When you're a kid, Halloween is the greatest. You get to let your freak flag fly, dress up as the weirdest or coolest thing you can think of, walk around the streets and have strangers give you candy for free. What could be better? As an adult, the holiday is prrretty different. Trick or treating is regrettably forbidden for anyone old enough to legally drink; no one gives you anything for free; and the crowds at every bar, haunted house, and pumpkin patch are often overwhelming. The holiday where you couldn't wait to go out as a kid becomes the holiday where you can't wait to find some movies to stay in and watch on Halloween as an adult. And, honestly, better way to celebrate Halloween this year than with some friends, some freshly-popped popcorn and cool crisp cider — and some scary (or not-so-scary) movies?
There are a lot of different kinds of movies you can watch on All Hallow's Eve. It's easy to make a list of the classics; in fact, we already have. If you're a traditionalist, by all means, watch John Carpenter's Halloween for the umpteenth year in a row. But, if you're looking for something a little different, I've put together an eclectic sampling of holiday-appropriate films. There's a little something for everyone here, from horror movies that will keep you up at night to comedies that will make you forget your fears; from morbid musicals to animated delights.
Watch one, watch several, watch all of them and make an epic marathon out of it.
Why leave your cozy apartment to go to the local haunted house? You'll have to stand in line for ages, and then it probably won't even be that scary. Fortunately, watching Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece is basically the cinematic equivalent of a haunted house, with the Nostromo's claustrophobic passageways and remorseless xenomorph standing in for the creaky hallways and masked killer of traditional slasher movies.
2. The Babadook
This underrated Aussie fright fest works just as well as a poignant tale of motherhood as it does an exceptionally terrifying film. Just remember: If it's in a word or it's in a look, you can't get rid of the Babadook. Be prepared for some nightmares after this one.
3. Cabin In The Woods
Rather than popping in one of the bajillion iterations on the tired "cabin in the woods" trope (see: Cabin Fever, Evil Dead, Friday The 13th), try this meta-horror-comedy written by Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon instead. It will scare you and amuse you in equal measure, and you'll never be able to watch Evil Dead the same way again.
4. The Conjuring
They don't make 'em like they used to... unless "they" is director James Wan, in which case his 2013 things-that-go-bump-in-the-night movie easily measures up to the best of the old school horror classics.
5. Edward Scissorhands
For the more whimsical-minded, this classic Tim Burton film is a perfect snow-covered confection — with just enough of the macabre to make it suitable for a Halloween viewing.
"Molly, you in danger, girl!" Usually Halloween and "chick flicks" don't go together very well, but this Best Picture-nominated movie blurs the line perfectly. Ghost is probably the most sappily romantic movie you can get away with watching on All Hallow's Eve.
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino teamed up to make one of the most schlocky, violent, mindless double features of all time. Start the night off with Rodriguez's delirious zombie extravaganza Planet Terror, then finish with Tarantino's car chase revenge fantasy Death Proof. Two for the price of one.
8. Hocus Pocus
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. Thackery Binx. Billy the zombie. "I Put A Spell On You." Need I say more?
9. It Follows
If you enjoy looking over your shoulder, then this is the perfect movie for you. When the spirit haunting you can take on the appearance of literally anyone and will never stop following you, how can you ever feel safe? This instant classic from last year will have you feeling paranoid for days afterwards.
10. Monsters, Inc.
Sure, you can cower in fear of horrifying monsters like Jaws' great white, The Descent's cave creatures, or Cloverfield's giant alien; or you can swap them out for a much more family-friendly kind of monster that won't have you checking your closet a million times before going to bed.
11. The Nightmare Before Christmas
The eternal debate rages on: is this Tim Burton-produced stop-motion musical a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie? My two cents: Why can't it be both? Watch it now and then watch it again in two months! You can never have too much Jack Skellington in your life.
Most horror movies aim straight for your adrenal glands; this one takes equal aim at your brain, constantly making you question whether what you're seeing is real or imagined. When a haunted mirror has the power to make you see whatever it wants you to see, how can you tell the difference?
13. Pan's Labyrinth
The Devil's Backbone might be scarier. Hellboy might be weirder. But no film in his oeuvre is more quintessentially "Guillermo Del Toro" than this 2006 Spanish film. And, while most of Pan's Labyrinth may be more fantastical than horrifying, no single entry on this list contains a scene as terrifying as that creepy eyeless monster.
14. The Strangers
Not everyone believes in ghosts. Or witches or demons or zombies or vampires or monster. But people exist; and sometimes people break into other people's houses and terrorize and murder them. That's what makes home invasion movies so scary: it could literally happen to anyone... So, The Strangers is a perfect choice for a night in!
15. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
When you think of Broadway, you don't typically think of murder and cannibalism — which is what makes Stephen Sondheim's classic musical so awesome. With Helena Bonham Carter serving "the worst pies in London," this is the perfect companion for a Halloween dinner party.
16. Trick 'r Treat
With equal parts scares and camp, this anthology film — starring the likes of Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, and Leslie Bibb — is quintessential Halloween viewing. The five interlocking stories feature everything from demon children to vampires, and the short attention span required is perfect for a large party.
17. You're Next
This 2013 indie film took modern slashers to the next level, eliciting just as many laughs as it does screams, thanks to its pitch black sense of humor. Plus it gave us perhaps the most memorable "Final Girl" since Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. This one will have you cringing and cheering in quick succession, providing an adrenaline rush all the way to the final moments.
You're welcome, and remember, whatever you do... don't watch them alone!
Image: 20th Century Fox