With Halloween right around the corner, you might be looking for some scary movie viewing ideas. We have some suggestions! This isn’t intended as a “Best Horror Movies Ever”-type list. These are movie was like and feel like they do the trick every time around this time of year. Whether you’re looking for classic horror, family-friendly, slashers, or zombies – we’ve got it all right here.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Everyone knows the title, but there are still a lot of folks who haven’t seen it yet. Tobe Hooper’s classic has been imitated and remade, but nothing has touched its sheer terror (which de-emphasizes explicit gore in favor of a truly unsettling atmosphere). After a fairly conventionally start – a group of teenagers on a trip to the countryside – things take a bad turn when they get off track. Even if you think you know what’s coming next, you won’t be prepared for the intensity level. Chainsaw’s Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) ranks among the most iconic horror villains of all time.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
We still love Don Siegel’s 1956 original, but the edge goes to Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake. Both films very effectively explore the fear of the loss of individuality in a society that asks for conformity – in this case the fear is quite literal in the form of personality-stealing aliens. The remake amps up the creepiness and shows off a great performance from star Donald Sutherland. Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy, Brooke Adams, and Veronica Cartwright are equally effective as Sutherland’s group of intellectual friends.
The Invisible Man (1933)
This James Whale-directed chiller is often overshadowed by the more well-known Universal Monster movies, like Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931), but still works as well as any of them. While it may not be “scary” by today’s standards, H.G. Wells’ story concept remains thought-provoking and eerie. Scientist Dr. Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) descends into madness after inventing a potion that turns him invisible. A great choice for Halloween viewing for classic film buffs (suitable for the entire family).
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Forget 2002’s 28 Days Later. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later is more relentlessly scary than anyone seems to give it credit for. And you can’t beat the cast – the great Robert Carlyle (current scene-stealer on ABC’s Once Upon a Time), along with Jeremy Renner, and Rose Byrne (X-Men: First Class). Idris Elba also has a small role, as does Sons of Anarchy’s Harold Perrineau (who incidentally worked with Renner on the short-lived TV show The Unusuals). Twenty-eight weeks after the events of the first movie, London is repopulated – but is the virus really gone?
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Horror comedy done right. On the surface, a fairly standard zombie movie, but it’s brimming with observational humor – kind of like The Office (UK) crossed with Dawn of the Dead. Simon Pegg (who co-wrote the film with director Edgar Wright), plays an average guy, bored with his job at an electronics store, wishing his life had a little more meaning. He’s doing nothing to change it. When the zombie apocalypse hits (initially without him even taking note!), he sees the chance to impress his ex-girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) by saving her from the flesh-eaters. The realistic performances, satirical humor, and genuine zombie thrills make this film a modern classic.
We like all the Nightmare on Elm Street films (to wildly varying degrees), with the 1984 original still the best. But if you never got around to checking out New Nightmare, get ready for a clever meta-deconstruction of the series with the original’s cast members playing fictionalized versions of themselves. It seems all the evil energy left in the wake of years of Freddy flicks has resulted in the manifestation of a “real” Freddy Krueger. All the self-referentialism that Craven’s 1996 Scream was praised for has its roots here. Oh, and after years of descending into wisecracking, mostly comic presence, Robert Englund gets to play Freddy at his nastiest since part one.
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
George A. Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead was not the first zombie movie (see 1932’s White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi), but it’s the godfather of the genre as we know it today. The black-and-white, shoestring-budgeted film offers up some genuinely intense horror. It centers on a group of people holed up in a remote farm house trying to keep away from the flesh-eating zombies. The characters feel like real people reacting to an extraordinary situation. The film’s uncompromising story – and shocking ending – still has the same impact more than 40 years later.
Hold that Ghost (1941)
The also-excellent Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein gets far more attention, but for classic horror comedy of yesteryear (and something the entire family can enjoy), you can’t go wrong with Hold That Ghost. The comedy duo finds themselves stranded after their bus is abandoned by a cowardly driver during a bad rain storm. Abbott and Costello, along with the other bus passengers, are forced to spend the night in a creepy nearby house – that just so happens to be haunted. The dated musical numbers might throw you if you’re not expecting them, but the comic interplay between Bud and Lou is among their best.
The Omega Man (1971)
The best of several films adapted from Richard Matheson’s seminal sci-fi novel I Am Legend. This one stars Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, the only human survivor of biological warfare between the United States and China. Being the last man alive, Neville is constantly trying to defend himself against the masses of mutants who only emerge at night. These mutants are threatened by Neville’s presence and want to destroy him so they can rule the world. Dated and cheesy, but so fun to watch.
Fright Night (2011)
The 2011 remake (directed by Craig Gillespie) of 1985’s Fright Night underperformed at the box office and has yet to make its mark among fans of the genre. It’s a shame because this overlooked film is a rare example of a remake that does everything right. Colin Farrell takes on the role of the handsome vampire Jerry Dandrige, who moves into an average suburban neighborhood. Anton Yelchin (2009’s Star Trek) plays his suspicious neighbor Charley. Charley, his mom (Toni Collette), and his hot girlfriend Amy (Imogen Poots – also in the number four film on this list) all find themselves threatened by Jerry. In desperation, Charley seeks the help of vampire expert and gaudy Las Vegas magician, Peter Vincent, to rid his town of the menacing vampire. Vincent is brilliantly played by Doctor Who’s David Tennant. It’s a shame this film didn’t get more attention. It’s a fun, suspenseful horror movie full of great performances.
What are your Halloween favorites? Feel free to comment on our picks or add your own!