It’s one week to Halloween, and thanks to Covid-19, it’s not going to be the usual October 31st. Parties, haunted hayrides, clubbing, handing out candy… it really sucks that we can’t do whatever our Halloween traditions are. I’ve been trying to spend the last month celebrating ~spookyseason to try and make Halloween 2020 seem as normal as possible, and I thought I’d share a few tips to help you make the most of Halloween Week! (Does anyone else consider Halloween Week to be a real thing?)
Decorate Your Home
I love decorating for Halloween! It’s one of my favourite parts of the holiday. Having decor up is a great mood setter, and the process of making and putting decorations up is a fun seasonal activity. I love DIY projects, and since I don’t want to invest in reusable decor (since I won’t be bringing it home to Canada), I had a great opportunity to make my own projects:
–Leaf garlands: I’ve had these up since September as general Fall decor. Cut leaf shapes out of brown paper and trace leaf vein patterns onto them with coloured markers. Pierce the stems with a toothpick, and push string through. Knot at the end. Tie the ends of the string to one long piece to create bunting.
–Bats: Literally the easiest project – cut bat shapes out of black paper. Stick onto the wall with washi tape.
–Pumpkins: These were the trickiest craft to make. Take sturdy paper (either construction paper or watercolour paper painted orange) and cut it into strips. For the smaller pumpkins, glue the ends together to make rings, then spread the rings around to form a sphere. For the larger ones, glue all “top” ends and “bottom” ends together to form larger spheres. I painted toilet paper rolls orange and inserted them into the larger pumpkins to hold them up so they retained their shape a bit better. Green leaves and vines cut from paper on top to decorate!
Going for a walk in a cemetery is a surefire way to get into the Halloween spirit. Cemeteries are beautiful places to learn about local history and soak up the spooky atmosphere. Many big cities will have historical cemeteries, and I’m lucky that Sheffield has a stunning Victorian cemetery located quite close to my flat. Walking through the rows and reading gravestones will provide you with many stories of those from the past – a quick glimpse into who they were and how they lived (and died). If you know the name of the cemetery, have a look online to see if there are any prominent graves or interesting people buried there. For example, the Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa is the resting place of Sir Robert Borden (one of Canada’s early PMs), Tommy Douglas (father of Canada’s Universal Healthcare).
If you go Cemetery Wandering, remember to be respectful of where you are. Older cemeteries are historical sites and are unlikely to have active mourners, but are still sites of mourning. Contemporary graveyards are still in use, with more recent burials. Either way, the best way to be respectful in a cemetery is this: don’t be too loud, be thoughtful of others, do not vandalise, and do not walk across graves.
Watch Some Spooky Movies
I wrote about my Top 8 Halloween Movie Recommendations last year, and my Top 20 Horror Film Recommendations earlier this year, and I stand by the fact that October is the best time of year to get cozy with some spooky movies and shows. I think that Halloween movies break down into Scary (horror films) and Spooky (nostalgic media). I tend to skew on the scary end of the scale, but I think 2020 Halloween in particular just needs some feel-good Halloween nostalgia to get in the mood! Even I’ve caved and returned to some of my classic favs in a low-key desperate attempt to make the Halloween magic happen.
On top of my movie recommendations from last year, I’ll add a few TV shows that I’ve been watching this month: –Scream Queens (a super witty, self-aware Sorority drama slasher show) –Dragula (like RuPaul’s Drag Race‘s weird spooky goth punk sister) –The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (I-XIV, after that it’s probably not worth it, though there are a few good sketches here and there after that. And okay so it’s on my list from last year but it hurts my perfect nostalgia/enjoyment spot 10/10) –American Horror Story (I’ve only seen the first two seasons so I can’t speak to the quality of anything after that…)
It goes without saying that a big part of Halloween is the treats! Here are some ideas for turning your snacking into a spooky ~experience: -Fall is such a month for baking – get in the kitchen and make some pumpkin bread or apple crumble. If you’ve got a pumpkin to carve this year, look up recipes to use it in cooking after Halloween! -Toasted pumpkin seeds are a hugely nostalgic treat for me. Another great way to use parts of a jack-o-lantern you’d otherwise throw out (or, ideally, compost!) -Swap your regular snacks for a big bag of mini/bite-sized candies like you’d get trick ‘r treating. Or, if you want to keep it more environmentally friendly, cut your chocolate bars into bite-sized pieces for snacking. -Experiment with some boozy drinks! My easy recommendation would be a Gin & Tonic made with orange gin (like Beefeater Orange, which has a super vibrant colour) and a wedge of lime/twist of lime zest for a colourful cocktail. For my last Halloween party in Canada, I made fall spice sangria: red wine, brandy, fireball whiskey, apple juice, sliced apples and lemons, with gummy candy cocktail skewers to go in the drinks. There are tons more themed recipes available online – check out Pinterest for more ideas!
What are your favourite things to do on or around Halloween? As always, I’d love to know in the comments!
When you meet someone, what’s one of the first things that you tell them about yourself? For me, it’s that I love horror movies. I love getting scared by them, I love laughing at their campiness, and I love analysing them thematically.
Every week, I call my best friend on the phone and we pick a horror movie to watch and chat over. It’s one of the highlights of my week, and it’s got me revisiting some of my favourite horror movies, watching some new ones, and discussing how movies use horror elements to explore larger themes.
I’ve put together a list of my favourite horror movies and why I love them. I recommend them all, but keep in mind that they aren’t necessarily what I consider the best horror movies. It’s a mix of nostalgia, genuine horror, and how fun a viewing experience it is. While I love a proper scary movie, I don’t think that horror movies have to be scary to be good. I’ll include a TL;DR at the end of this post, but read on for a list of my favourite horror movies: the spooky, the fun, and the fucked up.
The Grudge (2004) / Ju-On
Honestly, this whole franchise deserves a spot on my list. The Grudge was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, and I think it’s what really sold me on the genre. At its most basic, The Grudge is about a house that is haunted by an angry spirit, and those who go into the house suffer from her curse. Though conceptually simple, the movie combines jumpscares, subtle scares, and a pervasive feeling of dread. The Grudge isn’t a perfect horror movie; I know that my enjoyment of this film is highly influenced by nostalgia, but even over a decade after originally seeing it, I’m still jumping at the scares. As far as J-horror remakes go, The Grudge feels inspired by the slow pacing and quiet moments of Japanese horror, and has a lot of involvement from the cast and crew of the original Japanese film.
If you’re interested in exploring foreign horror cinema, I’d also recommend checking out the original Ju-On franchise, especially Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2. The franchise is so iconic in Japanese horror, there’s even a 2016 Freddy vs Jason syle smackdown between the ghosts from Ju-On and Ringu (The Ring). If supernatural/dread horror is your thing and you haven’t explored J-horror, you’re missing out.
Session 9 (2001)
Session 9 is one of those movies I just like to look at. Shot on location at an abandoned mental instutution, this movie feels like an urban exploration experience. An asbestos removal crew is tasked with cleaning up the abandoned asylum (based on its real life counterpart) in order to turn it into an apartment complex. The asylum in the film begins to feel like its own character in this slow-burn supernatural thriller, as the crew discovers tapes from the therapy sessions of a significantly disturbed patient. It’s not the most original concept, but it’s so well excecuted that we can go ahead and cancel the entire rest of the “asylum horror” and “abandoned building” subgenres. Based on its genre and marketing, this movie has no right to be as good as it is. It’s a mega-recommend.
This movie scared me, and I didn’t expect it to. You can probably guess by now that my horror tastes skew supernatural (thanks, The Grudge), and while there are some excellent movies in the subgenre, there is a lot of shit to sift through to find it. I was expecting a pretty standard “haunted object” movie, but Oculus really delivers atmosphere, tension, and some damn good scares. A pair of siblings steal an antique mirror that their father had owned, seeking to prove that the mirror was responsible for their traumatic childhoods and family misfortune. This movie does not let up on the scares, and way that it blends illusion and reality means that there are some seriously shocking and scary moments in this movie.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) – A movie that taps into the millenial nostalgia for the iconic book series. A very “sleepover horror movie” movie about a small town haunting caused by a book of short scary stories coming to life.
1408 (2007) – Adapted from a Stephen King short story, this movie is an unrelenting psychological thriller about a haunted hotel room.
Mirrors (2008) – A pretty standard PG-13 supernatural horror movie, but a bit of a standout for its scary imagery.
The Mist (2007) – Another top-tier Stephen King adaptation. Almost a proto-Walking Dead story where the interesting part is the character dynamics of the survivors, rather than the threat itself.
Cam isn’t the obvious choice for a “fun” movie – it’s not a horror-comedy, nor is it particularly campy. It’s actually a decently scary movie. However, this movie is just so enjoyable to watch. A camgirl who wants to make it big finds her online account hacked and replaced by… herself. Only it’s not her. I don’t usually like social media horror, but Cam nails it. The scariest parts of this movie derive from the main character, Alice, being a sex worker (stalker fans, exploitation, and the like). However, Alice is proud and passionate about her work, and is a badass and enjoyable character to root for. It’s interesting and exciting to see a sex-positive horror movie, and it was written by an ex-sex worker, so it feels authentic instead of exploitative. What makes the movie fun instead of scary is a script full of tongue-in-cheek humor and clever dialogue, as well as visuals that are steeped in bright colours and stripper glitter.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011)
One of my favourite horror movie subjects is Rural horror, where good city people go to the backwoods and are terrorized by the inbred hillbillies that live there. Tucker & Dalevs. Evil takes this trope and turn it on its head. Tucker and Dale, two good country boys have just bought a fix-er-upper cottage, and some college kids from the big city are on a camping trip nearby. Thanks to a series of misunderstandings, the college kids believe that Tucker and Dale are the evil hillbillies that you’d expect from a violent slasher film. Absolutely hilarious hijinks ensue, and this movie had me laughing out loud, which doesn’t usually happen. Tucker & Dale knows exactly the type of movie that it’s making fun of, and is probably the best wide-appeal horror comedy out there.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)
I don’t usually like horror comedies that debunk horror and slasher tropes. Movies like Scream and Cabin in the Woods take common horror tropes and probe the audience: “you know that horror movies do this! It’s dumb and we both know it!”, and to be honest, I don’t love it. It feels disdainful. Movies like that feel like they’re made for people who don’t really like horror.
Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is an absolute love letter to horror fans. It’s a mockumentary about Leslie Vernon – a man who wants to follow in the footsteps of horror icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers – as he sets up his “big night” of killing a bunch of teens and earning his place in horror history. He spends an inordinate amount of time discussing horror tropes, their value, and why he has to include them in his killing spree. It’s not only important to have a “final girl” (trope), but there has to be a chase down a hallway, or a tunnel, because should the final girl survive the night, it will come to represent her passage through the birth canal, being reborn as a new woman, a survivor (academic analysis). As someone who is a big fan of horror for its academic value, this movie spoke directly to my big nerd heart.
Final Destination 3 (2006) – One of my favourite “teens die” movies (I can’t really call Final Destination a slasher), with creative kills and thouroughly unlikeable victims.
The Fucked Up
Hereditary succeeds because it was not initially meant to be a horror movie. Hereditary is a severely uncomfortable movie to watch, as it tells the story of a family dealing with grief, mental illness, and the occult. Initially, there was no occult elements, and the film was initially intended to be a family drama. I think this is why the film is so strong; the characters and their relationships are so powerful that everything that happens to them feels uncomfortably real. Toni Collette is phenomenal as the mother of a disintegrating family. I don’t want to spoil too much of this movie, and I urge you to watch it as spoiler-free as possible.
The Invisible Man (2020)
I had not expected to like this movie nearly as much as I did. It was hard to watch. Following the suicide of her sociopathic husband, Cecilia is plagued by unexplained events that others explain away as PTSD. She is convinced that her husband is alive, sabotaging her life in an effort to force her to return to him. No one believes her. It’s a surprisingly difficult watch, with high emotional stakes echoing fears that are familiar to women – having their abuse be ignored or denied, and being unable to escape from an abusive relationship. It was a difficult movie to watch, but I loved it and would highly recommend. I think it’s a great example of how modern “remakes” can do exciting and creative things with preexisting source materials.
I’m a huge Jordan Peele horror fan. He’s not afraid of creating horror media that is thoughtful, but in a way that forces audiences to think about uncomfortable subjects. That’s why I’ve put Us on my list of the fucked up. While it’s a bit less gut-wrenching than Hereditary or The Invisible Man in its initial viewing, it’s the subject matter that lands it on this list. Us is an uncomfortable exploration of privilege, American identity, and government exploitation of the underclass. If you want a great deep-dive into the movie’s social commentary, check out the Dead Meat podcast episode about Us. While it’s theme-heavy, that’s not to say that it isn’t also genuinely scary. Scary concepts, creepy visuals, and a haunting performance by Lupita Nyong’o make this a top-tier horror movie.
A lot of the more fucked up horror movies I’ve seen are more contemporary. I think that we’re in a golden age for movies that incorporates real world trauma into horror, and Us is an excellent example of this.
Midsommar (2019) – A beautiful folk-horror movie that explores a disintegrating relationship and what it means to belong. If a movie fills you with dread while drenched in sunlight and flowers, thats how you know it’s truly scary.
Inbred (2011) – One of the most shocking films I’ve ever seen, and definitely the most fucked up on this list. An impossibly isolated Yorkshire town tortures and exploits urban community service workers for no real reason.
American Psycho (2000) – An 80’s Wall Street Yuppie struggles to balance his performative and psychopathic identities. A modern classic of psychological horror.
I don’t want to read, just give me a list!
Session 9 (2001) Ju-On: The Grudge (2003) The Grudge (2004) 1408 (2007) The Mist (2007) Mirrors (2008) Oculus (2013) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter (1984) Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986) Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006) Final Destination 3 (2006) Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011) Cam (2018)
Fucked Up Movies:
American Psycho (2000) Inbred (2011) Hereditary (2018) Midsommar (2019) Us (2019) The Invisible Man (2020)
Note that for this list, I’ve skipped movies that I’ve included previously on my Favourite Halloween Movies list, since I’ve talked about them in detail in that post.
I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these movies. Did you like them? What else belongs on this list? What doesn’t belong? Let me know!
I’ve dabbled in urban exploration: adventuring into abandoned buildings or places. I think it’s a bit of a misconception that it’s an inherently scary hobby, and I don’t think I believe in haunted places or ghosts. However, I have had a couple of creepy experiences while exploring that made me question my paranormal skepticism. In the spirit of Halloween, I’m going to tell you three stories of creepy (and possibly paranormal) urban exploration experiences!
1. The Attic
When I was my first year of university, I had a friend who would join me on urban exploration trips and urbex photography sessions. She found an amazing site, the Prince of Wales hotel, just to the south of Ottawa. Like most places I’ve explored, it was not inherently spooky, and we were very excited to look around and take photos of this beautiful building.
We arrived in the early October afternoon in a mix of sun and clouds, and we were having a grand old time poking around, taking photos, posing for “ghostly” long exposure shots, and generally having a great time. We were clearly not the first people to explore the hotel, as there was plentiful graffiti on the walls and a fun surprise left for us in the basement. “The end of the world is here”, but it came across more cool and fun than creepy.
The open entrance to the abandoned hotel had been in the basement, so as my friend and I worked our way up to the top floors of the building, the sun got lower in the sky. As we lost our lighting, a sense of unease started to come over us, but we wanted to see everything in the building before we left. By the time we got to the top floor, we were in full creeped-out mode, but not to be deterred. It was dark and getting cold, and as we explored the upper level, we found children’s toys scattered around. I know it’s such a trope in horror that kids and their toys are creepy, but in a building that had long been abandoned and completely emptied, the presence of kids’ toys was decidedly eerie. We discussed wrapping our adventure up for the day and heading out, but we really wanted to finish exploring the whole building. Then we saw it.
The attic. This is the only picture I have of the attic. I really don’t consider myself a great believer in the paranormal, but there was something about this attic that felt off. Maybe it was just how dark it was up there. Maybe it was that the flooring looked like it might be unsafe. It might just have been that this scene from Sinister exists and was in my head while I was climbing that ladder. Whatever it was, I had such a sense of dread that I couldn’t bring myself to get to the top of the ladder. I don’t usually chicken out while urban exploring, but I chickened out. My friend outright refused to climb up. We decided to wrap up our exploration “since it was getting late anyway”, and left very unsettled. The hotel was torn down a few months after we visited.
2. The Collectors
My very first urban exploration experience is one of my favourites. I had family friends who lived out in the country, and down the road from their farm was an abandoned house. They would always invite our group of family friends out to their place for parties, and one day a bunch of us kids went for a walk down the road to explore the house. Often, when houses are abandoned, they are emptied of (most) furniture and personal belongings. This one had been boarded up untouched. It seems like when the elderly owners of the house had passed away, their children came and took what they wanted, then just abandoned the property.
As we explored the home, we uncovered dozens of treasures. Those that stood out the most were a baby grand piano, a birdcage and a record to help teach birds to sing, and a taxidermied anthropomorphic squirrel. Though the majority of the exploration was decidedly un-creepy, as we were leaving the home, I stumbled upon a decently sized stack of newspaper clippings. Rifling through the pile, each clipping was a report of a horrible accident. Train crashes, farm equipment incidents, car accidents… I suppose the elderly couple must have had a morbid fascination with accidents. Still, it’s decidedly weird to go about clipping and collecting these articles. Nothing terrifying, but decidedly weird.
3. The Seance
As I mentioned before, I don’t typically get spooked by urban exploration. I tend to feel curious and excited instead of scared. Even at the Prince of Wales Hotel I wasn’t nervous until the very end of the exploration. However, the only time I’ve ever had a truly haunting experience was in a burn-out house in New Edinbourgh. From the moment that my friend and I arrived on the site on a freezing winter day, something felt off. It’s the feeling you get in a horror movie when tension is being built for a scare. Dread. Though we were warry to enter the house, we didn’t let our nerves get the best of us. In we went.
A large pile of branches was heaped in the entryway, like the house was protected from intruders like us. We were hushed as we made our way through, taking pictures as we went. It felt a bit like we were being watched. I kept hearing faint noises from the floor above me. My friend didn’t hear it. The windows were all boarded up, so light was more limited than it had been in the hotel, so we were only able to see what was directly in the path of our headlamps. The majority of the house had been vacated, so there wasn’t much to see in the first few rooms. Then our light beams landed on something.
A salt circle. Candles were spread evenly around the ring. People had been here, and they had created a space of ritual magic. Inside the ring you can see two objects: a decorative ceramic bottle with some kind of liquid inside, and a papier maché head with decorative circles (coins?) over the eyes. In the photo above, it doesn’t look that scary, but this photo was a long-exposure that took in a lot of light. We only had faint beams of light from our head lamps to break the darkness. There was one other item found in the room: a piece of paper. It’s there on the piece of plywood on the right of the photo. On it, instructions to summon ghosts.
In that moment, we had serious reconsiderations for continuing our exploration. Freaked out by both the mysterious noises and the implication that ghosts had been summoned to this very house, we tentatively decided to carry on. My friend wanted to continue exploring the main floor, and I decided to venture upstairs.
The floor was largely fire-damaged, with very little floor space left safe to walk on. This had been the kitchen, and the outbreak of fire is likely what caused the house to be abandoned. Though I have tried to find a history of the building and why the house we were in and the apartment block next door had been abandoned. From what I can find, a fire broke out in 2011 that destroyed the building, and in typical NCC fashion, it was condemned and then sat there for years. I couldn’t figure out if anyone had died in the fire, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. I don’t know how to describe it, but it felt like somebody had died in that building. As I was shooting some pictures of the burnt out kitchen, my camera did something that I haven’t experienced before or since. The screen glitched out, sporadically flashing green.
That was enough for me. I went right back down the stairs and told my friend I was done, we needed to go. She agreed, and we fled the premises, hopped on a bus to a bookstore and looked for books about ghost hunting. We never got to return to the house to try anything out, but if there are ghosts there, they don’t need to be disturbed again. With a level head after leaving the abandoned house, I can look at the things that happened logically. The noises that I had heard were likely squirrels or raccoons. The glitch on my camera was probably a result of the -30C weather. What I can’t account for is that uncanny feeling of dread throughout the entire experience. Because of this experience, I can’t say for certain I don’t believe in hauntings.
Have you ever had a supernatural experience? Or have experience with urban exploration? I’d love to hear about it! If you’re looking for more spooky content, check out my post about Dark Tourism here.
I’m a self-described Halloween junky. The combination of autumn and all things spooky go together better than espresso and pumpkin spice (another fall staple that I’m currently drinking while writing this). I like watching movies, and I like reading movie lists, so I’m writing a list of my favourite movies to get into the Halloween spirit.
There’s definitely a distinction between Halloween movies and horror movies. I love horror, but not all horror movies are Halloween-y. And not all Halloween movies are horror. There will be overlap on this list. I’m also going to be writing up a list of my favourite horror movies for anyone who’s seeking out some straight-up scares for their movie marathons, Halloween or otherwise.
Trick ‘R’ Treat (2007)
My favourite Halloween horror movie, Trick ‘r’ Treat is everything that you could want in a scary Halloween flick. Originally conceptualized with a tie-in comic book, it’s an anthology film telling a handful of Halloween stories. I think that horror as a genre is incredibly suited to anthology storytelling, and Trick ‘r’ Treat ties these stories together into a great non-linear narrative celebrating . My favourite short is either the party girls or the tweens at the quarry, but honestly they’re all good.
As well as the Halloween storytelling, this movie just screams Spooktober vibes. The warm autumn tones and surplus of vintage Halloween imagery have a way of making this movie feel surprisingly cozy while we watch some seriously good scares. This love letter to Halloween is capped off with the film’s mascot Sam (pictured on the poster above), who represents the importance of respecting Halloween traditions… or else.
The Haunted Mansion (2003)
I will start by saying this movie is not good. It has DCOM energy on a box office budget. Based on the iconic Disney Parks ride, The Haunted Mansion is an extraordinarily campy movie starring Eddie Murphy as a real estate agent who learns the value of family after a series of ghostly hijinks ensue at the eponymous mansion. The writing falls pretty flat, and the acting is mixed. I don’t love early 2000s comedy Eddie Murphy (it kind of works in this movie), but Terence Stamp is decidedly creepy as a mysterious butler, and Jennifer Tilly as Madame Leota is a weird casting choice that I personally liked. The movie’s sets look like a Halloween haunted house attraction, which I think really works in this case, because it adds to the camp value of the film and ties it back to the Haunted Mansion as a ride.
This movie was played on CBC Movie Nights when I was a kid, so my appreciation of it as a Halloween movie is pretty steeped in nostalgia. The cultural collective seems to agree that Halloweentown is an iconic Halloween movie, and in my opinion The Haunted Mansion is waaay better than Halloweentown. Everyone is sleeping on this largely ignored movie as the perfect campy Halloween film.
Ghosts, witches, and zombies populate Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts in this spooky stop motion flick. Surprisingly cute despite its creepy premise (a young boy who can speak to the dead, uncovering a curse in the process), this movie is well worth a watch if you’re looking for something on the creepier side. The characters are very likeable, and the animation style is quite unique. If you’re a fan of Coraline, a close contender for this list, you’ll probably like ParaNorman. I watched it on Halloween night a few years ago after my mum and I handed out candy to Trick or Treaters. It was surprisingly witty and even a bit scary at times! I find it a bit surprising that this movie had an August release, because it’s obviously made for a cozy October movie marathon.
The Conjuring (2013)
This movie is a juggernaught in contemporary horror cinema. It’s spawned two direct sequels, as well as the spinoff Annabelle franchise (three films), and two more spinoffs: The Nun and The Curse of La Llorna. While not all of the “Conjure-verse” films are masterpieces, the original is a contemporary horror classic that carries strong Halloween vibes. I think that haunting and demonic films feel a lot more seasonal than slasher films. The autumnal setting and bleak colour palette further contribute to this movie’s classification as solidly Halloween, and the retro setting (1971) contributes to the same nostalgia as Trick ‘r’ Treat, but in a more perverse way.
The film tells the story of a Rhode Island family whose new home is posessed by the spirit of a devil-worshiping witch. The Warrens, famous real life demonologists from the 1960s-80s, attempt to help the family. Yes, this movie is based on a true story! Even though film studios play fast and loose with “inspired by true events” (case point being that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is decidedly not the true story of Ed Gein), and even though hauntings and possessions aren’t real, the fact that real people claim to have experienced these events is still a bit creepy. And if it doesn’t creep you out personally, it’s a good tidbit to whip out to those more faint of heart who you may be watching it with.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
The only true classic horror film on this list, as well as the only slasher. Like I said, slashers don’t really feel all that Halloween-y to me! Yes, that applies to John Carpenter’s Halloween as well – it’s a great movie, but it doesn’t have to be Halloween for the events to take place! Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street‘s supernatural elements and weird surreal deam sequences feel more appropriate for Halloween. Freddy Krueger is also the OG slasher who brought comedy to the genre with his quips. Though he becomes a pastiche of himself in the later films (which is fun in its own way), he’s definitely played on the scarier side in the original film. This movie has great camp value on top of some genuine scares, and a sequence of subsequently sillier sequels make it a great series to marathon come October.
A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Do I need to explain? I’m not the biggest fan of some of the iconic Halloween movies like Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus, but A Nightmare Before Christmas is an iconic Halloween classic that I can fully get behind. The stop motion masterpiece is a beautiful nod to the season, and its most famous song “This Is Halloween” absolutely slaps. Fun fact: though it’s marketed as “Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas“, it’s actually directed by Henry Selick. It’s based on a concept by Burton, who acted as a producer on the project. The film acts as a testament to all things weird and wonderful about the Halloween season, and to those who identify with the spooky and sinister. Anyway, this movie is a Halloween classic, and if it’s not on your October movie list, you’re wrong.
Rounding off this list is one of my favourite horror movies of all time. This movie scared the shit out of me, and I think it’s one of the best horror movies from the past 10 years. The plot, acting, cinematography, lighting, sound mixing, pacing… everything comes together so perfectly in this movie. Though it is a bit heavy on the jumpscares, I think that Sinister is the type of film that demonstrates just how valuable this type of scare can be when it’s used appropriately. One of the biggest jumps I had watching this film was a scene transition from the anticipation of something lurking in the dark, to a scene transition in which a teaspoon is loudly dropped into a coffee cup.
Seriously, the atmosphere of this film is so well constructed. If you’re a horror fan, or just horror curious, this movie is always one of my top recommendations for just how good horror movies can be. Like The Conjuring, Sinister isn’t explicitly Halloween-y, but it does have a similar autumnal setting and colour palette. Aesthetically autumnal and absolutely terrifying, Sinister is my number one pick for spooky fall horror.
The Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror
Okay, so this isn’t a movie, but The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials are such a nostalgic piece of media for me. CBC would play reruns leading up to Halloween, so a lot of the earlier episodes are firmly imprinted in my mind. If you are unfamiliar with “Treehouse of Horror” specials, they are Halloween episodes divided into three shorts, typically satirizing horror or science fiction classics. This is a pretty definitive list of iconic segments from Treehouse of Horror. Yes, they are still making new Treehouse of Horror episodes, and no, they are not good.