For this Halloween roundup, we’ve selected movies that aren’t necessarily the most pant-wettingly scary, the most gore-stained, or blood-tinged. Instead, we wanted to pick the 5 films that best define the Halloween Spirit… whatever that is.
There’s no doubt about it: anthology films are tough to pull off. Plenty of films with full-length run times for one story struggle to to display likable and defined characters. Or believable, well constructed plots, for that matter. That Trick ‘R Treat manages this, should be reason enough to fire up the jack o’lanterns, but it also weaves several interesting stories (one of them starring Anna Paquin, another starring Brian Cox), into a narrative and world that seems to run the Halloween gamut. Malevolent spirits, plentiful candy, numerous trick-or-treaters, and Halloween parades all make an appearance, and if a film better defines Halloween, I haven’t seen it.
The John Carpenter horror masterpiece. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the litany of inferior slashers that sprang up in the wake of this blood-spattered masterpiece are testament to its impact and quality. That it takes place on Halloween not only gave it further disturbing qualities, it also further camouflaged the central antagonist, adding to the drama. Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis made her name with this demure and innocent calling card of a performance.
A strong contender for a place in the top 3 most influential horror films ever. Halloween may have spawned imitators and a sub-genre, but Night of the Living Dead gave birth to a sub-genre, a pop culture meme, practically invented zombies, and used political metaphor to give further impact to its visceral and nerve-shredding visuals. A drive-thru staple, NOTLD is deservedly considered a classic.
4. Evil Dead II
With its hokey mythology, reputation as a video nasty, and DIY aesthetic, The Evil Dead brought a freshness and an impressive sense of humour to the table. What the original did well, the sequel did better, and when the original made you feel queasy, Evil Dead II made you feel worse.
Considered a remake by some, this film assumes no knowledge of the original, and, in a lot of ways, has an identical plot. With added humour (the Farewell To Arms visual gag is a classic), and higher-budget splatter, this film outshone its predecessor and launched Sam Raimi on his trajectory towards directing tentpole arachnid-superhero movies. The ‘pencil moment’ is bound to make you regurgitate your ill-gotten candy.
When Halloween’s over, we’re all familiar with the sense of anti-climax, the sugar crash, the vacuum of the macabre that opens up in our lives. Until Christmas (and, for our American friends, Thanksgiving), at least. This is why The Nightmare Before Christmas makes perfect sense as a film to manage the segue from the sinister to the wholesome. Set in a world where each of the holidays is a world itself, and enhanced by Tim Burton’s stylised designs (realised in claymation), this musical perfectly encapsulates what’s so great about each holiday. Some great tunes get your feet a-tappin’, and your larynx a-shakin’, and a horrifyingly fun realisation of a world where it’s Halloween all the time, as well as a classic ‘be true to yourself’ message ups the ante.
If only all those self-pitying emo kids hadn’t adopted this as their flagship film, we’d all feel even better about liking it.
Disagree? Too scared to shout? Leave a comment below.