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The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

What should you watch on your Halloween movie night

No matter what type of movies you like, here are some movie recommendations for spooky season.
Sofia El-Shammaa
A graphic depicting different ghosts hanging out at a drive-in (Hustler Multimedia/Sofia El-Shammaa)

Every October, I try to watch 31 horror movies in 31 days (no, I’m not pre-med, how could you tell?). Horror is one of my favorite genres, but I’ve seen a wide variety of Halloween movies to suit your taste, even if you hate horror movies. That’s why I made this list, containing films from various subgenres, from body horror to monster movies.

Not scary, just vibes: “ParaNorman” or “My Boyfriend’s Back”

“ParaNorman” is a stop-motion comedy children’s horror by Laika, the same studio that made “Coraline.” It’s in the same vein of kinder-horror, but with fewer children being traumatized after seeing it. It’s a horror comedy about a ragtag group of kids trying to save their New England town from a witch’s curse. It’s cute, it’s fun and it has immaculate autumnal vibes. 

“My Boyfriend’s Back” is another horror comedy, but I recommend it with an asterisk — the dry humor is the centerpiece, so if that doesn’t sound appealing, maybe stick to “ParaNorman.” It’s about a boy who comes back to life in order to take a girl to prom but must eat the flesh of the living to stop decaying. It’s very goofy, and if you like deadpan humor, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Other films to try in this category are “Coraline,” “Kiki’s Delivery Service” and “Frankenweenie.”

Supernatural: “Carrie” (1976) or “Possession” (1981)

“Carrie” is a classic. A teenage girl is bullied but soon gets revenge when she discovers her telekinetic powers. Sissy Spacek, who plays the eponymous Carrie White, portrays Carrie with such nuance and emotion that she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. For coming up on 50 years old, it really holds up. 

“Possession” is a French and German film about a woman, Anna (Isabelle Adjani), who divorces her husband, Mark (Sam Neill). Anna slowly acts more and more concerning and erratic, and Mark is determined to find out what is really going on with her. Unless you speak French, you will need to pay attention, both because of the subtitles and the complexity of the film. You are left wondering what was “really” done by Mark and Anna. There are so many scenes that are intense and disconcerting (my favorite being the subway scene, where Adjani makes a seizure seem like a group experience). It is a great film if you want to feel confused and scared.

Other films to try in this category are “The Shining,” “Poltergeist” and “Ju-On: The Grudge.”

Psychological horror/thriller: “The Silence of the Lambs” or “The Stepford Wives” (1975)

In psychological horror and thriller films, the mental states of the characters are used to create horror. A lot of supernatural films (including “Possession”) overlap with psychological horror. “The Silence of the Lambs” is one of the most critically acclaimed horror films. It’s only one of three films that won the “big five” Oscars (Best Actor/Actress, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay/Adapted Screenplay). While critical success is not an indicator of quality, especially when horror films are typically overlooked by critics, it does speak to the cultural touchstone of “Silence.” The film follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) as she hunts serial killer “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine) with help from psychologist and cannibal Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). I think the most thrilling parts take place in Buffalo Bill’s lair. 

“The Stepford Wives” is a very different type of horror. Violence is very much at the forefront of “Silence,” but “Stepford” barely has any blood. It is similar to “Get Out” (“Stepford” was cited to be inspire “Get Out” by director Jordan Peele) and is very much a slow burn, even compared to “Get Out.” If you need immediate horror, kills and/or graphic violence, this film isn’t for you. In my opinion, “The Stepford Wives” is one of the only decent feminist films directed by a man. It doesn’t mansplain feminism, and it really taps into the horror of the dehumanization and objectification women face. While we live in an age with much better, more intersectional, more nuanced feminist art, I think “The Stepford Wives” is great for what it is: a commentary on women’s identity in suburbia. The plot and acting are fantastic, but everything down to the costume design is well thought-out and intentional. However, be warned, do not mistake this for the 2004 remake (which is a hollow rehashing).

Other films to try in this category are “Get Out,” “The Stepfather” and “Midsommar.”

Classic Slashers: “Friday the 13th Part 2” or “The Slumber Party Massacre”

I could recommend a million slashers from 1978-1989, but I’ve limited myself to two that I think have wide appeal. “Friday the 13th” is my favorite slasher franchise, and while the critics may disagree, they’re wrong. It’s iconic. I doubt I need to explain this movie, but it is about a camp counselor training center built on Camp Crystal Lake, where a massacre occurred five years ago. As counselors disappear, those who remain must figure out how to survive and who is the killer.

 “The Slumber Party Massacre” is perfect for fans of slasher films. Originally made as a parody of slasher films, it took a slightly more serious turn, but the parody still shines through. It’s also one of the only golden-age slasher films written and directed by a woman.

Other films to try in this category are “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Black Christmas” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

Monster movies: “Train to Busan” or “Ginger Snaps”

Universal Classic Monsters movies (think “Frankenstein” (1931) or “Dracula” (1931)) were some of the first widely seen and influential horror films. The genre has grown and evolved, but it’s still a staple. “Train to Busan” is a Korean zombie film. It’s incredibly claustrophobic and uses action incredibly well. 

“Ginger Snaps” is about sisters whose bond is tested when one starts to exhibit some odd behavior after getting her first period. The film balances dark humor with horror, and I think there’s a healthy amount of camp. It’s certainly less scary than “Train to Busan,” but if you’re looking for a lighter fare, it’s perfect.

Other films to try in this category are “The Evil Dead,” “Night of the Creeps” and “The Lost Boys.”

Bad but camp: “Jason X” or “Slaughter High”

“Jason X” is insane. It’s the 10th installment of the Friday the 13th franchise, but I would argue that it’s even better if you have not seen any of the other films in the franchise. Jason Voorhees has been cryogenically frozen and is defrosted in space, and chaos ensues. It refuses to take itself seriously. 

“Slaughter High” earned a spot on this list purely because of its atrociously amazing theme song. It’s gory, it’s trashy and it’s full of British actors with horrible American accents.

Other films to try in this category are “Santa Jaws,” “Piranha” and “Killer Klowns from Outer Space.”

Body horror: “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)” or “Society” (1989)

Body horror has plenty of subgenres, from ones that focus on mutation and metamorphosis to those that focus on obscene gore. No matter the subgenre, I know that I’ve found a great body horror if after watching the movie I want to puke. Both “The Human Centipede” and “Society” accomplish this feat. “The Human Centipede” tells the fictitious story of a German doctor who wants to create a human centipede. You can find out how in the movie, but it’s obviously not pleasant.

“Society” is an older film from 1989, with effects by Screaming Mad George (responsible for SFX on “Predator” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4”). All of the effects are practical, which is admirable. “Society” is wonderfully grotesque and a great critique of capitalism.

Other films to try in this category are “The Fly,” “Raw” and “Tusk.”

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About the Contributor
Sofia El-Shammaa
Sofia El-Shammaa, Staff Writer and Photographer, Data and Graphics Staffer
Sofia El-Shammaa (‘27) is majoring in political science and communication studies in the College of Arts and Science. When they’re not writing or making graphics, you can find them with their cat, Mochi, watching bad movies or reading good books. You can reach them at [email protected].
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