Halloween Horror Film Festival

The Schleicher Spin now proudly presents:

A Guide to a Great Halloween Horror Film Festival

Step OneSet the mood with the classics.

…and we go walking…after midnight…out in the moonlight…
  • Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932) — Though religious persecution was a dominant theme in Dreyer’s canon, this moody piece of work was his one attempt at pure horror.  This plays like a filmed night-terror and contains so many dreamy, spooky, and downright bizarre images that you’re left with but one choice: surrender to the Dane’s macabre vision.  The corpse’s-eye-view of a funeral procession is a special delight that has yet to be matched in nearly 80 years of cinema.
  • Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932) — While it’s easy for some to dismiss this as a literal circus sideshow, Browning’s still controversial masterpiece is a haunting portrayal of the horrors of Group Think.  When our anti-heroine receives her final comeuppance in the scene with the deformed and unfortunate beings crawling through the mud in the rain under railroad cars wielding knives and revenge, it makes for one of the most chilling climaxes in film history.
  • Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) — Boris Karloff’s lumbering monster has become memorialized and overused to the point of mockery, but there’s still something both horrific and sympathetic about his portrayal.  The infamous “drowning scene” still packs a wallop…especially with the emotional follow-up of the father carrying the little girl’s body through the village streets.  After all these years…this film is still ALIVE!   IT’S ALIIIIIIIIVE!

Step TwoSettle in with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, get cozy and watch a classic ghost story.

  • The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961) — Deborah Kerr’s performance and Freddie Francis’ cinematography make this a near perfect adaptation of Henry James’ potboiler “The Turn of the Screw”.
  • If you care to watch something more modern, the recent spins on the same psychological horror, 2001’s The Others (anchored by Nicole Kidman) or 2007’s The Orphanage (anchored by Belen Rueda) would also fit the bill quite nicely.

Step ThreeBreak out the popcorn and have a hell-of-a-time with these creepy “fun-scary” hits.

  • Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978) — Really?  Did you think this wouldn’t be on the list?  For the love of all that is holy, please make sure you watch the Carpenter original and not Rob Zombie’s ridiculous Hillybilly-deluxe retread.
  • Fright Night (Tom Holland, 1985) — This Rear Window-inspired tongue-in-cheek vampire romp is one of my all time favorites from childhood.  Comes complete with a kick-ass totally ’80’s theme song and awesomely grotty make-up effects.
  • Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009) — Gypsy curses, nasty demons, mortgage re-financing, cheesy effects, a smoking-hot Alison Lohman and a talking goat made this the most fun I have had at the movies in years.  Raimi pulls out all the stops and all the eyeballs and drains all the embalming fluid along the way.  Enjoy.

Step FourGet artsy.

...another beautiful day at the beach
…another beautiful day at the beach
  • Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979) — Okay, so F. W. Murnau’s 1922 original is iconic and undoubtedly one of the most celebrated classics of silent film and German Expressionism.  But Herzog’s brilliant update compliments, enhances and celebrates the original while creating its own ghastly imagery.  This is that rare case where the remake might be better than the source.  Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani are like tortured images from gothic paintings and etchings come to life to become undead.  More of a meditation on vampire iconography in film and the mythology that haunts our minds, from the skull-and-bones opening credits to the Wagner-themed journey to the Count’s castle to the dire closing shot of the sand blowing over the beach, this is the most artistic horror film ever made.

FinallyWatch the greatest horror film ever made.

What film combines the iconic imagery, the psychological horror, the ghosts, the classic performances, the genuine scares and the artistry?

  • The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) — Kubrick’s eerily symbolic and painstakingly detailed re-working of Stephen King’s hack-novel is a masterstroke of filmmaking hubris.  Here’s that rare instance where the film adaptation is better…way better…than the book.  In fact, I would argue it exists in a whole different universe.  The music…the maze…the pacing…the blood…the elevators…and those hallways are the stuff of nightmares.  All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.  And anyone who puts together a Halloween Horror Film Festival without The Shining should be axed.
Danny, won’t you come play with us…forever?

Written by David H. Schleicher


Check out the great thread on Kubrick’s masterpiece, The Shining, over at Wonders in the Dark.

For a comparison of The Innocents with its source material, “The Turn of the Screw”, read my previous article, Turning the Screws.

Here’s my original review of The Orphanage.

And check out my raving about Drag Me to Hell.

So what’s your favorite horror film?  What movie scared you the most?  What would you include in your own Halloween Horror Film Festival?  Speak your mind in the comment box.



  1. Hi! David,
    This post is wayyyy to hilarious…Thanks, for sharing!
    Well, here goes the list…I really like the captions underneath your photographs too.

    1.Hitchcock’s Psycho,(1960) but of course!
    2. Halloween, but of course…I usual don’t like horror films, but I liked this one because the victim (actress Jamie Lee Curtis) fought the “terror that be which = Mike Myer back…instead of just standing there screaming and then murdered!
    3.The Shining
    4.The Wolfman
    6.The Son of Frankenstein (1939)

    7.Campy fun…Bud Abbott and Lou Costello meet Frankenstein
    A couple of director Tim Burton’s films…
    8.Sleepy Hollow
    9.The Corpse Bride
    10.The Nightmare Before Christmas
    11.Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree
    12.The House of Wax(The original version, but of course)
    Films That I Plan To Watch…
    13.The Innocent(1961)
    14.Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932)
    15.Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979)
    16.(F. W. Murnau’s
    Nosferatu 1922)

    Honorable Mentions:
    1.Psycho and Hitchcock’s The Lodger…
    2.The Lodger (1944)
    3.The Undying Monster
    4.Hangover Square
    5.Son of Frankenstein
    6.Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
    7.Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree (animated)
    8. Sleepy Hollow
    9. The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad (animated)
    10.The Ghost of Frankenstein
    11.The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb
    12. Lewton’s Cat People
    13.The Spiral Staircase (This is a really scary film the first time you watch it!)
    14.The Raven
    15.The Tower of London
    16.The Univited
    17.Lewton’s Curse of the Cat People

    DeeDee 😉

    DeeDee — you can’t go wrong with any of the original Universal monster flicks (The Wolfman, Dracula)…and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a riot! –DHS

  2. Awesome post, Dave. Every year around this time I make it a point to watch the following:

    The “Evil Dead” Trilogy
    The Exorcist
    The Crow
    The Nightmare Before Christmas
    and, even though it’s not a movie, to me, it’s not Halloween if I haven’t watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

    Two movies that I watched this year and may make part of my yearly tradition: Corpse Bride and Cloverfield. Another recent addition to the tradition was Shaun of the Dead. As you can tell, combine this with the Phils and my Octobers are getting full.

    Finally, I know it’s rather hokey to say 10 years later, but back in 1999, The Blair Witch Project genuninely creeped me out, especially the last 15 minutes. I had to walk the entire length of the Franklin Mills Mall in order to cool myself off. I still pop BWP in every now and then, but I have to be in the mood for it.

    Chris, I think watching It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year goes without saying. –DHS

  3. No matter what I watch Carpenter’s Halloween every year, I don’t think any other movie has ever mastered the art of simplicity quite like that one.

    A few others that I usually recommend to people to add a little bit of flavor to their Halloween festivities are,

    The Fly (1986) – There aren’t that many horror films where the focus is on the love story, but this is one of them and it is handled wonderfully.

    The Last House On The Left (2009) – Sure, it goes on for 30 seconds too long and it is unsettling, but its unsettling nature is what makes it such a great horror film. It’s also a great film to show how violence can be effectively used in a horror context in the modern age without devolving into torture porn.

    Ôdishon (Audition, 1999) – Very similar to The Shining in the way it uses mood as opposed to actual violence or standard horror elements to set up its horror. Another one that will probably be unsettling for most, but a masterpiece nonetheless.

    Love your list though, outside of a couple I’ve seen and enjoyed all of them.

    Bill – you are spot on about Audition. I saw it once and don’t think I could ever sit through it again…but I mean that in a good way and as a compliment to the director…very unnerving. –DHS

  4. Great List! Sharing some of your favorites such as the fun-scary movie “Fright Night” and Nicole Kidman’s ghost story “The Others”. But one of my favorite scary movies (a definate lights on at bedtime)every time I watch it, is the 1983 “Something Wicked This Way Comes” based on Ray Bradbury’s modern Gothic masterpiece of the same name. Ray Bradbury wrote the screenplay and Jack Clayton directed this eery tale about a “dark carnival” that arrives in a small Midwestern town one Autumn night. Jonathan Pryce is Mr. Dark, the carnival’s demonic proprietor, and one of the scariest characters you will ever encounter on screen. He’s after the souls of the townsfolk and it’s up to the town’s meek Librarian (Jason Robards) and two 13 year old boys to save their families and friends. Make it this year’s Halloween movie (and turn out the lights) and you won’t be disappointed!

    I hadn’t realized Jack Clayton directed that, too (in addition to The Innocents)…he was quite good with this type of film. –DHS

  5. What a list! I was also going to add “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” I’ve never seen “The Shining.” I loved, loved, loved Dreyer’s “Vampyr.”
    I’ve not seen Herzog’s “Nosferatu” but I remember it caused quite a stir when he was making it. Actually, I think it would cause quite a stir if Herzog ever made a movie that didn’t cause a stir when he was making it! (smile)

    My all-time scariest movie, the one that I simply cannot watch again because it scares the bejeezus out of me, is “Don’t Look Now,” directed by Nicholas Roeg and starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. For MONTHS after I first saw it, red hooded slickers made me panic. Venice is such a creepy city at night — I’ve been lost there at night — and Roeg captured the atmosphere perfectly, using it to ratchet up the suspense.

    I’d add “Jaws” to the list — nothing like some monster lurking in the depths of the ocean…. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I could watch Hitchcock’s “Psycho” again. I saw the god-awful remake with Vince Vaughn — not scary at all. But the master, the master….booooaaaaaah!


    Cinda, wait! You’ve never seen THE SHINING? WOW! You must! You are so right about Herzog…I think his NOSFERATU is my favorite film of his by far. And don’t even get me started about Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO remake! UGH! Hitch surely rolled over in his grave. As for DON’T LOOK NOW, I am ashamed to say I am not a fan. I just didn’t “get it” and I usually love films like that. –DHS

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