Disappointed by the lack of selection in theaters? Boggled by the huge selection of titles at the local video rental store? Don’t worry, choosing a good horror movie for your Halloween weekend doesn’t have to be scary. Get started with these seven horror classics, in no particular order, then dig out that old night light you haven’t used in years.
1. ‘Alien’ (1979). Sigourney Weaver’s butt-kicking heroine, Ripley, finds herself battling an extra-terrestrial menace deep in space. Ridley Scott understood the need for careful editing and didn’t show you too much of the titular monster, which made for plenty of jumpy moments when the vicious little guy did appear on screen. This is one monster flick that ought to be required viewing for anyone trying to make a modern creature feature.
2. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978). George Romero is known as the master of the zombie genre, and his originals were not just spooky and gory, but sharply written, working in satire and snappy commentary on the American lifestyle. Numerous remakes of his work almost always fall short, simply because they can’t capture Romero’s biting tone.
3. ‘The Exorcist’ (1973). Forget about all of those sequels, remakes, and homages that have come out in the last thirty years. The original beats them all with great special effects and a spooky atmosphere that will have you believing in the devil even if you never have before. Supernatural horror rarely manages to feel so real.
4. ‘Halloween’ (1978). John Carpenter has made many frightening films over his multi-decade career, but this slasher flick still stands out as one of his best, not to mention one of the most-imitated horror films ever. Carpenter got it right by leaving much of the gore to the imagination, making this a serial killer classic to stand the test of time.
5. ‘Horror of Dracula’ (1958). When it came out, the shock of seeing such mature content in color led to heavy censorship. Today, some parts of the film might seem cliched thanks to the decades of vampire films that have followed, but it still stands out as one of the best original vampire films to invoke the legend of Count Dracula. This also marked the beginning of Christopher Lee’s lengthy career as a horror movie master, thanks to his sexy yet predatory take on Dracula.
6. ‘Psycho’ (1960). When it was released, Alfred Hitchcock’s slasher tale made such an impression on moviegoers that they allegedly commented on the copious amount of red blood from the shower scene—when in fact, the movie was black and white. The result was a nation afraid to take showers, which sounds silly until you watch the film for yourself.
7. ‘The Shining’ (1980). Although the film deviates somewhat from Stephen King’s novel, it still manages to be incredibly creepy, thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s tight direction and a maniacal turn from Jack Nicholson. I still can’t watch a Nicholson movie without expecting him to grab an ax and start offing the other characters.