Favorite Movies to Watch on Halloween
Welcome to a new series where we resurrect an idea from a few years ago in which your Seattle Film Critics answer questions and provide insight into their personal taste and history with the world of film. Each edition of Seattle Cinema Survey will feature responses from several of the critics in the SFCS and provide information for how you can follow more of their work. We hope that this series will at times be educational, at times entertaining, and always interesting. Thanks for reading!
This month, with Halloween week upon us, we share some of our favorite scary movies to watch on All Hallow’s Eve.
Warren Cantrell – Scene-Stealers / @10rant
Let’s eliminate the obvious choices that just go for cheap scares and/or slasher mayhem to evoke a “scary” vibe. So let’s toss out all slasher genre picks (Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street), and the obvious Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.). Everyone is going to be doing that, so be different. Let’s use The Devil, elemental forces of evil and/or evil intent as our base point, here, bringing us to movies like The Crow (which also happens to take place the day before Halloween), The Omen and The Exorcist (lots of Devil shit), Suspiria (devil-worshipping witches also rock), and Angel Heart (De Niro as the Devil). For wild cards, let’s throw in The Devil’s Advocate (as parity balance, because if De Niro is the Devil, we got to give Pacino his shot) and Hellboy.
Erik Samdahl – FilmJabber / @filmjabber
If my wife were to let me, I’d watch The Descent. Because, you know, it’s one of the best monster movies ever made. (if you want to know, I prefer the American version with the happier ending, but both work).
But since my wife won’t let me because monster movies are off limits, Scream is a safe bet. I’ve watched that movie so many times over the years and yet it’s still as entertaining and as smart as the day it was released, a few over-the-top and late-90’s clichés aside.
As a horror nut, Halloween is the culmination of a month of binging horror movies of every ilk. From the scummy slashers of the 80s to the demented mania of New French Extremity, the low-budget, trashy found footage flicks to mindfuck psychological stunners and all the bloody, gory, grimy horror-shows in between, my wife and I simply can’t pack enough horror into that oh-so-glorious tenth month of the calendar year. As for Halloween itself, there isn’t quite a go-to around our household but there are few films that reach the same heights as Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining, wherein a recovering alcoholic and struggling writer gets a bad case of cabin fever and goes to dice up his wife and kid. The supernatural elements of The Shining are all well and good but the pure psychosis of Jack Torrence’s descent into madness is what makes The Shining so utterly horrifying and essentially timeless. Perhaps the most basic human instinct is that predatorial sensation that drives us to protect our family and offspring with every last tooth and nail so to see a man so far gone that he stalks his progeny through the maze of The Overlook Hotel, ax in hand, is to look depravity squarely in the face. Whenever this next plays at the Cinerama, you owe it to yourself to see Nicholson’s face scrunched through that battered hole in a door, 97 feet across. Here’s Johnny indeed.
Tim Hall – Seattle P.I. Film Blog / @peoplescrtic
Brent McKnight – The Last Thing I See / @BrentMMcKnight
It’s not particularly original, but if I have one go-to Halloween movie, it’s George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. After however many dozens of viewings, it still stands as one of my all-time favorite movies, horror or otherwise, and always gives me a welcome chill. “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
A distant-but-sort-of-near second place tie goes to Return of the Living Dead, because I do wanna party; and The Monster Squad, because Wolfman most definitely has nards. On a related note, I’ve already watched all three of these movies so far this October, so I may have to find another option.
What’s this!? That’s right, I’m choosing a Christmas movie as my favorite film to watch on Halloween night. The Nightmare Before Christmas is appropriate for all seasons, but works particularly well as we shift focus in that transitional time between the scary end of October and the jingle-bell filled joy of December. (To anyone offended that I’m skipping over Thanksgiving – just deal. People only care about it for one single day. It is but a minor bump in the road between Halloween and Christmas.) Back to the movie, though. Tim Burton’s animated classic is easily one of my top two or three animated musicals and I just love belting out its songs while ignoring the knocks at my door and eating all of the trick or treat candy myself. The film is perfectly balanced between macabre and cute, terrifying for brief moments but keeping everything light-hearted with its comedic portrayal of the residents of Halloween Town. Jack’s arc of needing to find and embrace an identity is a favorite theme of mine, and being able to explore that in the confines of a creepy, enchanting, and magical stop-motion animated dark fantasy world is a treasure.
The obvious answer to this question is John Carpenter’s iconic 1978 classic Halloween. If any one film ever fit this holiday more perfectly than this one does, I can’t say I’ve ever seen it.
All the same, as far as more recent features perfectly suited to this insidiously malevolent little holiday are concerned, I’m hard-pressed to think anyone has done a better job crafting a modern cult classic than writer/director Michael Dougherty did when he birthed the absolutely perfect horror anthology Trick ‘r Treat into the world back in 2007. Split into five interlocking stories that all connect together splendidly, this mischievous gem is scary and funny in almost equal measure. It’s also surprisingly moving at times, Dougherty adding an underlying emotional complexity I can’t say I was expecting. Featuring an all-star cast that includes the likes of Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb and an unforgettable Brian Cox, the film also graced us with the introduction of “Sam,” a giddily malevolent little sprite who can make Halloween a living hell if one doesn’t show the right amount of holiday spirit.
A relative failure at the time of its release mainly because Warner Bros had no idea how to market the film, Dougherty’s holiday staple has deservedly grown in stature and popularity in the past decade. Filled with a number of inspired, sometimes grotesque treats and overflowing in any number of eccentrically imaginative little tricks, if any movie deserves to become a Halloween viewing staple, it has to be Trick ‘r Treat.