1) “Halloween” (1978)
Directed by John Carpenter and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, “Halloween” is the classic option for lovers of horror. It has all the right elements such as a creepy theme song, a masked murderer, a hot damsel in distress, nudity and a camera point-of-view that makes it feel like something is about to pounce at every turn. “Halloween" is so successful because it scares without showing too much and builds suspense through suggestion.
2) “The Conjuring” (2012)
Directed by James Wan, “The Conjuring” also successfully scares audiences without bloodshed or even death. The only being to die in the movie is the family’s dog. Not only is it perfectly horrific, but it also has an interesting plot, an authentic set and costumes, and believable actors. Based on a true story, I saw “The Conjuring” at a drive-in movie theater for the ultimate horror experience.
3) "Dracula" (1931)
Entranced by Tod Browning’s direction and Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic stare, this movie set the precedent for what we expect from vampires today. Lugosi is the original vampiric icon.
4) “Friday the 13th” (1980)
It is the quintessential twist with the surprise ending and it’s the gold standard when it comes to teenagers camping out, having a good time. It has it all: sex, violence, mystery and suspense. The story outline is a young Jason Voorhees, who drowned as a boy at Camp Crystal Lake due to the negligence of the camp staff. Decades later, the lake is rumored to be “cursed” and is the setting for the classic horror film, “Friday the 13th.”
5) “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
Directed by Tim Burton, this animated picture is perfect for audiences of all ages. Twice a year, I sit down to watch this childhood film for its underlying themes, juxtaposition through color and overall spooky vibe. Also, who doesn’t love Jack and Sally?
6) “The Exorcist” (1973)
This movie was one of the first to combine religion with horror and focus on possession. In addition to destroying pure innocence, the film used real priests and pea soup.
7) “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
This thriller brings psychotic to a whole new level. It appeals to fears surrounding taboo subjects such as cannibalism, cross-dressing and murder. The film features stunning performances from Jodi Foster and Anthony Hopkins.
8)“The Strangers” (2008)
What makes “The Strangers” stand out is the creative use of subtle imagery. Where other slasher films rely on graphic in-your-face violence and gore, “The Strangers” takes an alternate route. The killers haunt the background in the first part of the film, always staying just outside of the characters’ peripheral. The result is pervasive feeling creepiness and paranoia that gets better with each viewing. Perhaps the most chilling scene of the movie is one killer’s answer at the end of the film. “Why are you doing this to us,” a broken and sobbing character asks. “Because you were home,” the killer replies.
9) “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984)
Besides being the first film to snatch up a young Johnny Depp, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” is a good movie because the villain is inside the minds of the sleeping. The nightmare is real.
10) “The Shining” (1980)
This film is an exercise in what it is like to lose your mind because of isolation. If the term “red rum” means nothing to you, you should watch this right now. It’s guaranteed to get your heart going.
11) “Saw” (2004)
This movie is completely in your face. If you have a weak stomach, I do not recommend watching this. However, if you take delight in gruesome visuals, this is the movie for you. My favorite components of the movie are the facts that Jigsaw, the mastermind, hasn’t actually committed a crime and the tasks are designed to test people’s wills to live.
12) “The Descent” (2005)
Tight spaces in caves, unknown creatures, weak bonds of trust and no way out - how can they survive?
13) “Student Bodies” (1981)
If you are in the mood for something funny this Halloween, this is the perfect mix of satire, social comment and slapstick horror. At one point in the film, the murderer steps on gum as he ascends the stairs and says, “I’m gonna kill the kid with the gum.” Then, with an aresenal of weapons available, he chooses a paperclip.
Honorable Mentions: “Scream,” “Maniac,” “My Soul to Keep,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Halloweentown,” “It,” “Grave Encounters 2,” “Paranormal Activity” and “The Ring.”