October 31st is upon us, and as Halloween month comes to an end, everyone’s waiting with costumes at the ready, decorations filling their front porches, horror films stacked for the whole week… or at least that last part, if you’re more of a stay-at-home kind of Halloween appreciator.
To help you pick your Halloween marathon movies, I compiled 10 great films that are set in or around Halloween night, whether they’re hardcore horror or a more satirical take on the celebrated creepy holiday.
Classics and more recent entries are also mixed together on this list, so beware of some very much expected entries and some unpredictable ones. Indies and blockbusters, thrillers and comedies… they’ll all tickle your Halloween nerd bone. Enjoy.
10. May (Lucy McKee, 2002)
Lucy McKee’s weirdly satisfying and wickedly dark debut, May is the story of a troubled young woman and the love affairs that send her over the edge. Be it with mechanic Adam Stubbs (Jeremy Sisto) or with her lesbian friend Polly (Anna Faris), young, weird May can’t find the good companion she’s looking for – that’s why she decides to build a new one out of their body parts.
Poor Angela Bettis has become defined by “creepy” parts since then (she even played Carrie in a 2002 TV remake), but she’s really outstanding here, breathing life into the film whenever McKee’s script stumbles, and making May a worthy watch.
9. Night of the Demons (Kevin Tenney, 1988)
This very funny horror/comedy celebrates and mocks (at the same time) the stupidity of teenagers trying to mess with the occult. It’s the story of a group of 10 young hard-partying teens who think it’s a good idea to hold a séance in the abandoned funeral parlor they pick as their Halloween destination.
Becoming somewhat of a cult classic over the years, Night of the Demons has earned a few subpar sequels and even a disappointing remake in 2009. The practical Halloween tips here are basic: stick to the original, and do not hold séances on October 31st.
8. Lady in White (Frank LaLoggia, 1988)
This almost forgotten gem of the 80s is a strange mix of the much scarier Poltergeist with the much more kid-friendly E.T. – only with no Steven Spielberg involvement whatsoever. Writer-director Frank LaLoggia made his second and last film about a young man who, locked in a school closet during Halloween night, witnesses a strange apparition of a girl who was murdered years ago.
Very ably shot and produced, Lady in White has its failings in other technicalities, but it stands as an entertaining horror/fantasy mix with a dark story to tell and the right means to tell it. It deserves to be remembered too as one of the first feature films lead by Lukas Haas after Witness.
7. The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979)
Out of all the 17 (yes, really) films made to date about or spun-off from the almost-true-crime novel by Jay Anson, maybe the only one worth watching is the 1979 original version by Stuart Rosenberg. The creepy energy here is strong as it tells the haunted house story to end all haunted house stories: George and Kathy are newlyweds with kids who move in to a Long Island dream house, only to realize an evil spirit is setting its sights on George and the children.
We all know this doesn’t end well, especially when Halloween approaches and the fateful possession becomes inevitable. The Amityville Horror is deadly serious about its story, and maybe that’s not for the best, but when the horror works on Rosenberg’s film, it really works. Having James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger on hand for the main roles also helps.
6. Murder Party (Jeremy Saulnier, 2007)
Jeremy Saulnier’s tremendously fun and weird debut (that’s right, before Blue Ruin) is quite an undiscovered gem. It tells the tale of Chris, an average New York loser who receives a random invitation to a costume Halloween party – since he has no friends willing to go out with him, he goes there alone, just to discover is a demented trap set up by… artists?
The weird twists and turns of Saulnier’s film and the firm ironic voice he establishes hardly preview the agonizing heights he would reach with his next two films, but it still works wonders in the hand of a talented director and a convincingly engaging cast. If you want a Halloween night romp with a few tricks up its sleeve, this is your film.