As much as I hate the whole ‘Trick or Treat’ culture of Halloween, I do love the fact that it is the perfect excuse to put on all the best horror and monster movies. For me it has become like Christmas, in that I seem to pull out the same few films every October and watch them as a kind of spook filled tradition.
But I never go for the genuinely terrifying films (because I’m a giant wet lettuce), instead I go for the most fun Halloween themed films I can find; the ones that I can enjoy with a few friends, a few beers and an electrified lock on the door to maim any trick or treaters (mwah ha ha ha!).
Oh and I wanted to just say that Ghostbusters isn’t on this list. This is purely because I class Ghostbusters as an all year round kind of film. These are ones that I like to save for a special occasion.
So without further ado, here is a list of my top 10 Halloween party movies:
10. The Monster Squad
I somehow missed out on this 80s classic when I was a child, only discovering it about 4 years ago. But that didn’t mean it was any less amazing, in fact it probably made it even better.
Like a hybrid of The Goonies, The Lost Boys and basically any Universal Monster movie, this film tells the story of a group of monster obsessed boys, who must use a powerful amulet to destroy an army of classic ghouls that descend on a sleepy American town! Sounds good doesn’t it? It’s even better than you could imagine.
Re-imagining all the classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolfman etc) makes for an adventure tale that blends fantasy and reality to brilliant effect. Oh and it’s also written by Shane Black (Iron Man 3, Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) so you know the script is second to none
This is a crazy Italian horror film that has one of the best premises of all time: A mysterious derelict cinema re-opens and plays a film about demonic possession. The movie in question has supernatural powers and starts possessing the audience members one by one until the few surviving viewers are forced into a claustrophobic race for survival right there in the auditorium!
The characterisation is fantastic in this one. Every person is an overblown cliche and the dialogue is so hilariously overdubbed that you will find yourself laughing a lot more than being scared.
There are some great prosthetic effects, great use of colour (as you would expect from Italian horror) and one scene sees the hero drive a motorbike through the auditorium! If this all excites you then do yourself a favour and buy it on blu-ray right now. You can even get it in a cheap boxed set with Demons 2, a film which is equally mental.
8. Dead Heat
Quite possibly the most hilarious (both intentionally and by accident) and underrated action film of all time! This buddy cop movie tells the tale of an evil company who are bringing corpses back to life to commit crimes. This plot can only be stopped by two cops who refuse to play by the rules. The complication comes early on when one of these cops is killed in action…..but fear not….he is re-animated to exact his vengeance as an undead rotting corpse!
The filmmakers obviously had their tongue firmly in cheek. Just in terms of character names – the officer who dies and is brought back to life: Roger Mortis!!!!!!????? Seriously you don’t get details like that in films anymore. But this is also a movie that sees our main characters fighting zombies, mad scientists and in one memorable scene, a Chinese restaurant full of undead chickens, ducks and even a headless pig!
So if you like the terrible comedy of Joe Piscopo, undead foodstuff and the idea of rotting corpses riddling each other with bullets to pretty much zero effect, then stick this on your TV for Halloween!
7. Return of the Living Dead
When a zombie film starts with synth guitars you know you’re in for a real treat, and Return of the Living Dead certainly delivers. It may not be a Romero zombie film, but in a way that’s what makes it so special. It plays with the established zombie conventions and then shatters them; zombies talk, dial for ambulances and get interrogated!
It has a great origin story that is set up with minimal exposition, a cast that contains DeeJay from the Streetfighter movie, and a ‘Tar Zombie’ who was the first undead character to ever utter that signature line – “BRAAAAIIIINNNNS!” – what’s not to love?
6. Fright Night (1985)
You’ll notice that a lot of films on this list come from the 80s. I guess it’s a given that the 80s gave us the most fun films in every genre, and Fright Night is no exception.
Similar to Monster Squad, Fright Night sees our main character (Charlie), an obsessed horror film aficionado, having to pit his wits against a real life vampire who has moved next door.
Like all the best 80s films this contains larger than life characters, amazing (and disgusting) special effects (see the Evil Ed transformation) and finds the perfect balance between comedy and horror.
Also Chris Sarandon’s Jerry Dandridge is probably my favourite vampire incantation in film history. He has a great seedy charisma which plays alongside a subtle intimidation and a streak of serious terror that appears only a few times and therefore has a brilliant impact.
Given that this film’s director (Tom Holland) was involved with the recent remake it begs the question how was the new version so bland and boring? (I was going to say it sucks, but that would just be cheap). But at least we’ll always have this classic to go back to again and again.
5. Trick ‘r Treat
I love anthology stories. ‘m not sure if that stems from having a short attention span as a child, or from loving the Simpsons Halloween specials for the last 20 odd years, but there’s something about a great collection of short stories that feels like you are somehow getting more for your money!
Trick ‘r Treat is a compilation of 3 spooky tales that happen over the same Halloween night and intersect each other at various points. The great thing is that it feels like fun from the start. It’s very much a comic book brought to life with saturated colour and broadly drawn characters.
The great thing is that every story is as good as the last, with plenty of dark humour and some genuine scares that are earned from the makers’ obvious knowledge of expected horror conventions; meaning they are able to effortlessly play with us as an audience.
Trick ‘r Treat has gained a staunch fanbase which increases year on year and it’s easy to see why. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a large scale re-release or reboot in a few years time. That would give spooky little Sam the iconic legacy he deserves.
And just to make you love these guys even more – Adam Greenwood’s film company puts a new Halloween short online every year in time for the big night. You can watch the previous efforts below but make sure you subscribe to watch this year’s flick!
4. An American Werewolf in London
John Landis has fun ingrained into his entire being! If you’ve ever see Landis in action on set or being interviewed you can see that he exudes a good time. This is also apparent in his back catalogue. Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and The Three Amigos are a few such examples of the smile inducing work the great director has created.
It is no surprise then that American Werewolf is one of the most fun horror films of all time. Most people remember this film for that game changing Werewolf transformation created by Rick Baker, and admittedly it is something very special indeed. But when I think of the film I think of the totally insane elements; the house being raided by zombie nazis, David dreaming of himself as a demon in a forest and Jack’s slowly decomposing body hanging off him as he chats to David nonchalantly.
I love that it feels so American and yet, because of the setting, so quintessentially British at the same time. The opening scenes in the Slaughtered Lamb are a hilarious clash of cultures. They also feature Rik Mayall, which is a bonus for any film.
Peter Jackson’s zombie epic is also one of his very best films. It stands at the top of the best zombie films list and also is a contender for goriest film of all time.
I love that the film has a very hand made quality to it. Of course the hands in question are genius hands, but nevertheless it feels like a high quality movie made by a group of friends, and that is a very good thing.
The inventiveness on display is incredible; many of the zombie kills were things we had never seen before. Particular favourites of mine are the lightbulb through the back of the head lighting up the skull, the guts getting caught in a blender and of course the lawnmower rampage.
I generally have a high tolerance for disgusting images. But Jackson and crew far surpassed my threshold in this film. The custard eating scene, where Lionel’s mother’s face warts explode and send pus and red goo into someone else’s dessert, actually make me physically wretch! I see that as a good thing.
Like American Werewolf this film is unafraid to go completely insane. Featuring a zombie sex scene, an undead baby causing chaos and a grown man ending up in his mutant mother’s womb, I think its safe to say Jackson had little concern for restraint.
Definitely one of my all time favourite films. I remember being about 9 years old and me and my older sister spending one saturday afternoon begging our dad to rent us a copy of Beetlejuice on VHS!!! I’m happy to say he caved and that’s when I first saw Tim Burton’s supernatural masterpiece. I have been in love with it ever since.
I love every single wildly imaginative, darkly comic and sensationally spooky moment from start to finish. It manages to balance comedy, horror and twisted fantasy in the most perfect of ways to create a film that appeals to every audience.
It also contains one of my favourite pieces of film music; the opening titles by Danny Elfman are intricate, full of foreboding and a complete mess of fun. It makes you nod your head, stamp your feet and smile from ear to ear. I love how it builds to the point you think it couldn’t get any bigger and then goes bigger!
Then there is the performance of the titular character by Michael Keaton. It is nothing short of iconic. I’m really not sure how after Batman and Beetlejuice Keaton didn’t become one of the most successful character actors of all time. It’s a real shame that we didn’t get more such roles from this hugely gifted actor. In his hands Beetlejuice is seedy, funny, scary, perverted and downright psychotic!
Everything about the film is totally original. Be it the set design, the characters (particularly the afterlife waiting room crowd), the music, the performances, the script and the whole concept. It is just amazing from start to finish.
1. Army of Darkness
Yes folks your worries are over. Bruce Campbell is of course sitting pretty at the top of the best Halloween Party films list. If I were a cheating man (which I usually am) I would make the entire Evil Dead trilogy my number one, but I’ll be fair on this occasion.
Army of Darkness is a perfect film for me. Like Braindead it has a homemade feel to it. It has the love of a committed group of kooky filmmakers behind it, and it fully unleashed Sam Raimi’s slapstick humour on the world of horror.
Aside from the above the film turned Bruce Campbell from a bumbling scaredy cat, to an action hero for the ages. The shameless use of hilariously quotable one liners makes this the ultimate drunken halloween party film. I doubt there’s a film geek in the world who hasn’t uttered the words “gimme some sugar baby”, “this is my boomstick”, “hail to the king baby” or “groovy” at some point in their lives to make themselves look cooler. And I’m sure on every occasion it worked to the max!
Another reason to make this the best Halloween party choice is that it only clocks in at 76 minutes running time! This leaves plenty of time to fit in one (or all) of the others on this list and still have time for a good couple of hours trick or treating. There is no nonsense in the film (well there is but you know what I mean), it gets straight to business and never stops.
It has all the trademark Sam Raimi innovation with camera work and story, but manages to turn the ‘crazy’ dial up even further than in Evil Dead 2. Featuring a group of miniature evil clones of Bruce Campbell, a scene with Ash getting beaten up by prop skeleton arms that seemingly used to belong to the Three Stooges and an army of undead bagpipe players, this one manages to outdo any other film for commitment to insanity.
Oh and in case you haven’t seen the film (or even if you have) look out for one of the best uses of the line “What’s that you’ve got on your face?” in history!
Yes it’s official, Halloween just wouldn’t be the same without Bruce Campbell.
Hail to the king baby!