Top 10 Spooky Movies to Watch This Halloween!
…Or for any time near Halloween because let’s face it, most of us aren’t going to be sitting at home watching movies on 10/31 (actually, I probably will be). As an aficionado of movies that make you run at full speed to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’ve compiled a list of my top picks. While this list includes mostly English movies that are horribly terrifying, there are also those that are more cerebral, family-appropriate, downright hilarious, or even in a foreign language. So, in no particular order, let’s get this shit started. Please note that any movie that has an asterisk to the right of it is currently available to stream instantly on Netflix. All movies listed are available on Netflix as a physical DVD rental!
Disclaimer: The descriptions may contain some spoilers.
1. The Thing (1982) *
This movie is absolutely one of my favorite horror movies of all time. The extremely minimal soundtrack and Rod Serling-esque commentary on isolation and people turning on each other under stress is on point. The movie takes place in Antarctica within the confines of a remote research site. A group of researchers discover (I’ll leave the “how” for you to find out) that a shapeshifting alien is masquerading as one of their own. When anyone on the site could be a murderous creature, the tension, suspicions, and accusations run rampant. For the most part, the audience is only privy to the same knowledge that the characters have and because of this, you are forced to experience the same fear, anxiety, and surprises that the characters endure.
This movie was created pre-special effects so anything non-human uses incredibly realistic animatronic puppetry. This makes the acting all-the-more realistic because, rather than responding to air or a scrawny man in a green, spandex suit, they’re responding to actual, physical monstrosities right in front of them. Brilliant.
Also, make sure you get the 1982 version (which is a remake of a 1951 movie) and not the recent 2011 remake of a remake.
2. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
There is nothing scarier on this Earth than a fast, superhuman zombie. Before this movie, I was always a bit cocky when it came to zombies. “They’re so slow! I could easily outrun them and hide,” I would say to my cat, alone in my living room. Even the normal-human speed/strength zombies didn’t seem threatening to me. I would simply pacify my worries with the idea that they could never get into my iron-doored apartment if I didn’t want them too.
Then the “Dawn of the Dead” remake came out and everything changed. These zombies can break through anything, run as fast as a car, and never get tired. This movie also has something that I’ve never seen before in another zombie movie: a motherfucking zombie baby. And as if that wasn’t enough to make a great horror movie, 95% of the movie takes place in a shopping mall. Something about terror being paired with retail just makes me so happy.
Like the 1978 original, this version is also written by George A. Romero, the master of the zombie movie. If you have the time, do your self a favor and also give the original a good watch. When you’re finished, check out the plethora of other “______ of the Dead” movies Romero has to offer. You won’t regret it.
3. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Although not a direct parody of “Dawn of the Dead,” “Shaun of the Dead” is a cheeky, British satire of the zombie movie genre. Unfolding like a typical zombie thriller, this movie centers around two averagely goofy guys, Shaun and Ed. With everything from an acting class on how to be a zombie (in order to be disguised in a horde of them) to mistaking zombie-ism with drunkenness to rhythmically beating a zombie to “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen, this movie is absolutely hilarious and at times, heartfelt, while still having a major dose of the creepies.
Created by the dynamic duo, Simon Pegg and
his friend Nick Frost, this movie is better for those who want to be in the Halloween spirit but don’t necessarily like scary movies (like my friend Aidan who won’t watch scary movies because “They’re scary!”). If you’ve seen “Shaun of the Dead” and love it, check out “Hot Fuzz”; an equally darkly humorous movie revolving around a murderous small town.
4. The Fly (1986)
Or as I like to call it, “Ooey-Gooey Jeff Goldblum.” Another pre-FX, 80s horror movie, “The Fly” uses the same animatronic puppetry that served “The Thing” so well when it came to believable and reactive acting. This movie revolves around a scientist (what else does Goldblum play?) who creates a teleportation machine. Upon testing it out with a human body for the first time, a fly gets trapped in the teleportation pod with him and his genes become mutated and combined with those of the fly’s.
The movie catalogues Seth Brundle’s (Goldblum) physical and mental changes as his body transforms and morphs while also using his girlfriend, played by the stunning Geena Davis, as a device for all of our worst concerns and fears. The most chilling part of the movie takes place when Davis dreams about giving birth to a gigantic fly larva. Well, it’s a toss up between that and Goldblum peeling his own ear off. I’ll let you guys make the call.
5. Hocus Pocus (1993)
One of the only PG-rated movies on this list, this movie is perfect for those Feminspire readers that want the Halloween feel but without scaring the shit out of their kids or younger family members. It’s also great for those that are just feeling downright nostalgic. I must say I am partial to this movie as I spent at least ten years of my life renting it repeatedly from Blockbuster (why didn’t my dad just buy it for me?).
Taking place in Salem, MA, “Hocus Pocus” is a story about a group of 90s kids resurrecting a trio of infamous witch sisters. The movie features one of my favorite tropes: a sarcastic, talking cat (Binx – who is also an incredibly hot ghost, let’s be real). Binx helps the kids defeat the Sanderson Sisters and prevents them from sucking the life out of children in order to preserve their youth. The movie also features two musical numbers which get me so jazzed just thinking about them that I’m rocking around in my chair right now.
Bonus fun: Check out the IMDB photo for the actress who played Emily Binx. Someone loves her blur tool.
6. [Rec] (2007)
This is the one and only Spanish-language movie on this list. That’s not to say that there aren’t any other amazing Spanish horror movies (anything by Guillermo Del Toro), just that this movie could have been in gibberish and still scared the ever-loving shit out of me. While I believe there is an English remake (Quarantine ), it’s totally worth it to grab this version instead and deal with reading subtitles (or just relaxing and watching it if you speak Spanish).
After an apartment building is inexplicably called in for emergency support, a reporter following the fire department decides to go inside to investigate. The building is quickly put on lockdown, meaning no one is allowed in or out, due to a threat of disease from a woman in one of the upstairs apartment. The occupants of the apartment quickly begin to panic – and with reason. The entirety of the movie is filmed on the reporter’s camera; with a point of view that makes you feel like you are actually trapped inside the apartment building as well.
I can’t stress enough just how terrifying this movie is. I watched it in the middle of the day on a train to Virginia and was squealing in my seat like a baby. Later that evening and for the next couple of days, my boyfriend and I ran everywhere we went after the sun set. We are grown-ass people! If you’re strong of will and/or it takes a lot to really scare you, then “[Rec]” is your movie.
7. The Craft (1996)
If you haven’t seen this movie yet, you should get it for the amazing gothic-schoolgirl fashion inspiration alone. When the flawless Robin Tunney begins attending a Catholic prep high school, she is befriended by a group of lady outcasts who practice witchcraft. Beginning small with glamour spells, things quickly take a dark turn when some of the girls plot revenge on their tormenters. One of the girls, played by the huge-mouthed Fairuza Balk, goes particularly off the deep end and we are witness to the torture she inflicts as well as the battle for good against her.
This movie has a heavy dose of female empowerment and general awesomeness. The four main characters are played by women alone, something very rare in the horror/suspense genre and actually, in any movies at all! The all-lead-female cast was enough to drive me and my girlfriends to practice glamour spells on each other every time we got together and try “light as a feather, stiff as a board” at literally every sleepover until I was 15.
8. Pet Sematary (1989)
Of course I had to include something by Stephen King in here! Let me preface this blurb by confessing that it’s been a very long time since I actually watched this movie. I was probably 14 or 15 when the nightmares that it gave me made me crawl into my mom’s room in the middle of the night and sleep on the floor next to her bed like a dog (I didn’t want to wake her up and she shares a bed with her boyfriend, which would’ve been awkward). “Pet Sematary” was the first movie, to my knowledge, to ever instill the fear that someone (or something) would slash your ankles as you walked past a bed/car/etc. To this very day, as a 25 year old woman, I am still afraid to walk past beds.
The movie revolves around a family who comes upon a burial ground that is said to bring the dead back to life. They decide to bury their deceased cat there but are concerned when the cat comes back much more vicious than it originally was. Grief-stricken after there toddler son is hit and killed by a truck, the father decides to bury him there as well. You can imagine how well things go after that.
For whatever reason, the one thing that terrified me the most were the flashbacks that the mother had of caring for her sister as she died from spinal meningitis. In these flashbacks, the sister was doubled over, her spine permanently deformed, and incredibly gaunt and zombie-like. It’s been over ten years since I’ve seen this movie and that image is still enough to make me pop my head back under the covers some nights.
9. The Mist (2007)
Did I say one Stephen King movie? I meant two. “The Mist” is set in a small town where an unexplainable fog has been released from a nearby military facility. Most of the movie takes place in a grocery store, where a large group of people have sought refuge in order to escape the mist. Why run away from opaque air? Because the people who are consumed by the mist do not return.
This movie has everything you want in a film: people turning on and accusing each other under stress, religious fanaticism, and a twisty ending that will blow your mind. I literally could not stop shouting “NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT!” after the movie finished. The acting is also excellent and made me hate someone in a movie almost as much as I hate Prince Joffrey. Well done, “The Mist.”
10. The Ring (2002)
I still think Samara, the creepy little girl from “The Ring,” is going to get me one of these days. The plot of this movie revolves around a reporter who is investigating a relative’s death. She soon realizes that her cousin’s death is connected to a video tape that she watched seven days before she was found mysteriously dead. After she finds the tape and watches it, strange things begin to happen to her and it is clear that she now has seven days to figure out how stop the girl on the tape from killing her and her loved ones.
The story, tape, and movie itself don’t really make all too much sense and sort of come off as a bit weak when summarized. However, it is the incredibly cryptic journey to finding out about this girl’s past and the ”can’t unsee” imagery that really makes this movie fucking creepy as all hell.
“The Ring” is an American remake of the Japanese movie “Ringu.” I must confess that I have yet to see the original, but have heard from many that it is much scarier than the remake. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’m emotionally prepared for that.
And because there is no way in hell I could’ve limited my favorite scary movies list to 10, here are some honorable mentions:
Let the Right One In (2008) *
No scary movie list would be complete without at least one vampire movie (and no, it’s not fucking “Twilight”). This is another foreign film (Swedish) that also has an American adaptation (“Let Me In” – which is nowhere near as good but does have Chloe Grace Moretz in it). The movie centers around a young boy who befriends an enigmatic, young girl when she moves into his apartment complex. The two characters spend a lot of time learning about each other and that childlike curiosity continues once Oskar, the young boy, find out that Eli is a vampire.
More charming and darkly reassuring than straight-up scary, this movie is an absolute must-see. Low-budget when it comes to special effects, “Let the Right One In” is at its best when using animatronic puppetry to make Eli appear more monstrous as she feeds on human blood.
Fido (2006) *
The zombie apocalypse hits in the 50s and dapper men and housewives alike learn to market and use zombies as housekeeping pets. Do I really need to say more? Ok, Carrie-Anne Moss is in it too! Also, it’s the first movie I’ve seen where zombies are able to develop relationships with people and be more than just mindless, decaying bodies moaning “Braaaaiiiiiinnnnsss….” Honestly, the phrase “Zombies in the 1950s” is enough to get me to watch right there. If that doesn’t work for you, then I don’t want to be friends.
And that’s it! Thanks for checking out my list, everyone. I hope you get a chance to view some of these amazing movies this Halloween and as, always, be safe! Just count your lucky stars that we don’t have to look for razor blades in candy anymore.
Comment below with any questions, demands for even more movie recommendations (give us ALL the recs), and your own favorite spooky movies!