One of the best ways to spend Halloween is to watch scary movies and eat all the candies you gathered from trick or treating! Hopefully, this Halloween movie list has enough horror, slashing, and jump-scares to provide the perfect All Hallows’ Eve.
In case you haven’t noticed it yet, our movie lists are usually… eccentric. We don’t always go for the most popular or mainstream films. We tend to pick the ones that tell real stories, with folklore and mythological elements sprinkled in.
The reason behind this is that we believe mythology is still evolving. Movies, fiction, TV shows are merely vehicles of expression. Like a roaming bard, these rather modern inventions tell stories that contain the primordial archetypes and plotlines that Odyssey and Voluspa incorporated all those years ago.
But during Halloween specifically, I want to highlight how our folklore traditions have influenced, and are still influencing, our culture.
(Before you continue, you should check out the reviews of these five non-boring, extremely realistic, films to watch during Halloween to get a taste)
1. Sleepy Hollow
Imagine walking to your home. It’s midnight and it’s raining. Suddenly you hear a thunderous trotting coming from behind you. You turn your head and you see a dark figure riding a gigantic horse
To your surprise, you realize that the dark rider… is missing his head!
This is the myth of the Sleepy Hollow. Even though there are plenty of historical elements, it’s the dark legend of the headless horseman that has inspired many writers and directors to adapt the Gothic, supernatural story.
The latest iteration of the Sleepy Hollow is starring Johnny Depp. Set in a small village in New York it tells the story of two families that have committed crimes against God, but more importantly, crimes against their fellow man
The director, Tim Burton, has managed to create an eerie atmosphere that creates the perfect vibe for a dark and rainy Halloween night.
2. Midnight mass
Even though this TV show came out only a month ago it has accomplished things not many films were able to. Midnight Mass articulates major theological arguments within the context of a very enjoyable and intricate plot that will keep you at the edge of your seat.
I don’t want to spoil the plot but you should know that it contains vampires, faith, and a distinct disdain for dogmatic authority.
Set on an abandoned island that has been seemingly forgotten by God, we are exposed to the stories of a dwindling population.
The protagonist is someone who has sustained a moral injury, trauma, and a heavy blow to his faith in God.
Upon returning to his hometown, he finds out that a new priest has arrived ready to help him and the rest of the small town
But he hides a sinister secret. Something that will cause terror if it comes out.
This is the story of how twisted fate in the divine can cause so much pain to the naive and impressionable
The hubris we commit when we go against nature. The divine punishment we receive when we reject the gifts of God, the sacrifices we have to make to be holy and whole.
I tried to read the book two times during my childhood since I thought it was simply a children’s tale. But I missed the deeper truths
It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I managed to finish the masterpiece by Stephen King. It’s a psychological drama masquerading as a scary, Halloween story
I now realize that it spoke about childhood trauma and our alienation from our childhood experiences when we become adults.
There are two adaptations of “It”. The first one does a great job of maintaining the complexity and theoretical elements of King’s original manuscript
But the second adaptation did a great job of depicting the dramatic experiences these children went through, on screen.
The plot is straightforward: a gang of young kids comes across an evil spirit haunting their little Midwest town. Every few years “It” is woken up from its slumber, causing terror and mass hysteria.
After they go through many terrorizing events the kids leave town, only to return as adults and face their childhood fears once again.
People say that Stephen King tries to allegorize the rotting of America’s small towns.
Beyond that, it contains elements of cosmic horror borrowed by the one and only HP Lovecraft. Even though I do not want to spoil the ending, I must highlight that the main antagonist is a primordial evil that exists beyond our cosmos.
4. The Exorcist
This movie is a cultural phenomenon.
It removed all protective barriers – our faith in the divine – making us vulnerable to the forces of evil; possession is possible.
The most frightening thing about this film is the fact that a big portion of it is true!
Exorcists are indeed real. There are about a thousand priests in America trained to perform these rituals. And there are many documented cases, recognized by the Catholic Church, of individuals claiming to be possessed by demons. It’s part of Christian theology!
The iconic scene of the priest standing under the dim light of Regan’s house still gives me goosebumps because I know what’s coming.
Some people have characterized it as the “only scary film”, implying that the extreme realism in juxtaposition with the supernatural elements made for a disturbing viewing since you never had to suspend your belief.
In terms of cinematography, it set the bar for many films to come. From the plotline to the special effects.
5. Suspiria (1977)
Suspiria is a film deeply immersed in the modern mythology of the “Three Mothers”, witches that unleash evil from three different locations around the world.
Loosely inspired by the collection of poetic essays “Suspiria de Profun”, the film deals with themes of motherhood, loss, guilt, and sin.
When a talented ballerina enrolls in a prestigious dance school in Germany, she realizes that behind the facade hides a coven of witches.
Suspiria is the first movie out of three, with “Inferno” and “The Mother of Tears” following.
Even though it’s not the most easily digestible film to watch during Halloween, the dark narratives and psychological drama make it a worthwhile choice.
6. The Shining
Another gem by Stephen King, this time cosigned by the one and only Stanley Kubrick.
A cosy job for an aspiring writer becomes a psychological prison that pushes him and his family to the brink of madness.
Many of the common horror tropes we recognize today were first employed in this horror epic.
From empty dark corridors to little twin girls looking with evil eyes, you get to experience the emptiness of a grand hotel in the middle of nowhere, up in the mountains.
Of course, the most important element of the story is the revelation that the horror hiding in this haunted hotel is human nature and mental illness.
If you have a soft spot for black-and-white films then “Psycho” will certainly give you the chills, even after so many years
Hitchcock is a master director who was able to portray the true emotions of his characters without having to dilute them or make them silly in their reactions.
A psychological drama as much of a slasher horror film, it’s a gem of a Halloween movie.
You might be thinking that Psycho and the Shining have nothing to do with the supernatural. Well, maybe. But the reason I include it is because it has everything to do with the way mythology is formulated.
See, the way there’s an underline struggle between our superego and id, everpresent in the Hero’s journey. In the case of our antagonist, Norman Bates, it’s a subversive journey. From a social human being, normality, he becomes a monster revealing his shadow.
Franz Coppola was able to translate the epistolary novel of Bram Stoker on your screen.
A twisted love story, the return of the Prince of Transylvania and the revelation of his true nature.
Yes, he’s a vampire but he’s the FIRST vampire, the one that inspired so many movies and so many TV shows after that.
The very mythological stories and folklore traditions regarding vampires coalesced to inspire this novel masterpiece. Dracula is a modern mythopoeic saga that has influenced our culture like nothing else
If you want a true Halloween classic movie then Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the way to go.
9. The Crucible
Salem’s witch trials have shaped our perception of witchcraft and human error hundreds of years after the events.
A semibiographical movie, it does a great job of breaking down the way the events unfolded but one question remains: how would you react during that time?
A time where fear and superstition dominated our culture
In any case, in this blog post, we take a deep dive into the rituals and traditions that formed our idea of the archetype of the witch.
I think I want to highlight that some of these people were indeed practizing the traditions of the crooked path… but for different reasons than what you might imagine.
10. The Wolfman
We cannot end this list without including a movie about werewolves, perhaps the second most important supernatural creature in our folklore traditions.
A myth going back thousands of years. The word wolf represents a very specific psychological concept. that of Gerard’s scapegoat.
The Wolfman was able to depict this idea in the way the transformation occurs. The “antagonist” is perfectly conscious of his dark side and he locks himself up every full moon. He feels shame and anger for his condition.
The curse of the werewolf is an allegory for the judgment of society. You can spot this theme throughout the whole movie
Things that go bump in the night…
You will notice that the plot and narratives of these 10 horror films to watch during Halloween are couched in mythological stories and folklore traditions.
This is because they provide a safe way to experience the Otherworld and the psychological shadow which is the true monster of our psyche.
The things we truly fear, darkness, the unknown the things, the reason we close our windows during the night is that we don’t know what’s out there
Horror films represent this primordial, biological knee jerk response…
But for the last 100 years, we’ve been isolated from the horrors lurking in the darkness.
Celebrations like Halloween, disguising as monsters and other supernatural creatures, watching horror movies, etc are ways to ritualize and dramatize this psychological phenomenon.
George K has been immersed into the world of myths and dreams for a very long time now, attempting to find the numerous symbolisms and meanings attached to them. He is a prolific writer along with being an independent researcher. Contributing his knowledge and learnings to several magazines and blogs, he has the unique ability to simplify and explain even the most intricate subjects.