What I love about Halloween is the opportunity to let out my weird.
It’s a time to enjoy the dark, the strange and the spooky. Luckily, some other folks here take Halloween pretty seriously, too. We teamed up to bring you our top five Halloween movie suggestions: an eclectic mix, from family friendly to classic gore. Grab a drink, curl up on the couch and enjoy!
1. The Final Girls
This movie has no nostalgic relevance for me, I’m just a sucker for self-aware, meta-narratives—and “The Final Girls” is the latest in a string of fantastic meta-movies that lovingly pokes fun at the absurdity of the tropes and clichés used in just about every horror-slasher that’s ever been made.
To parody the horror genre, “The Final Girls” doesn’t use a set-up as clever as 2012’s “Cabin in the Woods.” Instead, it wears its goofy heart on its sleeve with a plot contrivance I’m particularly fond of—magically transporting a group of teens inside a movie. Once we arrive inside the world of the cheesy ’80s slasher flick, the story just gets wild.
But this summer camp slaughter-fest isn’t content with simple homage and parody. Instead, director Todd Strauss-Schulson delivers a delightful party and sneakily reveals an emotional punch.
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”—which came out when I was in my early 20s—somehow managed to weave together a lot of stuff I liked as a little kid with stuff I liked as a more jaded, vaguely goth teenager. For people my age, the quirky, jittery puppet animation and catchy, almost annoying songs of the old Rankin/Bass Christmas specials was a defining aesthetic of childhood.
Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and composer Danny Elfman somehow managed to take that formula and make a Halloween movie that spoke to a generation that had grown up wearing secondhand trench coats, listening to The Cure and smoking cloves—but still tapped into deep nostalgia for those cute Christmas cartoons. Visually, it blew my mind when I saw it the first time. The songs didn’t grab me as much at first but I came to appreciate them more later. One time, I watched it on video with the sound off and listened to Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park” over it instead. It wasn’t exactly a magic sync-up up like the Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon thing, but it sure gave the experience a little extra edge.
3. The Beyond
by Jason Santos
“The Beyond” is the second installment of Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece Gates of Hell trilogy.
OK, no, I can’t—it’s the furthest thing from a masterpiece, and that’s what makes it great. The poor bastard has forever been confused with Dario Argento (Suspiria), which I can only imagine drove him completely over the edge, but here’s the thing: the movie is gore at it’s best, and gore was what drew me to horror when I was a little kid. It still has a magical hold over me. It’s not hard to find the original version (it’s worth it—it’s Italian horror, there are twenty versions) because it is gnarly as helllll. The plot is shit, so don’t sweat it, just sit back and let the good old fashioned gore of the ‘80’s wash over you. This isn’t a long form HBO story, you don’t have to be alert to every side-eye from every side character. Just be a kid again and let yourself feel dirty. Happy Halloween!
4. Hocus Pocus
In case you haven’t seen “Hocus Pocus” (because you’ve been living under a rock), it’s about three children-eating witches from Salem, the Sanderson sisters, who come back from the dead when a virgin, Max, lights the black-fat candle on Halloween in 1993. (Yup, 1-9-9-3!) The Sanderson sisters are the Wet Bandits (aka the Sticky Bandits) of Halloween. I mean, Kathy Najimy rides a vacuum and holds the creepiest smirk on her face the entire time! Girl deserves an Oscar.
The most underrated aspect of “Hocus Pocus” is its contribution to zombie culture. Yes, it’s true! The sisters bring an ex-boyfriend, Billy, back from the dead to chase the kids and, well, he’s attractive. Seriously, he’s a good-looking zombie. He also turns out to be a nice zombie. Because of Billy, all American girls fell in love with zombies in 1993, and the rest of the world followed. You cannot ignore the desires of pre-teen girls en masse. I am proud of my contribution to zombie pop culture and never would have had the opportunity without “Hocus Pocus.” Life changing.
5. Ginger Snaps
by Elida Holte
I was in middle school the first time I watched the menstrual horror (apparently a real genre), Ginger Snaps. It was one of the first movies I watched were I could identify with its leading female characters, self-righteous teenage goth girls who struggled with life in suburbia. ‘Cause, you know, teenage-angst. I identified with their photography obsession and I happily adopted their grandpa sweaters. I was into it. But what’s much more interesting about this B-horror movie are the comedic parallels to “the curse” of coming-of-age as a young woman. Sisters, Bridget and Ginger, are both late in developing, much to the dismay of their peppy mother. So when Ginger starts to show signs that she’s getting her first period, her mother is more than ecstatic that Ginger will finally join her girl club. However, on a full moon, as Ginger starts her first lunar-blood cycle, she gets bit by a were-wolf and starts to change in ways her sister can’t comprehend. As Ginger gains an interest in boys and “tearing everything into pieces”, Bridget fights to save her sister from the monster within and vows to have control of her own body, no matter the cost. Maxi-pad cults be damned.