How to Freak Yourself Out: The Best Horror Movies to Watch this Halloween


Blumhouse Productions

Michael Myers in Halloween (2018)

Ahhh, October. The leaves turn brown. The weather cools down. T-shirts and shorts are exchanged for sweatshirts and pants. Pumpkin patches sprout up all over. And Halloween decorations slowly appear on many front lawns in preparation for the month’s final day. The spooky season brings many things; Parents scan the internet for costumes and bags of candy, kids plan out their trick-or-treating routes and search for the biggest pillowcase in the house, and various hosts make party preparations. But Halloween is also prime time for horror movies. 

Horror films are a staple of the month. You might be thinking, “What horror movies should I watch?” Well, look no further. This will be your guide through that question.

Horror movies as we know them really started in 1960 with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

If you know anything about movies, you have probably heard of Psycho. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and is credited with being one of the first “modern” horror films, despite being sixty-two years old. The film is famous for its iconic shower scene and its terrifying antagonist. If you are in the mood for an unpredictable ride that isn’t all that scary, Psycho is the movie for you. It’s a great introduction to the chilling world of horror films.

The horror craze really began in 1978 with Halloween. Halloween revolutionized the slasher genre: a subgenre of horror that involves a crazed killer wielding a bladed weapon. Halloween also introduced the world to Michael Myers, the blank-masked personification of evil that stalks the streets on the scariest night of the year. Halloween and Michael Myers were followed up with a flurry of slashers and iconic villains: Friday the 13th brought Jason Voorhees into the picture. A Nightmare on Elm Street created Freddy Krueger and brought the idea of slasher villains with supernatural abilities to form. If you are in the mood for a bloody good time that varies in scare factor, slashers are usually the go-to. They are often considered the most popular subgenre of horror.

The slasher craze died down after A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although films such as Child’s Play gave the world Chucky and Candyman brought the titular legend to life, slasher films were no longer that popular. Direct-to-video films and terrible sequels took the place of inventive new horror flicks, and horror hid away for ten to fifteen years.

Then, in 1996, the horror genre was revived with Wes Craven’s meta masterpiece: Scream. Scream was a slasher movie, yes, but it also had a clever way of making fun of other slasher and horror films. The deconstruction of the horror genre with this sharp, comedic wit attracted audiences and brought the next age of great horror flicks. Scream sparked a new subgenre itself: meta horror. Horror films that comment on the genre itself. Films such as The Cabin in the Woods and Shaun of the Dead stand out. Existing franchises even took the meta angle, with Freddy Krueger being revived in Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. Meta horror still exists today. If you want tamer horror movies with comedic elements, these movies are perfect.

After Scream, tons of new horror movies just kept popping up. The Blair Witch Project created the “found footage” horror movie, where a horror film would be shot as though it were filmed with a documentary camera or with security footage, which was continued with Paranormal Activity and other films like that. 

A few years later, Saw ushered in a gruesome new genre or horror: torture horror. Films like Hostel and The Human Centipede continued this gross new type. If you are into nasty, grimy horror that will shock and terrify you, these movies are for you. The found footage films aren’t as scary and have a charming B-movie quality to them, but they are an interesting direction to take the horror genre, so if you want to try something different, I suggest that.

The most recent age of horror movies has had two different types. The first is “elevated horror.” This is almost a revived version of the “quality” horror films I discussed earlier. Comedian-turned-horror director Jordan Peele is the face of this new subgenre. He kicked off his filmography with Get Out (which is my personal favorite horror film. I highly recommend it) and has continued it with Us and, most recently, Nope. He has created a new tradition in these movies where layered characters and complex storytelling are backed by deep themes and symbolic messaging. A24, a studio known for making wacky movies, has also been a huge part of elevated horror, with shocking movies like Hereditary and Midsommar. If you tried out The Shining or The Exorcist and liked those films, definitely check these newer ones out. They bring something entirely different while also still having that great sense of horror and dread.

So, if you are in need of a good scare, I sincerely hope that this has helped you find the perfect film for your night of fright. Happy Halloween!