An essential Halloween watchlist

Here are the most essential horror films to watch this Halloween.

Chris Charpentier, Staff Writer

With Halloween just around the corner, there are a plethora of horror films to get in the holiday mood. With so much to choose from, here is a curated list of the most essential horror films that present their own unique takes on this classic genre.

THE SHINING

Despite its initial negative reception for its massive differences from Stephen King’s book of the same name, director Stanley Kubrick managed to create a haunting, atmospheric tale of domestic abuse that focuses on horrific visual imagery. While its puzzling nature led audiences to form their own interpretations of the story, people can still enjoy “The Shining” on a surface level, seeing a dark reflection of the family dynamic through its manipulation by supernatural forces.

ALIEN

For those looking for a more sci-fi approach to horror, “Alien” provides a deeply unsettling portrait of space travel and its possible consequences. What drives it into classic territory is its unique production design, as the spaceship Nostromo is a claustrophobic environment that emphasizes the tension within the scarier scenes involving the Xenomorph alien. The story is brought to life by the great H.R. Giger, an artist whose work influenced the entire film.

SCREAM

While “Scream” has more of a comedy slant to the horror genre, there has not been a better satire of the slasher subgenre than in this movie. Director Wes Craven himself contributed his own slasher film franchise with “Nightmare on Elm Street.” 

With this movie, he decided to create a story that exists in a setting where the characters have gone to the theaters and watched movies like “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and much more. Because of this, “Scream” stands out as both a comedic perspective on horror while also being an endlessly fun slasher movie in its own right.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT

The quality and relevance of the found-footage subgenre has debatably died out due to its oversaturation in pop culture. However, “The Blair Witch Project” is an excellent example of what made the subgenre popular in the first place. 

While other found-footage films like the “Paranormal Activity” and “Unfriended” franchises decided to focus on more jump-scare horror, “Blair Witch” found its horror within the unexplained supernatural forces that are present within the film’s forest setting. Much like “The Shining,” the supernatural forces are not obvious but instead, amplify anxiety and distrust between the three main characters.

THE EMPTY MAN

Because of its release during the pandemic and the studio’s severe lack of marketing, not many people will know about “The Empty Man.” The film follows a retired cop that investigates the true nature behind an urban legend called “The Empty Man,” presumably making people disappear in his town. 

As the film unravels, there is ample terrifying, symbolic imagery that slowly suggests an unexplainable horror. It is streaming on HBO Max and available to buy and rent on Apple TV and Prime Video.

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