(RNN) – There’s a frightening amount of creepy new shows and movies on popular streaming platforms nowadays. But if you’re looking for some old-school chills and thrills this Halloween season, here are some horror classics.
What defines a “classic?” That’s up for debate, but for the sake of this list, let’s just say it needs to be a few decades old, reasonably well-known to horror fans, and influential to the genre.
“Night of the Living Dead”
It’s the father of all modern-day zombie flicks. Director George A. Romero’s shoestring-budget 1968 shocker kickstarted a horror movement that eventually led to “28 Days Later” and “The Walking Dead.” For his part, Romero would follow it up with the celebrated sequels “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead.”
“The Return of the Living Dead”
The previous entry also made this 1985 cheesefest possible – and despite the title, it isn’t part of Romero’s series. Where “Night” was grim and grimy, this one is mostly light and fun, though still plenty gory. Another big difference is the zombies talk in this movie, which introduces that oft-quoted zombie line: “Brains!”
Director Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel follows a misunderstood high schooler who just wants to dance at her prom. Until things go horribly wrong at that prom. Then she wants to do something else…something with her telekinetic powers. This is the first of several King adaptations on this list, because, lucky for us, King can’t stop writing frightening yarns, and Hollywood can’t stop turning them into movies.
“Child’s Play” (also on Hulu)
Here’s the introduction of “Chucky,” the very ugly doll possessed by the very evil spirit of a serial killer. Like many horror hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s, it spawned a long string of sequels – including, appropriately enough, “Seed of Chucky.”
Here’s our second Stephen King adaptation. Where “Carrie” saves most of its scares for the end, this one has a smattering of spookiness throughout, starting with the resurrection of a recently-deceased family cat, which crawls back home after its burial in the titular graveyard – which just happens to sit on an ancient Native American burial ground.
“Interview with the Vampire”
It’s just barely old enough to be a classic, but here it is. In this 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and a young Kirsten Dunst portray a dysfunctional surrogate vampire family. They bond and squabble over their many victims in late-18 century New Orleans, before all their bickering sparks an especially nasty family feud.
This King adaptation also features an ancient Native American burial ground. This time an elegant getaway called the “Overlook Hotel” sits on the cursed graveyard. And it’s at the Overlook that Jack Nicholson decides to go full homicidal maniac on his long-suffering wife and telepathic son – with, of course, a little persuasion from the legion of ghosts taking up permanent residence there. King wasn’t wild about how director Stanley Kubrick changed his story, but the results have held up, with many placing it alongside the best King movies.
“Children of the Corn” (also on Hulu)
It’s our last Stephen King movie. This one is a much looser adaptation, even looser than Kubrick’s film, since it was based on a very short story from one of King’s early collections. It follows a cult of children in rural Nebraska who ritualistically sacrifice adults to their evil god, all to ensure a good corn harvest. So, grab some nachos and enjoy!
“Hellraiser” (also on Hulu)
Now that we’re done with Stephen King, here’s one from Clive Barker, another influential horror writer who’s made his mark on cinema. Barker wrote and directed this classic about a puzzle box that summons demons. But not just any demons: This movie introduced “Pinhead,” one of the most iconic monsters of recent decades. He’d go on to star in a string of sequels, none of which Barker had much to do with.
“Hellbound: Hellraiser II” (also on Hulu)
Speaking of which, this one picks up soon after the first “Hellraiser” left off. And like the title says, it pulls the main characters, and by extension the viewers, deeper into a pit of despair. Like most sequels, “Hellbound” doesn’t compare to the original, but it’s got enough visual weirdness to make it worth a look.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
Is it a Halloween movie? Is it a Christmas movie? Let’s just say it’s both. No, it’s not a horror movie, but it’s definitely eerie, so it’s appropriate for this time of year (just check out that last shot of the embedded trailer below). Adapted from a story by director Tim Burton, who served as producer for the film, this is the only kids’ movie on the list – although it’s still plenty creepy, even for adults.
“The Hills Have Eyes” (1977)
This one’s not kid-friendly. Before he made “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream,” director Wes Craven specialized in this sort of low-budget exploitation. “The Hills Have Eyes” follows a family trying to escape a clan of desert-dwelling cannibals. Nobody’s safe in this one, not even the baby.
“The Fly” (1986)
When director David Cronenberg remade the original 1958 B-movie, he decided to up the seriousness, and the gore. Jeff Goldblum plays a scientist brave enough to become his own guinea pig. If only a pesky fly didn’t buzz into his teleportation machine. Like many of Cronenberg’s films, this one falls into the director’s favorite genre of “Body Horror,” so named because of how it expertly exploits our deep-seated fears of disease and injury.
“The Amityville Horror” (1979)
This is one of the more influential haunted house movies, which we see plenty of these days (including a 2005 remake of this original). And like many modern-day horror movies, it’s “based on a true story,” which you can take with a grain of salt.
We started with George A. Romero, so let’s go ahead and end with him. This is one of his less-famous efforts, but it’s worth watching if you want to see a diabolical helper monkey kill to satisfy her disabled owner, with whom she has a telepathic connection. It’s pretty weird, but if you’re looking for a cinematic killer who’s not a reanimated corpse or another guy in a mask, why not?