Trick or treat?
The end of October often brings hordes of demons, ghosts and other such terrors from the netherworld to your doorstep. Usually in search of tiny Mars bars and small bags of peanut M&Ms, those pint-sized candy hunters known as trick or treaters are a part of Halloween; a nightmare event for some, a delight for others.
For the citizens of cinema it's no different. Characters face the festivities the same as we do -- albeit in fantastical and outlandish ways. Whether it's a terrifying horror or a chucklesome comedy the annual spooky holiday has made its way into plenty of titles. Will you laugh, will you cry, or will you cower behind the sofa? With this selection of Halloween-themed movies it'll probably be a bit of all three...
12. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Set in the witch-centric locale of Salem, the movie follows a couple of kids who inadvertently raise a trio of witches from the dead. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy play the resurrected coven who attempt to adapt to modern-day life, only to discover that their fear-inducing lifestyle has become the subject of a public holiday.
Disney's family-friendly caper gears itself more towards a younger demographic, holding back the seasonal blood and gore in favour of a light comedic touch. In the years since its release the movie has gone on to establish itself as a solid cult classic. The best kind of kitschy cool.
11. Idle Hands (1999)
A corking nineties comedy that plugs horror elements into its teen setting, as high schooler Anton (played by '90s horror boy Devon Sawa) discovers that in neglecting his right hand it has become possessed by the devil. A literal feature film riff on the cautionary maxim "the devil makes work of idle hands."
The body count rises as Anton's hand gets a taste for blood. His parents perish along with his two best friends played by Seth Green and Elden Henson, the latter pair accompanying Anton throughout his journey to track down his murderous appendage after he slices it free. The laughs stack up moreso than the scares, but there's fun to be had watching The Offspring get offed during a gig at a Halloween party.
10. Night Of The Demons (1988)
A straight-up slice of eighties camp. Reigning scream queen Linnea Quigley stars as one of many teenagers who attend a Halloween party at an abandoned mortuary. When host Angela holds a seance to try and spice up the lacklustre bash, a nasty demon crawls from the crematorium... and starts possessing the partygoers.
From thereon out it descends into splattergore chaos and character actions that require your disbelief to remain suspended until the credits roll. Still, that's the joy of Night of the Demons; there's no attempt to be anything other than a rollicking good B-movie. Rife with stupid teens, bizarre deaths and quite possibly the most deranged usage of lipstick ever captured on celluloid.
9. Lady In White (1988)
Featuring a young Lukas Haas, Lady in White is a forgotten gem of the Halloween set. Part murder-mystery, part-supernatural chiller, all tied together by the story of Frankie a schoolboy whose classmates trap him in the cloak room overnight. On Halloween no less, presumably to maximise the poor lad's terror which works wonderfully; he experiences a terrifying vision of a young girl being strangled to death.
The film lifts inspiration from the mythical Lady in White, a supposed spectre who wanders a park in upstate New York searching for her murdered daughter. Not exactly cheery stuff, which is why this late eighties flick is so damn effective. There's a fair amount of spine-tingling moments despite its PG certificate.
8. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch (1982)
The third Halloween film departs from the Michael Myers lore for a wholly different story. Initially it disappointed fans of the first two flicks, hoping for more sliced-and-diced babysitters, and has since grown in popularity turning into a revered cult classic.
It was intended by John Carpenter, Debra Hill and Tommy Wallace -- the series' director, producer and production designer -- to launch a new Myers-less anthology franchise. This first chapter follows the mysterious Shamrock Company, a Halloween merch outfit that produces masks which turn the wearers into killers. There's a hefty amount of Celtic tradition used to fuel the plot, which, while not a slasher, still packs in a lot of twisted scares.
7. Trick 'r' Treat (2007)
This anthology horror centres around four separate vignettes that unravel on Halloween night held together by a wraparound character called Sam, a young sack-wearing boy who appears throughout each chapter.
Director Michael Dougherty secured a well-known cast for these downright gruesome tales -- including Anna Paquin, Dylan Baker and Brian Cox -- that involve a murderous scarecrow corpse, a bus full of dead schoolchildren, a sour old grump who detests the holiday, and a twisted kick on maidenhead. A brilliant assortment of interwoven plots that proved a huge hit with horror aficionados.
6. Flatliners (1990)
In the midst of a reboot at the moment, Joel Schumacher's 1990 thriller is summed up by its tagline: "Some lines shouldn't be crossed." This matters not to Kiefer Sutherland's gang of medical students hopped up on youthful hubris that they can successfully die and return from the otherside. And get a good look at what awaits us in the afterlife, of course.
As each of the group go under, it's Kevin Bacon's character David whose flatline takes place on Halloween. He tops the previous effort and stays dead for two and a half minutes while his friends work furiously to revive him. The scene cuts to Halloween partiers in the festive throes out on the streets, a clever tie-in to the risks of dabbling with death.
5. May (2002)
Angela Bettis delivers a knockout turn in this affecting little horror gem from filmmaker Lucky McGee about a veterinary technician whose strange upbringing has left her in possession of some rather unusual habits. She talks to her childhood doll, for example, as if it were an actual person.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. May's romantic forays with men and women prove equal parts troubled and just plain doomed as her weirdness seemingly alienates them. After she embarks on a violent spree the film's hallucinatory finale tops things off in a manner utterly befitting of her character. The fact that it takes place on Halloween adds another layer of the macabre to this gory, yet incredibly heartfelt, story.
4. Ginger Snaps (2000)
Never has the feminine change been so brutally represented onscreen. This savvy Canadian horror uses the werewolf metamorphosis as a stand-in for menstruation, as Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is attacked by an unseen monster and quickly begins to transform into a lycanthrope, causing her sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) concern.
And quite rightly so. Ginger's new-fangled abilities cause her to sprout a tail, excessive hair and a new promiscuous attitude. It's one hell of a werewolf movie that hits the nail on the head with its keen observations of adolescence. One standout scene when the two sisters attend a Halloween party rolls out brilliantly: no-one even notices Ginger's transformation. They just assume she's got wicked costume skills.
3. The Crow (1994)
Adapted from James O'Barr's popular comic The Crow starts on October 30th, aka All Hallows Eve, the night before Eric and Shelly are to be married and the night they are both senselessly murdered by local thugs. Exactly one year later he returns from the afterlife to set things right.
Out to seek revenge on those responsible Draven enlists the help of Sarah, a young girl who befriended he and Shelly, and one-by-one he takes out the men who killed him. Decked out in a tight leather-clad ensemble Eric -- aka The Crow -- dishes out hurt and one-liners like it ain't no thing. Vengeance has never been so damn hip.
2. Donnie Darko (2001)
Richard Kelly's directorial debut anchors itself around the holiday to tell the story of a teenager chosen to be an agent of fate. Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) embraces the unbelievable message passed onto him by a giant hallucinatory bunny rabbit named Frank: the world is set to end in 28 days.
Time travel, God theories, and youthful rites of passage all play a part in this truly original sci-fi spectacle. It's blackly funny and at times a tragic fable, played out like a Lynchian nightmare retold by John Hughes. Along the way Kelly creates a Halloween like no other. One that we hope won't ever come to pass.
1. Halloween (1978)
The granddaddy of Halloween movies hails from the slasher revivalist John Carpenter. Originally saddled with the Point Horror-esque title The Babysitter Murders Carpenter and producer Debra Hill created a masterful horror villain, the likes of which would inspire a whole generation of slasher baddies.
Halloween is more than just another hack-n-slash. It established the rules of a genre -- which Scream would later use to wax meta -- that capitalised on teenage angst, throwing the high schoolers of Springfield into the path of the mysterious Michael Myers. It was through Myers that Carpenter perfected the slow stalk of his main characters, in particular 'final girl' Laurie Strode (played by scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis), by embracing the killer's POV technique.
A beautifully-shot, haunting and creepy horror that's every bit deserving of its universal acclaim.