Halloween and horror film viewing ahead of the Oct. 31 holiday always begins extra early at my house. Since I am obsessed with Halloween and my husband loves Christmas, we have a handshake agreement: I control the remote Sept. 1-Oct. 31 and he can play his holly jolly movies Nov.1-Dec. 25.
My interests vary from classic slasher films (last year I watched every single “Friday the 13th” movie) to more family-friendly fare like Disney Channel’s Halloweentown series — my fascination with this franchise even prompted a trip with my childhood friend to St. Helens, Oregon, where the movie was filmed. But that’s another story.
For those looking to enjoy Halloween from the safety and comfort of their couches, here are a few movie recommendations from Orlando Sentinel staffers.
As one of the early slashers, “Halloween” defined a genre and spawned a franchise with multiple successful reboots. The “final girl” has become a trope in horror movies, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode set the tone for successive horror heroines by representing everything they should be. In the face of danger, she’s smart, brave and determined, and she’s not afraid to fight back. “Halloween” is tame enough for people who aren’t fans of gore but still has enough jump scares for people looking to be frightened.
Watch it on Shudder. — Katie Rice
While my viewing of horror, spooky and festive films peaks ahead of Halloween, there’s one movie that I can watch on repeat yearlong. Wes Craven’s “Scream” pokes fun at slasher films with comedic moments: Randy listing the rules to avoid dying in horror movies; Tatum asks to play the helpless victim and mentions wanting to be in the sequel without realizing she’s facing the actual killer; and Sidney rants about how girls act in horror movies like running up the stairs instead of out the front door.
But unlike many supernatural horror movies, “Scream” also presents a plotline that could happen in the real world, which only adds to the scare factor. And, for those who haven’t already seen it, get ready for a shocking ending. The second and third movies in the “Scream” series aren’t as strong as the original, but “Scream 4” was a solid sequel with a surprising twist.
Watch “Scream” on Tubi or Shudder. — Kathleen Christiansen
‘The Blair Witch Project’
“The Blair Witch Project” was a low-budget horror flick released in 1999 by a bunch of students from the University of Central Florida. It went on to become one of the highest-grossing independent films of all time. It is simply horrifying, especially if you watch it on Halloween.
Watch it on Hulu or Shudder. — Mark Skoneki
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
It’s a question as old as time. Well, as old as “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” anyway — which was released in 1993. Is this Tim Burton stop-motion classic, with its lush, gorgeous and oft-frenetic Danny Elfman soundtrack, a Halloween movie or a Christmas film?
The denizens of Halloween town are loveable sycophants, fawning over their disenchanted Pumpkin King (voiced by Chris Sarandon when speaking, Elfman while singing) who has grown tired of the scares and longs for something different, something warm and joyful and happy. When he unwittingly discovers Christmas, he believes he’s found the answer. But of course, this is someone else’s holiday …
Skellington is ego run amok — his secret love and hopeful superego Sally the only naysayer of the bunch when Jack decides that this year, they’ll bring Christmas instead. Along the way, the music, the movement, the expression, the ever-human desire to touch that which isn’t ours and failure to appreciate the gifts we have are touchpoints amid the whimsy. With beautiful, expressive song, a cast including Catherine O’Hara (who sings as two characters), Paul Reubens and Ken Page turned a passion project into one with an enduring cult following.
Deemed too scary for Disney at the outset, it was released under the Touchstone Pictures brand, but the company has since welcomed Jack, Sally and the gang back into the family fold (you can even seem them right now in the Halloween character cavalcades at Walt Disney World). For good reason, too.
So, what’s the answer to that 27-year-old question?
Watch it on Disney+. — Amy Drew
‘Trick ’r Treat’
Before we watched horror movies, we told ghost stories, vignettes about murder and the macabre that, for some reason, always left us giggling. Michael Dougherty’s “Trick ’r Treat” recaptures the childish sense of fun, even while gorily earning its R rating. Told as an interconnected anthology of ghastly tales, the stories include playful twists on serial killers, zombies and surprise supernatural villains. The movie also introduced Sam, the most adorable ghoulish mascot in cinema history. He’s even made appearances at Halloween Horror Nights.
Anna Paquin and Brian Cox add a bit of star power to the cast, but the best turn comes from Dylan Baker as the school principal. Let’s say he owes something of this performance to his character in Todd Solonz’s black comedy “Happiness.”
Watch it on Shudder. — Trevor Fraser
Step inside the world of creepy doppelgangers and mirrored underground worlds while watching Jordan Peele’s “Us.” The movie follows the Wilson family as they head off on a relaxing beach vacation, only to be haunted by a family that looks just like them. As the film progresses, the family is forced to fight for their survival and reckon with the identity of their look-alikes. It’s a thrilling horror movie mixed with deeper themes of inequality and America’s fear of outsiders.
Purchase a digital copy on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and more. — Patrick Connolly
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