'What's your favorite scary movie...?'
by Jesse Schedee
Everyone has their own Halloween traditions, whether that involves costume parties or getting lost in corn mazes. But one thing everyone can agree on is that Oct. 31 is the best time for a horror movie marathon. Here are all the essential films that should be on your watch list every year.
'Night of the Living Dead' (1968)
Director George Romero essentially birthed an entire sub-genre with this classic black-and-white film. Later zombie movies might pack in more gore but it's hard to top the original for sheer fright factor.
'The Exorcist' (1973)
Over 40 years later, "The Exorcist" is still widely regarded as one of the scariest movies ever filmed. No annual marathon is complete without a warm bowl of pea soup and this movie in your DVD player.
'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974)
If you ever feel the sudden urge to lock your doors while driving through rural Texas, this movie is to blame. The original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" introduced us to iconic slasher villain Leatherface and his terrifying family of cannibals. Just writing about it makes us rock and forth while crying for mommy.
Stephen King movies don't get much better than this 1976 classic. Skip the remake. This chiller shows what happens when the bullied suddenly become the bully and wipe out an entire school in a display of psychic fury. And you thought your prom was bad...
'The Omen' (1976)
Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees are all fine and well, but there's something especially scary about small children fueled by Antichrist tendencies. Little Damien Thorn immediately cemented his place among the all-time great horror villains.
'Dawn of the Dead' (1978)
George Romero followed up "Night of the Living Dead" with a very different but equally groundbreaking zombie film. "Dawn of the Dead" stands out not just for its fear factor, but because of its satirical view of America's consumer-driven culture.
Before Freddy or Jason, there was Michael Myers. Director John Carpenter delivered the quintessential slasher film with the first entry in this long-running franchise, and it only gets better with age.
'The Shining' (1980)
Is there any prospect less appealing than being trapped in a remote hotel with Jack Nicholson for an entire winter? Director Stanley Kubrick delivered an impeccably crafted and very frightening adaptation of the classic Stephen King novel.
'Friday the 13th' (1980)
Come for a pre-hockey masked Jason Voorhees, stay for that "holy sh**" twist ending and Kevin Bacon's bloody kill screen.
In a sea of haunted house movies, "Poltergeist" remains at the top of the mountain. That's thanks in no small part to the involvement of Steven Spielberg, who wrote, produced and (according to rumors) may have secretly directed this story of a family battling vengeful spirits in their new home.
'The Thing' (1982)
No Halloween marathon would be complete without this terrific but terrifying monster movie from John Carpenter. This 1982 classic is one of the most definitive examples of a remake outclassing the original in every way.
'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
Wes Craven created a horror movie icon with the original "A Nightmare on Elm Street." And though Freddy Krueger pretty much devolved into a cartoon character over time, nothing can take away from his twisted, Johnny Depp-slaughtering antics in this film.
"Hellraiser" isn't just a great horror film, it's also a source for some truly wicked Halloween costume ideas. Either way, it makes for essential re-watching every fall.
'Child's Play' (1988)
If you need a Halloween movie that's equal parts, scary, silly and gory, why not watch Chucky's first murder spree? Not only will it entertain, it'll have you questioning whether there are any dolls in the house giving you funny looks.
'The Nightmare Before Christmas' (1993)
This gorgeous animated film might be the only Halloween movie that can also get you prepared for the coming Christmas season. It's very efficient that way.
'From Dusk Till Dawn' (1996)
It may not seem at first like "From Dusk Till Dawn" is a proper Halloween movie. But midway through, the film very suddenly and gleefully shifts gears and morphs into a violent vampire adventure.
Those who thought Wes Craven had peaked with "Nightmare on Elm Street" were proven very wrong with this 1996 hit, which birthed an entirely new horror franchise. The first meta entry stands out because it's not just scary, it's also a clever send-up of the genre.
'I Know What You Did Last Summer' (1997)
Predictably, "Scream" inspired a legion of imitators in the late '90s as everyone tried to hop on the teen slasher movie bandwagon. But where most of those movies have been forgotten by time, "I Know What You Did Last Summer" still deserves a spot in your Halloween lineup.
'Sleepy Hollow' (1999)
Good Halloween movies aren't just about providing scares, but also about helping you get into the mood of the season. And few films are as helpful in that regard as Tim Burton's quirky, haunting take on the beloved Washington Irving story.
'Session 9' (2001)
"Session 9" isn't one of the more well-known films on this list, but it's one every horror fanatic needs to see. It offers a psychologically unnerving look at a group of contractors cleaning out an abandoned mental asylum. Naturally, things don't go well.
'The Ring' (2002)
Hollywood rarely does justice to foreign horror films, but "The Ring" is one notable exception. Make re-watching this remake an annual habit, if only to remind yourself why it's a good thing that no one uses VHS tapes anymore.
'Dawn of the Dead' (2004)
Zack Snyder's "Dawn of the Dead" remake didn't try to outclass the original, instead opting for a more straightforward and terrifying approach to zombies. Snyder reminded us that the only thing worse than a zombie is a zombie who can run.
'Trick 'r Treat' (2007)
"Trick 'r Treat" might just be the ideal Halloween movie. It pays homage to the classics of yesteryear even as it delivers four spine-tingling stories that form one wholesome anthology movie.
'Paranormal Activity' (2009)
The "Paranormal Activity" franchise might have worn out its welcome over the years, but nothing can take away from the original. It'll make you fear every random noise in your own house. You will also never want to sleep with your foot outside the covers again.
'The Cabin in the Woods' (2012)
"The Cabin in the Woods" isn't just a great throwback to "The Evil Dead," it pays homage to pretty much classic horror film along the way. It's also a great crowd-pleaser that seeks to entertain more than outright terrify by subverting the genre.
'The Babadook' (2014)
Great horror movies are hard to come by these days, which is why everyone flocked to this 2014 Australian gem. "The Babadook" is plenty creepy, but it works mainly because it's such an effective allegory for grief and motherhood. In other words, it's a horror film with a brain.