Every October, a glut of horror movies hits cinemas — some of them good, some of them bad and most of them sequels. Video stores display their horror selection prominently, and often the weeks before Halloween are marked by basic cable marathons of the “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchises.
However, most of the unsung classics of the horror genre go unnoticed. Here are a few of the hidden gems that should be required viewing every Halloween.
“The Evil Dead” (1981)
Sam Raimi’s directorial debut and the first of arguably the greatest trilogy in horror history, “The Evil Dead” is a low-budget gorefest about a group of college students going out to a cabin in the woods for a weekend, only to find their trip interrupted by a demonic presence.
The film is a creative landmark, making the most of its extremely limited budget (only $350,000) and managing to be legitimately creepy in a handful of scenes as well. The other two films in the series, “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness” are equally essential, as is Raimi’s “Drag Me To Hell.”
Directed by “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s” Tobe Hooper, “Poltergeist” is a simple haunted house story, as something begins to haunt the Freeling family and targets their daughter Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke).
The film packs a handful of iconic horror scenes (including a spine-tingling series of moments involving a possessed clown doll), and is one of the main reasons the PG-13 rating was invented. It’s a dryly funny, consistently creepy and refreshingly human story, endlessly rewatchable and an essential addition to any horror fan’s collection.
“28 Days Later” (2003)
Danny Boyle’s zombie film is regarded as one of the best ever, bringing about the newer, faster variety of zombies and reinvigorating the genre almost single-handedly.
Starring Cillian Murphy, the British post-apocalyptic tale tells the story of a small group of survivors trying to prevent being infected by the incurable Rage virus. Gritty, gory and entertaining, the film is a highlight of Boyle’s career and the zombie genre.
“Shaun of the Dead” (2004)
Edgar Wright’s British zombie spoof is a hilarious and memorable introduction to Wright’s collaborations with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who play friends caught in a zombie apocalypse. The film mixes comedy and horror flawlessly and works both as a zombie film and a parody of zombie films.
Wright’s writing and direction have never been better than here, and the film is consistently funny, satisfyingly gory and surprisingly effective in everything it attempts.
“Trick ‘r Treat” (2007)
After collecting dust for years on the shelves at Warner Bros., “Trick ‘r Treat” was unceremoniously dumped to DVD in 2009; a real shame, given that it’s an unapologetically fun and atmospheric Halloween tale. Telling a handful of intersecting stories, “Trick ‘r Treat” takes place in a small town where Halloween is close to a national holiday.
The film is a fun mixture of every Halloween urban legend — with a few new ones thrown in for good measure — making for a ballsy and fantastic anthology.