With Halloween just around the corner, cable channels are pumping out their annual Halloween themed programming. However, for us die-hard horror fans, programming such as AMC’s Fear Fest has turned into a snooze fest with repeated marathons of well-known classics year after year. We’ve already seen every Halloween, Friday the 13th, or Nightmare on Elm Street film countless times by now. Even recent Halloween classics like Trick ‘r Treat or Tales of Halloween seem too obvious. For those looking to add some underrated or long forgotten Halloween set horror into October’s requisite horror viewing lists, we recommend the following:
Night of the Demons (1988)
Kicking off the list with possibly the most obvious choice, most horror fanatics are well aware of Hull House and its doomed Halloween parties. For those who aren’t, Night of the Demons is the perfect Halloween set horror film. Set during Halloween night, a group of rag tag party goers decide to throw a party at an abandoned mortuary. A séance unleashes the mortuary’s demons, and one by one the party guests fall prey to the possessed. While ‘80s horror scream queen Linnea Quigley is a scene stealer, it’s Amelia Kinkade’s party host Angela that becomes the center piece for the entire franchise. The truth is, any one of the Night of the Demons films would be a good pick for October.
WNUF Halloween Special (2013)
This is one clever horror comedy that plays like a recorded VHS broadcast of a Halloween special that aired on October 31, 1987. Not only does the film have that vintage, grainy VHS aesthetic, but the special is punctuated by ‘80s themed commercial breaks. As for the Halloween special itself, it features the local news doing a special live report from the Webber House, a site of ghastly murders. As local reporter Frank Stewart leads the exploration of the house live during the news broadcast, his rag tag group of paranormal investigators and Catholic exorcists might find more than they can handle within. Fans of nostalgia will love this; filmmakers Chris LaMartina and Jimmy George took painstaking measures to capture both the time period and the Halloween spirit.
Hell Night (1981)
Fun Fact: Linda Blair’s performance in the lead role earned her a well-deserved Razzie nomination. She’s terrible, but if you can overlook her overacting then you have a fun holiday themed slasher on your hands. After partying away at a college Halloween party, four college pledges are forced to spend the night locked in an old mansion. Yet, the mansion isn’t as deserted as it appears as they’re stalked by the monstrous survivor of a massacre years earlier. Halloween costumes, Halloween pranks, a perfectly gothic castle setting, and a unique twist (at least at the time) to the typical slasher formula makes for a worthy viewing. You know, if you can just eye-roll your way past Blair’s performance.
Satan’s Little Helper (2004)
A little boy obsessed with Satan due to his video game becomes an unwitting pawn to a serial killer who just so happens to be dressed as Satan on this Halloween set horror comedy. While the kid is often annoying to the point of grating, everything else about director Jeff Lieberman’s film is a total blast. Watching the kid and the serial killer that the kid believes to be his video game hero in the flesh terrorize and murder their way across their small town over Halloween night is both brutal and hilarious. Bonus: Katheryn Winnick in an earlier role before striking it big with her badass take on shield maiden Lagertha in History Channel’s Vikings.
The Midnight Hour (1985)
The most suitable film on this list for the younger crowd, this Halloween set made-for-television movie aired on ABC, which means it’s more comedy and not so much horror. Five high school friends unintentionally raise the dead on Halloween night, and their small town of Pitchford Cove becomes overrun with the living dead. Oh, and there’s also vampires. This Halloween special has developed a cult following over the years and has even been spoofed by The Simpsons in their annual Treehouse of Terror. This would make a perfect pairing with another childhood Halloween classic- Hocus Pocus.
Murder Party (2007)
Before Jeremy Saulnier taught his master class on tension with films Blue Ruin and Green Room, he stretched his darkly comedic legs with this Halloween set horror comedy. Poor social reject Chris finds a mysterious Halloween party invitation on a sidewalk and decides to craft a goofy costume and attend. What he doesn’t know is that it leads him straight into the den of partygoers intending to murder him for the sake of their art. What ensues is a hilarious bloodbath full of mayhem, outrageous antics, and violence. An underrated gem that not only showcases Saulnier’s talent on the rise, but also makes for a punk rock ode to our beloved holiday.
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)
A bit more thriller than typical outright horror, but still a worthy entry on this list. Set on Halloween, Rynn (Jodie Foster) is celebrating her 13th birthday alone in her father’s house. Creepy adult Frank (Martin Sheen) drops by to make some unwanted sexual advances. What follows is a very unsettling cat and mouse game between a young girl with secrets and the big bad pedophile that wants her at any cost. One creepy psychological thriller set during Halloween, this is one holiday film unlike nearly every other.
Idle Hands (1999)
This Halloween set horror comedy perfectly encapsulates teen horror in the ‘90s, and yet it was often overlooked in favor of more popular fare like the Scream series, The Sixth Sense, or The Blair Witch Project. This spiritual descendent of Evil Dead II features a teen pothead whose right hand becomes possessed by the devil. The teen’s hand goes on a murder spree in the most comical, slapstick fashion. It’s a charming, often goofy Halloween comedy that embraces its deadpan humor, homage to the possession sub-genre, and its Halloween setting.
Cemetery of Terror (1985)
Likely the most obscure on this list, this Halloween set ‘80s horror pretty much contains the kitchen sink. Horrible ‘80s synth pop? Check. A bunch of teens partying in an abandoned house? Check. An escaped mental patient with murderous intent on the loose? Double check. Zombies? Check. A Dr. Samuel Loomis type? Check. This gory slasher/zombie film mashup has it all, in this Spanish language, low budget horror trash (and I mean that lovingly). Writer/Director Ruben Galindo Jr. wears his influences on his sleeve, as this film is one huge, often nonsensical low budget love letter to Halloween, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and vintage horror.
Trick or Treat (1986)
Aside from the obvious holiday nod in the title alone, it takes a while for this heavy metal horror film to circle back around to our favorite holiday. Devil worshipping rockstar Sammi Curr died and desperately wants to come back to life. He intends to do so by possessed the radio waves, and it’s up to high school outcast Eddie Weinbauer to stop him. The final showdown between Sammi and Eddie occurs at the high school’s Halloween party. Though the Halloween elements aren’t as prominent as the rest of the films on this list, it’s still vital to the plot. Plus, it has fun cameos by Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne.
What’s your Halloween viewing lists?
About the Author
Meagan Navarro is a blogger from Houston, TX. She fell in love with monsters at age four after being exposed to them via Ghostbusters, and her passion grew into an obsession for all things horror and Halloween (which is the entire month of October, as far as she’s concerned). Meagan also loves traveling and chocolate. Follow me on twitter: @HauntedMeg