Scary movies and Halloween go better together than almost any other holiday and entertainment medium I can think of. This year, to get into the fun of the dark season, Where Y'at is giving you a list of fun, sometimes scary, sometimes outrageous Halloween films. Over the next 20 entries, we won’t be tackling modern killers, or deranged humans gone off the deep end, but rather movie monsters that sometimes leap through the screen in search of blood. (This list is in no particular order)
DIRECTED BY RIDLEY SCOTT
One of the best horror movies of all time begins our list. What’s great about this movie is how well Scott and his ensemble cast are able to make a science fiction horror film that is essentially a Gothic horror-feeling film. The creature itself, called the Xenomorph, is still one of the most terrifying things moviegoers have ever seen. Strong performances by Sigourney Weaver and others also don’t hurt the film, making it something that’s as beautiful to watch as it is frightening to envision.
AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, 1981
DIRECTED BY JOHN LANDIS
An early memory of my movie-watching life revolved around this movie, set in London. A man, his friend, and various others are forced to confront the once-outrageous notion that werewolves are actually beings that exist. You watch a man evolve into a wonderfully violent beast, and while you feel his pain after you see what trouble he’s caused, the movie is able to make you laugh in subtle, very English ways. It’s hilarious, gory, and well-paced. A must-watch if you’ve never seen it.
DIRECTED BY LUIS LLOSA
Now, this movie isn’t going to end up being hailed as an all-time great creature feature, but it sure is entertaining. The premise is simple and absurd enough that it’s easy to enjoy it while never taking it too seriously. Take one part early Jennifer Lopez, one part would-be actor Ice Cube, add a giant-ass snake, and you have Anaconda. All the victims make the typical mistakes, and while you hope everyone survives, you are also wanting to watch a freakishly large snake gobble people up. Mindless yet thoroughly entertaining.
CABIN IN THE WOODS, 2012
DIRECTED BY DREW GODDARD
Released only a few years ago, this is easily one of the most original ideas to enter the world of horror in recent memory. Equal parts comedy, horror, and science fiction, Goddard's film works so well because it uses lessons of the past in making a film that transcends easy taglines. Five unsuspecting college students go away for a weekend, and that’s where you become unable to guess what’s coming next. One of the great movies of the last few years, it’s well-worth your time if you want to laugh intermittently while being scared sh*tless.
DIRECTED BY MATT REEVES
Another movie that took the term viral marketing to another level, Cloverfield is one of the main flicks that was able to be a found-footage movie that was still exhilarating and enjoyable, while also putting the viewer in very tense situations. A young, mostly unknown cast try to survive a monster attack in New York. It’s a simple premise that uses every tool to its advantage. The monsters are also perfectly done, using past monsters as a launching point for a variety of creatures that are incredibly unsettling.
THE EVIL DEAD, 1981
DIRECTED BY SAM RAIMI
Monsters can go in a number of ways, but you’d be surprised at how well the creatures—or demons, to be more specific—fit into this movie. Bruce Campbell as Ash deals with an array of evil, tauntingly fun ghouls in this horror classic, and even though the effects have an 80s B-movie level of craftsmanship, it all serves a plot that’s as much horror as it is slapstick. Also, a tree sexually assaults people, so there’s that.
THE FLY, 1986
DIRECTED BY DAVID CRONENBERG
Only a few movies on this list have the distinction of featuring a creature who was born from man’s own impulsive science. That’s what makes this remake so fun to watch, even if it gets much worse throughout the film. Jeff Goldblum stars as a man trying to do revolutionary research and to push technology. If we’re being honest, he does in fact succeed. That being said, it turns out to be one of the worst scientific trials ever seen on celluloid. The transformation is slow, purposeful, and ultimately, the stuff that nightmares are created from. It’s got amazing visual effects that are practical in how they are used, but also, it’s awful to watch this man become a beast that will never find peace.
DIRECTED BY JOHN GULAGER
You might remember this as the winner of the reality TV show Project Greenlight during its third season. With a varied cast that includes Henry Rollins, Judah Friedlander, and various others that make you say, “Wait, I know that person,” Feast is fun, silly, and very much doesn’t take itself too seriously. The monster that stalks and murders the inhabitants of a crappy dive bar is used well and looks genuinely horrifying. Made in 2005 and running a fast-paced 85 minutes, it’s a fun ride and a quick watch, and you don’t have to invest too much in it.
DIRECTED BY GARETH EDWARDS
While “The King of All Monsters” has seen many, many reincarnations on the silver screen, we’ll be focusing on the most recent Bryan Cranston-starring film. In the wake of the God-awful movie with Matthew Broderick in the 90s, this served as a sort of fresh palette for the humongous creature. All the monsters presented here are expertly done, with enough cash and experience to make a truly compelling creature feature. It’s more grounded and heartwarming than you might expect, but one thing is for sure: Godzilla roars, devastates, and lays waste to his enemies, whatever size they show up as.
THE HOST, 2006
DIRECTED BY BONG JOON-HO
One of the most celebrated monster movies of the last 20 years, The Host is an Asian-centric film that’s well worth the hype. No, the monster in question isn’t done with the type of effects that would make James Cameron look amateur, but the film works in other ways. It throws on its head the pacing of normal horror movies. The creature shows up within the first 10 minutes, and from there bounces around, eating anything in its line of sight. It’s very fun, pretty scary, and you’ll be entertained as you take part in a journey as a father tries to rescue his daughter from “the Host.”
THE HOWLING, 1981
DIRECTED BY JOE DANTE
Werewolves have always been pretty hit-or-miss, but when it comes to The Howling, you’ll be seeing one of the best. The premise is simple enough: a woman goes to an isolated retreat to get her bearings after a terrible experience. What she finds at this retreat is even worse, however. You watch the main character as she learns the truth of who these residents are and what they are truly capable of when the moon hits just right. It’s one of the earliest memories I have of a horror film keeping me up at night, and it’s good stuff. If you can get past the dated feel, it’s worth checking out.
JEEPERS CREEPERS, 2001
DIRECTED BY VICTOR SALVA
One of the weirdest movies on the list, in my opinion, is Jeepers Creepers. Siblings on a trip to their parents’ house are forced to deal with a creeper of sorts, who terrorizes a small town for a period of 23 days every 23 years. Inspired at least in part by Stephen King’s It, it’s wildly fun and adds an element of torment not often seen. This creature is only out for human body parts, and while some in the film are able to escape his wrath, some aren’t so lucky and suffer far more than any person should. No one escapes the trauma of the event in its aftermath, though.
LAKE PLACID, 1999
DIRECTED BY STEVE MINER
Let’s just get this out of the way: this movie isn’t scary in the way some of the other choices are. Instead, you get a giant freaking alligator who’s simply trying to survive in a part of the world extremely different from any other place he’s been. So, you get plenty of humor, courtesy of Oliver Platt, Bridgette Fonda, and of course, Betty White in a minor but all-the-while entertaining role. You’ll be shocked at how her character deals with all the craziness happening on her little lakeside farm, and you’ll be plied with tons of fun moments in the process.
THE MIST, 2007
DIRECTED BY FRANK DARABONT
Pretty self-explanatory in its title, but everything else in this film isn’t expected, or wanted, or even deserved. A small Maine town is descended upon by a weird, uh, mist, and from there, all hell breaks loose as people frantically and nervously try to figure out what the best course of action is. It takes Thomas Jane as the lead character to rally and figure out how to save his family and friends. If you haven’t seen it I won’t ruin it for you, but the way the film unfolds is the stuff of movie legend, and there’s good reasoning for it. The worst part of the mist might be what emerges from it, but it might also be learning that people you’ve known for years can suddenly change when confronted with modern horror.
THE MONSTER SQUAD, 1987
DIRECTED BY FRED DEKKER
Like Stranger Things before Stranger Things was a thing, The Monster Squad tells the story of five young kids in a suburban paradise as they try to stop the likes of Dracula, Wolf Man, and plenty of other ghouls. It’s cheap and hasn’t aged incredibly well, but for anyone who loved this film growing up, it’s still insanely fun. The humor among the kids in the movie is spot-on, the monsters are done well enough not to be laughable, and in the end, it’s a movie with the same type of heart as the series mentioned above. Watch it again or for the first time. It’s not even 82 minutes long, so not a ton of time has to be invested to enjoy this cheesy but irresistible film.
THE RELIC, 1997
DIRECTED BY PETER HYMANS
A Chicago PD officer is forced to deal with an unknown “relic” that’s traveled from South Africa in this tense but fun film. Tom Sizemore stars in this cheeky horror film that expands as the plot unfolds. The monster itself is awesome, and while we’re only shown bits and pieces, never fully in-depth (until the end), it makes for a sort of gothic horror movie set inside one of the best museums in the country. Not too much thought is required, and it’s a fun ride, full of dark corners, grim corridors, and enough jumps to make a horror fan happy with the end result.
SILENT HILL, 2006
DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPH GANS
Video game movies are almost never worth the time, but Silent Hill stands as one of the best, if not the best. The imagery from the game is used to excellent effect, and the creatures encountered are as scary as they are in the game. Many monsters attack and destroy surroundings, but it’s the human performances that make it so great. Radha Mitchell is amazing as the mother trying to save her child from an unknown, yet all-the-while brutal ending. It’s well worth the time, and if you’re a fan of the game itself, you’ll find joy in how well this adaptation plays out.
THE THING, 1982
DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER
While Kurt Russell is the star of the show, the real entertainer here is without a doubt “the Thing” that is determined to survive this apocalyptic nightmare. The great thing about this movie is the juxtaposition of the narrative. Both sides, human and alien alike, are literally starving to survive. You want to root for the humans, of course, but if you watch it from the perspective of the Thing, you’ll find a movie that is just as compelling. Truly extraordinary filmmaking and one of the best horror films of all time.
PACIFIC RIM, 2013
DIRECTED BY GUILLERMO DEL TORO
What do you get when you take giant, otherworldly monsters and huge robots? You get Pacific Rim. To be upfront, it’s not scary at all. But what it lacks in scares, it makes up for in visual effects and how effective the monsters, or “Kaiju,” as they’re called, are demonstrated. It’s a lush world Del Toro created, and it’s the closest thing to a Gundam movie as we should ever expect. With visual delights galore, it’s fun, beautiful, and mindless all at the same time.
DIRECTED BY JOHN MCTIERNAN
With maybe the best monster on the list, this film is as action-filled as you might expect. It played a huge part in helping Schwarzenegger become the king of action movie legends. The monster, or predator of the title, is smart, clever, and the way he kills his prey is second to none. Set in a jungle, covering rough terrain by both day and night, Predator stands as a movie that’s as exciting as it is scary, in terms of how trapped you feel, as this predator finds and traps his well-earned prey.