Top 21 horror films for Halloween



I originally posted this in 2013 (have I been here that long already?), so some of you may not have seen it before.  I decided to repost it because I failed to get my arse in gear it includes some of my favourite horror films.  How many have you seen?  Are there any you’d add?

21.Dead Snow

Dead Snow is so bad it goes full circle and ends up being good.  Cheesy, low-budget and quite terrible, but good.  A group of Norwegian friends head off to a cabin in the mountains for a few days of skiing only to be set upon by a horde of zombie Nazi soldiers.  How can you not love that as the premise for a horror film?

Norwegian with English subtitles.

20. Final Destination

Starting with some lite horror for those of you who, unlike me, weren’t brought up on video nasties, I’ve included Final Destination just because its such damn good fun.  After escaping a fatal plane crash, a group of teenagers are picked off one-by-one by an unseen force.  With death scenes this imaginitive its no wonder this spawned four follow ups.

19. Let the Right One In

Based on a best-selling novel, this Swedish language film was a big hit.  So much so that they had to remake it in English (tsk) as Let Me In.  LTROI tells the story of the friendship between a little boy who gets bullied at school and a girl who happens to be a vampire.  Its dark and sometimes brutal, beautifully shot with great performances from the two young leads.

Swedish with English subtitles.

18. No One Lives

The most recent release to appear in my top 20.  The acting is quite terrible, for the most part, yet this is strangely quite good fun.  See my full review here but if you think you migth watch this one, don’t watch the trailer.

17. The People Under the Stairs

Written and directed by Wes Craven and featuring some familiar faces including Ving Rhames and Twin Peaks’ own Everett McGill and Wendy Robie, this is a creepy and sometimes funny tale of a couple who, well, keep people under the stairs.

16. The House of the Devil

Hard up for cash, student Samantha takes a babysitting job she finds advertised on campus.  We all know that babysitter is probably the most dangerous job in horror, and The House of the Devil doesn’t disappoint on that score.  With a pitch perfect 1980s sets and costumes, this is a slow burner that takes its time to get to the point.  Stick with it though, and don’t be tempted to bail before the end.

15. Ginger Snaps

Two teenage sisters who don’t fit in with the other kids at school have to deal with the consequences when one of them, Ginger, is bitten by a wolf.  An interesting take on the werewolf sub-genre and great performances from the young sisters (Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle) make this an excellent Halloween choice.  The trailer doesn’t really do it justice so why not watch the whole thing?

14. Ringu

The Japanese film that spawned a sequel, a prequel and an American remake complete with its own sequel, is by far the scariest of the lot.  If I were to say ‘a cursed video tape leads to the death of anyone who watches it’ you might think it sounded a bit lame.  It isn’t.  At the heart of the mystery are a young girl, named Sadako, and her mother.  There are some genuinely scary scenes.

Japanese with English subtitles.

13. The Thing

John Carpenter’s The Thing, made in 1982 and not to be confused with the dreadful remake (yes, unfortunately I’ve seen it so I’m speaking from experience) stars Kurt Russell and some excellent, if now dated special effects.  We follow a group of scientists stationed in the Antarctic who happen upon a murderous alien.  As is often the case, they get picked off one-by-one.

12. The Wicker Man (1973)

I’m talking about the original Wicker Man, here.  The one starring Edward Woodward (you know, The Equalizer), not the misguided yet hilarious remake with Nic Cage (which is actually worth a look just because it’s so very funny).  Anyway, Sargeant Howie (Woodward) goes to a remote Scottish island to investigate the case of a missing girl.  What he finds is a village full of strange characters, with even stranger customs, who insist there is no missing girl.

11. Halloween

You can’t really have a list of the best films for Halloween without including John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Escaped psychiatric patient and psycho killer, Michael Myers, stalks the streets of a peaceful suburb and sets about murdering a group of teenagers on Halloween night.  This is the quintessential teen slasher film and made Jamie Lee Curtis the ‘scream queen’.

Thanks to this film, I always have to look behind me whenever unlocking my front door.

10. Scream

I have a real soft spot for the Scream franchise, but this one is the original and best.  I saw it at the cinema when it first came out and was struck by the way it subverted horror fans’ knowledge and expectations of the genre.

9. The Haunting (1963)

Another excellent film to suffer the indignity of the dreadful remake (the 1999 car crash starring Catherine Zeta Jones), the original is a masterpiece of subtle eeriness and terror.  The location: a creepy, old mansion.  The premise: a doctor is conducting an experiment to prove/disprove the existence of ghosts.  Beautifully shot in black and white, modern horror film makers could do worse than aspire to this.

8. Poltergeist

This story of a family terrorised by a poltergeist is partly responsible for my caulrophobia.

7. Don’t Look Now

Adapted from a story by Daphne Du Maurier, Don’t Look Now stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland as a couple as they make a trip to Venice in an attempt to come to terms with the death of their daughter.  A chance encounter with a pair of elderly sisters (one of whom is a psychic, naturally), a figure who looks suspiciously like their late daughter and one of the most infamous love scenes on film and Bob’s your uncle.  You’ve got yourself a classic horror film.

6. The Evil Dead (1982) & Evil Dead II

I only watched these in full recently, and despite the hokey dialogue, questionable acting and dated special effects, both films are great fun.  See my full review here.

5. Rec trilogy

I’m cheating a bit here by including all three Rec films, but I’m sure you won’t mind.  The first Rec  stands alone well, but if you enjoy it you should watch all three.  Anyway, Rec tells the story of a TV presenter who goes on a ride-along with the local fire crew.  Upon answering a call to an apartment building, they find themselves quarantined inside and things get a whole lot worse from there.  The beginning is a bit slow but stick with it.

Spanish with English subtitles.

4. American Mary

This is an extremely weird little film.  In short, Mary (Katharine Isabelle’s second appearance in my Halloween list) is a medical student struggling to pay her bills, who finds a gruesome and unusual way to make some extra money.  Original, stylish and bloody, American Mary is a rare treat of a horror film.  If you’ve a strong stomach, why not watch the whole thing?


3. Psycho

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho is pure genius.  Janet Leigh (Jamie Lee’s real life mum) steals a wad of cash from her employer and high tails it out of town.  Stopping for the night at the Bates Motel she meets proprietor Norman Bates – the original mummy’s boy and titular psycho, played by Anthony Perkins.

Watch this and never feel safe in a hotel again.

2. The Descent

Truly one of the most frightening films I’ve ever seen.  With an original premise – a group of girls go caving – and enough characters to allow for a satisfying body count, The Descent gets two thumbs up from me.  Not to be confused with The Cave which came out around the same time but was terrible.

1. An American Werewolf in London

Love, love, love this film!

Love, love, love this film!

This has to be one of the best horror films ever made.  Simple as that.  Two American students are attacked by a werewolf during a walking holiday in the Yorkshire moors.  Our hero, David, is bitten, his friend Jack is killed and it all pretty much goes to shit from there.  American Werewolf includes some amazing special effects, especially when you remember it’s now more than 30 years old.

All together, now, I see the bad moon arising…

16 responses to “Top 21 horror films for Halloween

    • Good choices. Poles apart from each other on the horror spectrum but all excellent in their own way. I’m glad you like my selection.

  1. Some great choices there, although I may have put a few others on the list, I think you created quite a varied range of horror films 🙂

  2. I might have chosen Night of the Living Dead, I always think that needs to be on every horror films list. I love the fact that you didn’t pick all mainstream films though, like ginger snaps and American Mary. Those two definitely need more recognition. Have you seen Atrocious and VHS, although Atrocious it isn’t all that scary. The suspense is built up to ridiculous proportions like with The Blair Witch Project, and VHS just blew me away, it sets a really good creepy tone for an exploitation film. This was my Halloween watch list:

  3. Wow, great collection of horror films. Quite a few I haven’t seen, thank you so much for posting. I have some catching up to do.

    • Thanks so much for reading. I’m glad you like the list, I thought long and hard about which ones to include. I hope you enjoy watching the ones you haven’t seen before.

  4. Incredible list! Halloween, The Thing, The REC Trilogy, The Wicker Man and even The Haunting! Wow. You have some really good taste in horror. Great job!

      • Yeah, I don’t think I could just do a Top 10 either. Just so many great titles out there. Most of these on your list are my favorites, hands down.

  5. Pingback: Top 10 horror for Halloween | filmnerdblog·

  6. Looks like there are a lotta films I need to see! I’ve not seen many on your list, except for Dead Snow. Did you see the sequel to that?? It is fucking HYSTERICAL!!! Even better than the first!!

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