Are you looking for a movie night full of scares? Or just a little nudge into the Halloween spirit? Here is a list of nine Halloween movies you must watch this year.
These are films that are fun for the whole family! No need to worry about too much blood and guts.
Following the smashing success of their first feature film, Coraline, Laika Studios was ready for more. After three years in production, they finally released ParaNorman, a stop-motion zombie film featuring a young boy who can speak to the dead. Each frame of this film is unique, and it is clear they were precise and intentional in all that they did. Not enough praise has been given to the animators of this film who put so much effort into their creation. Each character is distinct, and their visuals reflect their personalities; this fact extends to the numerous ghosts and zombies featured in the movie. Because of this, the film is character-driven and spends much of its runtime delving into what makes everyone different. It emphasizes that no one deserves to be mistreated for who they are. ParaNorman is a fun movie filled with references to past horror movies and charming characters you want to root for.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Violence: 2.5/5 Gore: 1.5/5 Jump Scares: 1/5
Acting Quality: 3/5 Production Quality: 5/5
Halloweentown is the first in a series of films that packed Disney Channel’s schedule for the whole month of October. We follow a young girl named Marnie as she learns secrets about her family and is forced to save an entire town from losing its magic. For any former Disney kid, this film is steeped in nostalgia that hugs one like a warm, comforting blanket. The opening score is iconic and immediately sets the movie’s whimsical, magical tone. The town of Halloweentown is filled with all things fall and spooky, which is emphasized by the warm orange glow over everything and their delightful costumes. When this film aired on television, it was a favorite for many, and most aspects of the film still hold up to this day. The struggles with CGI are overshadowed by the incredible practical effects used to create the townspeople. The late Debbie Reynolds as the children’s grandmother is one of the film’s highlights. She does a wonderful job at making her character into a grandmother that anyone would wish they could have. This sweet film enjoyed by children and parents alike is perfect for settling into the cozy Halloween season.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Violence: 1/5 Gore: 0/5 Jump Scares: 0.5/5
Acting Quality: 2.5/5 Production Quality: 3.5/5
For many, Beetlejuice is a film that needs no introduction. Not only is it a cult classic, but it was transformed into a popular musical on Broadway as well. From the get-go, this film makes viewers aware that they should not take it seriously. It is a quirky horror comedy filled with gags and, while dated, wonderfully crafted special effects. It is clear that so much effort was put into crafting these characters’ identities, even the minor ones. Beetlejuice does not follow its titular character for most of the movie, instead focusing primarily on a dead married couple and a teenage girl. This teenage girl is played by the one and only Winona Ryder, who gives a standout performance in her breakout role as Lydia Deetz. She has gone on to become a household name but is remembered fondly by many for her iconic dancing scene at the end of this film. While it may be suggestive at times, Beetlejuice is a wacky movie that has kept audiences laughing for nearly 40 years.
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Violence: 2/5 Gore: 2.5/5 Jump Scares: 1.5/5
Acting Quality: 3/5 Production Quality: 3.5/5
HORROR HALL OF FAME
These are some of horror’s most iconic films. Beware, these include a lot of blood and quite a few naked bodies.
Scream was a revolutionary movie that changed the horror genre after its release. Beginning as a self-aware parody of the slashers that had come before, Scream was adored by audiences and critics alike enough that a sequel was released a little under a year later. Not only do the scares deliver, but so does the star-studded cast. Neve Campbell (The Craft), Courtney Cox (Friends), and Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo) are all standout performances that only enhance the viewing experience. Campbell plays Sidney Prescott, a character who has gone down in the Final Girl Hall of Fame as one of the most loved. Audiences follow her through a night filled with dread as the small town of Woodsboro attempts to unmask the mysterious Ghostface killer. This movie is bloody, which comes with the territory of being a slasher. This is especially present during the film’s opening scene with Drew Barrymore, which sets the tone for the rest of the series. The Scream series has long been held dear in the hearts of many, even as they continue to pump out more films, which have yet to top the first installment.
Overall Rating: 5/5 Violence: 4/5 Gore: 4/5 Jump Scares: 3/5
Acting Quality: 4/5 Production Quality: 3.5/5
How does one review a classic? A cultural phenomenon? Halloween was a smashing success at the box office when it was first released and has influenced numerous horror films that have followed it. Looking at it through the lens of 2023 horror films, Halloween seems slow and dull. Most of the action does not occur until close to the end of the film, but director, writer, and composer John Carpenter uses music in a way that fills the movie with intense suspense. The main character, Laurie Strode, is a babysitter stalked and hunted by a man in a mask, Michael Myers. Laurie is played by 20-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis, who was making her film debut. She gives an impressive performance and lands herself in horror history with this film. Halloween not only includes a few deaths caused by teenagers having sex but also the deaths of two dogs, which happen mostly off camera. Halloween is a must-see for horror and movie fans, but is skippable for people with short attention spans.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Violence: 3.5/5 Gore: 2.5/5 Jump Scares: 2/5
Acting Quality: 3/5 Production Quality: 2.5/5
Friday the 13th (1980)
Taking direct inspiration from its predecessor, Halloween, Friday the 13th is a slasher filled with people being killed for having sex and first-person views from the killer’s perspective. This series of films has become synonymous with the name Jason Voorhees, though he only makes a brief appearance in this movie. Instead, this film follows a different killer as they slash through the grounds of Camp Crystal Lake. One thing to note about this film is how it handles the kills between male and female characters. When one of the men is killed, it is nearly always off-camera. In contrast, when one of the women is killed, their murder is clearly on screen with blood and guts. This troupe is present in many horror films that came before it, along with the insistent need to show naked women’s bodies. Even with all its flaws, Friday the 13th has gone on to become a successful series, topping off at 12 movies at present.
Overall Rating: 3/5 Violence: 3/5 Gore: 3/5 Jump Scares: 2.5/5
Acting Quality: 2/5 Production Quality: 2/5
These movies include lots of blood; some are far more violent than others, but they are all excellent.
The Saw franchise is notorious for its sadistic traps and horrific deaths and has spawned a subgenre for torture films. The first installment is not as graphic as people have made it out to be. The action begins right from the start of the film, where viewers are dropped into a small room with two men, Adam and Dr. Gordon, chained to the wall. The film explores why these men are there and how it is connected to an entity known as Jigsaw. Many moments in the movie are difficult to watch, especially for squeamish people. Even so, the filmmakers did an excellent job of only showing what was necessary; there are limited scenes of gruesome nature that feel out of place. The characters in this film are thoroughly fleshed out in a way many horror films avoid. Because the audience feels such a connection with these characters, their survival becomes crucial. The editing of this film clearly shows it was made in the 2000s, but through that, it shows the many sides of being human and what extreme situations can do to a person.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5 Violence: 4/5 Gore: 4/5 Jump Scares: 2.5/5
Acting Quality: 4/5 Production Quality: 3.5/5
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
The atmosphere of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre sets it apart from most other horror films. From the beginning, the characters are cramped, sweaty, and stressed out. It was not just the characters feeling this way; the actors did, too. This film is infamous for the grueling conditions on set, and many of the actors said it was one of the worst experiences of their lives. They said filming such intense scenes in the heat messed with their heads. The audience feels this level of anxiety through the screen as a group of friends traveling through rural Texas get more than they bargained for. This series stars the killer, known as Leatherface, and his cannibalistic family. The camera they used to film this movie gives it a gritty and dirty look that adds to the intensity of what is happening on screen. The set is covered in blood and bones, much of which was from real animals, which smelled terrible in the heat. All these reasons add up to this film being the highest-grossing independent film until Halloween premiered four years later. The success of this movie led to a series of 10 movies, with the most recent installment coming out in 2022.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Violence: 4.5/5 Gore: 4/5 Jump Scares: 3/5
Acting Quality: 3/5 Production Quality: 3/5
Carrie, originally a book by Stephen King, attempts to tackle telepathy and the fight against high school bullies. It is a story very much written and directed by men, as the first five minutes show a look inside a high school girl’s locker room. This is followed by an intimate scene of Carrie, a 16-year-old, in the shower as she gets her first period. It is an uncomfortable watch that has next to nothing to do with the rest of the film. The audience follows Carrie through her arduous life, filled with tormentors and the overbearingness of her mother. Sissy Spacek does a phenomenal job portraying the wide-eyed, terrifying Carrie, and her performance shines the most during the third act. The cinematography during the film’s last act stands out against the others. The frantic camera angles and flashing lights immerse the viewer in the terror of what is occurring. Carrie is a good lesson in not making fun of people just because they seem lesser.
Overall Rating: 4/5 Violence: 3/5 Gore: 3/5 Jump Scares: 1.5/5
Acting Quality: 3.5/5 Production Quality: 3.5/5