The Spooky Screen: Our favorite Halloween movies

By the

October 27, 2011

#1: The Shining, Stanley Kubrick,1980     Watch The Shining by yourself. Just keep an extra pair of pants handy. Kubrick’s attempt at horror is as terrifying as it is gorgeous.  The ominous twins, the bloody elevator, and the ghost of an old English gentleman set the scene for Jack Nicholson’s dip into insanity.  There is no shortage of iconic imagery in this film, but the sheer terror of a psychotic father bent on killing his wife and metaphysically talented son is what makes this the best Halloween film of all time.  In fact, you’ll still get the creeps after watching this 60 times, which is also the number of doors used in takes for the “Heeeeere’s Johnny” scene. And if there’s one lesson you can take away from this film, it would be as follows: go out on Halloween, or just stay in and have fun with your friends.  If not, you might find yourself drowned in a state of “all work and no play,” and that would be bad.  Very bad.

#2 The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick, 1993
So Tim Burton didn’t actually direct it, but who cares, he was born in Halloween Town!  It’s probably the best stop-motion movie ever, and you can watch it anytime as both a Halloween and a Christmas flick—now that’s bang for your buck.  This dark story of the pumpkin king bringing his form of Christmas to unsuspecting children of the world features romance, intrigue, and even explosions, and its influence on emo kids cannot be understated. And Danny Elfman should be forced to compose Halloween-themed music for the rest of his days, just as Santa was forced down into Oogie Boogie’s lair.

#3: The Thing, John Carpenter, 1982
Though it bombed at the box office back in 1982, The Thing makes today’s CGI-bloated horror flicks look like shit. Made in the golden age of sci-fi, John Carpenter’s cult classic finds the perfect balance between psychological terror and gore. Isolated in a research institute in the Antarctic, an American crew suddenly finds themselves picked off one by one by a shape-shifting alien that had slept dormant under the ice until they arrived. Think you can’t be scared shitless by a stop-motion animation alien? Carpenter will prove you wrong.

#4: Army of Darkness, Sam Raimi, 1992
Bruce Campbell is a badass, and there is no better example of this masculine demigod’s badassery than Army of Darkness. After being sent back to medieval times, Bruce blasts witches with his broomstick, mutilates enemies with his chainsaw, and slays an army of undead skeletons. The third film in the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness is a gore-fest full of laughs, screams, and some really funky special effects. The medieval setting provides a fun backdrop for the genre (think Monty Python or Princess Bride), and the overall comic-book feel makes this one of the strangest movies you could pop into your VCR Halloween night.

#5: The Exorcist, William Friedkin, 1973
Watching this in Healy with a couple hundred other students might make it seem like a funny movie.  But just wait until you’re walking down an empty cobblestone Georgetown street at midnight and the fog begins to creep through the air.  You will be freaking out as you sprint back to your haunted dorm room.  This Georgetown favorite is still as scary as ever, but it also maintains a level of relevance in this day and age: following Michelle Bachmann’s appearance on the cover of Newsweek, a Jesuit was promptly contacted to perform an exorcism.

#6: Ghostbusters, Ivan Reitman, 1984
“Who you gonna call?” That’s right, ‘80s cult classic Ghostbusters has it all: over the top ‘80s hair, ridiculous special effects (which have aged well), and a slew of truly great one-liners (“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”).  With an ironic applicability to the jobs crisis, Ghostbusters tells the story of three NYU parapsychology professors who stumble into the soon-booming ghost busting business after getting forced out of their university positions. Part of a lost generation of truly great family-friendly classics, not many films can approach Ghostbusters’s sci-fi comedy genius, except maybe Ghostbusters 2, or, fingers crossed, Ghostbusters 3.

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