No other holiday serves up the perfect excuse to binge movies all month long like Halloween. Some poor suckas may partake in the 25 Days of Xmas (a marathon of Christmas themed made for TV trash) and lonely hearts will always use February as an excuse to watch their favorite rom-com’s but for everyone else who doesn’t fall into either of those categories and is too old for trick ‘r treating, the Halloween season is built for binge-watching movies, horror specifically. Many channels will be playing the classics all month long but unlike Xmas and lovey-dovey rom-coms, there’s only so many Halloween themed horror movies, which means their line up is probably stale.
Luckily, the SAW crew has made a list of new classics you should watch this month. Some are psychological thrillers, others are splatter flicks and there’s even a kid-friendly movie or two thrown in. The only criteria was that it had to be horror or Halloween adjacent, so much like the trick ‘r treating of days past, every day will be a new surprise. If you’re looking for an alternative to the same old Halloween classics or want ideas for your own marathon, check out the recommendations below.
Day 1—Onibaba (1963)
Onibaba is a classic ghost story, one that I’d say is more chilling than outright scary. Set in 14th-century war-torn Japan, the story centres around a mother and her widowed daughter in law. They live in the marshes and have a pretty miserable life, making ends meet by looting the corpses of dead soldiers. They even help make some of them dead along the way. Things take a turn when a handsome male neighbour returns from the war and ends up taking a strong interest in the younger female. Mother in law doesn’t approve and resorts to nefarious means to try and put an end to the blossoming relationship. She bites off more than she can chew however when a demon’s mask becomes involved. Onibaba can be seen as an allegory for a number of things, from sexual awakening to a commentary on post-war Japan. Simply taken at face value, it’s a frightening experience if you are willing to immerse yourself.
Day 2—Monster House (2006)
Monster House is a breath of fresh air in both scary storytelling and family cinema. Laced with wonderfully funny moments, fantastic visuals, and a legitimately captivating story, it feels good to have fun with a spooky title for a change. The “family” sense of it is well-placed without sacrificing immersive moments. Sure it’s another “haunted house” title, but even within the familiar trope this one feels inherently entertaining. Not to mention Steve Buscemi voicing the crotchety old man; the true MVP of the movie.
The deeper Hollywood dives into gory sequels, familiar books, and serial killer types for fright viewing, the more titles like Monster House shine. Maybe not as a masterpiece, but certainly high-quality filmmaking capturing something we don’t often see — a film that entertains, frightens, and packs some fun along the way. For a change of pace, and a true underrated gem of the animated arena, Monster House deserves recognition.
Day 3—Black Mountain Side (2014)
After a group of archaeologists uncover a strange structure buried in the snow, bizarre occurrences start happening. Is it cabin fever, mass hysteria, an ancient virus that’s laid dormant for over a millennia or something supernatural? Whatever they’ve unleashed is a powerful force they may never comprehend…if they survive. Black Mountain Side is a low budget homage to The Thing that would’ve been far better as a short. The film does an admirable job of trying to maintain dread throughout but there’s just not enough plot to justify its runtime. Fans of The Thing or films like it should give it a chance but lower your expectations.
Day 4—Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost (1999)
Scooby-Doo sort of stalled out in the eighties with The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and despite attempts to breathe a second wind into the franchise nothing really stuck until the release of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. Whoever thought of disbanding Mystery Inc. and then bringing them back a few years later to fight actual monsters hopefully got a well-paid vacation from Warner Bros. A year later, the gang got back together for the Witch’s Ghost, the second of four Scooby-Doo direct-to-video films to be animated overseas by Japanese animation studio Mook Animation. If you think what I’m saying is that every Scooby-Doo film animated by Mook is a winner, then you are absolutely right. That four film stretch is by far the best content the franchise has done in years. But only film has “Earth, Wind, Fire, and Air” sung by the Hex Girls. Seriously, the Hex Girls and voice work by Tim Curry should be enough to get you to watch this (and the other three Mook animated films).
Day 5—Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Halloween season is the perfect time to watch any horror movies, but films set during the season give an extra flair. This take on the classic and controversial set of children’s stories hits perfectly then as it begins on Halloween 1968 and follows a group of teens who explore a haunted house before finding a book of horror stories that come to life. Throw in a wonderfully creepy scarecrow scene and you’ve hit the Halloween vibe on the head. This is also a great pick to bring kids or friends who are a bit spooked by more mature horror fare.
Day 6—Baskin (2015)
If you are ready to turn the kiddie movies off and watch a grown-up horror movie this Halloween season then look no further than the Turkish nightmare, Baskin. It is a perverse trip down a hellish rabbit hole where Hellraiser meets Fulci in a depraved arthouse mashup. We follow a police squad as they go into an abandoned building and experience a night of pain and suffering with surreal images and extreme horror. The film has elite level makeup and cinematography not expected from most horror movies with a grimey nature that will linger in your mind for a long time after you turn it off.
Day 7—Happy Death Day (2017)
Easily one of the best films to use Groundhog Day‘s premise of reliving the same day over and over again. When you break it down, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is similar to Bill Murray’s character. They both thought highly of themselves and it’s only after repeatedly reliving the same day that they begin to change their perspective on life. What sets this film apart is its use of horror. There are some really inventive kills and a plot that will have you guessing who the real killer is up to the last second. If you’re a fan of time travel, well-made horror films, and a final girl that will never die(?), Happy Death Day is the perfect treat for you.
Day 8—Haunt (2019)
Haunt is the perfect example of judging a book by its cover, or in this case: its trailer. Everything apart from the film’s poster was unappealing to me. “Produced by Eli Roth and written by the duo who brought you A Quiet Place” isn’t exactly a selling point, nor was the trailer, which made the film look like a derivative, low budget version of Hellfest but I was wrong. It’s a solid slasher with a unique mythology I’d love to see explored in future installments. If this was released in the 80s, it would no doubt be a Halloween staple by now.
Day 9—The Borderlands (2013)
Found footage horror films can be hit or miss. Ever since The Blair Witch Project popularized the genre back in 1999, we’ve had a steady stream of films attempting to hit the heights of that cult classic. A number have come close throughout the years and one of those is underrated and underseen British gem The Borderlands. The plot revolves around a team of investigators sent to a rural English church in order to investigate reports that a miracle has occurred. The team set up recording equipment in and around the church and also use handheld cameras to capture footage. It feels like a natural set up to explain why found footage is being used. While things are slow to get going, once it does there are some terrifying moments. Well earned jump scares and genuinely nail-biting moments are abundant. From what I’ve heard online the ending is surprisingly divisive. For me, it’s one of the most fear-inducing finales I’ve ever experienced.
Day 10—Over the Garden Wall (TV Mini-Series 2014)
Don’t be alarmed at seeing that this is a miniseries. At just ten 11-minute episodes, Over the Garden Wall may as well be a feature-length film. And nothing gets me more in the autumn mood than this show. Following half-brothers Wirt and Greg through the mysterious unknown, this series will transport you into a sort of American fairy tale complete with rumors of pumpkin people, ghosts, and a terrifying beast lurking in the dark. Humorous and heartfelt with a Halloween tie-in, there is no better way to spend two hours in October.
Day 11—Night of the Demon (1957)
An American professor arrives in London for a conference on parapsychology only to discover that the colleague he was supposed to meet was killed in a freak accident the day before. It turns out that the deceased had been investigating a cult lead by Dr. Julian Karswell. Suspicious of the devil-worshiping Karswell, the professor starts to investigate the cult and soon discovers there are things in this world science can’t explain. A classic that actually lives up to its reputation, Night of the Demon feels like a Hitchcock film that was produced by Val Lewton. It’s never scary but it does an excellent job of slowly cultivating tension throughout.
Day 12—Prince of Darkness (1987)
Science and religion collide in the second entry of John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy, Prince of Darkness. When a priest played by Donald Pleasance discovers a large canister of swirling green liquid, he enlists the help of a quantum physicist professor and his students in his search for answers. During their research, they learn that the liquid is not only sentient but also broadcasting complex data. They begin to realize some difficult truths, that perhaps God and Satan were extra-terrestrials and an Anti-God exists in the realm of anti-matter as the liquid begins to infect the students one by one. There’s nowhere to flee, either, as a growing mass of crazed homeless people surrounds the church to slay anyone trying to escape.
This is one of those films where the atmosphere is a co-star of the film. Carpenter was working with a limited budget and had to get creative to create a claustrophobic sense with overall creepiness to make it feel like the world and the spiritual world was closing in on the characters and the viewers. The film has some iconic horror shots that even you don’t like the movie, these shots still linger in your mind and pop up when the movie is discussed. You are picturing them now aren’t? A gnarled hand pulling another creature’s hand through a liquid looking mirror and one cannot scrub the haunting news transmissions from their mind. One of John Carpenter’s underrated films that needs more love.
Day 13—The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
Dismissed by critics and audiences due to zombie burnout and just plain forgotten by those who hadn’t seen or heard of it, The Girl with All the Gifts became forgotten by virtually everyone, which is a shame considering it’s the freshest take on the zombie genre in years. Set in an apocalyptic society that’s visually reminiscent of the video game The Last of Us, the film is about a scientist (Glenn Close) and a teacher (Gemma Arterton) who embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie. While the entire cast is top-notch, it’s newcomer Sennia Nanua as Melanie who steals the show. She shows a surprising amount of emotional depth for a child actor and holds her own against some true titans of cinema. If more people had seen this film, she’d be a star by now. The fact that The Walking Dead has two spin-offs, a couple of TV movies on the way and is going on its tenth season while this film remains obscure, truly saddens me.
Day 14—Motel Hell (1980)
Have you ever wondered what a movie would be if you combined Green Acres with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Well, director Kevin Connor did and it is one hell of a cheesy fun horror ride for fans of hillbilly cannibals running amok. Motel Hell focuses on a solemn roadside motel owned by Farmer Vincent (who is hilarious by the way), a renowned BBQ enthusiast known throughout the county for his roadside BBQ. Farmer Vincent is not keen to disclosing his recipe for his BBQ and “fritters”, and with good reason. For one, his meats are not farm-raised, but consist of something more organic. Farmer Vincent’s roadside traps allow him to capture his human victims, whom he buries in a “garden” where he can feed them and get them “ready” for cookin’. Remember his motto: “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”.
Day 15—The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Not since Die Hard has a movie invoked such intense discussion and debate over whether or not it could be labeled a Christmas film or not. For The Nightmare Before Christmas, the argument lies in whether or not the film is a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie. For me, why can’t it be both? Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, has grown bored with the annual celebration of Halloween scares. As he laments his desire for something new, he stumbles from Halloween Town into Christmas Town and decides to take the place of Santa Claus. For a skeleton…man (?) who is so used bestowing tricks and terror upon the world, what could possibly go wrong? With delightfully spooky aesthetics, iconic musical numbers, and a murderous boogeyman made of burlap and insects, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie for the entire family. One that can easily be watched, justifiably so, between the months of October and December.
Day 16—Mayhem (2017)
Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) and Samara Weaving (Ready or Not) are two of Hollywood’s rising stars and there is no better film showcasing their talents than Mayhem. In an oddly timely film concerning the outbreak of a virus that blocks the part of the brain that controls your deepest and darkest impulses, Yeun and Weaving shine as two individuals who have been fucked over once too many by the company Yeun works for. They decide to take out the top brass with the virus being the perfect cover to enact their revenge. It’s basically The Purge mixed in with a bit of The Raid and Die Hard. It’s not always perfect, but there’s enough that makes this worth the watch.
Day 17—Host (2020)
Due to the unprecedented times we currently live in, the production of new movies essentially ground to a halt. At least for a while anyway. Social distancing, commuting problems, and other issues simply made the practicalities of shooting a movie impossible. Or did it? Rob Savage and his team thought otherwise when they decided to create Host. By using remote filming techniques, the film was shot, edited, and produced entirely during the recent period of lockdown. The plot takes place in a real-world current setting, with the characters all quarantined in their own individual properties. They take part in a séance, hosted via a Zoom call, and as you might expect things don’t go according to plan. Films like Searching and Unfriended have used a similar approach in recent years, where the movie utilizes storytelling via contemporary technology. Host simply uses the Zoom interface and manages to feel so relevant to the actual moment in history it has been released. It’s only 57 minutes long but it squeezes a lot of scares into that short runtime, any longer and it might have outstayed its welcome. It’s a remarkable achievement in filmmaking and more importantly, it contains some great scares.
Day 18—It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Take a break from the screams and carnage and sit down with the family to enjoy this classic Halloween staple. Though it originally aired in 1966, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown continues to hold up in 2020, appealing to both children and adults. During a year where everything is terrible, there’s something comforting about watching Linus faithfully wait for a glimpse of the ever-elusive Great Pumpkin, while the rest of the Peanuts gang bob for apples and trick or treat. Charlie Brown continually getting rocks in his treat bag shouldn’t be as funny as it is but there’s no way you’re not going to chuckle at his deadpan delivery of “I got a rock.” This is an annual watch for me as it never fails to get me in the mood for autumn and makes me smile. This year I think we need that more than ever!
Day 19—Under Wraps (1997)
Everyone will rush to Disney+ this Halloween to watch Halloweentown and Hocus Pocus, two of the most popular Disney Halloween flicks (let me also throw in a bonus suggestion for Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire), but this underrated Disney Channel Original Movie is sadly not on the service. Don’t let that stop you from checking out Under Wraps though, as I would argue it is nearly as essential as its counterparts. Following a group of kids who must return a reanimated mummy to his casket before midnight on Halloween, this film gives off vibes of Stranger Things or Goonies with Halloween references galore.
Day 20—Crawl (2019)
Produced by Sam Raimi, Crawl stars Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper as a daughter and father trapped in their house during a Category 5 hurricane which causes some gators to enter their flooded house. There’s some really good tension in this horror flick and some downright stupid character decisions. But if you’re in the mood to see some Floridians become gator chow, there is no better film than Crawl for you to watch.
Day 21—The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Based on Clive Barker’s 1984 short story of the same name, The Midnight Meat Train follows a photographer obsessed with dark subject matter getting in over his head when he discovers a serial killer that butchers unsuspecting night commuters in grisly fashion. If you are looking for some gore this Halloween season, then here you go. Starring a pre-The Hangover Bradley Cooper and the always intimidating Vinnie Jones as the killer Mahogany in gory cat and mouse thriller with fantastic kills. Even eye-popping, some would say. Director Ryuhei Kitamura knows how to bring the carnage and what makes it even better is that they were done with practical effects for the most part. That meant a minimum of 3 gallons of blood needing to be cleaned up from the set daily; some days used at least 25 gallons worth of fake blood. But, the most impressive feat was the insane amount of prosthetics needed for this production. Limbs, severed heads, and full-sized human bodies to be dangled like butcher meat or mounded in piles. Who wants a steak?
Day 22—Addams Family Values (1993)
The concept of sequels besting their originals is fun to debate but difficult to achieve. Enamored as Hollywood is with IP-driven sagas and extending familiar cinematic worlds, finding a second (or third) installment better than the predecessors is as rare as Serena Williams botching a match–it simply doesn’t happen very often. The list is short, but our early 90s return to everyone’s favorite indelibly macabre family earns placement.
Who knew Debbie Jellinsky (Where is Joan Cusack’s Oscar?!) would be the killer to drive a wedge between the inseparable Addams clan? Who knew Wednesday would go that far to destroying summer camp in glorious fashion? Who knew the “happy hut” would so cruel and unusual? Who knew Uncle Fester was capable of love? Who knew Pubert would be so disturbing with golden curls and rosie cheeks? Gosh, this movie is zanier than most, yet comedically earned all at the same time. A true spooky feast. Only in the realm of the Addams family could such a uniquely 90s feat be accomplished.
Day 23—Odd Thomas (2013)
I miss Stephen Sommers. His films, while not exactly good, had a unique energy and charm to them. They felt in many ways, like the precursor to what Marvel would eventually do years later. He created fun adventure films with the sole purpose to entertain. That’s it. Just fun movies that didn’t feel like cynical cash grabs or nostalgia porn. And that’s kinda Odd Thomas in a nutshell. It’s a film with many noticeable problems but is held together with yards and yards of fun rope. Or string. Fun, along with Yelchin, is the glue that holds this film together. That’s a better analogy. A short-order cook who can see the dead stumbles on to a conspiracy involving a mysterious man and decides to do something about it. It ain’t high art people. It’s Yelchin fighting weird ghost monsters and encountering even weirder people. You’re either in or you’re out.
Day 24—Halloweentown (1998)
Anyone who grew up in the early 2000s knows that Halloweentown (and its many sequels) are an annual October watch staple. Before the age of streaming, you would have to hit the TV guide and scroll as far into the future as you could go to see when this film would be programmed into the rotation. You’d then build your daily schedule around that film. Sometimes that meant begging your parents to let you stay up past your bedtime. I still watch Halloweentown religiously each year. It’s become my Halloween tradition. I may not get to all three films each year (the fourth film doesn’t exist), but one or two definitely gets watched to close out the month. If you’re a parent with young kids, do them a favor and introduce them to the Cromwell family. You can thank me later.
Day 25—Hell’s Ground (2007)
A Pakistani love letter to American slasher movies, Hell’s Ground is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but with zombies inexplicably thrown in. Five teens on their way to a rock concert, are diverted by a political protest, only to encounter a family of flesh-hungry psychopaths and a family of backwoods killers lead by Baby, a burqa wearing maniac who brandishes a giant medieval flail. Filled with every cliché and trope you can think of, the film gleefully embraces the campy elements of Hollywood slashers. It knows what it is: a throwback to old-school splatter flicks with cardboard characters who’s only purpose is to die violent deaths, a ton of blood, a cool looking villain and just pinch of social commentary. The only thing it’s missing is nudity. And a better soundtrack because my god, my ears.
Day 26—The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Listen, horror flicks have never been my cup of tea. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few I absolutely love (The Witch, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Bram Stoker’s Dracula), but as a genre I’m not going to be a season ticket holder anytime soon. That always finds me in an interesting predicament come October. In terms of “what to watch” scary stuff is front and center which makes sense … But for weenies like me, there’s got to be a room for something a little more, well, approachable, right?
That’s where old school Disney comes in. A dash of spook, a little humor, and good old fashioned fun never hurt anyone. Hence, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (which is now streaming on Disney+). A time capsule to cinema of old and, if you ask me, a totally worthwhile installment in the thick of all the other heavy players in this season of scary cinema. So, make fun of me if you must but in between “Chucky 9” and “Saw 17: Never Stop Never Saw-ing” or whatever lavishly gory stuff hits the watchlist, I’m happy to fire-up some Disney. I mean, the fact that The Mouse gave us a take on The Headless Horseman is pretty fascinating in and of itself. A delightful, perhaps ironically old school, upgrade to any Halloween watchlist. Who’s with me?
Day 27—The Craft (1996)
While I don’t believe any pleasures should be labeled “guilty”, for the sake of this list, if you were going to create a list of guilty pleasure movies, The Craft would no doubt be a part of it. When three high school girls find the fourth witch for their coven, they discover how just how freeing and empowering magic can be, especially as they try to navigate the hellscape that is high school. But power can be addicting and things begin to quickly spiral out of control, triggering violence and death. The Craft succeeds in bringing a darker tone to the teen movie genre, allowing it to stand out and rightfully earn it’s cult classic status. Is there any genre that handles the themes of adolescence than horror? Granted, The Craft is quite campy but it’s also an entertaining movie with a deeper message, anchored by an incredibly fierce performance by Fairuza Balk.
Day 28—The Crow (1994)
Goths rise up. Your time is now. Bust out the eyeliner and trench coats. Time to rewatch The Crow. If you have not seen The Crow, now is as good a time as any. Eric Draven is a tortured artist type who is murdered alongside his fiancée, Shelly. Eric is brought back to life by a crow and is given limited time to exact his revenge. There is violence, one-liners, and it even takes place on Halloween Eve. This film does a lot of things for a lot of people. What I think it does best is it gave Brandon Lee an incredible platform to share his talents with the world.
Day 29—The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
Listen, people say the word Halloween and some names pop in their head. Deservingly so. Carpenter, Craven, Romero, etc. All legends in their own right. For this guy though? I think Rob Zombie and Sid Haig. The Devil’s Rejects is the sequel to House of 1000 Corpses. Following the Firefly Family, after their murder house has been discovered by authorities, Baby, Otis, and Captain Spaulding are on the run. Unlike House, where we spend most of the time with the victims, this time we are getting the story through the antagonist’s perspective. We shouldn’t root for them. They are awful murderous monsters. It’s the charisma and chemistry from Sheri Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and the late great Sid Haig, that is more than enough to have you questioning your own sanity.
Day 30—Relic (2019)
First-time writer/director, Natalie Erika James, makes her debut with an interesting twist on the haunted house trope. Relic is an uncomfortable tale about Edna, an elderly woman who appears to be going through Alzheimer’s and wanders off into the woods. While missing, Edna’s daughter, Kay, and granddaughter, Sam, travel to the home they thought they knew well to assist local authorities in the search of Edna. Possibly, in the worst-case scenario, plan a funeral. Relic takes a deeper look into the fear of getting older. Losing your sense of self. The fear of waking up one day and not knowing where you are or how you got there. With plenty of skin-crawling supernatural spins along the way.
Day 31—Dealer’s Choice
It’s Halloween! Which means you get to watch whatever the hell you want. You can go with the obvious picks such as Halloween (any version since there’s now three to choose from) or Halloween III: Season of the Witch, some kid-friendly classics (there’s still a ton out there we didn’t pick) or maybe try something new. You could even play a spooky video game like Until Dawn or watch the new Creepshow show on Shudder. The holiday is your oyster, now go fuck it up.
Keep track of the films you’ve watched with our ScreenAge Wasteland 31 Days of Halloween Checklist.