White lady costumes and creepy masks aside, Halloween is a time to revel in all that is drop-dead scary. Most of us might not be a fan of gore and screaming scary antics, but come October 31st, we might also be the first in line at a grown-up Halloween festivities just for the seasonal thrill of it (it’s OK, we don’t judge.) Or snuggle at home, triple-check the door locks, watch movies that cause dread and alarm, to invoke our hidden worst fears and guarantee heart-pumping moments and bloodcurdling nightmares in the nights ahead.
With that said, here’s a variety of films that promise to frighten and cause panic. Whatever keeps you up at night, you’re sure to find something here.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) Directed by Roman Polanski. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a bright but somewhat naive young housewife, and Guy (John Cassavetes), her husband and a struggling actor, move into the Bramford, a Gothic, 19th century New York City apartment building with a history of unsavory tenants and mysterious events.
Child’s Play (1988) Directed by Tom Holland. While being chased by Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon), Charles Lee Ray, a serial killer known as “The Lakeshore Strangler” (Brad Dourif), is shot and mortally wounded. Before dying, Charles takes cover inside a toy store, finding boxes of talking “Good Guy” dolls and then uses a voodoo ritual to transfer his soul into one of the dolls.
Poltergeist (1982) Directed by Tobe Hooper. Steve and Diane Freeling, and their children Dana, Robbie, and Carol Anne, are living a quiet life in a California suburb, when a group of seemingly benign ghosts begin communicating with five-year-old Carol Anne through the static on the family’s television sets.
The Craft (1996) Directed by Andrew Fleming. Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney), a troubled teenage girl, has previously attempted suicide, just moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles with her father and stepmother. She enrolls in a local Catholic high school, but has trouble fitting in. During French class, her classmate Bonnie (Neve Campbell) witnessed Sarah telekinetically causing a pencil to rotate while standing on its tip.
The Devil’s Advocate (1997) Directed by Taylor Hackford. Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), an ambitious defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, has never lost a case. He defends a schoolteacher, Mr. Gettys (Chris Bauer), against a charge of child molestation. During the trial, Kevin realizes his client is guilty. During a recess, a reporter tells him, “Nobody wins ’em all.” Kevin decides to go forward, and after a harsh cross-examination destroys the credibility of the victim (Heather Matarazzo).
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Directed by Wes Craven. Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) has a dream in which she is stalked through a dark boiler room by a mutilated figure with distinctive razor-sharp knives attached to the fingers on his right hand. Just as he catches her, however, she wakes up screaming, only to discover four razor cuts in her nightdress identical to the cuts in her dream.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Directed by Jonathan Demme. Clarice Starling is pulled from her training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, by Jack Crawford of the Bureau’s Behavioral Science Unit. He tasks her with interviewing Hannibal Lecter, a former psychiatrist and incarcerated cannibalistic serial killer, believing Lecter’s insight might be useful in the pursuit of a serial killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” who skins his female victims’ corpses.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Directed by Henry Selick. The film begins deep in the forest, where a group of trees, each one having a small door, with a picture on it, to represent a different holiday, is seen. The tree with a jack-o’-lantern door opens, and the film officially begins.
Hostel (2005) Directed by Eli Roth. Two college grad students, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and his friend, Josh (Derek Richardson), along with their friend Óli (Eyþór Guðjónsson), are backpacking together across Europe on vacation. After being thrown out of a discothèque in Amsterdam, the three visit a brothel, where Josh chickens out of having sex with a very attractive prostitute. When they return to their hostel, they meet a Russian man named Alexei (Lubomir Bukovy) who informs them about an undocumented hostel in Slovakia filled with beautiful, American-loving women.
Hannibal (2001) Directed by Ridley Scott. Ten years have passed since FBI Agent Clarice Starling tracked down serial killer Jame Gumb. Starling is unjustly blamed for a botched drug raid. She and her past connection to Hannibal Lecter come to the attention of Lecter’s only surviving victim, Mason Verger, a convicted child molestor whom Lecter had left horribly disfigured and paralyzed after having been assigned by a court as Verger’s therapist.
What movie scares the living daylights out of you?