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Elizabeth Breitmeyer / Gavel Media

A Gavel Guide to Horror Movies

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is in the mood to watch Halloween movies but everyone has different levels of horror tolerance, so you just argue for an hour and end up watching Halloweentown for the thirtieth time. As much as I love Halloweentown, an hour-and-a-half-long movie can’t get you through the whole month, and it’s far from spooky enough to satisfy a horror fan’s needs during the scariest time of the year. As a lifelong lover of horror movies (seriously, I used to peruse top 50 lists for fun with my dad and try to check as many off as possible), this scenario is incredibly familiar. Luckily, that means I’ve been well equipped to find entertaining movies for every mood and taste. 

 

For the Horror Enthusiasts

The Exorcist

Based on the aforementioned perusing, it remains clear that no horror movie roundup is complete without The Exorcist. Then I watched it and learned why: It’s really just that good. My film professor recently called it The Godfather of horror films, high but well-earned praise. If you’re looking for something genuinely horrifying, this is the way to go. Even though it was released in 1973, the effects hold up better than one might think, providing for some frightening imagery only elevated by how well the movie is structured. The Exorcist has an excellent level of writing usually not associated with most horror movies. Try to listen to the theme song without being a little unsettled; it’s perfectly creepy.

Hereditary

As a more recent addition to the horror genre, Hereditary became an instant classic as part of the horror resurgence of the last few years. The pervasive suspense and general weirdness of it all make it a stand-out. Going in blind will guarantee the best experience, but just know there are multiple sequences that will leave your jaw on the floor and the conclusion will leave you thinking for days afterwards.

The Conjuring

When someone asks to watch a horror movie, my first instinct is to reach for The Conjuring if they somehow haven’t seen it. Even if they have, Halloween is the absolute perfect time for a rewatch. A classic haunted house story, it’s the ideal mix of fun, scary, and crowd-pleasing. The director, James Wan, mastered the art of the jump-scare in this movie. Even if you know when they’re coming, your friends’ reactions will be entertaining enough.

 

For Those Looking for a Laugh

Wish Upon

This 2017 movie flew far under the radar and it wouldn’t be surprising if you’re struggling to remember it, mostly because Wish Upon is simply not a good horror movie. However, what it lacks in suspense and depth, it makes up for in sheer hilarity. The movie follows 17-year-old Clare, who receives a box that has the power to grant wishes at a price. Watch this with a few friends and the intention to laugh a lot, and you’ll have a good time. My friends and I are still chuckling over the ending years later.

Anna and the Apocalypse

This is undeniably the black sheep of the group, but its absurdity makes it worth the watch. In brief, this movie is a high school musical comedy that gets derailed by a zombie apocalypse. It’s not quite a horror movie, but there are enough gruesome moments to include it on the list. Regardless of whether or not the jokes land, the ridiculous situation the characters are in adds plenty of laughs. Did I mention it’s also a Christmas movie? Last, a warning: some of the songs will definitely get stuck in your head.

Child’s Play

Another movie that gets its comedy from its insanity, Child’s Play’s antagonist is a killer doll named Chucky whose red hair gets more disheveled and whose overalls get bloodier and bloodier as the movie progresses. The cheesiness of the 80s works seamlessly with the creepy doll trope, and makes the whole experience either alarming or exceptionally amusing depending on who's watching. For this writer, watching a two-foot-tall doll wield an obviously fake knife and fling profanities at people he’s trying to kill will never not be funny.

 

For Those Scared of Their Own Shadow

Monster house

This one’s for when you want a dose of nostalgia. Most people probably watched this as kids and were promptly terrified by it. But for those who need a refresher, this animated jaunt follows three teens as they venture into the house across the street and find everything to be a lot scarier than it seems. Monster House is a blast no matter who is watching it. There are a few scary scenes, but its strength lies in its excitement and sense of adventure.

Edward Scissorhands

This is a wonderful movie that’s very misunderstood. Most people I’ve spoken to who have never seen it assume it's a horror movie, but in reality it’s a heartwarming romance. The main character just happens to have scissors for hands, which naturally complicates his romantic endeavors. Tim Burton’s direction gives this movie a fable-like quality, and the tone fits the time of year when the leaves fall and the cold winds begin to blow–it’s fabulously atmospheric.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

For me, it’s not Halloween without Rocky Horror. This 1970s film has gone down as a cult classic, with plenty of movie theaters still hosting midnight showings around this time of year. Watch a young couple as their car breaks down at the side of the road and they have to seek help from the eccentric residents of a house in the middle of nowhere. Come for the vibes, stay for Tim Curry’s excellent turn as Frank n Furter and the zaniness that makes every rewatch a great time. Rocky Horror is a movie for the misfits that everyone loves.

 

Now that you have options for every mood it’s time to grab your friends, grab some popcorn, bake some Pilsbury ghost cookies, and make the most of movie night this Halloween season. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite to watch in years to come.

 

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Enthusiast of big fantasy books and Lower breakfast potatoes. Oscar season is the best season.

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