Spooky season is here and although trick-or-treating is off limits this year, there’s nothing like an eerie film to get into the Hallowe’en spirit! With so many sub-standard horror films flooding screens and Netflix subscriptions, it can be hard to find something that really makes you scream. Fear not! This is the top 10 Hallowe’en and terrifying, horror films that you should binge watch if you’re brave enough…
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Nothing kicks off Hallowe’en quite like the Disney original film Hocus Pocus! Directed by Kenny Ortega, known for also directing the High School Musical trilogy, and starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as the accidentally resurrected Sanderson sisters intent on ruining Hallowe’en in Salem 1993. It’s become a cult classic with spectacular comedic performances that will put a spell on you. Every October, sales of Hocus Pocus spike and for good reason.
Ju-On: The Grudge
Japan may be known internationally for cute characters like Hello Kitty, but it’s also a country famous for skin crawling horror films (many are poorly remade into American versions). Ju-On: The Grudge tells the story of vengeful ghosts who were murdered in pure rage, inducing a curse. Not an out of the ordinary horror plot but the imagery of the long, black haired women (common for Asian ghost stories) and the pale, blue tinted little boy are unsettling. There’s even been a 2020 prequel series Ju-On: Origins released on Netflix.
Can Hallowe’en be complete without Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci? Sleepy Hollow, based on the 1820 short story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is about a logical police constable (Depp) sent to a quaint village to investigate a series of murders. The catch is that a headless ghoul is the prime suspect. This film will keep you guessing until the end as you dive into a world of superstitions, witchcraft and ghosts. An honorable mention is Christopher Walken’s silent role as the Headless Horseman which deserves more appreciation.
If you want a good laugh between all the screams, please watch Extra Ordinary. Only released last year but gaining not much attention, it’s an Irish horror comedy that is hysterically hilarious. Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) is a lonely driving instructor in rural Ireland who can communicate with ghosts. Martin Martin (Barry Ward), wanting to rid himself of the ghost of his nagging deceased wife, needs Roses’ help. From there the film explodes into rock star satanic virgin sacrifices, exorcisms and funnily…romance. Try watching this without crying from laughter.
Ba. Ba. DOOOOOOOK.
Who needs sleep anyway? The Babadook is an Australian psychological horror that visually takes inspiration from film noir and pre 1950s B-grade horror films. Widow and single mother Amelia is struggling to raise her “troubled” son alone after the death of his father. One evening she reads him a bedtime book about the Babadook and unintentionally invites the dark figured monster into her home… Without relying on gore and cheap jump scares, The Babadook relies on true psychological fear and atmospheric eeriness. It was one of the best reviewed films in 2014 and William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist (1973) said “I’ve never seen a more terrifying film. It will scare the hell out of you as it did me”.
The Corpse Bride
Victor is preparing for his arranged marriage to Victoria, but due to nerves keeps forgetting his vows. In an attempt to recollect himself he goes for a stroll in the forest when he perfectly recites his vows and places the wedding ring on what he thinks is a tree branch. In fact, it’s the finger of a dead bride named Emily, whose deep set eyes and blue hair is stunning just so you know. She takes him to the underworld, while in the living world Victor’s fiancée Victoria and his family search for him. Complimented by Danny Elfman‘s ethereal soundtrack and breath taking animation (no pun intended), The Corpse Bride secures a place on our Hallowe’en must watch list.
The Craft (1996)
The Craft (1996) is about a schoolgirl coven of witches who use witchcraft to better their lives but face the negative consequences of abusing this power. Starring Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True and the genius performance of Fairuza Balk as Nancy, this witch flick will have you wishing you were a 90s grunge witch invocating the spirit of Manon. Lost? You’ll understand once you’ve watched it. At the time of filming, Fairuza Balk (The Waterboy, American History X) was coincidently a Wiccan in real life so she drew on her legit experiences for the role. Next time someone warns you to steer clear of weirdos just hit them with, “We are the weirdos mister“.
No theatrical trailer can do Donnie Darko justice. It’s about Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is visited by a man in a bunny costume who warns him that the world will end in 28 days (on Hallowe’en). Time travel, paranoid schizophrenia and visions all combine to leave you scratching your head wondering what is really going on? Filmed over the course of 28 days, exactly like the timeline of the film, it was almost released straight to video. Drew Barrymore, who plays Donnie’s likeable English teacher, managed to theatrically release it with her production company Flower Films. Other notable actors in Donnie Darko are the late Patrick Swayze, a pubescent Seth Rogan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ashley Tisdale (for 3 seconds) and Jena Malone. Read a more detailed review of Donnie Darko here.
“I’m your OTHER mother, silly”. What if there was a perfect parallel world through a secret door in your home? Would you let someone sew buttons into your eyes to stay, or would you uncover the world’s sinister secret? For adventure seeker Coraline Jones and with the help of a talking black cat, neighbor Wybie and spirits of trapped kids, she must learn that maybe the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick brought the book to life in this stop-motion animation. Of course, his track record for nailing creepy, fantasy animations speaks for itself. Coraline fosters traditional ghost story telling with detailed visual counterparts that has gained itself well deserved awards. Remember to always lock the door to the other world…
Michael Keaton is a poltergeist who helps newly deceased couple (Geena Davis and a shockingly fresh-faced Alex Baldwin) try to spook a family out of their home (Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder and Jeffrey Jones). The result: dancing to Harry Belafonte’s “Day-o” around the dinner table. The joy of Beetlejuice is it’s embrace of goofy Hallowe’en theatrics. It’s silly. It’s sometimes crude. It’s the “trick” in trick-or-treat. Directed by (you guessed right!) Hallowe’en king Tim Burton; a Beetlejuice animated series, video games and a musical followed. Say it once, say it twice, third time’s the charm.