Tis the season for plenty of Best of lists when it comes to the scarier side of cinema. Rather than offer some kind of critical breakdown of the best flicks to soothe that horror-curious itch, we figured it might be smarter to just ask our team of contributors to give us some of their favorite selections.
From the obscure to the cult favorites, from big-budget blockbusters to limited release films that are the stuff of the Criterion Collection - this is a handy reference list of GREAT horror flicks that you should get familiar with before the season's change.
While some of these are staples, absolutely essential viewing and the best examples of the genre, some just happen to be personal favorites - the kind of flick that never really strays too far from the regular Halloween rotation. Even though they may have missed the mark critically, there's some merit here worth revisiting.
Let's get started.
One of the most fun Halloween movies possible for how the filmmakers themselves feel like they’re trying every mad idea that pops into their heads creating something boundlessly inventive. House still feels like the most creative house of horrors imaginable practically tearing down the barriers between the viewer and the screen and truly letting its mad gonzo violence pop up from the most ludicrous and unexpected of corners, clearly an inspiration for Sam Raimi’s manic horror-comedy in Evil Dead II, and in the same way feels like taking a bunch of your friends into a demented funhouse where no rules apply. - Perran Helyes
MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) The 60s and 70s produced a stream of horror movies you can describe as absolute atmosphere-baths, filled with hazy and foggy details that create an uncanny sensory experience over something filled with plot, and they don’t get much more strange and eerie than Messiah of Evil. Part Romero zombie film, part vampire film, part Manson family cult, it is just like a Lovecraftian apocalypse localized in a nighttime seaside town under a blood moon creating a powerful dread with scenes that run the blood cold. It was largely out of print for decades making it something of a lost horror film until now, so there’s never been a better time to discover one of the forgotten masterpieces of horror’s greatest era. Just still not quite as horrifying as the creators’ Howard the Duck. - Perran Helyes
One of the only directorial credits of the great effects artist Stan Winston (whose studio worked magic on everything from Terminator to Jurassic Park), you know that Pumpkinhead is going to have a beautifully freaky practical creature creation, but the lovely surprise is how that same effort seems to have been put into every aspect of the production. Lance Henriksen puts in one of the performances of his career as part of a kind of rural American folk tale driven by revenge, and it is positively oozing with crisp seasonal atmosphere making it the perfect movie to put on when the leaves begin to fall and the chill begins to set in. - Perran Helyes
If you’ve ever missed out on the chance to experience this cult favorite, now is the time to get to it. Possession is a strange film, even for psychological horror, following the events of a disturbingly messy divorce between a man named Mark (Sam Neill) and his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani). Strange, disturbing, and messy are all extreme understatements in this case - what Polish filmmaker Andrzej Żuławski conjures up on the screen and pulls out from his two lead actors is something that simply can’t be replicated or found anywhere else. Even something like a particular facial expression leaves a lasting impression on any viewer, and once you reach the infamous subway scene, you’ll be completely hypnotized by the onscreen madness. - Nicolas Delgadillo
CRONOS (1992)The debut feature film of none other than Guillermo del Toro, Cronos proves that the acclaimed filmmaker has had the juice from the very beginning. This is a vampire tale through and through but not the kind you might expect. Del Toro showcases his originality, flair for the fantastical, and talent within the horror genre right out of the gate with a story full of drama and terror. There’s just the right amount of terror and emotional connection in here for a perfectly well-rounded vampire flick, one with plenty of still fresh ideas. - Nicolas Delgadillo
SORRY ABOUT THE DEMON (2023)
Give yourself a bit of a break from the heaviness of most scary movies with this dose of this new horror comedy that packs a ton of charm. Written and directed by Emily Hagins, Sorry About the Demon follows a young man named Will (Jon Michael Simpson) who attempts a fresh start at a new home after getting his heart broken. But the house he’s found himself in appears to already be occupied by restless and rather inconvenient spirits, leaving Will to figure out just what to do about them. This is a fairly laid-back movie with some lackadaisical pacing but the jokes land well and the performances help bring some genuine likability to Will’s predicament. A nice and funny change of pace from the usual October onslaught. - Nicolas Delgadillo
INFINITY POOL (2023)
Ok so even though this classic cinematic cult classic is technically considered a science fiction film, it could easily be placed in the horror genre, because the plot and premise will scare the shit out of you. Taking Place in 2047, Event Horizon is about a rescue mission of a spaceship, whose crew mysteriously vanished. The spaceship turns out to be sentient, possessed by a malevolent force unleashed when the craft opened a portal to Hell. The ship causes poltergeist activity, hallucinations and knows each person’s darkest fears. From gouging eyes, mutilated bodies and a very disturbing distress signal left in Latin, this movie merges the science fiction of space travel and the chilling horror of Hellish demons to really create some nightmarish scenes. This is not for the faint of heart. - Alex Distefano
BEGOTTEN (1990)Easily of the weirdest, darkest, creepiest films you will ever see. Call it an experimental, avant garde mind fuck of a splatter film, no dialog or music, only sounds of nature such as wind and flowing water. It is also entirely in black and white. Though most consider Begotten to be masochistic visual based allegory of Mother Nature and the cycles of birth and death, it’s all left open to interpretation and there are plenty of instances of self mutilation, as well as pagan/occult ritualistic images in this movie. Imagine The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Midsommar, as a silent film. - Alex Distefano
WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)For as outlandish as the premise of this film is, there is some heavy social commentary here when it comes to the effects of war and how it desensitizes children to violence. Ultimately, director Narciso Ibanez Serrador succeeded best in making a creepy flick that plays on the dynamic of the innocence of children who become murderous, territorial maniacs. Tom and Evelyn are young English couple on vacation that find themselves on an island inhabited only by children. When the couple are forced to flea for their safety from the mob, the reality of kids turned ruthless killers becomes all too real leaving the audience to answer the titular question, Who Can Kill A Child? - Ramon Gonzales
Too obvious a choice? More crime thriller than horror? Who gives a shit. David Fincher managed to tap into a real life horror with this mid-90's gem that set a standard in modern cinema. Aside from the climatic finale, (think about how often people still quote, 'What's in the box?!") the layered narrative that weaves theology, criminal psychology and the personal connection we develop with both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as unlikely partners makes for a story that sticks. And if a methodical killer like John Doe, who devises such elaborate, excruciating means of execution isn't scary as all hell - please seek professional help. - Ramon Gonzales
From horror master Dario Argento, this early 80's slasher flick stands out mostly because of what you hear rather than what you see. Teaming with longtime collaborators in Claudio Simonetti and GOBLIN, the soundtrack to this film is the star with a brilliant mesh of Italo disco, stylish synth and pseudo-dark wave scoring scenes of sequences of sharp-edged mayhem. For reference as to just how ahead of the grade the music for Tenebre was, French duo JUSTICE sampled the title track and wound up with one of their biggest hits of their 2007 release, Cross. - Ramon Gonzales