October 13, 2017
The air is getting cold, leaves are falling, the dead are arising from their graves, and pumpkin spice is being served at Starbucks…Halloween is coming.
With the macabre mood setting into the mainstream, the average person will want to watch a good ol’ annual horror movie to scare the bones. This may seem nice and all but do they actually take the time to see what a real horror movie is and not the regurgitated and overrated bull that movie companies throw at us in recent times? If the answer is no, then we have compiled a list of our top unlucky 13 cult classic movies to watch before Halloween.
Because we care.
You’ll be shivering with antici-pation!
13. The Fog (1980)
The Fog is what I would consider a “gateway” horror movie. It’s something that’s not too scary, but not too boring to be offputting. Made by the “Master of Horror” himself, John Carpenter, The Fog is basically a more modern take on the classic ghost stories of the past. Combining old school storytelling techniques with simplistic yet endearing audios and visuals. The atmosphere is simply perfect in this movie; If it had to sum it up, it’d be constant dread. The movie never really makes the viewers feel really safe, it always feels like something is off and that something is going to happen. This is because of the masterful use of ambient music. Composed by the director himself, the soundtrack for The Fog is chilling and almost ethereal at times, fitting perfectly with the movie visuals. This is one of those movies where if you watched it without its haunting organs and thuds, it wouldn’t be even half as good. So check it out if you’re not a horror junkie
12. Pumpkinhead (1988)
A group of city friends go out to the countryside for a weekend vacation. They kill the local shop owner’s son in a motor-bike accident and left him for dead to avoid trouble. In a fit of rage, the shop owner seeks out the countryside’s witch who lives deep in the woods. She resurrects the legendary Pumpkinhead from a graveyard/pumpkin patch. The creature seeks out and tries to kill each person involved in the murder until justice is served. The animatronics made by Stan Winston is nothing short of impressive. The creature itself is convincing and monstrous, and the setting is very spooky with constant fog, lightning, and nocturnal animals scattering about. Pumpkinhead may not be an amazing movie by any means, but it’s certainly worth at least worth a watch.
11. Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (1988)
(I’m sensing a pattern with the decade that these movies are released in) It wouldn’t feel ethically right to not include the “Queen of Halloween” herself in this list. Elvira’s theatrical premiere is a cult smash! Elvira is fired from her hit television show and is strapped for cash. Coincidently, an aunt that she had never heard of has recently died and left her a house and a book of spells all located in a highly conservative New England town. With the whole townspeople against her and an ancient evil that’s set out to conquer the world, it’s up to Elvira to make things right. With legendary one-liners, goofy characters, and the seductive gothess herself, watching this 80’s relic will surely give you the urge to create your own beehive hair.
10. Bride of Chucky (1998)
I’m sure most of us are familiar with Chucky the Killer Doll. However, surprisingly enough, for two whole movies, Chucky actually had a possessed-doll wife, Tiffany Valentine. She was Charles Lee Ray’s (Chucky) lover before he was gunned down by the cops. A decade later she retrieves the doll he possessed and resurrects him, planning to marry him. However, her soul gets transferred into a female doll after a rather unfortunate “accident” and they both set out on a path of blood-soaked romance to find a pair of humans to possess. Sorry Joker and Harley Quinn, but Chucky and Tiffany were the first dysfunctional, murderous couple to appear on the big screen. There is an equal balance of humor and horror that truly defines the 90s decade. What also makes this movie great is how purposely silly it is. Similar to that of Scream, it gets really meta and starts making self-referential jokes at both the series and the horror genre in general. SCHS sophomore, Alex Magaña, gleefully explained how Bride is her ultimate favorite because “The fact that a red-head, three foot doll falls in love to a blonde, three foot doll who both try to possess the bodies of two teenagers is what I find really funny. You can also never go wrong with a little bit of killing mixed in their as well.” So in the end, it’s hard not to fall in love with this movie: It such a whacky and violent movie that it’s impossible to take it seriously. To give you a quick idea, how can you take a movie seriously when it decides to have the two killer dolls banging each other almost immediately after murdering a couple in a hotel room? Exactly.
9. Night of the Demons (1988)
Now here’s a cheesy premise: A group of high school friends are invited to a Halloween party hosted by the school’s infamous goth girl, Angela. Things seem fairly normal except that the party is located at an abandoned funeral home (of course of all places). Things, however, take an unfortunate turn when the friends decide to dabble in the occult and unleash a demon hell-bent on possessing and consuming everything in its path. One of the most iconic scenes in the film is the seductive dance performed by possessed-Angela while the legendary goth-rock band, Bauhaus jams in the background. The acting and the logic of this movie may be cheesy, as with most 80’s horror movies, but the creepy setting and simply watching the demon’s carnage gives me the satisfaction to watch it over and over.
9. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
I think it’s safe to say that there’s been a bit of a clown faze amongst many of us ever since the recent IT movie came out. So because of this, I think it’s time to bring out another creepy movie involving killer clowns. The only difference here is, that instead of just one evil clown, it’s a whole cast of them. Killer Klowns is a kooky movie to say the very least, it boasts some of the most creative designs I’ve ever seen in a movie, whether it’d be the aliens’ weapons or even the aliens themselves, all of which employing common themes and styles of a typical carnival. Listing a few examples: A cotton-candy raygun, acidic pies, a circus tent spaceship, and even balloon animals that come alive and chase after people. SCHS senior, Briejenn Kopelman exclaimed “Killer Klowns is hilarious! It’s everything that makes a basic 80’s horror movie. My favorite scene is when the smallest Klown with the green hair punches the biker dude’s head off!” It may not be a masterpiece, but it knows that; Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a great horror comedy that I’m sure will satisfy your cravings for another Pennywise.
8. Prince of Darkness (1987)
What happens when you combine hard science with biblical demons? Simple, you get John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness. Yes I know, another John Carpenter movie, but trust me, this is one is interesting. Here’s a brief rundown: a priest invites a college class to investigate a strange container underneath an abandoned church filled with a mysterious swirling green fluid. After some time studying it, things begin going wrong. One by one, people begin disappearing, strange homeless people begin sieging the church, killing anyone who tries to escape. From there, they begin to realize the fluid is sentient, and is in fact, the embodiment of Satan. Prince of Darkness is what I would consider one of my–Lucas’–personal favorite horror movies of all time. Not only is it a fresh depicting of the typical devil possession themed film, but it has some unique and interesting concepts. Heck, I find it absolutely intriguing how it tries to be factual and sensible to some degree when compared to real-world sciences. The movie shows off also some genuinely unsettling moments, such as one scene where one of the students who was killed off earlier in the film was shown re-animated outside of the church, couriering the message “Pray for death”, and then proceeds to collapse into a pile of bugs and chopped body parts. The movie also has one of my favorite Carpenter scores as well, which constantly utilizes ominous and foreboding bassy synthesizers and unholy choirs which ostinatos throughout the movie. You’ll know it’s a good movie if it manages to stretch out its opening credits for ten whole minutes and still have your complete attention. Oh yeah, did I mention that Alice Cooper is in it?
7. L’aldilà / The Beyond (1981)
Now here’s an interesting one. Does the name Lucio Fulci ring a bell to you readers? Most likely not. Fulci is one of the most beloved Italian directors in horror history, often times titled as the “Godfather of Gore”; Lucio Fulci made loads of gore films during his youth, a couple being Zombi 2, Quella villa accanto al cimitero, and most famously, L’aldilà (or The Beyond in English). If it had to sum the movie up simply, it would be basically about how the forces of hell are invading our world through a gateway underneath an abandoned hotel. I know, sounds incredibly cheesy, but at the same time, it’s suiting since it is a pretty cheesy movie. That being said, cheesiness is not necessarily a bad thing. The Beyond is a great movie for you gore-hounds out there, showcasing brutal death scenes, including one where you even have a paralyzed man’s face being mauled by tarantulas. Grotesque, am I right? Topping it all off, it has possibly one of the bleakest horror movie endings in cinematic history as well as one of the most overtly-scored soundtracks which helped solidify its place in horror history.
6. Suspiria (1977)
Why yes, another Italian horror movie, only this time, it’s not made by Lucio Fulci, but instead, a man by the name of Dario Argento, who is also a beloved horror director. If you thought L’Aldila was intriguing, I’m sure Suspiria will top that off. Suspiria is a very colorful movie to say the least. The color palette Argento chose for this movie still works effectively today, painting the environments in bright reds, blues, and green. It’s simply beautiful. Then there’s also the soundtrack, which was made by the legendary progressive-rock band, Goblin. Their combination of exotic instruments and harsh synthesizers create an amazingly haunting tone. Altogether, it creates an absolute masterpiece visually and auditorily. Although the story is a tad weak (a problem with most Italian horror flicks), I’d say everything else makes up for that.
5. Fright Night (1985)
If you are expecting some teen flick with sparkling male models, leave immediately! This frightful little treasure has been one of the many to bring the vampire archetype into our modern society. This movie has simply everything: Great visual effects, a decent soundtrack, as well as Chris Sarandon, who plays the lead vampire. Chris’s other major roles includes the cop from Child’s Play and as well as Jack Skellington’s voice from The Nightmare Before Christmas-how charming. Overall, the plot is that a high school boy is convinced that his new neighbor, Jerry Dandridge, is a vampire. Throughout the film, Jerry tries seducing his neighbor’s girlfriend as well as increase the number of his fellow undead. The special effects is personally some of the best I’ve seen. The bats look completely hellish and the wolf-to-vampire transformations look like they’ve been ripped straight from one of your nightmares, and the death scenes are memorable. It’s a charming horror movie with a frivolous soundtrack and some amazing practical effects.
4. In The Mouth of Madness (1994)
For all of you readers, I have one simple question for you: “Do you read Stutter Cane?” In case you’re unfamiliar with that quote, then you’ve clearly never seen In The Mouth of Madness, a Lovecraftian styled horror movie by John Carpenter. Now I know what you’re thinking, “ANOTHER John Carpenter movie, seriously?”, but just trust me, this is one fun ride. It’s about the mysterious disappearance of Stutter Cane, a famous horror author who supposedly topped Stephen King. Anyways, long story short, a detective was sent out to investigate the disappearance by visiting a small quaint town by the name of Hobb’s End. From there, the movie begins descending slowly into madness, with people become more and more manic and violent, as well as the environment itself becoming seemingly more and more off and impossible. Similar to that of Prince of Darkness, In The Mouth of Madness can be a bit of a confusing movie sometimes. This is one of those movies where it becomes actually better when re-watched since it actually leaves the viewer with a somewhat open ending. I love this movie, it has everything one could ever ask for from both H.P. Lovecraft and John Carpenter. It has all the Lovecraftian elements you’d expect, such as the recurring themes of insanity and “fear of the unknown”, as well as the typical trademark Carpenterian elements, such as the self-scored soundtrack and more. In fact, In The Mouth of Madness has one kicking rock theme, and I do mean it, it is amazing (albeit unfitting). If you love any of the two horror geniuses I have listed above, then this is a must-watch for you.
3. Return of the Living Dead (1985)
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the late George Romero’s classic Of The Dead series, starting out with Night, Dawn, and Day, however, I doubt most of you are familiar with Return of the Living Dead. In fact, here’s a funny thing, Return of the Living Dead was actually made by one of the original creators of Night of the Living Dead (which actually led to some past squabbles over title rights, but that’s not the point), so I’m sure that’s already a promising sign. If I had to describe this movie, it would be that it is the Shaun of the Dead, before Edgar Wright came out with it. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s punky, it’s ridiculous; This is a movie that constantly whiplashes you around with a good sense of horror, and a good sense of humor. One moment you’re in shock at how an entire police squad had been wiped out by a horde, and then the next you’re laughing when one of the zombies grabs one of the car’s microphones and proceeds to ask, “Send more cops.” Not only that, but the movie has a whole slew of 80s punk rock songs, which certainly help add to its charm. I feel like I should also mention that for those of you who are looking for some T&A if you know what I mean, this movie is loaded with unnecessary nudity to keep your teenage hormones satiated. What can I say? It is simply a fun movie.
2. The Evil Dead (1981)
Since we’re near the end of our list, why don’t we take a quick trip to the “Cabin in the Woods” movie that started them all: Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead. Yeah, you read the right: Sam Raimi, the guy who directed the Spiderman movies I’m sure we’ve grown up with during the early 2000s. The Evil Dead is an unsettling movie in the very least. Although it may not be as outright shocking like it initially was back in 1981, I believe that this movie still packs a punch. Not only is it absolute over-the-top when it comes to the gore, but the movie employs all sorts of cinematic tactics to set the dreadful tone of the film, making extensive use of Dutch angles and built-up jumpscares, as well as great audio design. Just about everything in this movie sounds horrifying, from the voice modulation of the possessed, to the ambient noises in the quieter moments, to the simplistic piano and strings soundtrack by Joseph LoDuca. Considering the fact that Evil Dead was a very low budget film at the time, it’s surprising to real just how well it has actually aged. Sure a lot of the practical effects look cheap at some parts, but the film quality combined with the raw factor it has actually helped make this classic work even today. What’s even better, is that there’s more than one classic Evil Dead movie. In fact, it’s a trilogy: The Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, and Army of Darkness. There’s even an official TV show now on the Starz network, Ash Vs. The Evil Dead. I highly recommend watching all of these, because there will be more gore, more dark humor, and yes, more Bruce Campbell.
1. Halloween (1978)
Of course, have a movie called Halloween as the number one pick, it’s even another Carpenter film, how fitting. Well fellow readers, we didn’t just slap this movie on the top spot without reason, because Halloween is an absolute classic. Not only has it reinvented and solidified itself in slasher movie history. Heck, even famous director James Cameron agrees, having stated that “Halloween is such a triumph of low-budget filmmaking.It basically spawned an entire genre.” The artful combination of its eerie and iconic soundtrack and the visuals of Michael Myers stalking his victims in the background always sends a slight shiver up my spine, because not only is it creepy, but it’s unnerving considering how real the situation could actually be. Sure it may not be terrifying by today’s standards, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch. I would be genuinely surprised at this point if you have never seen the original Halloween movie, it truly is the perfect slasher movie. And while you’re at it, why don’t you check its–surprisingly–decent sequel, Halloween II.