October brings my favorite seasonal imagery, a time where I can indulge my weird self without having the authorities called. I tend to celebrate Halloween year-round, in part because I’m never able to cram a “31 Days of October” movie marathon in. But also because Halloween has so much to offer! There are numerous films and celebrations, sweet treats, and beanie weather. It can be overwhelming if you’re looking for a negative.
This list of horror movies for Halloween is for the less-organized. You can watch a couple or all and in any order. This isn’t meant to point you towards out-of-print, obscure releases, nor is it meant to rely on easy/popular films that you don’t need me to tell you about. This is about weirdos.
Nothing in the first film compares to the sight of Craig T. Nelson vomiting up a giant tequila worm, then watching it grow into a limbless chud baby. Subtitled The Other Side, this film asks us to consider the survivors of a possession as they try to move on. The family has relocated, no TV sets allowed, when a mysterious visitor arrives at their door. Played by Julian Beck, I can’t oversell how terrifying this character is. The fact that the actor was near death from stomach cancer (he died during filming) plays off viewer’s subconscious fears of the inevitable.
The film manages to deal with heavy themes like racism, substance abuse, and gender roles on top of the psychological scares. Lots of subtext in this film, and those layers make this one special. There’s also plenty of great fantasy effects in the vein of Hellraiser II.
I missed out on Re-Animator during my teenage years. It’s one of the reasons I’ll always choose Stuart Gordon’s second Lovecraft film over his first, though really they’re two sides of the same coin. Thematically, it’s more appealing to me, as it dips into S&M, impotency, and madness. This film is not afraid to get nasty. There are neon effects galore, Barbara Crampton in dominatrix gear, and Ken Foree (Devil’s Rejects) fighting a water monster in his briefs.
‘Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer’
If you’re just looking for something fun, this 2007 low budget film features a good mix of comedy and monster fighting. Comedy horror is a hard sell for me because when it’s bad, it’s bad, but this one has a nice charm to it. It’s also an inexpensive buy and features Robert Englund (Freddy, duh)!
‘Tightrope’ / ‘Cruising’ Double Feature
Queer horror films aren’t exactly a large part of the genre, so I appreciate ones that do exist. Cruising was not a welcome sight during the Reagan era, when representation wasn’t as varied as it is now. William Friedkin’s thriller follows the Giallo model with a black gloved killer who selects men from nearby clubs, then brutalizes them while no one else seems to care. Al Pacino plays a cop who goes undercover after pressure from the community, and the film questions how much he’s pretending to fit in with a non-hetero group. I can’t argue that it’s a nasty, mean-spirited film, but it’s an amazing time capsule now, with much of the club footage taking place in a legit bar. It’s an interesting look at homophobia, both inner and outer. Pacino’s dancing might be too scary for some, so be warned.
Clint Eastwood’s Tightrope is a distant cousin to Cruising, looking like the same film–dark, gritty, and lots of kink imagery. This is arguably Eastwood’s sleaziest character. He dips in and out of sex clubs, blends in with the junkies, and has no problem entering a queer space without judgement (rare for most cop films, especially from this era). The murders are unsettling, and gratuitous. Who’s the killer? It certainly seems like it’s Eastwood, and is similarly ambiguous to Friedkin’s film. For fans of Maniac (1980 or 2012).
Out of print in the US until recently, this was a VHS favorite of mine. I had no knowledge of the original or its sequels, and this is one chaotic sequel. Immediately there’s a freakish Jawa look-alike invasion (think Cronenberg’s The Brood) that results in a house explosion. This turns into a road trip plagued with nightmares, chainsaw killers, and survival depends on a former ice cream man. This is the beautiful insanity that Bubba Ho-Tept director Don Coscarelli was known for.
Somehow I’d forgotten about this film until a recent watch brought it back into view. I grew up in an old house that occasionally featured rat invasions, so throw this one into my pile of triggers. Based on the Roald Dahl book, this film was made to scare children and Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth) delivers with grotesque camera angles, and off-putting adults at every turn. You never wanted to see a room of witches scratching at bloody scalps, as this film taught me.
Now it’s your turn! Which films are you going to watch and is there any other ones that belong on this list? Comment below!