Halloween’s approaching, and that means one thing: it’s time to binge watch horror movies. While there’s plenty of lists out there for top horror films, here we’ll focus on movies that are perfect for putting you in that October mood.
Dark grey skies, falling leaves, ghouls, blood, and Gothic castles are just some of the things in these movies that will make your Halloween truly “spooktacular.”
Horror of Dracula (1958) directed by Terence Fisher
Nearly 30 years after the black and white classic starring Bela Lugosi, the vampire tale was resurrected by Hammer Film Productions for a newer audience. Christopher Lee, known today for his roles in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, stars as the eponymous blood-sucker. The film pulls no punches with its heavy Gothic atmosphere or with its bloody violence.
Rolling fog, dead trees, and an old castle are just as much the stars of the show as Lee, who portrays the vampire as the snarling demon he is meant to be. Fisher wasn’t afraid to up the graphic violence either, as buckets of both human and vampire blood are shed with numerous neck biting and stakes driven through hearts.
Not taking itself too seriously, nor going full camp, Horror of Dracula maintains a perfect balance as a bloody and spooky vampire tale. It’s great to watch wrapped in a blanket as the autumn wind howls outside the window—just remember to keep your neck covered.
The Evil Dead (1981) directed by Sam Raimi
Made on a shoestring budget, The Evil Dead was a student film made by college friends. Little did they know, the movie would go on to become a cult sensation, spawning two sequels, numerous comic books, video games, a remake, and even a television show. The plot is simple— five college students go vacationing to an old cabin in the woods and they find an ancient book of the dead. Reading it aloud awakens the demonic spirits living within, who then possess the students one-by-one, leading to increasingly gory mayhem.
Raimi, who went on to become an established Hollywood director with his Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, utilizes creatively aggressive camera techniques that give the movie a unique feeling of pure insanity. The cheap and dirty production values also endowed the movie with a gritty and creepy atmosphere, which all but disappeared with the more comedic sequels. What makes The Evil Dead truly stand out is the gnarly gore. Dismemberment, decapitation, and all kinds of revolting violence leaves the cabin absolutely soaked in fake blood by the end of the film.
The Evil Dead shines as a maniacal blend of campy black humor and grueling terror. It is cheesy, funny, disgusting, and horrifying all at the same time, making it a quintessential October viewing. The squeamish need not apply, but those that aren’t afraid of getting their screens splattered will find a real treat in this film.
Sleepy Hollow (1999) directed by Tim Burton
In this Gothic horror comedy, Johnny Depp plays Ichabod Crane, a young constable sent to investigate some grisly murders in the small English town of Sleepy Hollow. As he uncovers more and more clues, the body count grows higher, and the mystery spirals towards a crazy, gory conclusion.
The first thing that needs to be said about this film is that the set design is some of the best I have ever seen for any movie of any genre. This is a movie that oozes Halloween in every single shot. Crooked trees, dark gray skies, fog, an abundance of pumpkins—it’s got it all. The terrific atmosphere is helped in no small part by long-time composer and collaborator Danny Elfman, whose soundtrack amplifies the spooky fairy-tale like setting of the movie.
What’s also great about the movie are the performances. Johnny Depp brings a really interesting take to his character, initially being really sensitive and squeamish, but becoming braver as he is forced to confront the terrifying Headless Horseman. In the supporting roles, we have Cristina Ricci, playing the mysterious romantic interest for Ichabod, and Christopher Walken who turns in a wordless performance as the Horseman that manages to be both creepy and hilarious at the same time.
It’s unlikely that another adaptation of Sleepy Hollow will overtake the original—this one is the superbly essential Halloween viewing.