About six years ago, as my partner Jack and I were waxing poetic about the Halloween season on our Monster Men podcast, I started calling the 31 days of spookiness Terrortober. For some reason, midway through the month, I changed it to Horrortober and it stuck. Now I’m not saying I was the first, but I don’t remember anyone else calling it that back then. Okay, maybe I am saying I was the first.
I had to give the month a name because Halloween itself is just one day. For me and millions of other horror lovers, the entire month of October is a celebration. I have several Horrortober rules — aka traditions — that include reading only horror books and magazines and watching at least one horror movie a day. The movie part is the trickiest, because we all know how quickly our days can be filled with stuff we’d rather not deal with, but as Bobby Brady once said, “A rule’s a rule. I’m going to put you in my report.”
I love a challenge, especially one where all you have to do is watch horror flicks. Since 2012, I’ve tracked all of the movies I’ve watched during Horrortober, and I’ve yet to come shy of 31 by Halloween night. In fact, my movie total usually hovers around 50.
There are some definite must-watches in Horrortober, with no-brainers like Halloween (and man am I psyched for the new one), The Funhouse, The Fog, Motel Hell, The Haunting, The Sentinel and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Those are my personal classics that I rented over and over again in the ’80s and ’90s and now own for annual consumption.
But there have been a slew of new movies, and by new I mean made in this century, that I turn to time and time again. Ti West has gifted us two of them. The House of the Devil is a ’70s throwback/Satanic Panic/let’s-scare-the-shit-out-of-the-babysitter gem that only gets better with each viewing. It also co-stars future Lady Bird director, Greta Gerwig. West’s ghost hunting dark comedy, The Innkeepers, never fails to give me goosebumps. And that ending! My favorite home invasion movie (that was also the catalyst for all-time fave Barbara Crampton’s return to horror) is You’re Next. It’s brutal, funny and has the best final girl in Sharni Vinson, a former survivalist who ain’t taking shit from these masked murderers. What’s the connection of this Adam Wingard beast to Ti West? Well, you’ll notice that West co-stars, albeit briefly, in You’re Next. And for people who don’t like West’s movies, you may appreciate his, um, demise.
Okay kiddos, on to ghosts and hauntings. My wife still hasn’t recovered from Paranormal Activity. Living in a haunted house ourselves, it demonstrated exactly why we should never let the cameras roll while we sleep. For my money, this is the movie that solidified the found footage genre that The Blair Witch Project sorta kinda started. With several movies in the series, your best bets are the OG and part three. For whatever reason, the even numbered additions are always so…uneven. I still get a kick out of The Conjuring movies. Part one is more about atmosphere, where part two is a straight up rollercoaster ride of jump scares. A great one-two punch for the season.
Of course, no person who loves Alien the way I do isn’t a fan of The Descent, a primo monster flick with the same sense of claustrophobia, creeping dread and terrifying creatures as the scifi classic. I really dig that it’s an all female cast, showing that women can get just as down and dirty as the boys (and even more so in this case). Another wonderful new monster movie that few people crow about is Spring, a romantic romp through Italy where a boy falls in love with a mysterious woman who turns into a different monster each and every night. Watch this and ask yourself if you would turn tail and run, or grab her tail and stay.
No Horrortober is complete without revisiting some of the Universal classics. For me, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is mandatory. That Gill Man is my all time favorite. And Julie Adams in a white swimsuit. Yowza. Others I can’t miss are Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and The Mummy. The legendary James Whale is responsible for so many of them. The man created an aesthetic that is timeless and set the blueprint for the genre. Notice how I didn’t add Dracula? Lugosi’s star turn may not be in my wheelhouse, but I do love him in White Zombie and The Black Cat.
While we’re on black and white movies, everyone who claims to he a horrorhound must watch Lon Chaney Jr. in Spider Baby. It was one of his last forays onto the silver screen and one of his finest. He plays Uncle Bruno, a sad, older man, caring for a trio of lunatic children in a crumbling house. One of those children is the highly disturbing Sid Haig! Spider Baby is bat crap craziness and an absolute treasure.
Horrortober is also a good time to jump on any streaming service and give a complete unknown a try. I’ve discovered flicks that will be added to my repertoire like The Houses October Built, The Loved Ones, Houseguest, Mockingbird, Starry Eyes and Cheap Thrills. Experimentation at the start of the month is essential. As you get closer to the big H, it becomes imperative to stick with the tried and trues, the ones that give you the best deep fall feels.
If you’re looking for quiet yet intense horror, look no further than recent releases like The Witch, Raw, The Monster and The Blackcoat’s Daughter. All have made my top five least at the end of the year and are destined to become classics.
The best horror movie this century, to me, is It Follows. A possession movie in which the entity is passed down through sexual contact with a shape-shifting carrier than no one else can see is simply brilliant. It also benefits from having the look and feel of early John Carpenter, as well as a stupendous soundtrack by Disasterpiece that I write to all the time. I pack a lot of Carpenter in toward the end of Horrortober, popping in The Thing, Prince of Darkness, The Live and Assault on Precinct 13. No other director had a bigger influence on my budding horror life. Not sure whether I have him to blame or thank.
I’m not a Freddy Krueger devotee, but I do admit the first A Nightmare On Elm Street is aces and Dream Warriors is a ton of fun. It gave us Patricia Arquette, so big points on that one. However, I do love Jason and all the Friday the 13th movies, no matter how imperfect they all are. I have his lovely hockey mask tattooed on my arm. Those movies are reminders of all the fun we had in the theater back in the day, a feeling that I’ve yet to recapture, but surprisingly came close with Annabelle 2, of all things. In case you were wondering, here’s how I rank them from best to, well, not the best:
- Part 6 – Jason Lives
- Part 4 – The Final Chapter (which was not so final)
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 7 – The New Blood
- Part 3
- Jason X
- Part 8 – Jason Takes Manhattan
- Part 5 – A New Beginning
- Jason Goes to Hell
Look, I could go on and on here, but you need to stop reading and watch some movies! Time is running out. How many days to Halloween? Grab your Silver Shamrock mask, rock out to your favorites, drink some Octoberfest or pumpkin ale and enjoy the darkness, my friends.
Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal—he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. You can follow his madness at huntershea.com.