At last, October is here. String up the ghost lights, deck your mantle with pumpkins and add faux spider webs to all surfaces with wild abandon because it's time to get in the Halloween spirit.
To kick off the season of tricks and treats, I've compiled 31 days worth of scary movies—old ones, new ones, campy ones, disturbing ones. It should be noted that these are my picks and I tend to leave out films like Hostel, Human Centipede, Hills Have Eyes for obvious reasons. I'm also not super into vampire films, so I only have one representative from the genre.
Now, without further ado, I present my list of horror films for every day leading up to Halloween. Do you dare watch them alone?
Day 1. It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
I know, I know. You're expecting scares, chills and thrills out the gate. But! This 1966 animated treasure is a must and I think it's a great way to ease into the gore-filled days to come.
Day 2. The Shining
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Stanley Kubrick brought Stephen King's novel about a family isolated in a hotel in the Colorado mountains to life in this 1980 film. It's eerie and has plenty of scares, and Jack Nicholson is an incredible actor.
Day 3. Amityville Horror
While I'm partial to the 2005 version because: Ryan Reynolds, the original, released in 1977, is a fine choice, too.
Day 4. Ju-On: The Grudge
I stress the importance of watching this one--the original Japanese film--and not The Grudge, an American remake released in 2004 starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Nothing against Buffy, but Ju-On is truly terrifying and if you have a set of stairs in your house, prepare for your mind to conjure up a wide-eyed, ghostly figure slinking down them. Also: That sound. *shudders*
Day 5. Scream
What a genius film this is. Drew Barrymore is on the film poster! She can't possibly die in the first 10 minutes! Oh, but she does. And it's gruesome. I was a teen when this classic Wes Craven (RIP, friend) slasher flick came out in 1996, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. Honestly, it still does. And I love that.
Day 6. Dawn of the Dead
I think I had an existential crisis after seeing this in a Miami movie theater on spring break in 2004. Zombies weren't yet a "thing" when this remake of George A. Romero's classic film hit the screens, so I didn't quite know what to expect. As much as I enjoy the original, I prefer the remake. Hey, I'm a sucker for Ving Rhames.
Day 7. 28 Days Later
Continuing on with the zombie genre, I adore this 2002 British horror film in which the main character Jim wakes up in the hospital to find his city deserted save for thousands of (very very fast) zombie-like creatures roaming and feasting. I caution that there's a slightly rape-y scene toward the end that bugs me, but it's a solid scary film nonetheless.
Day 8. Evil Dead
Do not. I repeat, do not watch the re-imagined version of this film that was released in 2013. It is not good. And as you can see from the above, I don't mind a remake when it's done well. Moving on: A group of friends goes to a remote and creepy cabin in the woods and accidentally unleashes flesh-eating demons. Gore, hilarity and terror ensues.
Day 9. Evil Dead II
You could consider a double header, here, and make it an Evil Dead night. In this 1987 sequel, director Sam Raimi again pits Ash, the lone survivor of the first demonic onslaught, up against more demons in a secluded cabin in the woods. Gore, hilarity and terror ensues.
Day 10. Cabin in the Woods
One of the best new horror films I've seen in a long time, this 2012 horror comedy flick, written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, brilliantly mixes satire and scares as five college students head to...you guessed it...a remote cabin in the woods.
Day 11. The Exorcist
A very chic Ellen Burstyn stars in this classic 1973 film about a girl (played by Linda Blair) who is posessed by the devil via a Ouija board she finds in the basement. Note to self: Finally get Ouija board this year.
Day 12. Ringu
This Japanese horror film is the basis for the American movie The Ring. I recommend watching both of them because both are equally creepy and good. I currently have chills thinking about this:
Day 13. The Ring
I'm not sure many other horror film characters ellicit such terror as Samara in this 2002 American remake of the film mentioned above. Plus, I've always said any good horror movie includes a requisite microfiche scene. (Look it up, kids.)
Day 14. Sinister
I was home alone when I opted to watch this 2012 movie starring Ethan Hawke as a true crime writer who has a thing for moving into the homes of the victims about whom he writes. Slight mistake on my part. It's terrifying...that is, until the very end. I was disappointed at the dumb ending, but I still think it's worth a watch. Also: It's one of those movies where it's perpetually night or extremely dark and shadowy, which causes serious unease.
Day 15. Creep
I was bummed I missed this when it was at SIFF in 2014, so I decided to watch it a few weeks ago on Netflix. The gist: A videographer (Patrick Brice) answers a Craigslist ad for a one-day job following Josef (Mark Duplass) around and documenting his life. While it's a bit of a slow starter, the creeps (pun intended) start from the onset. I guarantee you'll be thinking about this film long after you've finished it.
Day 16. House on Haunted Hill
The 1999 remake starring Geoffrey Rush
Both versions (1959 original and the 1999 remake) are worth watching, though the effects at the conclusion of the newer iteration kind of ruined the overall spookiness for me. If you're a purist, go with Vincent Price et al. If you're into old insane asylums (ahem) and their wacky goings on, go with Geoffrey Rush.
Day 17. Nightmare on Elm Street
Oh, Freddy Krueger, how do I love thee.
Day 18. Friday the 13th
Follow up sir Krueger with his classic '80s murderous counterpart, Jason Voorhees. Technically, it's Mrs. Voorhees (spoiler) creating havoc at Camp Crystal Lake.
Day 19: Friday the 13th Part 2
Now, it's Jason Voorhees.
Day 20: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
I found this 1974 movie featuring a chainsaw-wielding menace and his creepy cannibal family to be kind of gross. But my co-worker told me I had to include it. Fine.
Day 21: The Conjuring
We're taken back to the 1970s where the Perron family is experiencing a series of odd and disturbing events at their Rhode Island farmhouse. Enter the Warrens, husband and wife paranormal investigators (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), who take on the Perron's case. There are some extremely fear-inducing moments in this film--spirits in the bedroom, evil dolls, etc.
Day 22: The Perfect Host
David Hyde Pierce stars in this 2010 thriller about a criminal on the run (Clayne Crawford) who swindles his way into the home of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) as he's preparing for a dinner party. The twists and turns in this movie are just incredible; and it's quite dark and downright disturbing in places.
Day 23: Trick 'r Treat
This movie is weird. But in a good way. Trick 'r Treat, released in 2007, follows four interwoven stories that all happen on Halloween. I like that it takes place on the actual holiday, so you're inundated with cool visuals of jack-o-lanterns, costumes and other frightful Halloween imagery.
Day 24: The Fog
"Why not six, Blake? Why not me?"
This film has a special place in my heart. I can't remember the exact age I began watching John Carpenter's 1980 masterpiece starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and Hal Holbrook (!), but I assure you it was well before children should be viewing horror films. My dad and I would watch this every year around Halloween and thus I've continued the tradition. It's a grand movie full of murderous lepers, misty surrounds, saltwater-filled bodies and a sultry-voiced DJ (Adrienne Barbeau) who sees it all unfold from her perch in an old lighthouse. As for the 2005 remake? It stinks!
Day 25: The Babadook
I loved this Australian-Canadian horror film about a scary storybook character that torments a lonely widow and her small son.
Day 26: It Follows
Something is following main character Jay (Maika Monroe) after she has a sexual encounter with a guy she's dating. And the only way to get rid of it before it eventually catches up to her and does inexplicable harm, is to sleep with someone else. Such an original premise and a must-watch in my book.
Day 27: Let the Right One In
A bullied 12-year-old boy befriends a vampire in this 2008 Swedish film. I don't find it particularly scary, but it's an enjoyable, bloody movie.
Day 28: Carrie
Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, pigs' blood, a hyper-religious mother; it's a classic that's got all the makings for a good scare.
Day 29: Halloween
As we approach the day of haunting, now is the time to gather 'round the telly for a screening of one of the best horror films ever created. John Carpenter's Halloween manages to spook, startle, scare, raise hairs, you name it with a slow-moving, masked killer named Michael Myers.
Day 30: Halloween II
One of the few acceptable sequels IMO in the Halloween franchise (don't even get me started on Halloween III: Season of the Witch), numero dos picks up where the first one left off: on Halloween night, post-Michael Myers killing spree. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is in the hospital (a very dark and eerie hospital) and lo and behold, Myers is at his deadly antics again.
Day 31: Halloween|
Watch it again, or substitute with your favorite scary movie! Happy Halloween!