Halloween Night Movies – a collection of diverse movies to enjoy on Allhallows Eve. Features: Trick r’ Treat, Donnie Darko, Troll, The Sixth Sense, Candyman, Cult, Turbo Kid, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Lost Boys, Beetlejuice, Pet Sematary, Tales from the Crypt, Evil Dead, Horror Hospital, Last Night in Soho, Cutting Class, Tammy and the T-Rex and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3.
TRICK R’ TREAT (2007)
Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat is one of the best Halloween Night movies ever made. Taking clear inspiration from Creepshow, Dougherty’s anthology is full of dark humour, jump scares and delicious comic book horror. Here its blood-soaked homage to EC Comics, 80s slashers, and 70s TV horror is nothing short of sublime. However, Trick ‘r Treat is most fascinating when lacing its horror with a nod to A Christmas Carol. Here we are given one of the creepiest and weirdly cute killers ever committed to film, Sam, the spirit of Halloween past and present. So grab some pumpkin-shaped snacks, dim the lights and enter a world of glorious Halloween-inspired comic book horror with Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat.
DONNIE DARKO (2001)
I have no intention of attempting to fully unpack Richard Kelly’s sublime slice of science fiction, horror and drama; after all, even a fair few dissertations have been unable to nail down the themes held in Donnie Darko. Kelly’s movie is the cinematic equivalent of an earworm, as it consumes your thoughts for days, weeks and even months after viewing. It’s like being shrunk and injected into the confused and volatile mind of a teenager or a vivid dream that gnaws away at you long after you wake. In short, Donnie Darko is a cinematic masterpiece that came close to never making it into theatres. Like so many of the best films ever made, from Citizen Kane to 2001: A Space Odyssey, Kelly’s film means different things to different people and morphs into something new with every repeat journey down the cinematic rabbit hole, and to be Frank, that’s a damn rare and precious thing.
Halloween Night Movies
Troll is not one of the worst movies ever made by a long shot; that title goes to its 1990 sequel. But Troll did have some serious narrative problems, from its confusing mix of gothic fairytale horror and comedy to its low-budget Gremlins-inspired effects. However, despite these flaws, John Carl Buechler’s movie remains a true guilty pleasure. In Buechler’s strange fantasy, we are introduced to The Potter family; Harry Potter Senior (yes, that’s right, Harry Potter!), his wife Anne, teenage son Harry Junior and young daughter Wendy. The Potters have just moved into a brand new San Francisco apartment building filled with more than a few colourful characters. But just a few hours into their arrival, Wendy is attacked in the basement by a troll who takes her physical form and is determined to create a new Troll kingdom.
If all this sounds nuts, it is! Buechler’s movie is a bizarre yet entertaining mix of fantasy, horror and comedy that never quite decides where its heart lies. But it remains entertaining and unique all the same due to the performances of Noah Hathaway, June Lockhart and Jenny Beck. Released ten months before Critters (1986), Troll bombed at the box office but has since earned a place in the heart of millions of fans.
THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)
Over twenty years on from its release in 1999, M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense remains one of the best ghost stories of the past thirty years. This is mainly due to its ongoing ability to enthral, shock, and engage audiences despite most of us knowing its final killer twist. In my opinion, much of this success comes from its classic ghostly recipe and the performances of Willis, Osment and Collette. The Sixth Sense remains unclassifiable; it’s neither horror nor thriller, as it pays homage to the work of M.R James while also embracing Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and slushy ghost dramas like Always and Field of Dreams. It’s Shyamalan’s masterpiece.
Candyman was born in the imagination of the formidable Clive Barker in The Books Of Blood (1984-1985). Barker’s original story took place on a Liverpool housing estate as residents investigated the urban legend of a local serial killer. However, British director Bernard Rose (Paper House) would transfer the action to 90s Chicago, creating a folk horror embedded in social themes of poverty, crime, and racial oppression, themes just as urgent today as they were in the post-Reagan era. Candyman’s horror comes from mixing urban legend with the uncomfortable reality of a racially divided America. Once seen and never forgotten, Candyman is a genuinely unique horror that has earned its place as one of the finest movies of the early 1990s.
Halloween Night Movies
If you fancy something different for Halloween Night, you won’t go far wrong with Luke Ibbetson’s debut feature film CULT, a delightful mockumentary following the final months of a Cornish cult named F.A.T.E (Friends at the End). Here we meet a small band of outcast followers who patiently await the arrival of a comet destined to destroy the world. Ibbetson’s film revels in the mockumentary’s ability to reflect both the reality and the absurdity of the human experience, layering vibrant comedy with a sincere exploration of loneliness and group belonging. But it is within the final scenes that Ibbetson throws us a curveball, as CULT turns from comedy to an emotional exploration of social and religious control.
TURBO KID (2019)
As a film-obsessed teenager of the late 1980s and early 90s, my local video rental store was a magical movie cave filled with wonder and potential. Here the endless shelves of shiny VHS boxes provided me with a pick-n-mix heaven as I spent whole afternoons searching for my Saturday night entertainment. After much deliberation, I would leave the shop cradling my precious tapes with a large bar of Dairy Milk chocolate for the viewing ahead, my Saturday night sorted. Like so many teenagers of my era, straight-to VHS films offered rich pickings, their low-budget effects and rushed release, either striking gold or falling off a cliff. Turbo Kid bathes its audience in a delightfully retro, VHS-inspired story with lashings of blood and humour. Its synthesised score, BMX bikes, and 80s-inspired horror-comedy take the audience back to those glorious days of fuzzy VHS tapes in a post-apocalyptic movie set in 1997. Here global warming has killed off the majority of the human race, and the survivors live in tin sheds and underground bunkers drinking water made from the juicing of other humans.
Within this devilish world, we meet our BMX riding hero (Munro Chambers), a teenager who scavenges pop culture relics. But the kid’s life is about to change forever when he meets a peculiar girl named Apple and crosses the path of a sadistic gangster named Zeus (Michael Ironside). Turbo Kid embraces retro action, guts and gore with pride while paying homage to the best in 80s fantasy horror.
SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2019)
In 1981, Alvin Schwartz released the first volume of his Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, introducing children and teens to a new nightmare world of folk horror. His books would prove to be a huge success, inspiring a whole generation through tales of mysterious creatures, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. However, in translating his material to the screen, a choice would need to be made over the target audience, and unlike Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark would opt for a mid-teen audience. It’s fair to say that some stories work, and others fall flat, with the most significant problem being the conjoining narrative. But despite this, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a visual delight, bathing its audience in the autumnal colour of Halloween and the vivid reds and blues of a nightmare world as it plays with the void between childhood fears and adult terrors.
THE LOST BOYS (1987)
The Lost Boys has long been celebrated as a brilliantly entertaining slice of 80s moviemaking. In many ways, The Lost Boys was the Top Gun of teenage horror; a feature-length music video featuring Gerard McMann, Inxs and Echo and the Bunnymen. But under the hood, Joel Schumacher and Richard Donner’s comic book horror was an inspired vampiric take on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. The dark and mysterious (Kiefer Sutherland) and his band of bikers are The Lost Boys of Barrie’s story, but they are not led by an impish Peter Pan but by a vision of Hook called Max (Ed Herrman). It is within this macabre Pan-inspired fairground of choices and hormones that the new boys in town, Michael (Jason Patric) and his kid brother, Sam (Corey Haim), find themselves trapped. Here themes of conformity, peer pressure, sexuality and identity surround Donner and Schumacher’s visually stunning Santa Carla-based horror.
Vibrant, dark, and joyously nutty, Beetlejuice remains one of Tim Burton’s most beloved films as it mixes surrealist comedy with biting satire and comic book horror. However, Michael Keaton steals the show with his devilishly wild bio-exorcist, earning a place as one of the most loved characters in 80s cinema. Beetlejuice is, in many ways, the birth of Tim Burton’s genius, its love of gothic horror, fantasy and art swaying to the rhythms of Harry Belafonte.
Halloween Night Movies
PET SEMATARY (1989)
No Halloween night movie list would be complete without Stephen King, and Pet Sematary is undoubtedly one of his more gruesome outings. Pet Sematary laces the grief and pain of losing a loved one with the selfish need to turn back time. However, death cannot be cheated without a devastating price, and we soon learn that sometimes, dead is better. The book has two cinematic outings (1989 and 2019), with the most recent opting to change the end of King’s book. For me, it is Mary Lambert’s 1989 version that remains the most faithful to King’s material. Lambert brutally submerges Lewis Creed and his family in an escalating terror born of tragedy.
TALES FROM THE CRYPT (1972) & CREEPSHOW (1982)
During the late 1940s, the go-to comic outlet for grizzly tales of ghosts, murder and the undead was EC Comics. EC was sadly short-lived, but the company’s lasting legacy would earn a place in the horror hall of fame, with many of their avid young readers going on to write and direct, including Stephen King and Joe Dante. Meanwhile, these deliciously dark comics would inspire a whole host of horror movies, TV shows and short films. Tales from the Crypt 1972 and Creepshow 1982 pay homage to the genius of the EC Comics collection with a diverse and wickedly entertaining anthology of stories. So sit back, dim the lights, grab a drink, lock the doors and enjoy this camp, dark and comedic collection of macabre short stories.
THE EVIL DEAD (1981) AND EVIL DEAD 2 (1987)
VHS and video rental were the saviours of many low-budget horror movies in the 1980s and 1990s. But VHS didn’t just save The Evil Dead; it ensured Sam Raimi’s film became a cult classic. If you are of a certain age, the video cover of The Evil Dead (1981) is forever etched in your memory, as is the movie itself, which many of us illicitly watched at home under age after persuading an older friend, parent or relative to rent it out. The Evil Dead is a foundation stone for many an individual journey into horror, and let’s face it, there isn’t a better place to start. It’s a miracle The Evil Dead made it to video stores; after all, it was labelled as “obscene” and quickly removed on its first video outing as a “video nasty” before being resubmitted to the BBFC for VHS classification in 1990. Even then, it was cut from the version played in cinemas. It wasn’t until 2001 that The Evil Dead finally found peace in its uncut 18 certificate form. But all this “video nasty” discussion and trauma only added to the mystique of Raimi’s film and its popularity.
Sam Raimi’s masterpiece isn’t your standard early eighties horror; it’s a highly creative journey in visual and auditory terror. Working alongside Tim Philo and effects lead Tom Sullivan, Raimi’s low-budget gem creates an unforgettable and absurd movie experience through a bucket load of fake blood, prosthetics and model work. Here Elements of Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would combine with the atmosphere of H.P. Lovecraft as Raimi unpicked the classic ‘cabin in the Woods’ premise. The Evil Dead’s ability to dovetail gut-wrenching and blood-soaked terror with moments of deliciously dark comedy naturally led to its sequel Evil Dead II in 1987. But as sequels go, Raimi was about to throw the world a blood-drenched curveball as Bruce Campbell returned as Ash.
It could be argued Evil Dead II is a comedy disguised as horror. But this simply isn’t true, for Evil Dead II defies all genre labels anyone cares to throw at it. It is quite simply one of the most unique, creative and indescribable movies ever made; a fever dream that burrows into your mind and stays there forever, occasionally popping out to laugh uncontrollably and wave its bloody hand. There is no doubt that while The Evil Dead remains the franchise’s father, it was Evil Dead II that gave birth to all that was yet to come.
Halloween Night Movies
HORROR HOSPITAL (1973)
The 1970s may have offered us some of the best horrors ever made, from The Omen to Alien, but Horror Hospital isn’t one of them! In fact, it’s far from it, but it is a delicious slice of low-budget British horror that is so bad it’s brilliant. Anthony Balch’s gloriously camp creation offers us Nazi-inspired doctors, leather-clad bikers and gallons of tomato sauce in a film that never takes itself seriously. Horror Hospital is quintessentially British as it bathes its audience in sex, gore and screams while poking fun at the might of the Hammer House of Horror. While many may now find the 70s dialogue dated and, at times, overtly sexist and homophobic by today’s standards, Horror Hospital is a wonderfully camp gem of 70s moviemaking that can’t help but put a smile on your face.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)
Bathed in a Giallo-Esque glow, Edgar Wright’s deliciously twisted mystery bends, distorts and dissolves time through Chung Chung-hoon’s bright, bold, nostalgic cinematography, a soundtrack of sixties classics and a Hitchcock-inspired classical score by Steven Price. Eloise and Sandie’s mirror life shimmers with echoes of Hammer’s underappreciated flick Vampire Circus (1972), while the style and use of colour pay homage to Dario Argento’s Deep Red (1975) and Vertigo (1958). But, like all of Wright’s work, at the heart of this deliciously structured mystery and horror, a musical sits in the shadows screaming to be freed. Like the perfectly orchestrated music and action of Baby Driver, the lifeblood of Last Night in Soho is the auditory wonder of its sound and the beautifully timed choreography of its performances. What starts as a musical love letter to a decade of freedom and hope slowly descends into darkness as the bright colours morph into a neon nightmare of no escape that Hitchcock would have been proud to call his own.
On its release, many argued that Last Night in Soho failed to deliver the horror of its premise. I beg to differ. Last Night in Soho understands that memorable horror isn’t all about the blood and gore; it’s about subverting the securities we hold dear. In Repulsion, Polanski twisted the joy of sex into a terrifying fever dream. In Last Night in Soho, Wright takes the energetic pop of the 60s into the cold, damp, dark backstreets of a city steeped in loneliness and despair. It is an auditory and visual masterclass, a delectable horror homage, and a very British love letter to classic supernatural terror.
CUTTING CLASS (1989)
Who remembers Brad Pitt’s first lead role in a feature film? By the late 80s, Pitt had been seen in a swathe of minor and uncredited roles, from a blink, and you will miss it fight scene in Less than Zero to a partygoer in No Way Out. In addition, he had made a name for himself in TV shows like Dallas and 21 Jump Street, but his movie career began with The Dark Side of the Sun in 1988, a film about a teen with a rare skin condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosum. No one remembers Dark Side of the Sun today, but they do remember Pitt’s next movie, which aimed to challenge and change the teenage slasher format. That film was the 1989 low-budget comedy-horror Cutting Class, directed by Rospo Pallenberg and starring Donovan Leitch, Jill Schoelen, Brenda Lynn Klemme, and the legendary Roddy McDowell.
Steve Slavkin’s screenplay would mesh the 80’s slasher with the classic whodunit and, in turn, help to give birth to a new style of teen horror as the 80s came to a close. However, Cutting Class is rarely discussed or mentioned as an innovative forerunner of 90s horrors such as Scream. This is partially due to Pallenburg mixing moments of whodunnit brilliance, from red herrings to Pitt and Schoelen’s chemistry and a stoned and creepy caretaker, Robert Glaudini, with a range of tiresome and lazy gags and cliches.
But while Cutting Class may not always work, when it does, it sizzles. Now best known for introducing a VHS-obsessed generation to a young Brad Pitt, Cutting Class has more to offer than just mere eye candy. But whether it is enough to fork out the money to buy this rare horror-comedy classic is ultimately up to you. Either way Cutting Class deserves a reappraisal of its place in teen horror history.
TAMMY AND THE T-REX (1994)
How many movies contain a teenage brain transplant into a mechanical T-Rex, a host of squashed bullies and Paul Walker in a crop top? The answer is only one! Director Stewart Raffill unashamedly cashes in on the post-Jurassic Park fever of 1993 with a horror comedy that is as ridiculous as it is brilliant. Whether or not Raffill’s movie is called Tammy and the T-Rex or Tanny and the Teenage T-Rex continues to cause debate. But, title aside, this 1994 B-Movie is a bizarre, deliciously dark and downright silly movie that gave Paul Walker and Denise Richards their breakout roles. Tammy and the T-Rex had a tough journey to the screen, its hurried studio re-edit transforming an R-rated comedy-horror into a PG-13 love story. But thankfully, the original version remained intact, and in 2019 the world finally got to see the film Raffill intended.
Jurassic Park, it’s not, as a hormonal teenage T-Rex stomps all over the horror-comedy genre. But, take it from me; this slice of B-Movie heaven will earn a place in your heart, and despite its kooky screenplay and dodgy effects, it’s laced with great dark humour and performances that understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of the action on screen. So grab the popcorn and settle in for a roaring good time.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS (1994)
Hands up if A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors was one of your first VHS rental horrors. If your hand is up, you are not alone, and I am willing to bet that Freddy’s third outing left a scar, whether from the devilish death by TV or the vein-shredding puppet act. Directed by Chuck Russell, Dream Warriors would attempt to reverse much of the criticism levelled at Freddy’s Revenge by handing the story-writing duties back to Wes Craven for what was initially planned to be the final outing for Krugar.
Craven and his fellow writer Bruce Wagner would jettison the single heroine or hero and introduce a group of sleep-deprived fighters as co-leads in the battle against Krugar. But they would equally re-introduce a series of familiar faces from the first outing to ensure continuity while allowing cameos from Zsa Zsa Gabor and Dick Cavett to help up the humour. Equally, Dream Warriors would play with the popularity of the roleplaying game in teen culture, creating a fantasy-laced horror that firmly placed Freddy at the forefront of a changing technological era in filmmaking. The result is a movie that laces sharp humour with teenage fantasy and unforgettable gore.