From Carrie to Corpse Bride, we’re on hand to talk you through the best Halloween films to watch during spooky season—whether you like a hide-behind-your-hands jump scare or a campy comedy.
Black Christmas (1974) dir. Bob Clark
Not to be confused as a Christmas movie—it’s far from it. This one’s got all the classic horror tropes, from sorority girls to threatening phone calls and a murder spree from an unknown killer.
Despite having seen an abundance of other and more recent takes on this narrative, Black Christmas seemed to rattle me the most with the spooky ambience of the 70s: dial-up phones, large spacious houses and slow, suspenseful panning shots. Bob Clark’s 1974 horror is the blueprint for so many horror films, and while you may have seen it all before, Clark’s take is fresh and thrilling with the addition of quintessential college humour. The scene at the end genuinely had me curling up into a ball—no face reveal for our murderer, just a single wide, unblinking eye starring at Olivia Hussey, our final girl’s fate left in the air.
This was a recent watch but shot right up my list of favorites. Hussey’s unexplained British accent in an American sorority house was the cherry on top of a fun film.
Words by Maddy Bos
Suspiria (2018) dir. Luca Guadagnino
If ever there was a film in need of a remake, Dario Argento’s Suspiria was the last on my list.
The idea of a remake, if anything, was nothing short sacrilegious at the time. But what Luca Guadagnino gave us in 2018, fresh from the success of Call Me By Your Name, was less of a remake and more of a spiritual reinterpretation—taking the fundamental themes and characters of Argento’s original and adding his own unique spin. Gone was the garish technicolour and the gaudy set-design, replaced with muted, pallid tones and a brutalist backdrop of divided Berlin.
The campy elements of the giallo are replaced with stark psychological and body horror, with the tale of dancing witches perfectly weaved in. Tilda Swinton graces us with eerie performances as three very different and unrecognisable characters, while Dakota Johnson leads the way as our new Susie Bannion.
When anything is labelled as a remake, it will undoubtedly be met with a great degree of skepticism. Especially when it comes to such an iconoclast of horror cinema as Suspiria, in the hands of a director with no prior horror experience. But when treated as a separate entity within its own world, I firmly believe that Guadagnino’s reinterpretation deserves a great deal of recognition and will receive it in time.
Words by Jack Roberts
Ready or Not (2019) dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
There are a myriad of reasons why Ready or Not is one of my favourite genre movies of the past few years. For one, it has huge ‘eat the rich’ energy, which I enjoy immensely. For another, it reminds me—every time I watch it—that sometimes we’re better off on our own, which appeals to my seemingly-never-ending singledom. And for a third, it offers yet more proof that Samara Weaving needs to be given more big roles in the industry.
But what appeals to me most about Ready or Not is that it’s a damn-near-perfect blend of horror and comedy, which manages to balance wince-inducing gore and tear-inspiring laughs like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Following Weaving’s newlywed bride as she finds herself hunted by her husband’s family on their wedding night in the worst game of hide and seek ever played, the film is about as bonkers as that sounds. Because of its sheer madness, it’s a film that can be watched at any time of year (I myself watched it on Valentine’s Day earlier this year), but it is sure to carry a certain resonance on a Halloween night in lockdown.
It isn’t as scary as your Aliens or your Exorcists, but it isn’t trying to be. It isn’t as funny as your Shaun of the Deads or your Zombielands, but it doesn’t want to be. As it stands, it’s a film that is nothing short of a deranged delight, and if an insane thrill-ride is what you’re after this year, then you won’t go far wrong with Ready or Not.
Words by Matt Taylor
The Thing (1982) dir. John Carpenter
One of my favourite things about horror films is how they can change your perspective of usually mundane locations. Be it a summer camp with Friday the 13th or a simple hotel with Psycho, if done well, horror can ruin these locations for you.
So, what happens when you take an already intimidating location, the arctic, and make it the backdrop for one of the scariest films ever? Well, you get me never booking a ticket to either of the poles so sorry in advance Pingu, our lunch date is on hold indefinitely. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a terrifying concept, perfected with bucketloads of gore and stellar practical effects.
But it’s the setting that sends the deepest chill down my spine (no pun intended). The blistering cold of an ice storm does wonders to emphasise just how isolated these characters are, which ironically is what they want with rising paranoia of who they can and can’t trust. And it’s not like the characters are a bunch of dumb teens who deserve to die in easy to predictable ways—they are all logical and smart with how they approach the issue, with MacReady being an obvious highlight. But when they all start getting killed off one by one, it’s their intelligence that makes the film scarier. Usually, we scoff at slashers and exclaim “I could easily survive this”, but with The Thing can you really be that confident? This is a film that I absolutely adore, but boy does it give me the willies.
Words by George Bell
Phantom of the Paradise (1974) dir. Brian De Palma
Many Halloween movie enthusiasts battle it out to decide whether Halloween should strictly be for scares or for laughs. I personally can’t resist the pull of a spoof horror, from Hocus Pocus to Little Shop of Horrors to The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
But perhaps no spoof horror is as dementedly entertaining as Phantom of the Paradise. In this obscenely fun and ridiculous rock opera based on Faust and Phantom of the Opera, Brian De Palma flexes his idosyncratic directorial muscles in the most campy, out-there way possible. Paul Williams not only writes and scores the film’s music, but also stars as Swan—an evil music producer resplendent with a Shih Tzu-esque mullet. He’s the film’s antagonist, who steals music from composer Winslow Leach, resulting in a vengeful feud between the two.
It’s not hard to see how this bizarre musical gained a cult following. There’s the genuinely brilliant Academy Award-nominated score, as well as the memorably obscene characters, from glam-rock icon ‘Beef’ to the Phantom himself, Winslow Leach. And, of course, there are the instantly recognisable De Palma-isms, from split diopters and split-screens to the bastardized pastiche of erstwhile horror tropes and filthy, tongue-in-cheek framing and imagery. Irreverent, postmodern and queer, this rollicking farce will have you breathlessly entertained throughout its 90-minute runtime.
Words by Steph Green
Beetlejuice (1988) dir. Tim Burton
Horror is possibly one of my favourite film genres. However, when it comes to Halloween, I am a firm believer in putting aside the traditional thriller in favour of the light-hearted comedic horror. In my humble opinion, Beetlejuice is the best of Burton’s films and a MUST watch every spooky season.
Funny, bizarre and creative in every way, the film indulges in a very specific kind of chaotic energy that is overflowing with unique ideas, characters and world-building. For anyone unaware of the plot, the film follows a foul-mouthed ghost named Beetlejuice who is hired to scare away the new residents of a deceased couple’s former home. Filled with an excellent cast as Michael Keaton plays the eponymous ghost while Winona Ryder plays the brilliant Lydia Deetz, the film has great production design, fun performances and a banana boat number that has certainly made its mark on pop culture.
Spooky, cheesy and quirky, it’s the perfect film for the whole family to watch. And, of course, the film must be admired for THE famed striped suit. So, this Halloween, get the family round the TV, grab your spooky treats or your pumpkin carving tools and watch Beetlejuice. But, remember, don’t say his name 3 times!
Words by Lucy Lillystone