Halloween is just around the corner, so it’s time to pull out the scariest films full of ghosts and ghouls, witches and werewolves, monsters and mummies. Everyone has their favorites, and I’m no exception. Some are classics, some are unusual, but all are my Crown Jewels of Halloween flicks.
10. Arsenic and Old Lace
A true classic with more laughs than scares, this film pits Cary Grant against two sweet old murderesses, Teddy Roosevelt, and a psychopathic Boris Karloff-lookalike. Nothing drives a man insane like having a whole family of lunatics–or a dead body in the window seat! It may be an older movie, but it’s spooky fun for the whole family.
“They’re here!” The ghost story to end all ghost stories, this story by Steven Spielberg rips a young girl from her family, playing on childhood fears and pulling from paranormal phenomena. And for the record, there was no Indian burial ground involved, just a plain old-fashioned graveyard. Can we please stop confusing Poltergeist with Pet Sematary? Thank you.
8. Sweeney Todd
Attend the tale of a revenge-crazed barber with a wicked razor and his partner with a penchant for pie baking. Sondheim’s spookiest musical comes in many forms, from local plays to Tim Burton’s blood-soaked retelling. My favorite, however, has to be the filmed stage play, in which Angela Lansbury sings with charming depravity about popping people into pies.
7. Sleepy Hollow
One of Tim Burton’s more overlooked films, Sleepy Hollow retells the classic story of the Headless Horseman as a paranormal murder mystery and a love letter to the gothic and gory Hammer horror films. The atmosphere is as creepy and Halloween-y as it gets, and the special effects are especially well done for the most part. It may not be the strongest story, but it’s plenty of seasonal fun for mature audiences.
It’s rare to find a horror movie that’s scary and smart, but this film fits the bill. It takes the classic home invasion formula and adds in a deaf protagonist, using her disability to heighten the tension. How can she see the killer coming when she can’t hear him? If you want a slasher flick with smart characters and good storytelling, this is the one.
“Who ya gonna call?” Another film that’ll make you laugh more than you scream, this classic features a paranormal extermination service as they take on a host of ghosts and a demigod in the form of a giant marshmallow sailor. Fire up your proton packs, don’t look at the trap, and don’t cross the streams in this unique, hilarious, and quotable sci-fi comedy.
4. The Mummy
This movie turns the classic monster film into a rollicking adventure full of cheesy Egyptian horror, swashbuckling action, and tongue-in-cheek laughs. These characters and the mummy they accidentally bring to life hold a special place in my heart, as does the Raiders-esque fun that ensues.
3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This movie traps our heroine in a bunker during what she’s told is an apocalyptic event, and the tension only ramps up from there. Is her bunker-mate holding her captive or saving her life? Is the real monster outside or inside? You’ll be holding your breath through this tight, claustrophobic film where no one is safe.
From the creator of Hush, this movie features a supernatural mirror as the antagonist, and like the smoke and mirrors of a magician, it specializes in illusion. You’re never sure whether what you’re seeing is real or imaginary, and the longer you watch, the more the movie plays with your mind, the way the mirror may or may not be playing with the minds of our heroes. Another smart and well-told horror film, and definitely one of my favorites.
1. The Babadook
With themes of grief and loss and special effects that hearken back to the earliest days of horror films, this movie is by turns thoughtful, disturbing, nostalgic, and terrifying. It pits a recently widowed mother against a character from a horrific children’s book and pictures a spiral of madness that’s both relatable and bizarre. For mature viewers, this is required viewing for Halloween.
Which Halloween-themed films do you watch every year? Let me know in the comments below, and have a safe and spooky Halloween!