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Best Halloween Horror Movies -- Our lists and reader picks

Posted Monday, October 27, 2008 at 1:21 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

We put the call out a couple of weeks ago for everyone's favorite horror movies to watch on Halloween. Lots of you responded.

After tabulating the responses (an arduously manual process on my part), we think we have the ultimate horror movie watch list for this Oct. 31. But, before we countdown everyone's favorites, allow us to divulge our personal top five flicks with some funny anecdotes. We also have some rather inspired choices from readers we'll share below.

John's Top 5 Halloween Horror Movies

  1. The Black Hole - I can hear you now. What's a Disney movie doing on your list of top horror movies? I saw this first when I was 6 years old. I'm still scared of giant orange balls to this day.
  2. Slaughterhouse - When I worked in a video store, I always recommended this signature '80s gore flick and never got a single complaint or anything for that matter short of complete enjoyment. It's pure camp at its best.
  3. Psycho - Wow, that's two Anthony Perkins movies in the top 5, that can't be a coincidence. This movie set the tone for a half century of horror to follow.
  4. The Shining - It didn't help that my nickname growing up was Johnny. It took me a decade and countless attempts to actually finish this movie in one sitting and not have nightmares.
  5. The Exorcist - Growing up Catholic didn't help with this movie at all. In fact, if you want to scare kids into going to church, show them this movie. This movie is the pinnacle to which all others hope to reach.

Tim's Top 5 Halloween Horror Movies

  1. Nosferatu - I first saw this 1922 vampire flick in a college History of Movies class. The image of Max Schreck's face and stance are enough to give you chills. I can't imagine what viewers thought when the movie was first shown at cinema's infancy. (A completely fictional, but still entertaining, story behind the movie can be seen in 2000's Shadow of the Vampire.)
  2. Poltergeist - This was my first real brush with horror as a kid. I remember watching this countless times when it was first shown on HBO -- on a TV set not much different from Carol Anne's.
  3. Halloween III: Season Of The Witch - The truth is, I've never really watched this movie. I feel like I have though. As a 11 or 12-year-old kid, my friends recounted the movie to me so graphically that it scared the bejesus out of me. It left me so scarred that there was no way I was going to watch it; I didn't need to. Looking back now, it all seems so hokey. A madman has inserted pieces of Stonehenge in Halloween masks which will be conjured via a TV commercial, crushing the mask's wearer? Maybe I should watch it now to see how ridiculous it really is. Or maybe I'll just keep my childhood memories intact.
  4. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - This is a strange little made-for-TV movie from 1973. It played on regular TV many times in the early '80s. I remember catching it one of those times. Even though I saw it on a leisurely weekend in the middle of the afternoon, it scared me terribly. I didn't know the title of the movie for many years. It was only while creating this list that I finally learned its name. Unfortunately it's not on DVD but you can find clips of it on YouTube.
  5. The Exorcist - Let me set the scene of when I first saw this movie. It was in college. Our dorm/fraternity house neighbored a monastery (actually it was a friary). The guys in the order were nice enough chaps. One of them was particularly outgoing and often visited to drink beer and hang out. We all decided to rent this movie one night. Our friar friend joined us and even brought over his actual book on how to perform Catholic exorcisms. During the movie, he pointed out which parts were "real" or not. It was like listening to commentary on a DVD from a real-life expert -- before there was such a thing. It was truly spooky, fun stuff.

The Funny Side of Halloween Favorites

We like to joke around. Apparently so too do our readers. We got a number of humorous responses to this topic. I tend to agree with each of these horrific choices.

Deliverance - What guy wouldn't throw this movie in there?
-- Eric, KS

Fox News - Don't let your children watch this alone. They won't sleep for weeks, and will probably be warped for life.
-- Carlton, GA

Yentl - I remember to this day as a child being subjected to Barbra Streisand singing "Papa Can You Hear Me."
-- Dave F.

High School Musical - Do I need to say more?
-- Brian, IL

Some Great Reader Responses

We really loved all the messages everyone sent on this topic. These are just some of the more inspired responses. That and none of these picks made it into the collective top 10 so we wanted to highlight them here.

My scariest movie was Fallen with Denzel Washington. Really makes you rethink who the devil is.
-- Cindy P.

The Body Snatcher (1945) - Atmosphere, fine script, wonderful performances, especially by Boris Karloff and Henry Daniell giving each other a run for their money. Actually, almost any chiller made by Val Lewton is great. And none of the ones he made for RKO were in color.
-- Eric, CA

The movie Nightwatch really gives me the creeps. Takes place in a dark morgue.
-- Gabrielle, NV

Wait Until Dark has a scene near the end that made me jump more than any other movie ever has. When Audrey Hepburn is trying to defend herself by breaking all the lights, the bad guy comes after her with a knife, and the light in the refrigerator shows him where she is. The lights go out just as he lunges for her, and you can't tell if he stabbed her or not until the lights come back on.
-- Pat W.

Penny Dreadful - one of the After Dark horror films that was actually scary.
-- Diana, NC

Session 9 - Old abandoned mental hospital. Is there a better setting for evil?
-- Matt C.

Copycat - Unlike most scary movies, this has a most realistic feel to it because it is the most plausible. It's about a serial killer who copies men such as the Boston and Hillside Stranglers, Dahmer, etc. When the killer is revealed, he is not what you would think.
-- Marc, TX

The Mist - I know it's highly unfavored and goes against all traditional horror movies but I have never left a movie feeling the way I did after seeing The Mist.
-- Timmy, NJ

So, are you ready to see the final Top 10 list pulled from everyone's votes?

Continue on to Part 2 of this article.