October is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “31 days of horror.” Don’t bother looking it up; it’s true. Most people take that to mean highlighting one horror movie a day, but here at FSR, we’ve taken that up a spooky notch or nine by celebrating each day with a top ten list. This article about the best horror movies that are set on Halloween night is part of our ongoing series 31 Days of Horror Lists.
For some of us weirdos, the spooky season never stops. We spend all year watching the creepiest and scariest of movies, hoping to find a new undiscovered gem. Year-round horror fans love to brag about finding a great horror movie before anyone else. It’s kind of our thing. But for the bulk of the world, the time for horror movies is when the calendar rolls over to October, the leaves start to turn orange, and the air gets just a little crisp. It’s that time of year when houses in suburban neighborhoods are decked out with ghostly decorations, and every farm in America is home to a haunted corn maze. When Halloween hits, everyone is entitled to, and looking for, one good scare. Naturally, that makes the holiday the perfect backdrop for a horror film.
The genre is littered with films that take place on Halloween, and every year we get at least one or two new entries to add to the pile. Outsiders looking to find the best movies to watch on Halloween could be faced with a daunting task. Where does one begin? Surely, something from the Halloween franchise, right? Deciding where to go beyond that is when things get tricky, and the panic sets in. Fear not, my friends, The Boo Crew has you covered!
Grab your favorite pumpkin-spice drink and your favorite pumpkin-spice snack, turn out the lights, and get nice and cozy on the couch. Rob Hunter, Anna Swanson, Meg Shields, Brad Gullickson, Jacob Trussell, Valerie Ettenhofer, and myself have settled on the definitive list of the 10 best Halloween set horror films!
10. Night of the Demons (1988)
When I think of the Spirit of Halloween, I think of precisely two things. First: the veil between the living and the damned being at its thinnest. And second: mischief. There is nothing more central to the Halloween ethos than drunk, belligerent teenagers yeeting cans of Coors out of their dad’s Pontiac while dressed as sexy cats. Shine on, you crazy hangover-proof diamonds. Night of the Demons tells the improbable tale of a high school goth who manages to coax all the cool kids into attending a Halloween party at the local haunted house. Shenanigans of the teenage and the paranormal variety ensue. A practical effects-filled micro-apocalypse that reminds me of most of the house parties I went to as a teen, Night of the Demons has stood the test of time as a cult classic because, like all true teenage Halloween parties, it is both horrifying and an absolute blast. (Meg Shields)
9. House of a 1000 Corpses (2003)
Call me old-fashioned, but the vibes I most associate with Halloween come from those side-of-the-interstate haunted houses that pepper highways across Texas. They feel like dangerous carnivals, filled with unscrupulous characters mixed with folks who just love the spooky season. And if there was ever a shepherd for the southern fried spookiness of these terror carnivals, it’s Rob Zombie. House of a 1000 Corpses follows a group of college kids through the early morning of Halloween as they search for the local legend of Dr. Satan, which leads them right into the belly of the beast where Zombie’s assortment of wild-eyed villains wait to pounce. The film really takes flight once we enter the titular house filled to the brim with late-night horror show ephemera that is recognizable from Zombie’s music video oeuvre. House of a 1000 Corpses has a specific brand of Halloween fun that Zombie layers into each of his films, but it was never more pronounced – and insatiably entertaining – than here in his debut feature. (Jacob Trussell)
8. Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981)
Frank De Felitta‘s Dark Night of the Scarecrow making its way onto this list is a bit of a cheat, but well deserved nonetheless. The story is that of Bubba Ritter (Larry Drake), an innocent man living in the deep south that is murdered by a mob of gun-wielding rednecks led by the town’s mailman (Charles Durning). Bubba’s spirit returns in the form of a scarecrow and exacts revenge on his killers.
Although the film takes place on and around Halloween, it is truly in the background and only mentioned a handful of times. With that being said, one of the film’s best scenes takes place at the local church’s Halloween party. This is a vintage Halloween party decorated with paper fan pumpkins and cardboard skeletons with posable limbs. If you’re looking for refreshments, check out the punch bowl, and if you’d like to play games bobbing for apples starts in 15 minutes. The real treat is the homemade costumes that include a witch, a cowboy, and an old lady. Halloween may be a bit player in Dark Night of the Scarecrow, but it makes a big impact. (Chris Coffel)
7. The Houses October Built (2014)
Like Hell House LLC from the following year, Bobby Roe’s The Houses October Built is a fantastic found footage horror film that succeeds with a premise built on haunted attractions. This time out, it’s a group of friends traveling the country in search of the scariest haunted house for Halloween. It’s all fun and games until the same creepy-ass characters start popping up at different houses before inviting them to an attraction promised to be the most spooktacular they’ve ever seen. They ain’t lying, either, as Roe and friends deliver some wickedly entertaining scares along the way. (Rob Hunter)
6. The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
Hugely atmospheric and more bound up in mystery than horror, The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane is nevertheless completely chilling. Opening on a brisk Halloween night in Maine, the film chronicles the strange goings-on of a small town where thirteen-year-old Rynn (Jodie Foster) supposedly lives with her father, but no one’s seen the man in quite a while. Neighbors begin to get suspicious, and a young man, played by Martin Sheen, takes an interest in Rynn, further complicating things for her. As the mystery deepens, it becomes clear that Rynn is capable of quite a bit more than her age would make you think, and it’s only a matter of time until she’s pushed too far. This slow burn isn’t your typical Halloween horror romp, but with dreary vibes and an outstanding performance from Foster, it’s well worth adding to your October watchlist. (Anna Swanson)
This list of the best horror movies set on Halloween night concludes on the next page…
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