In preparation for Halloween, The Daily’s Screen Beat writers have compiled a list of their favorite Halloween films. Fun, scary or otherwise, there’s something for everyone.
“28 Days Later” (2002)
“28 Days Later” is certainly stiff competition for best zombie flick out there and it never fails in forcing me to turn on the lights. Our protagonist (played by Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma after 28 days, only to find that the world outside his hospital room has fallen into disarray. The culprit? A strange virus that turns the infected into mindless, wrathful beasts. The usual motley crew of survivors attempts to find sanctuary at a military base, only to encounter a threat that’s on par with the infected outside.
This is the movie that cemented rage zombies into our cultural lexicon, pivoting away from slow-shambling creeps and instead leaning into a fast-paced terror the whole way through. It’s a master of the spook that you can see a long time coming — and yet are still shocked by. “28 Days” merely uses the creepiness of its zombies as a backdrop as it delves into the horrors of our own humanity, lending us a long-lasting feeling of deep uneasiness.
“28 Days Later” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
– Hannah Blum, Screen Desk Editor (hannahbl ‘at’ stanford.edu)
“It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (1966)
During my childhood, I watched “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” every Halloween. The television special centers around Charlie Brown and characters from the “Peanuts” comics as they prepare for and spend their Halloween night. Linus, one of the characters, is the focus of this episode. He creates a Santa Claus-like figure for Halloween, naming it the Great Pumpkin, and convinces Sally (Charlie Brown’s sister) to sit all night with him at a pumpkin patch to wait for the figure’s appearance. It’s a classic that I still adore; it takes the art of animation seriously while also being funny, family-friendly and memorable.
The trick-or-treating scene, where everyone but Charlie Brown gets candy and all he receives are rocks, makes me laugh every year. I also enjoy Snoopy’s imagination when he becomes the World War I pilot, The Flying Ace. The scene really captures the joy of a costume and the rush you, as a kid, felt when you got to pretend to be someone else for a night. From the humor, to the dialogue, to the little Halloween party, and to Snoopy’s appearance at the pumpkin patch, this special is a light-hearted must for the season.
“It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is available for streaming on Apple TV.
– Kyla Figueroa, Contributing Writer (kylafig5 ‘at’ stanford.edu)
“Over the Garden Wall” (2014)
“Over the Garden Wall,” Cartoon Network’s first miniseries, is the perfect Halloween watch for those craving something spooky but not bloodcurdling. Its theme song alone, at once achingly wistful and joyously soulful, conjures up an autumnal mood. The Emmy-winning series follows brothers Wirt and Greg, who find themselves lost in a strange forest called the Unknown. As they try to find their way home, they meet a lonely woodsman, a charismatic talking bluebird and… sentient pumpkins?
Creator Patrick McHale (“Adventure Time”) takes a seemingly simple premise and crafts a poignant tale of good and evil, innocence and disillusionment, hope and hopelessness. Divided into 10 episodes of 11 minutes each, “Over the Garden Wall” can be consumed in one feature-length sitting or over the course of several study breaks. Either way, the journey will be replete with beautiful animation, wonderfully imaginative characters and satisfying storytelling.
“Over the Garden Wall” is available for streaming on HBO Max and Hulu.
– Jared Klegar, Contributing Writer (jkklegar ‘at’ stanford.edu)
Jordan Peele returns from his debut film, “Get Out,” with his sophomore film, “Us,” the blood-curdling story of a beach vacation turned nightmare. When Adelaide Wilson (played by Lupita Nyong’o) takes her family to her childhood beach home for a vacation, things quickly take a turn for the worst as her past traumas return to haunt her. This time, her memories become reality when a masked group of murderers attack her and her family. The Wilsons fight for their lives, only to discover that the attackers are actually their doppelgängers attempting to “untether” themselves from the Wilsons.
Once again, Peele masterfully combines complex material about the human experience with pure horror. “Us” will leave you paralyzed and unsure of what’s next, as the worst dangers hide in plain sight. It leaves you contemplating the duality of American society, while shaking you to the core. On top of that, the film boasts superb writing and Nyong’o delivers an unforgettably chilling performance.
“Us” is available for streaming on HBO Max.
– Zora Hudson, Contributing Writer (zorah ‘at’ stanford.edu)
“The Visit” (2015)
While the prospect of watching an M. Night Shyamalan movie is typically scary enough, “The Visit” is genuinely terrifying. The film follows teenagers Becca and Tyler on a five-day stay to their grandparents’ house. Captured as Becca’s documentary — “found footage” style — the movie builds creepiness expertly. As hours and days pass at the house, Becca and Tyler realize, through observing their hosts’ peculiar behaviors, that something is seriously wrong.
The horror genre definitely seems to be Shyamalan’s calling (see “The Sixth Sense,” “Split”). Though most horror films rely on some degree of supernatural skullduggery, be that the paranormal, the inhuman or the undead, “The Visit” asks you to suspend no disbelief. The fear generated by the film stems from the notion that its events could happen to anyone. “The Visit” also features the single best twist I have yet seen in a horror movie; Shyamalan once again leans into his strong suit. So although it’s a bit rough around the edges, if you’re looking for a good scare or an irrational fear of old people, check out “The Visit.”
“The Visit” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
– Peyton Lee, Contributing Writer (peytonl7 ‘at’ stanford.edu)
“The Shining” (1980)
Come on. What else even comes close?
Full disclaimer that I love, love, love the horror genre and that I genuinely believe in exploring smaller movies from all around the world (for example, few countries do horror better than South Korea). That being said, “The Shining” is the grandfather of them all, from the iconic images that so many of us have burned into our brains to the performances that kept me up at night the first time I saw it.
Kubrick’s adaptation of the beloved Stephen King novel follows the now-infamous Torrance family as they stay at the Overlook Hotel, taking care of the summer resort during its seasonal shutdown for a chilly Colorado winter. What follows is a turn for the supernatural, and while I’ll spare the details for readers who haven’t gotten around to it, expect an excellent and bloody ride to the movie’s end.
The imagery, the performances, and the direction (though a note must be made about Kubrick’s abhorrent treatment of actress Shelley Duvall) tie it all together to make a horror masterpiece. Hunt this movie down — and prepare to be creeped out.
“The Shining” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
– Jonathan Arnold, Contributing Writer (jarnold ‘at’ stanford.edu)
Contact the Screen Desk Editor at hannahbl ‘at’ stanford.edu.