Halloween Movies as Their Own Genre

Trick r' Treat 2007
Trick r' Treat 2007

To me Halloween is by far the best holiday, secular or otherwise. It’s one of the most culturally inclusive days of celebration that also encourages safe communities, creative expression, free candy, and serves as the inspiration for a trove of great spooky movies. Yet there is one part of Halloween, and Halloween movies, that always leaves me steaming and that is Halloween movie lists; or more appropriately the lack there of.

Halloween movie lists simply don’t exist, or at least are not as common as they should be. Watching a scary movie has always been a part of my Halloween tradition, usually saved until I can’t get fit any more candy into my bag, but when I’m choosing what I want to watch not any old horror film will satiate. Now, if I decided what movie to watch based on the lists of supposed “Halloween movies” I found online I might end up renting Monsters INC., Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, or The Shinning. I love all of these movies and all three have spooky elements at play but they are all unmistakably not for Halloween. So after my mounting frustration at the lack of anyone willing to discern exactly what makes a Halloween movie, I decided to do it myself.

First and foremost a Halloween movie should be spooky. And for a good movie to be spooky it needs to be atmospheric, all of the separate elements of the film should work together towards a climactic scene where all of the terrors teased at come to fruition. Along with a spooky atmosphere a good Halloween movie should also include an ambivalent air towards the supernatural or scary.  So much of Halloween is differentiating between what is real and what‘s fake, everything is covered up and unnatural. This should be reflected in the escalating fear of the main protagonist. Just think of the character Laurie from Halloween the whole beginning of the film she deals with frightening images that she essentially shakes off until they manifest themselves as a masked murderer. Another element that makes a good Halloween movie is the ticking clock. Since Halloween only happens one night a year, it’s fun to watch movies that work within the same type of time frame. This usually manifests itself as an anniversary of a tragic event, or a time specific curse. The ticking clock works especially well for Halloween movies because as with any holiday we become more conscious of time with how much we plan for it and then also dread the end of it and return to our normal routine.

There are many more traits that specify Halloween movies from other horror films and there is even an entire set of tropes that go along with Halloween specials of television programs. Halloween entertainment is just such a specific and well defined subgenre that it always irritates me when Halloween comes around no one gives the subgenre credence. So with that said here is my own list of five films that are pitch perfect for any Halloween celebration:

1. Halloween (1978)

2. The Monster Squad (1987)

3. Hocus Pocus (1993)

4. Demons (1985)

5. House on Haunted Hill (1959)  

6. Trick r’ Treat (2007)

7. Silver Bullet (1985)

8. Frankenweenie (1984)

9. The Monster Club (1981)

10. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

So what are your opinions? Do you think there are differences between Halloween movies and horror movies? What kind of scary movies do watch around Halloween? Please leave some comments below so that we can continue our discussion of free candy, Vincent Price, and why I never trust seventeen magazine.

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