Monday night is Halloween – the spookiest night of the year. Movie fans across the world will be preparing their DVD playlists and Netflix watchlists ready to experience the scariest and goriest movies that more than a century of cinema has produced.
There’s a specific alchemy that goes into making the perfect film to watch with friends on Halloween night. Something that relies too much on suspense and atmosphere probably won’t work, given the inherently distracted nature that a party brings, and it’s fair to assume that a hearty quantity of alcohol will be consumed, so there’s no reason to watch anything too serious.
With that in mind, here are ten horror movies that will be perfect for your Halloween movie marathon…
10. You’re Next (2011)
Before he ever had chance to get near a movie as multiplex-friendly as Blair Witch, newest maestro of horror Adam Wingard made a huge impact with slasher movie You’re Next. It’s a devastatingly brutal, 80s-inspired romp that makes the most of its confined setting and ladles on enormous helpings of inventive gore in the third act. The film follows a dysfunctional family who are targeted by a series of animal-masked killers armed with crossbows. The besieged family members must rely on improvised weaponry to survive.
Sharni Vinson proves to be a hugely effective final girl with considerable smarts and a MacGyver-like approach to staying alive. The film is consistently entertaining from start to finish and occasionally completely chilling, which makes it the perfect movie for a Halloween night.
9. The Conjuring (2013)
James Wan has proven himself to be the master of horror at the multiplex in recent years. After bursting on to the scene with the stripped-down brutality of Saw, he made his mark on the haunted house genre with the one-two punch of box office smash hits Insidious and The Conjuring. The latter is a much better film and is a hugely enjoyable ghost train ride with really effective jump scares. It follows a family who move into a farmhouse, only to find that it’s home to the angry spirit of an accused witch.
There’s nothing subtle or clever about The Conjuring but, of the recent crop of haunted house movies that focus almost entirely on ‘cattle prod’ scares, it’s probably the best of the lot. Wan has an absolute mastery over the basic tropes and conventions of horror and he knows exactly how to make the audience jump at every possible opportunity. Its sequel, The Conjuring 2, is also a solid film, but it’s far too long to prove an effective Halloween watch.
8. Cockneys vs. Zombies (2012)
Halloween is about silliness as much as scares and few films exemplify that as much as Cockneys vs. Zombies. Director Matthias Hoene’s horror-comedy is a cacophony of violence, swearing and more Cockney rhyming slang than you can shake a stick at. The film follows a group of crooks who rob a bank to raise money to save the old people’s home, in which many of their relatives live. Unfortunately for them, they choose to do this on the same day that a zombie apocalypse breaks out in the East End. What follows is hacked limbs, inventive insults and bucketfuls of Kensington gore.
Cockneys vs. Zombies is a riotously entertaining movie, in which Snatch star Alan Ford is the foul-mouthed MVP. It also contains one of the best chase sequences in cinema history, courtesy of the late comedy icon Richard Briers, a zimmer frame and a very slow-moving zombie.
I spoke to James Moran, writer of Cockneys vs. Zombies, for a Halloween podcast special. Click here to listen.
7. The Voices (2014)
Before Ryan Reynolds was Deadpool, he took on one of the weirdest roles of his career in the incredibly unusual horror-inflected comedy film The Voices. Reynolds plays Jerry, who sees the world through candy-coloured optimism, but is also an entirely unhinged murderer who speaks to his pet dog and cat. It’s certainly an odd story, but one that Reynolds brings a sinister comedic edge to.
The Voices is an incredibly entertaining movie, with several genuinely brutal murders to give it a dark twist. The supporting performances from the likes of Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are equally wonderful and the whole film is a gleeful exercise in tonal gymnastics, veering from absolutely hilarious to pitch black at the drop of a hat. And it ends with a musical number. What more could you want?
6. Re-Animator (1985)
The 80s were a decade of gleeful abandon in the horror genre, with the world of practical effects wide open for filmmakers to exercise their abilities to concoct the most grotesque, disgusting images that they could possibly imagine. One of the best examples of splattery horror from this period is Re-Animator, directed by Stuart Gordon and produced by Brian Yuzna, who would later direct the gooey satirical tale Society. It follows the work of mad scientist Herbert West, who develops a reanimating agent that sets off a chain reaction of disturbing carnage.
Re-Animator is a deliriously entertaining, fun film enlivened by Jeffrey Combs‘ central performance. Combs plays the ridiculous chaos completely straight, conjuring a character who is at once seriously sinister and inherently comedic. When the film moves into its bloody final act, it goes in bizarre, horrifying directions.
5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
What is there to say about A Nightmare on Elm Street? The film, in which Robert Englund created a genuinely unforgettable horror villain with Freddy Krueger, is a bona fide classic of the genre. It’s a desperately dark tale of a group of young people being terrorised in their dreams by a dead child killer. The concept is an ingenious one that sees the victims being targeted when they are at their most vulnerable and defenceless. The real star, though, is Freddy, with his dark wit and immediately memorable appearance.
Everyone has scene Elm Street and almost everyone loves it, so it’s a great choice for your Halloween horror marathon. It’s less serious than the other slasher films of the period, but also every bit as terrifying. There’s also the intrigue of seeing a Johnny Depp being killed in a literal fountain of gore, which isn’t something you see every day.
4. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
The Evil Dead franchise is one of the most tonally varied in horror cinema. For a scary horror movie marathon, the original 1981 cabin in the woods movie is the best possible choice but, for laughs, it’s impossible to top Evil Dead II. It takes the first film and reinvents it as a zany, blood-coated ghost train ride before unleashing a whole new array of torment on Bruce Campbell‘s Ash, from unruly hallucinations to being forced to cut off his own possessed hand with a chainsaw. The film doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s one of the most wonderfully entertaining 90 minute chunks of cinema ever made.
It’s early Sam Raimi at its best, complete with madly swirling camera and bucketloads of blood all over the place. The film casts the cabin in which Ash is holed up as a manipulative villain, constantly messing with his head every bit as much as it seeks to mess with the audience’s mind.
3. Scream (1996)
It’s another entry on this list for Wes Craven, who neatly deconstructed the genre that made his name with Scream. After he became one of the maestros of the slasher with Elm Street, he then took it apart with this tale of a group of high school students being targeted by the self-referential, snarky killer Ghostface. From its opening scene, in which big star Drew Barrymore is brutally slain by the killer, to the finale that piles on twists, Scream is a perfect dissection of the horror genre, wrapped up in a story that is terrifying in its own right.
There’s no way of overestimating the impact that Scream had upon the genre, and it’s also a devilishly funny slasher with some gory kills and plenty of laughs. The film is a perfect fit for Halloween, especially given the scenes in which Jamie Kennedy’s film nerd character Randy explains the rules of horror cinema. For a self-referential Halloween, there isn’t a better movie to choose.
2. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Horror-comedy hit its pinnacle in 2004 with British director Edgar Wright‘s zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, which he also co-wrote with Simon Pegg, who stars alongside Spaced buddy Nick Frost. It’s a film that sees Pegg’s character forced to turn hero when zombies descend upon Britain. It’s a razor sharp comedy, punctuated with shocking moments of bloody violence. Wright and Pegg’s script is endlessly innovative, particularly in its use of foreshadowing and repetition.
As with Elm Street, this is a film that everybody has seen and just about everybody loves. If it’s Halloween night and everyone has had a few drinks, this is the perfect choice for a horror film to watch. Everyone can wince at the violence, cheer when Peter Serafinowicz gets shot in the eye and sing along to the ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ fight scene. It’s guaranteed fun.
1. Braindead (1992)
We think of Peter Jackson now as the blockbuster director behind Lord of the Rings, but he started out making obscure cult splatter films in New Zealand. The best of those is Braindead, also known as Dead Alive, in which the bite of a hybrid rat-monkey creature triggers an outbreak of violent zombie attacks. After a series of gory set pieces, the film culminates in an orgy of claret-soaked brutality that sees hordes of the undead decapitated and hacked to bits by a waving lawnmower.
Jackson brings a tremendous sense of anarchic fun to the movie and there are hints of the director that he would eventually become. Above all else, though, Braindead is the ideal Halloween movie, combining comedy and violence in equal parts to create a movie that is both wince-inducing and immensely enjoyable.
What films will you be watching over the Halloween period? Have you seen the recommendations on this list? Let me know in the comments section and check out the rest of our Halloween coverage.