Quite possibly my favorite holiday, Halloween is spooky and creepy and filled with things that go bump in the night. It’s the perfect time for telling (or writing) ghost stories, for taking long walks at dusk, for burning candles when the sun goes down, and for watching movies that make you a tiny bit afraid to get up and go to bed at the end of the evening. When I was a teenager, there was a plethora of scary-but-not-super-scary movies, many of them featuring Vincent Price—an actor I fell in love with.
So, to help you get in the mood, here are my top Halloween movie picks:
1. LOST BOYS: A quiet Southern California town is plagued by vampires and brothers, Mike and Sam, must find a way to save their family. This movie combines all the teen angst found in moving to a new town, falling in love for the first time, trying to fit in with a wild crowd and, oh, yeah, trying to NOT turn into a vampire, even though you’ve already sipped vampire blood. Oops.
2. VAN HELSING: Hugh Jackman plays Van Helsing, a man with a secret so dark and deep that even doesn’t know what it is. His mission: to get rid of the evil creatures that have been tormenting and killing people around the world. Great fun, great monsters and great romance with Kate Beckingsale.
3. IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN: Okay, it’s a classic and we all need to watch something heart-warming from time to time. This cartoon brings back the spooky scariness found in being a childhood outcast, something most of us can relate to.
4. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH: Starring my favorite horror flick actor, Vincent Price, involves a scientist who is hunted by zombie-like plague victims. Most likely this movie was based on one of my favorite novellas, I Am Legend.
5. THE WIZARD OF OZ: Maybe nobody else thinks of this as a Halloween movie, but I definitely do. Those scenes in the castle where the Wicked Witch of the West gazes into her crystal ball and, then, in the forest where the flying monkeys attack are nothing but pure Halloween crack.
6. SALEM’S LOT: Based on the book by Stephen King, this story feels like it’s about real, honest-to-badness vampires. Shades of Nosferatu, the vampire in this movie is what all vampires should be—so creepy you want to run away screaming.
7. THE MASK OF THE RED DEATH: Vincent Price in one of my favorite roles, as Prince Prospero. The story takes place in medieval Europe, when a mysterious plague is sweeping across the countryside. Prospero offers sanctuary to a group of nobility and to an innocent and beautiful village maiden, but once they are inside his castle, sanctuary is the furthest thing from his mind.
8. THE HAUNTING (1963): Be afraid. Be very afraid. This is one of the creepiest movies I’ve ever seen. A group of people do a paranormal investigation on Hill House, spending the night. Be prepared for a rush of pure adrenaline, for this is a tale of psychological horror that builds and builds until even you want out of Hill House.
9. THE OTHERS: Another psychological horror, this movie was inspired by the novella, The Turn of the Screw. Nicole Kidman plays a mother, trying to protect her two children from a houseful of ghosts, or is she? The plot twists and turns as you learn more about this family and the ghosts who live in the house.
10. E.T.: This movie captures the wonder and magic often associated with both childhood and Halloween and adds in a surprise element. Instead of a monster, vampire, or werewolf, the scary-creature, new-best-friend is an alien who wants nothing more than to go home, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.