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Top 5 Films To Watch For Halloween

By: Reece Johnston

Sillhouetted image of trick or treaters.

Like many other holidays that saturate stores, media, and tradition, Halloween brings forth an atmosphere where fears and dressing up as your favorite characters feel perfectly normal. Unlike Christmas, which boasts a genre of films with themes specifically tailored to the holiday, Halloween welcomes any horror movie into its embrace. The roots of horror films run deep, extending back to the era when Universal Monsters were the latest terror that gripped audiences for years. Today, the enduring popularity of movies that resurface on screens around Halloween remains a cherished tradition, much like the tradition of going door to door and receiving candy after the incantation of “Trick or Treat.” Here, we present the top 5 films to watch when that autumn chill sets in, and an abundance of skeletons, spider webs, and jack-o’-lanterns replace the usual decorations.

5. Creature from the Black Lagoon- Jack Arnold (1954)

Image description for accessibility: A menacing green monster emerges from a dark lagoon, clutching a frightened young woman in a white bikini who appears to be in extreme distress.

Of all the Universal Monsters, which include iconic figures like Frankenstein and Dracula, my personal favorite emerged later than most. While the other films on this list don’t date back as far as “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” I believed that including a classic would offer a diverse array of films with different aspects. This black-and-white film revolves around a prehistoric creature inhabiting a remote section of the Amazon River, where scientists are determined to capture and study it on land. The film’s older cinematic elements lend it a less frightening and somewhat goofier charm compared to others on this list. Yet, it remains a fun and engaging piece that anyone can enjoy.

4. Us- Jordan Peele (2019)

Image description for accessibility: A dark-skinned woman wearing vibrant orange attire holds a mask extremely close to her face, with visible blood vessels in her eyes and tears.

Next on the list is a considerably more recent horror movie that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. It’s important to note that this film carries an R rating, making it significantly less suitable for children compared to something like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Nonetheless, I must applaud Jordan Peele for his creativity, as well as the unexpected twists and turns that made the film all the more thrilling when its secrets were unveiled. The story revolves around a family on a beach vacation that takes a sinister turn when their doppelgängers appear and plunge them into terror. The film’s overall air of mystery, coupled with its explicit violence and relentless suspense, makes it a superb addition to your Halloween watchlist.

3. Scream- Wes Craven (1996)

 A woman, who appears to be shouting loudly, holds her hand in front of her mouth, as if trying to control and muffle her loud scream.

One of my favorite subgenres of horror films is the slasher, and perched at the top of the slasher pedestal for me is the Scream franchise. This film stands out for its clever use of horror film elements, where both the innocent characters and the killers employ tropes from horror films to shape the outcomes of who lives and who does the stabbing. In the movie, a year after the murder of Sydney Prescott’s mother, a masked killer known as “Ghostface” targets her and her friends, turning them into subjects of a deadly game. This film doesn’t skimp on the gore, with multiple memorable deaths primarily involving, well, stabbing. The mystery of not knowing the identity of the masked killer keeps viewers on edge, causing them to scrutinize every move each character makes, as the killer could be any one of them.

2. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas- Henry Selick

Image description for accessibility: An eerie field is filled with sinister-looking carved pumpkins, and a single tree branch, resembling a labyrinth, extends outward. A person stands on this intricate tree branch. The full, yellow moon dominates a significant portion of the image, creating a perspective that places the person standing on the tree's branch on the surface of the moon.

This film ranked among my top three favorites as a child and continues to hold a place in my top ten to this day. “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” not only boasts outstanding visuals but also features a cast of characters that are truly memorable, thanks to their unique designs and actions. The story centers around Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who stumbles upon Christmas Town and endeavors to merge it with Halloween Town, leading to quite the mix-up. While the film predominantly focuses on Halloween Town, it dips its toes into other holidays, with a particular emphasis on Christmas, which Jack Skellington becomes obsessed with. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is an excellent choice for all ages to enjoy around Halloween, offering a highly creative and intriguing narrative with a storyline that, while seemingly simple, grows increasingly complex and captivating as the film unfolds.

1.Halloween-John Carpenter (1978)

A hand firmly grips a dagger, and in the background, there are menacing monster claws. The perspective creates the illusion that the dagger resembles the giant claws of the main monster.

With my deep affection for slasher films, it’s probably no surprise that the original “Halloween” finds its place on this list. While I may personally favor the Scream franchise, “Halloween” effortlessly secures its spot as my second favorite among slashers. What’s not to love about this movie? Michael Myers, often referred to as “the embodiment of evil,” begins stalking Laurie Strode after escaping from a mental institution, where he had been confined for 15 years following the unexplained murder of his sister. Michael Myers remains iconic for his simplicity yet effectiveness, from the eerie mask he wears to his relentless pursuit with undetermined motivations. This film ingeniously weaves the traditional Halloween festivities into the backdrop of Myers’ murderous spree from the shadows. While many films have attempted to continue the story beyond this point, there’s an undeniable perfection in the simplistic creativity that defines this slasher, making it the quintessential movie to watch on Halloween.

Reece Johnston is a sophomore at Indiana University of Bloomington. He is in the Media school studying Cinematic Arts, he aims to get into the movie industry and one day direct horror films. Reece is a new hire as a Media Services desk staff member and is excited to continue working there.

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