Horror is the most vital genre in film history.
It’s been through multiple golden eras, going from the mid-20th century’s amazingly-fake dolls and props to the era of modern film technology, leaving those faint of heart gasping for breath.
But between the classic monster movies and today, there were many films which pushed the genre forward; changing the way we look at the horror film and creating the movies which scare the pants off us at the multiplexes today.
This Halloween, treat yourself to some of the films that made the horror genre what it is today, and have a supremely effective horror movie marathon.
1. Carrie (1976)
The first adaptation of a Stephen King book, Carrie is the most intense of them all. Directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface), the film follows Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a physically and emotionally abused 17-year-old.
As a direct result of the religiously-motivated oppression she receives from her mother (played brilliantly by Piper Laurie) plus the bullying of her peers (primarily Nancy Allen as Chris), Carrie’s development of telekinetic powers is turned in a vengeful direction. The school dance scene, in which Carrie unleashes holy-hell on her tormentors after being drenched in pig’s blood, might be the most unforgettable scene in horror film history.
Receiving two Oscar nods for Spacek and Laurie, along with the talents of John Travolta, William Katt, and Amy Irving, you know you’re in for a film that will still scare you every time you watch it.
2. Fright Night (1985)
This classic vampire story is an exceptional throwback scare. Directed by Tom Holland, the film tells the story of Charlie Brewster’s suspicions about his next-door neighbor being a bloodthirsty vampire.
To aid him in his attempt to expose and stop his murderous next-door neighbor, Charlie’s girlfriend enlists the help of his hero, former movie vampire slayer, Peter Vincent.
This film has it all: vampires, werewolves, bats, dust, and goo, along with an edge-of-your-seat story that is sure to please.
Almost 30 years later, Fright Night continues to deliver with the help of Chris Sarandon as Jerry; William Ragsdale as Charlie; and of course Roddy McDowall as Peter Vincent.
Despite the film’s various adaptations, everyone should know that this original work is the one to sink your teeth into. Go ahead and take a bite.
3. Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark (1988)
Horror is known to have its comedic side, and who better to deliver it than late night TV legend Elvira?
We’ve known her as the voluptuous, brassy, raven-haired spitfire who brings us the most decadent in horror entertainment, for our viewing pleasure of course. But how did it all begin for our horror mistress? Look no further than this comedy classic that walks us through every punch line, bad joke, and sexual innuendo that helped make Elvira the Queen of Horror with a devilish style that is original to her alone.
Portrayed famously by Cassandra Peterson, Elvira loses her job as a TV Horror line-up hostess in LA. She learns of an inheritance from her great aunt (who is a witch), so she hits the road for Fallwell, Massachusetts. Her shenanigans with the townspeople are the sort of comedy that only Elvira can deliver. So don’t let Halloween pass you by without letting The Mistress of the Dark pay you a visit. After all, she never disappoints.
4. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
From the master of horror himself comes this classic mind-game murder mystery.
Vincent Price is as twisted and enigmatic as ever in this black and white whodunit which is as timeless as the murder mystery genre itself.
Price plays the sociopathic Frederick Loren, who throws a party for his fourth wife Annabelle.
Meanwhile, Annabelle goes to extreme measures to turn the guests against her husband, claiming the whole setup is an outlet for his murderous tendencies. The overnight guests, hand-picked by Loren, are all hoping to last the night on Haunted Hill and win the $10,000 dollar prize that Loren has offered to any who can survive.
Meanwhile, they can’t figure out who, or what, they are in danger from. If they can’t, the phantoms, their maniacal hosts, or even each other may finish them off for good. So spend the night with Vincent Price and his guests of honor, and see if you can make it out alive.
5. Evil Dead 2 (1987)
What’s a list of classic Halloween favorites without a slasher film full of gore and zombies?
Not one that I would ever write! So for all of you that can’t survive Halloween without the blood and guts, Evil Dead 2 is just for you.
This parody sequel, directed by Sam Raimi, is the perfect compliment to any Halloween occasion. There are many elements at play in this follow up to the original Evil Dead. Bruce Campbell returns as Ash, who takes on the evil force that causes the rise of the dead all around him.
While Ash suffers at the hands of the Evil, the professor’s daughter, Annie, attempts to help end the Evil once and for all by taking a page out of her father’s book (literally), sending the Evil to another dimension in space and time.
Evil Dead 2 has risen in the ranks of cult classic stardom, and even got famed film critic Leonard Maltin to do a double take with his original rating. Evil Dead 2, while over the top, is an excellent example of why we fell in love with gory horror films in the first place.
Employ this list for a fun Halloween night, or as a background feature for any festivity. Either way, these movies will help get you in the spirit of the season. With thrillers, murders, mysteries, comedy, and gore, this list is essential for the Halloween lover who wants it all. Trick-or-treat, right?
Happy Halloween, RVA!