Movies for this Halloween: Shrieks, slow burns, or schlock


Hannah Rosman

Students huddle around a computer screen to get their horror fix before Halloween. Teenagers have long been a key demographic of horror movie watchers.

As Halloween draws near, it is time to get in the mood with some tricks and treats in the form of classic horror movies. Horror is a very versatile genre, encompassing everything from ridiculous horror comedies to bloody slashers to chilling psychological thrillers.So, whether you are a horror buff or someone who was too scared to finish “Jaws”, here are 13 of the best scary movies from all across the genre to try out or revisit this Halloween season. It includes everything from jump scares that will make you shriek to slow burns that will have you on the edge of your seat to schlocky campfests that will make you die of laughter.


“Psycho” (1960)

Summary: This Alfred Hitchcock directed classic begins following young secretary Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) who is on the run after stealing $40,000 from her employer. While on her way to meet her boyfriend in California, she stays the night at the Bates Motel. The film then shifts focus to her encounter with the manager of the motel, Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) and his odd relationship with his mother. The film ends with a twist, and was one of the first films to shock its audience that way.

Summation: Shriek with a twist


“A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)

Summary: The first film in a now expansive franchise, this movie follows a group of friends led by Nancy (played by Heather Langenkamp) and her boyfriend Glen (played by Johnny Depp) who are being systematically murdered by Freddie Krueger (played by Robert Englund). Krueger was a child murderer who escaped with no prison time on a technicality, but was in turn burned to death by an angry mob of parents upon his release. He now hunts this group of teens through their dreams, but if he kills them in this dream world, they end up dead in real life too.

Summation: Shrieked to death


“The Shining” (1980)

Summary: This stylish take on the much loved Stephen King book was directed by auteur director Stanley Kubrick. It is about Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic, who accepts a position as the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel. The previous winter caretaker went crazy and killed his family and himself. Jack brings his wife and son to live with him at the hotel, and his son starts to show signs of possessing psychic abilities that the hotel’s cook, who also has these abilities, says are called “the shining”. When a storm leaves the family snowbound, Jack’s sanity quickly deteriorates, leading to Jack Nicholson’s unforgettable delivery of the line, “Here’s Johnny!”

Summation: Shrieking classic


“Halloween” (1978)

Summary: Considered to be one of the first “slasher films”, this movie has all the classic horror tropes. Classic good girl Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) is stalked by Michael Myers (played by Nick Castle), a psychopath who inexplicably stabbed his older sister to death 15 years earlier. He was subsequently hospitalized at a sanitarium, but he steals his therapist’s car and escapes the night before Halloween in 1978. On Halloween, Laurie and her friends are babysitting as they are each individually murdered by Michael. While her friends are promiscuous and behave badly, Laurie is responsible and takes care of the children she is being paid to watch over. Meanwhile, Michael’s therapist is hunting him down, and finds him right as he is about to kill Laurie.

Summation: Shrieking teenage girls


“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

Summary: In this critically-acclaimed thriller, Clarice Starling (played by Jodie Foster), a young FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, to apprehend another serial killer who skins his female victims’ corpses. Although Hannibal does end up helping Clarice find the killer, he also kills his guards by eating one of their faces and beating the other to death with a baton and escapes. At the end of the movie, he calls Clarice and leaves their relationship on an ambiguous, but creepy note.

Summation: Shrieking slow burn


“The Babadook” (2014)

Summary: An Australian import, this film is not as innocent as it might seem at first. Starting off as a domestic drama, the film follows Amelia (played by Essie Davis), an exhausted widow who has brought up her six-year-old son Sam alone after her husband’s death on the day she gave birth to her son. One night, Sam asks Amelia to read him a book called “Mister Babadook”, which is a terrifying book about a monster, which Sam comes to believe is real. Sam starts to build weapons to protect them against the Babadook and gets kicked out of school for using them. It quickly becomes clear, though, that Amelia is the one who the Babadook is really after. She believes she is being stalked by the monster, but no one believes her. Her mental decline culminates in several disturbing and murderous hallucinations.

Summation: Slowest of burns


“Se7en” (1995)

Summary: This film starts out like a police drama, but soon descends into horror as a killer known as John Doe (played by Kevin Spacey) torments David Mills (played by Brad Pitt), the hot headed young cop who is trying to track him down with his partner William Somerset (Morgan Freeman). The pair of detectives are called to the scenes of murders, each which represent one of the Seven Deadly Sins, until David is too involved in the case and ends up becoming piece of John Doe’s evil plan.

Summation: What’s in the slow burning box?!


“American Psycho” (2000)

Summary: Wealthy New York investment banker Patrick Bateman (played by Christian Bale) spends all of his time keeping up appearances for his circle of wealthy and shallow associates, whom he generally despises. Obsessed with order and cleanliness, Patrick seems like your average obsessive-compulsive sociopathic businessman, but in truth he leads a double life raping, mutilating and murdering prostitutes for fun. Throughout the film, Patrick’s homicidal tendencies worsen and he kills one of his colleagues and several random people in public, but despite a full confession to his lawyer, no one believes that he has killed anyone and there is no evidence of the murders either, showing how rich, white men can literally get away with murder.

Summation: Slow burn bloodbath


“Shutter Island” (2010)

Summary: U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel to the Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island. They are there to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, who was incarcerated for drowning her three children. As they interview the other patients and doctors at the hospital, Teddy becomes convinced that there is some conspiracy afoot at the hospital and that he is the only one who can stop it. Then, the climactic twist flips everything that comes before it on its head, making for a truly shocking viewing experience.

Summation: Slowly burns your face off


“The Witches of Eastwick” (1987)

Summary: In this silly take on the supernatural, three dissatisfied and lonely women (played by Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Susan Sarandon) unwittingly form a coven when they share fantasies about their ideal man. Then suddenly, a mysterious man named Daryl Van Horne (played by Jack Nicholson) appears in their small town. He individually seduces each woman and reveals her magical powers to her. He then convinces the trio to begin a magic-infused four-way affair with him. The women become social outcasts and Daryl becomes increasingly malicious and controlling, leading to the climactic scene where the women team up using their feminine wiles to destroy Daryl. This is a fiercely feminist film that every woman should see. Be warned: it may cause you to swear off eating cherries forever.

Summation: Schlock with a cherry on top


“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)

Summary: Based on the stage production of the same name, this musical science-fiction horror-comedy film is considered a cult classic. It tells the absurd tale of a young engaged couple whose car breaks down and go to a nearby castle to call for help. In the castle they meet a colorful stranger, Dr. Frank N. Furter (played by Tim Curry), an apparent mad scientist who is actually an alien transvestite and has created a man in his laboratory. The couple is separated and they are both seduced separately by Dr. Frank N. Furter as insanity ensues. If you like to sing along to your death and destruction, this is the film for you.

Summation: King of all schlock


“The Cabin in the Woods” (2011)

Summary: This horror comedy, which the writers described as an attempt to revitalize the slasher film genre and as a critical satire on torture porn, follows a group of five college students who go on vacation to a remote forest cabin. There they fall victim to backwoods zombies and technicians who manipulate events from an underground facility, in what turns out to be an annual ritual sacrifice to appease a group of giant evil gods. If you love a good blood dump, but are also looking for a good laugh, this is the movie for you.

Summation: Schlock-a-palooza


“Death Becomes Her” (1992)

Summary: The story centers on two former friends Madeline Ashton (played by Meryl Streep) and Helen Sharp (played by Goldie Hawn) and their fight to the death over Madeline’s husband and Helen’s former fiance, Dr. Ernest Menville (played by Bruce Willis). Both women essentially make a deal with the devil to gain eternal life and an everlasting youthful appearance. They then kill each other out of jealousy and despite the potion, they start to literally fall apart at the seams. This ridiculous romp will have you gasping and laughing all at the same time.

Summation: Schlock that’s looking hot


Honorable Mentions for Shrieks

“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

“Carrie” (1976)

“You’re Next” (2011)

“Saw” (2004)

“The Ring” (2002)

“The Exorcist” (1973)

“It Follows” (2014)


Honorable Mentions for Slow Burns

“Black Swan” (2010)

“Get Out” (2017)

“Memento” (2000)

“Primal Fear” (1996)

“Mulholland Drive” (2001)

“The Machinist” (2004)

“Fight Club” (1999)


Honorable Mentions for Schlock

“Jaws” (1975)

“Scream” (1996)

“Zombieland” (2009)

“What We Do in the Shadows” (2014)

“Misery” (1990)

“Beetlejuice” (1988)

“Shaun of the Dead” (2004)