[This article originally appeared on AOL Shopping in October 2007.]
At this time of year, you can’t help but crave a bit of frightful fun. No Halloween season is complete without staying up to watch several cheesy horror movies the week leading up to Halloween. But don’t waste your precious evenings picking a dud at the video rental store. Here are my picks for the best, most fun horror movies for Halloween.
11. The Others
Overshadowed by the success of a similar ghost film (The Sixth Sense) at the time of its release, The Others didn’t receive the positive attention it deserved. It is a smart, scary ghost story that keeps you in suspense all the way up to the satisfyingly twisted end. Nicole Kidman is compelling as the frightened mother, and you find yourself just as confused and terrified as she is throughout the film.
10. The Lost Boys
Boys with fangs. This 80’s gem has an all-star cast of vampires and vampire killers, including Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patrick, Corey Feldman, Corey Haim and Alex Winter. There is a perfect mix of horror, comedy, romance and drama in this film. Like the hero (Patrick), you start off thinking the “lost boys” are the coolest guys on the planet. But after the initial seduction, you begin to hate them more and more. Until, finally, you’re cheering when the snot-nose little brother (Haim) is unloading a squirt gun filled with holy water on one of the biting biker baddies.
9. The Blair Witch Project
I understand that this is a highly-debatable selection on my list, but I simply could not ignore the genius behind the release of this film. The grassroots marketing for The Blair Witch Project was phenomenal. It was the epitome of viral marketing. I knew about the story of the Blair Witch way before I even knew there was a movie. The producers of the film leaked out rumors of the events portrayed in the film’s footage on the Internet and built up a credible “legend” prior to announcing the film’s release. When they said the footage of the three lost campers was found and was being released as a film, I was genuinely intrigued. I went to see the film on opening day (before all the hype) and got sucked into it. The footage felt real. The emotion felt real. The terror at the end felt real. The real success of the film was that it showed that you didn’t need a huge budget to make a compelling horror film. All you needed was a cheap video camera and a great idea.
8. The Sixth Sense
The movie that rejuvenated the horror movie market. Despite its long-parodied lines (“I see dead people”), The Sixth Sense is a truly frightening and intellectually mind-bending masterpiece. It set the stage for a slew of copy-cat trick-ending knock-offs that came afterwards. Bruce Willis is a weary, empathetic character trying to help a young boy deal with his psychological maladies and delusions. The little boy sees dead people, but no one believes him. Willis’ character tries to help the boy—but meanwhile his own relationship with his wife is withering. He eventually finds a way to help the boy and solve his issues with his wife. But not in the way anyone would expect.
7. 28 Days Later
Back in the 80’s, there were a multitude of really bad, low-budget zombie films. So much so, that purists of the genre simply looked to the past (1968’s original Night of the Living Dead) for their zombie entertainment. That’s until Danny Boyle (director of Trainspotting) decided to make a low-budget zombie film of his own in 2002—reinventing the slow-moving, lumbering zombie into a fast, agile rampaging maniac. Boyle’s zombies were terrifying, because you couldn’t escape from them. They chased their victims with relentless speed and anger. And they never stopped.
6. The Descent
This sleeper hit from 2006 features a group of female friends with a clearly distinguished (and disturbing) history venturing off on a caving exposition in order to renew and heal their social bonds. The horror they find within the caves is secondary to the sociological horrors they face between themselves in reaction to their cave-dwelling adversaries. The Descent is a seriously engrossing, realistic look at how people react to adversity.
5. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Riding on the heels of 28 Days Later’s success, this remake of George Romero’s classic zombie film Dawn of the Dead succeeds in the impressive task of bettering the original. The new version of Dawn of the Dead replaces Romero’s slow zombies with Danny Boyle’s swift zombies. Mix in some quality B-list actors like Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer and Ty Burrell, update the special effects, and you have the best modern zombie film of the bunch. The classic story of zombie holocaust survivors in a mall is still unmatched.
4. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The original nightmare featured a serious and mysterious Freddy Kruger. There were no comedic one-liners, over-the-top death scenes, or outlandish character histories. There was just a very scary boogey man and four unlucky, sleep-deprived teenagers. The original Nightmare on Elm Street had the best cast of all the Freddy films, including Johnny Depp and the original Nancy—Heather Langenkamp. What happens when something as unavoidable as sleep becomes a harbinger of your own death?
3. Evil Dead 2
The funniest horror film ever. Before Sam Raimi (director of the Spider-Man films) became a household Hollywood name, he and his buddies (Bruce Campbell, Rob Tapert, and brother Ted Raimi) made low-budget movies for fun. After the success of their very serious horror film Evil Dead, they made a follow-up film that took the premise of Evil Dead, but added lots of visual gags and a comedic performance by lead actor Bruce Campbell. This genius mixture produced a cult classic horror film and an iconic character in the form of chainsaw-wielding Ash.
2. Night of the Living Dead
In 1968, a low-budget horror movie was made that started a new sub-genre of horror—zombie films. Night of the Living Dead shocked audiences in the late 60’s because there was nothing like it ever created. George Romero introduced the world to undead, reanimated zombies that craved human flesh and could not be stopped (save for a shot to the head). Even though Romero’s zombies were slow-moving, mostly lifeless creatures, he captured the sheer horror of seeing a dead body walking around on film. For audiences, the horror was in the disbelief of it all. His later films accepted zombies as a given and were, thus, less horrifying. Night of the Living Dead is an absolute classic.
1. The Exorcist
The Exorcist truly scared me to the bone, when I saw it as a child (don’t ask me how I got my hands on it). And The Exorcist still scares me to the bone, when I watch it as an adult. Based on a documented case of demon-possession in Washington, D.C., The Exorcist depicts the horror of watching something terrible happen to your child and not being able to do anything about it. As despicable as the child in the story becomes due to the demons inside her, her mother is still by her side. The movie is shot in a realistic way, showing a normal household dealing with frightening occurrences. The demonic voices coming from the little girl will give you nightmares.