Good Life

In the month of madness: 31 flavors of horror films for Halloween


1) “Ju-On (The Grudge)” (2002)

Why watch: You can’t have hot without the cold. In Japanese director Takashi Shimizu’s horror masterpiece, he shows you that the eerily quiet moments in a film are just the calm before the blood-filled storm. The spine-tingling sound the monsters make could scare away Godzilla and will forever be burned to memory, like nails on a chalkboard.

Hate subtitles? Enjoy sleeping? Try Shimizu’s considerably less terrifying “The Grudge” (2004), the U.S. remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Tagline: When a grudge from the dead passes to the living — Who is safe?

Rotten Tomatoes Ratings | Critics: 64% liked it Audience: 66% liked it

2) “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

Why watch: This cult classic kicked off our zombie obsession and launched director George Romero’s role as the godfather of American gore. Chew on this: “Night of the Living Dead” blazed a slew of trails: success of independent filmmaking, viability of the horror market and a leading role for a black actor. Watch “Birth of the Living Dead” (2013) for more on that.

Quotable: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” Johnny.

Critics: 96% liked it Audience: 88% liked it

3) “Suspiria” (1977)

Why watch: Before “The Shining” there was “Suspiria,” Italian director Dario Argento’s gore fest shot largely in a picturesque ballet academy. Considered one of the most terrifying films of all time by horror film buffs, Argento builds to a beautiful crescendo of madness with brilliantly creepy tracking shots (think “The Shining,” again) and one of the greatest horror soundtracks of all time by Italian rock band Goblin. Argento’s signature finger-paint red blood oozes like cheese, but some of the make-up work looks dated.

Tagline: The only thing more terrifying than the last 12 minutes of this film are the first 92.

Critics: 95% liked it Audience: 84% liked it

4) “Psycho” (1960)

Why watch: In 1957, we were attacked by crab monsters in Roger Corman’s “Attack of the Crab Monsters.” In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock shocked the industry with an A-list take on a B-genre, and Norman Bates signaled the end to silly post-World War II-era monsters. After studios turned “Psycho” down, Hitchcock built this horror masterpiece from the ground up, funding the project himself, cleverly marketing the project and forever changing the genre. You could make a list of 31 Hitchcock films worth watching, (I’d put “The Birds” at the top) but it all began with Psycho.

Quotable: “Mother — what’s the phrase? She isn’t quite herself today.” — Bates

Critics: 96% liked it Audience: 94% liked it

5) “Soft for Digging” (2002)

Why watch: J.T. Petty’s shoestring ($6,000) budget cult horror 16 mm film is short on characters, dialogue, plot twists and gore. But his deliberate pacing and masterful craft keep you at the edge of your seat for the 74-minute jaunt into darkness. Petty has just one trick up his sleeve and times it so perfect that even this warning won’t prepare you for it.

Plotline: A man wanders into the woods in search of his cat and witnesses a murder.

Critics: 71% liked it Audience: 46% liked it

6) “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974)

Why watch: Decades of bad slasher films give Leatherface a bad name. Sure, it’s exploitative, bloody, gross, over the top, and was banned or censored in more than a dozen countries. But it’s a film that decades of desensitization can’t outpace and remains as fresh as the day it shocked late night drive-in guests 40 years ago. Filmed over several weeks in a Texas farmhouse in the heat of summer, this intense, unabashed thriller will leave you sweating.

Quotable: “The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history ... the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” — narrator

Critics: 92% liked it Audience: 82% liked it

7) “Nosferatu” (1922)

Why watch: This silent telling of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula” might be the most horrifying of all the renditions. It’s proof that craft conquers all. Without the aid of dialogue, special effects and gore, it’s able to raise the hairs on an always vulnerable neck. For a terrifying update, try Werner Herzog’s 1979 take “Nosferatu the Vampyre” with Klaus Kinski as our fanged fiend.

Quotable: “Is this your wife? What a lovely throat.” — Nosferatu

Critics: 97% liked it Audience: 87% liked it

8) “Let Me In” (2010)

Why watch: This cute remake of the successful 2008 Swedish film “Let the Right One In” turns the genre on its head. It’s equally horrifying and compassionate and might be the most terrifying and quirky love story ever to grace the silver screen. Director Matt Reeves’ remake is equally careful crafting both, but English dialogue and a brilliant performance by Chloe Grace Moretz makes this film a nick above the original.

Tagline: Innocence dies. Abby doesn’t.

Quotable: “Just so you know, I can’t be your friend,” Abby

Critics: 88% liked it Audience: 76% liked it


9) “Paranormal Activity” (2009)

Why watch: You’ll love or hate the pacing. Good news if you love anticipation as much as the thrill: There are four more sequels (and counting).

Quotable: “You cannot run from this. It will follow you.” — psychic

Critics: 83% liked it Audience: 56% liked it

10) “The Shining” (1980)

Why watch: After Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” bore, he turned heads with this horrifying classic led by Jack Nicholson. In the vast, picturesque Overlook Hotel, you’ll feel claustrophobic. Die-hard fans will enjoy “Room 237,” a documentary that attempts to find Kubrick’s hidden meaning.

Quotable: “Heeeere’s Johnny!” — Jack Torrance

Critics: 92% liked it Audience: 93% liked it

11) “The Exorcist” (1973)

Why watch: Cheesy, dated make-up and effects drain this horror classic but the film’s climax is one of the most iconic of any genre.

Quotable: “The power of Christ compels you.” — Father Damien Karras

Critics: 88% liked it Audience: 87% liked it

12) “Repulsion” (1965)

Why watch: Roman Polanski’s first English-speaking film might be his finest contribution to the genre (Sorry, “Rosemary’s Baby” fans.) It’s what happens when an A-list director steps in.

Tagline: The nightmare world of a virgin’s dreams becomes the screen’s shocking reality!

Critics: 100% liked it Audience: 87% liked it

13) “House of 1000 Corpses” (2003)

Why watch: Rob Zombie’s love of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-styled, ultra-violent films of the 1970s is evident straight from the title.

Quotable: “It’s all true. The boogeyman is real, and you found him.” — Otis

Critics: 19% liked it Audience: 66% liked it

14) “The Changeling” (1980)

Why watch: Plot twists and powerful imagery drive this fun escape.

Tagline: Two people live in this house. One of them has been dead for 70 years.

Critics: 79% liked it Audience: 81% liked it

15) “Night of the Creeps” (1986)

Why watch: It’s a typical teen romp, but with zombies.

Tagline: The good news is your dates are here. The bad news is ... they’re dead.

Critics: 69% liked it Audience: 71% liked it

16) “The Strangers” (2008)

Why watch: News goes from bad to worse in this flick. Be glad you don’t know these strangers.

Quotable: “Why are you doing this to us?” — Kristen McKay. “Because you were home” — Dollface

Critics: 45% liked it Audience: 47% liked it

17) “Human Centipede” (2010)

Why watch: There are a million reasons not to include this movie. Here are three reasons (sewn into one) to include it: It’s intriguing.

Tagline: 100% medically accurate

Critics: 49% liked it Audience: 26% liked it

18) “28 Days Later” (2003)

Why watch: Another sendup to zombies. But this time, like the plot of this film, they’re faster, hungrier and even more terrifying.

Tagline: His fear began when he woke up alone. His terror began when he realized he wasn’t.

Critics: 87% liked it Audience: 85% liked it

19) “The Conjuring” (2013)

Why watch: One of the most thrilling, fun and terrifying films in a decade.

Quotable: “Sometimes it’s better to keep the genie in the bottle” — Ed Warren

Critics: 86% liked it Audience: 82% liked it

20) “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” (2008)

Why watch: It’s so bad it’s good. Well, maybe not that. It’s too bad for that. But it’s one of the best unintentional comedies. The dialogue alone will leave you praying for a bird attack. And the 2-D birds aren’t much better.

Quotable: “I have some great news. Our board of directors has agreed to the acquisition of NCT Software by Oracle Corporation for a billion dollars!” — Bill Stone

Critics: 20% liked it Audience: 28% liked it

21) “Cabin in the Woods” (2012)

Why watch: A movie in a movie. Director Drew Goddard and writer Joss Whedon have fun with the formula.

Tagline: You think you know the story.

Critics: 92% liked it Audience: 73% liked it

22) “Saw” (2004)

Why watch: This ambitious indie flick spawned a franchise about some bad people learning lessons from an even worse guy.

Tagline: I want to play a game

Critics: 48% liked it Audience: 84% liked it

23) “A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003)

Why watch: Director Kim Jee-woon unravels this family’s secret until there’s no going back. Brilliant cinematography shines in this dark mystery.

Tagline: Every family has its dark secrets.

Critics: 85% liked it Audience: 83% liked it

24) “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” (1928)

Why watch: Hitchcock’s silent classic will forever make its viewers frightened on dark streets. Find Nitin Sawhney’s 2012 re-scored version performed by London Symphony Orchestra if you can.

Quotable: “When I’ve put a rope round the Avenger’s neck, I’ll put a ring around Daisy’s finger.” — Joe Betts

Critics: 95% liked it Audience: 75% liked it

25) “Night of the Lepus” (1972)

Why watch: Giant, flesh-eating rabbits. What else could you ask for?

Quotable: “Attention! Attention! Ladies and gentlemen, attention! There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help! — Officer Lopez

Critics: 11% liked it Audience: 29% liked it

26) “Poltergeist” (1982)

Why watch: Building a home on an Indian burial grave, it turns out, is a bad idea.

Quotable: “THEY’RE HERE!!!” — Carol Anne

Critics: 87% liked it Audience: 78% liked it

27) “Killer Clowns from Outer Space” (1988)

Why watch: See “Night of the Lepus’ ” entry and then substitute killer klowns. Eerie, corny, funny. It’s all there.

Quotable: “What are you gonna do, knock my block off?” — biker

Critics: 71% liked it Audience: 59% liked it

28) “Halloween” (1978)

Why watch: Before Jason or Freddy, there was Michael Myers.

Tagline: He came home for Halloween.

Critics: 94% liked it Audience: 89% liked it

29) “Frankenstein” (1931)

Why watch: Boris Karloff’s dimensional take on this “monster” reshaped the genre at that time. Plus, it’s a fun film to watch for its pioneering special effects and creative cinematography. “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) is even better; Frankenstein’s first creation is always his most dear.

Quotable: “The brain of a dead man waiting to live again in a body I made with my own hands” — Victor Frankenstein

Critics: 100% liked it Audience: 87% liked it

30) “Last House on the Left” (1972)

Why watch: Wes Craven’s first film combines grindhouse horror with psychological undertones. These vicious killers may not have a conscience, but they’re not cutouts. They’re very real, and terrifying. This very graphic film isn’t for everyone — more like almost no one.

Quotable: “All that blood and violence. I thought you were supposed to be the love generation.” — Estelle Collingwood

Critics: 61% liked it Audience: 51% liked it

31) “Village of the Damned” (1960)

Why watch: Brilliantly smart, glowy-eyed kids. What’s more terrifying than that? Well, normal, gluey-eyed to electronic devices kids, perhaps. These glowy-eyed kids return a few years later in “Children of the Damned,” an inferior sequel.

Tagline: What demonic force lurks behind those eyes?

Critics: 96% liked it Audience: 76% liked it