Want a super-fun Halloween movie marathon and also want to smash the white-hetero-patriarchy? Here are ten fantastic films to get you started:
“Near Dark” (1987), directed by Kathryn Bigelow: Decades before “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow directed a vampire western called “Near Dark.” A wholesome midwestern farm boy falls in with a ragtag band of vampires after being bitten by one of their crew. Though the film came out 20 years before her Oscar, Bigelow’s masterful directing and economical writing are evident throughout. The film’s plot may not seem novel now that we’ve all survived the “Twilight Saga,” but its cinematography alone is enough to make “Near Dark” stand out among its successors. If you like rope-slinging cowboys, undead night-stalkers, and young Bill Paxton, this one’s for you.
“Jennifer’s Body” (2009), directed by Karyn Kusama: Screenwriter Diablo Cody’s follow-up to “Juno” gets a bad rap for Cody’s signature dialogue and tonal inconsistency, but it’s a clever concept and the smart switching of genre norms makes for a fun take on the hormonal teen horror flick. In a society plagued by rape culture, slut shaming, and a genre with a track record for punishing sexually active teens (females in particular), there’s something great about seeing young women not only owning their sexuality but exploring the predatory power therein (that they are so often on the wrong side of). With a female director and screenwriter, the focus is allowed to stay on a central conflict between two female, former besties (played by Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox; however unlikely that may seem), as opposed to some ill-conceived war of the sexes. The film is much more an examination of female friendship and becomes an allegory for the distance that grows between childhood friends as time passes and boys come between them. If “Mean Girls” and “The Exorcist” had a baby, it’d be “Jennifer’s Body.” Who could resist?
“Pet Sematary” (1989), directed by Mary Lambert: Beyond the titular Pet Sematary lies an old Native American graveyard where nothing stays dead. The trouble is, what rises from the grave is not quite the same as what went in. When tragedy strikes the Creed family, Louis, the patriarch, can’t help but give the cemetery-resurrection trick a try anyway. Mary Lambert directs this delightfully campy adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel. Side note: If any top-hat-wearing, cane-toting children call you up and ask you to “come play,” it might be best to decline.
“Hocus Pocus” (1993), directed by Kenny Ortega: Perhaps one of the most perfect Halloween movies ever made, “Hocus Pocus” is the sort of movie that has something for everyone. It is one of those special mid-’90s gems, with an amazing cast (featuring Thora Birch, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimi, to name a few) that never underestimated its youthful target audience, keeping the stakes high and taking the dangers its young characters face real (we’re talking full-on child murder within the first five minutes of the movie). While not scary per se, it’s a perfect gateway drug for the genre and it’s hilarious; featuring some expertly executed musical set-pieces courtesy of gay, Hispanic director, Kenny Ortega — he also helmed the “High School Musical” trilogy.
“American Psycho” (2000), directed by Mary Harron: Mary Harron adapts Bret Easton Ellis’s problematic novel into a brutal critique of misogyny, sociopathy, and the latent violence of capitalism. Christian Bale gives a career-defining performance as Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker who moonlights as a killer of women. Bateman ties a full windsor and expounds on the evolution of the band Genesis as he prepares to torture his female companions in his penthouse flat. It’s a difficult watch, for sure, but a vital examination of precisely the kind of sexism, hatred, and violence that we see celebrated in this increasingly disturbing election cycle.
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” (2014), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour: Shot in black and white, and entirely in Arabic, this moody, female-focused vampire flick has a lot to offer. With a killer soundtrack and fresh, original representation of a vampire tale, it’s crazy to think that this is writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature length film.
“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004), directed by Alfonso Cuarón: Directed by one of the most innovative filmmakers in contemporary cinema, the third film in the eight-part “Harry Potter” series might be the best. Featuring skeletal demon-spirits, a haunted shack, and a werewolf, it’s a perfect addition to any Halloween marathon. Cuarón might seem a strange choice to direct after creating the erotic masterpiece, “Y Tu Mamá También,” but he here demonstrates the powerful visual storytelling he would later perfect in “Children of Men” and “Gravity.” Pair that with knockout performances by three of our greatest living actors, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, and Timothy Spall, “The Prisoner of Azkaban” is an electric adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel, as well as a beautiful return to family-friendly material by the director of “A Little Princess.”
“The Babadook” (2014), directed by Jennifer Kent: Arguably the scariest movie of 2014, this Australian exploration horror movie delves into a single mother’s struggle to stay afloat as she and her young son find themselves the target of a malevolent entity called The Babadook. At its heart a thematic study of depression, loss, and motherhood, writer/director Jennifer Kent crafts an unnerving and taut film, totally worth tracking down.
“The Lost Boys” (1987), directed by Joel Schumacher: An ’80s classic, “The Lost Boys” features all of the iconic mullets, Corys (both Feldman and Haim), an awesome soundtrack with synths galore, and all the absurd fashion choices you could hope for. Openly gay director Joel Schumacher has fun playing with some homoerotic undertones in what is ultimately a fun, if shallow, creature feature perfect for an October night.
“Crimson Peak” (2015), directed by Guillermo del Toro: This film got a bad rap in some circles from people who didn’t know any better. Don’t be misled: “Crimson Peak” is high camp at its finest. An unabashed celebration of gothic horror, this film manages to walk the delicate line between sincerity and self-consciousness in much the same way as its also-underrated predecessor “Sleepy Hollow.” Best to sit back and enjoy this film for what it already knows it is: a stunningly beautiful, deliciously macabre romp through one of the most iconic decrepit mansions in recent memory. Did we mention Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, and Jessica Chastain? What’s not to love?
The “Ginger Snaps” Trilogy: These three Canadian werewolf movies just may be the best werewolf movies you’ve never heard of. While “Ginger Snaps,” “Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed,” and “Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning,” are directed by men, they’re all written by women (Karen Walton, Megan Martin, and Christina Ray). Questionable titles aside, these are quality genre fare, with a dark sense of humor and plenty to say about feminist themes like sisterhood, womanhood, and, well, werewolves. Fans of “Orphan Black” can also catch an early performance by Emmy Winner Tatiana Maslany as Ghost in “Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed.”