he walks around wearing a big, white William Shatner facemask–now that’s frightening.
4. Evil Dead – Trevor MacKay: A group of teens head off into the woods, awaken an ancient evil, terror ensues. Not exactly a ground-breaking plot, but a great movie. Unlike its more tongue-in-cheek (yet equally awesome) sequels, Evil Dead is a straight horror movie. Sure, it was a low-budget affair and some of the special effects (some of the stop-motion shots in particular) have not aged well, but the film is genuinely creepy with a good number of disturbing moments.
Ironically, Trevor MacKay saw his first horror movie at Christmas: “When I was about seven or eight years old, I was at a family gathering on Christmas Eve. That side of the family is quite large so our family gatherings were large, multi-room affairs. For some reason, in the living room, people were watching Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning. I have no idea why they would be watching that on Christmas Eve, but they were.
“It was the ‘80s so there was far less of that whole “protect kids from movies” thing going on so none of my relatives seemed to care that I (and several of my cousins) was watching the movie along with everyone else.
“I don’t think I saw the whole movie at the time, but I remember being kind of excited to see Jason, but largely unaffected by the movie, even when he was brutally killing people. It’s not that I couldn’t be scared by horror movies (a couple years later, I would see Stephen King’s It for the first time. I loved the movie and watched it constantly, but I had many a nightmare about Pennywise the Dancing Clown), but for some reason, A New Beginning had very little impact on me. Which is odd because I became a huge fan of the series a few years later.”
Jenny Rushing’s first horror experience came from Disney. Surprisingly it had nothing to do with the It’s a Small World ride: “Remember movie day in elementary school? Where I went to school, the only days we watched movies were the very last days of school before Christmas break and summer break. We would all gather in the cafeteria – our entire grade – and would watch some family friendly film, usually one of the Herbie movies. I was totally content to watch Herbie over and over again, but all of the other kids complained. My fifth grade year, the last day of school, the teachers decided to change it up a bit. They were going to be showing “The Watcher in the Woods”. Now “The Watcher in the Woods” is a Disney movie too, but this movie gave me nightmares all summer.
“‘The Watcher in the Woods’ stars Bette Davis, and is about a family who moves into this run down old mansion in the middle of the woods. The teenaged daughter begins seeing the images of a blindfolded girl in the mirrors of the house, and she sees things in the woods around the house. Strange things start happening, like blue lightning coming from the woods trying to kill them. Yes, really!! This movie scared the bejeezus out of me.
We find out that the girl in the mirror was the old woman’s (Bette Davis) daughter who had gone missing years ago. Standard ghost story stuff, but for a Disney movie—pretty creepy.
I recently re-watched this movie to see if it was actually scary or if I had built it up in my mind. “The Watcher in the Woods,” though dated in the special effects department, is still a very creepy thriller, even for grown-ups. Even though I’m an adult now and it’s been years since first watching this movie, I’ll probably never watch it again. It still creeps me out.”
11. Night of the Living Dead (Millennium Edition) – Trevor McKay: “I’ve always had a thing for zombies movies. I particularly enjoy the slow, shambling and mindless variety of zombie. In these films, a well-organized band of humans could survive indefinitely, and yet things almost inevitably go to hell as the humans spend more time panicking and squabbling amongst themselves then behaving in a rational manner. Night of the Living Dead pioneered the genre and its still a classic 40 years later.”
12. The Bride of Frankenstein – Josh Begley: This is the king of classic horror and one of the cases where the sequel actually surpasses the original. Karloff’s monster is alternately terrifying, sympathetic, and repulsive.
While my first horror movie experience didn’t technically involve a horror movie, it sure scared the bejeezus out of me. When I was four I was watching Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein with my father. I can’t remember if I enjoyed the movie or not—I was pretty young, after all—but what I do remember was bolting out of the living room and screaming bloody murder the second I saw the monster’s hand move. It’s one of those childhood memories that’s somewhat embarrassing yet hilarious at the same time.
14. The Descent (DVD / Blu-ray) – Trevor MacKay: Atmosphere is key to any successful horror movie. The Descent has atmosphere in droves. The monsters are creepy enough but it’s the caves that provide the true sense of horror. Long before the monsters even make an appearance, the caves will fill you with discomfort and a sense of claustrophobia.
16. A Nightmare on Elm Street– Josh Begley: All of the Nightmare movies are entertaining in one way or another, but the first is still the scariest. This is before Freddy gets gabby and is really a threatening, omnipresent figure.
18. The Amityville Horror (1979 version) (DVD / Blu-ray)
19. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (DVD / Blu-ray) – Josh Begley: While this movie took a beating when it came out in the theaters, I thought it was damn scary because of its excellent use of atmosphere and the overall feeling of helplessness throughout the entire film.