If you're planning any kind of adult Halloween celebration this weekend, scary movies are probably involved. Everyone has a genre that makes the hairs on their arms stand on end, whether it is ghost stories, monster movies, slasher flicks, torture shockers or psychological thrillers. If you want to stick with the spirit of Samhain, though, you'll want movies with a Halloween theme. We're here to help.
The obvious choice are the 10 movies in the Halloween series that began in 1978 with John Carpenter's immortal classic about an unstoppable masked bogeyman named Michael Myers who escapes from the mental institution where he was catatonic for 15 years after killing his teenage sister. Michael returns to his home town of Haddonfield, Illinois and stalks Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends who are babysitting kids on Halloween. Laurie narrowly escapes with the help of Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance)—the Captain Ahab to Michael's whale—and she is taken to a local hospital in Halloween II, which just came out on Blu-ray. We find out that Laurie is actually Michael's sister and that is why he is hunting her in a hospital where, among other things, children are being treated for trick-or-treat mishaps and the randy staff seems intent on scaring the clothes off each other.
The one Halloween movie in the franchise that veered from the Myers story was Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This wicked tale involves the maniacal Silver Shamrock owner who manufactures Halloween masks programmed to make children's heads explode into a mess of bugs and snakes at an appointed time on Halloween as part of an ancient Celtic ritual. A great family flick before sending the kids out for candy (Ok, not at all).
Fast forward from the events in the original 20 years to 1998 and Michael has finally tracked down Laurie in a private Northern California school where, under the name Keri Tate, the school's headmistress has tried to hide and hopes that her brother doesn't find her in Halloween: H20. He crashes and literally kills an intimate dorm Halloween party thrown by characters played by Josh Hartnett and Michelle Williams before losing his head in an epic showdown with Laurie. In the unnecessary follow-up, Halloween: Resurrection, Curtis returns in the opening as Laurie only to be dispatched for a lame story in which Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks hold a cybercast at the Myers house during Halloween.
While some of the movies in the Halloween series follow Laurie Strode's arc, others chronicle Dr. Loomis and his relentless pursuit of Michael during his Halloween rampages over the years. In 1988's Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers and 1989's Halloween V: The Revenge of Michael Myers, the masked madman with considerable family issues returns to his hometown to stalk Laurie's daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris), who is being raised by another family. Pleasance returned to play Loomis one last time before his death in Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, a convoluted mess that explores Druid legend and Halloween lore with Paul Rudd showing up as a grown little boy Laurie babysat in the original.
Rob Zombie remade Carpenter's Halloween in 2007 as a brutal, ugly white-trash nightmare that, although frightening, was a completely different animal. Zombie followed it up with the equally loony Halloween II, with Malcolm McDowell as a self-serving Dr. Loomis, Michael as a giant bearded hillbilly and Laurie as a shrieking teenage basket case who loses it at a rockabilly Halloween party after seeing the ghost of her dead mother.
Ten films with "Halloween" in the title aren't enough for your holiday horror show? Don’t worry—Hollywood has a few other tricks up its sleeve. One of the best is Trick 'r Treat, a Halloween anthology that weaves together five spooky tales, including one with Anna Paquin dressed as a Little Red Riding Hood who bites. In Donnie Darko, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular character who has terrifying premonitions of the end of the world via a giant metallic rabbit that comes to a head at a Halloween party. Another October 31 get-together goes south in Ginger Snaps when a girl who has recently been bitten by a werewolf shows up at a Halloween soiree with her newfound tail swinging and tries to pass it off as a costume. Speaking of costumes, the leading lady in May has pieced together a Frankenstein monster made of body parts that she likes from people she encounters.
If you plan on throwing a Halloween party loud enough to raise the dead, there are at least three movies with raucous bashes that might inspire you—sans the occasional dismemberment or murder, of course. Although the college initiation party that raises the roof at the beginning of 1981's Hell Night is never mentioned as taking place on Halloween, everyone—including Exorcist survivor Linda Blair—is in costume and ready to venture to a haunted mansion for one hell of a night. The biggest outdoor Halloween gathering in the United States is West Hollywood's Carnaval, which is where a masked leather daddy slashes through a group of gay friends in Hellbent. The Halloween party to die for, though, is thrown by macabre goth gal Angela at a creepy funeral parlor that was formerly the house of a mass murderer and is now said to be possessed in Night of the Demons.