There’s a chill in the air and the days are getting shorter — it’s Spooky Season!
This is one of the best movie-watching times of the year, with scary flicks that range from family-friendly to dark comedy to slasher flicks to gore porn — if you’re into that type of thing.
We picked 13 of our favorite scary movies to add to your October viewing list. Smoke a bowl and leave a light on — just in case.
1. The Cabin in the Woods
Jump scares? Check.
Murderous inbreds? Check.
A bizarre shadowy government agency with a vested interest in terrorizing attractive young people? Double check.
2011’s The Cabin in the Woods takes classic horror movie tropes and reimagines them as all part of a plan. Why do our heroes separate when it’s clearly safer to stay together? Why is there so much random junk in the basement? Why is there always a final girl?
Come for the monsters, stay for the comedy, especially the banter between Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins.
2. Evil Dead 2
I wanted to put multiple Sam Raimi picks on this list, but since he has a definite “vibe,” it felt like overkill to pick two. So Drag Me to Hell got narrowly edged out by the classic Evil Dead 2.
The tonal shift between Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 is stark. Evil Dead is a relatively straightforward possession flick in which a group of friends are seized by a demonic entity and are gruesomely murdered. The sole survivor is Ash, played by Bruce Campbell.
Ash is back in Evil Dead 2, a slapstick horror reimagining of Evil Dead with plenty of gore and cartoonish violence. It’s a cult classic that deserves an annual rewatch.
3. The Craft
While 1995’s Clueless explored one version of teen girlhood, the following year’s The Craft went a dramatically different direction.
Sarah, the new girl in town, falls in with a trio of witches at her Catholic high school. Although Sarah looks innocent, she possesses powerful telekinetic powers. By joining forces, the four girls take revenge on teenage bullies...but ultimately the group is corrupted by its own power and the girls turn on each other.
It’s pure ‘90s, and Fairuza Balk’s unhinged Nancy is always a delight.
The original Halloween spawned an eleven-part film franchise (with two more movies slated for 2021 and 2022), helped develop the slasher genre, and launched the then-unknown Jamie Lee Curtis into stardom. That’s a lot of success for a film with a budget of $325,000!
Michael Myers’ absolute void of emotion and enduring patience makes him inherently terrifying. It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do — Michael will continue to follow you forever. This was the film that gave teens everywhere second thoughts about babysitting.
A lot of the movies on this list blend camp or humor with their horror, making them both fun and scary. Then there’s Hereditary. There is no fun here. Instead, we experience one family’s agonizing destruction at the hands of a demon, a cult, and themselves.
The film starts as the family attempts to deal with their grief, but supernatural elements soon turn that grief into a nightmare. This one isn’t recommended for the squeamish.
6. Dead Alive
Most of us know Peter Jackson from a little trilogy called The Lord of the Rings — ever heard of it?
But back in 1992, he made a gruesome zombie flick called Dead Alive (or Braindead outside of the U.S.). Both gory and comedic, this movie follows a young man as he falls in love and tries to hide his recently zombified mother from the community.
With nearly 80 gallons of fake blood used on set, this is a gore-fest.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors
There have been nine films in the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Some people just don’t know where to stop, but they should have stopped after A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.
Nancy is back, an intern therapist who helps Freddy’s newest crop of victims. These kids use their dreams to fight back, but the film still provides plenty of opportunity for personalized deaths and timeless Freddy Krueger one-liners.
8. The Thing
The Thing combines the claustrophobia of a “cabin in the woods” movie with body horror, suspense, and Kurt Russell to spectacular effect. A group of Americans are isolated in an Arctic research station, which is invaded by a malevolent visitor from another world. This creature can assimilate organisms, making it impossible to know who is themselves and who is the creature.
It took a while for this masterpiece to get the acclaim it deserves, with terrible reviews for its 1982 release. But it’s now considered one of the best horror films of all time.
9. Get Out
Jordan Peele’s 2017 directorial debut wowed audiences with its horror-film approach to racism.
When a white woman brings her Black boyfriend home to meet the family, we’re mentally prepared for try-hard comments about voting for Obama. But we’re not prepared for the air of unease that follows our hero, Chris, as he realizes that something isn’t right here.
At a party attended almost exclusively by white people, Chris is gawked at, asked invasive questions meant to highlight his “other-ness.” It becomes clear that Chris’ physical Blackness is desired and trendy — but not the humanity that comes with it.
Alongside the social commentary are great performances, a smart script, and some seriously funny moments.
10. The Dead Don't Die
2019’s The Dead Don’t Die is a meta-zombie-comedy that leaves viewers both amused and confused. From the beginning we know that something odd is happening, as a Sturgill Simpson song on the radio informs us that “The Dead Don’t Die” and Adam Driver’s character continually reminds us that, “This is all gonna end badly.”
And he knows. He’s read the script.
Tilda Swinton’s appearance as a Scottish mortician with a samurai sword is particularly delightful.
11. The Shining
Stanley Kubrick’s imagining of Stephen King’s The Shining is a terrifying masterpiece. Jack Torrance’s descent into madness and wife Wendy’s manic efforts to protect her son are horror done right, while the insidious Overlook Hotel acts as a third character in the drama.
2019’s sequel, Doctor Sleep, is also worth a watch. It follows an adult Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) all grown up, battling his own demons and using his power to shine to help a young girl in danger.
Warning — there’s a scene of child murder in this movie that I personally found harder to watch than anything else on this list.
While Seven isn’t scary, it drips with unease and tension that isn’t released until the credits roll. The crimes in this 1995 thriller are devious and demented, with a villain whose motives don’t become clear until the final harrowing scene.
At this point, everyone knows that the villain is played by Kevin Spacey. But when the movie came out, his name was nowhere in the promotional materials. This was the year of The Usual Suspects, when Spacey’s star was on the rise (and before we knew how gross he was).
It was a huge surprise when he came on screen — and the movie’s shocking ending didn’t hurt either.
13. The Blair Witch Project
Mocked and imitated in later years, the original found footage film was mind-blowing when it first came out. It earned $250 million at the box office, on an original budget of only $60,000. That low-budget approach is what made the film feel so real. With no soundtrack, no major Hollywood names, and no big special effects, the movie was grounded in reality unlike many films before or since.
And the film never really explains the events, making it particularly unsettling.
Did we miss your favorite? Let us know your must-watch Spooky Season films in the comments.