If your Halloween sees you indoors with your lover watching a scary movie, nothing can kill the mood faster than:
“What do you want to watch?”
“I don’t know. What do you want to watch?”
Repeat ad nauseum until either the world explodes or you get tired of scrolling through Netflix. I’m feeling helpful today, so here are a few suggestions for your Halloween date movie, tailored to different situations and people.
For a First Date: “The Conjuring”
A first date is all about feeling the other person out. What do they like and dislike? Where do you share common ground? You might be a gorehound, and they might be a horror rookie. You don’t know for sure, so the best approach to picking a scary movie on a first date is balance. This is where James Wan’s “The Conjuring” comes in.
Wan’s come a long way from “Saw,” directing “Aquaman” and “Furious 7,” and I argue it’s 2013’s “The Conjuring” that bridged the gap, combining genre elements from supernatural thrillers with the finesse and craftsmanship required to manage larger productions.
The story of paranormal investigators helping a family through a haunting is nothing new, especially after “Paranormal Activity” and its copycats dominated horror in the tail end of the ‘00s. Any creak could be a ghost; every basement is haunted; jump scares are littered like a minefield.
However, Wan’s skills are highlighted in the execution. He times scares perfectly, releasing tension right when the audience doesn’t expect it. He lovingly recreates the design of a 1970s house, inspired by films such as “The Amityville Horror” and “The Omen.” It also doesn’t hurt that he cast the endlessly watchable Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga to play real-life investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The third act goes off the rails, but it’s the push-and-pull of tension and scares that makes “The Conjuring” one of the decade’s best spook shows. It doesn’t need an overabundance of gore nor lurid themes to frighten you, and that talent will ensure that your date doesn’t go running for the hills.
You can stream “The Conjuring” on Netflix.
For the Kids at Heart: “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”
The key phrase here is “at heart.” Parents, “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” isn’t suitable for your four-year-old. You could be fooled by the cotton candy cocoons, but this sci-fi horror about invading aliens (that look and act like clowns) has many a wicked bone in its body. It’s not just gore; this movie has some chilling material. Watching one of these Klowns lure a little girl to play is creepier than any version of Pennywise I’ve seen.
Teens visit Makeout Point in old-school cars and follow a shooting star to bear witness to some horrific (and hilarious) alien activity. If the cops won’t believe them – and they don’t – they take it upon themselves to warn the town and stop these Killer Klowns. It’s like if you made a Mad Libs out of “The Blob.”
The Chiodo Brothers make the most of their under $2 million budget, draping the movie with stellar production design and props. The interiors of the Big Top are almost psychedelic, colorfully emulating their circus inspirations. The Klown kostumes are grotesque, yet adorable? Wait till you see what the movie does with shadow puppets.
If your date night consists of chomping down on junk food and letting both your imaginations run wild, this movie is a mischievous masterpiece.
You can stream “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” on Amazon Prime Video!
For Gorehounds: “Hellraiser”
“Hellraiser” is gross. It’s profane. To say it’s “sexually charged” is the most severe of understatements. It’s also bloody brilliant, and all these qualifiers perfectly describe its director and writer, Clive Barker (“Nightbreed,” “Candyman”).
When Frank solves a mystical Moroccan puzzle box, he’s teleported to another dimension and killed by sadomasochistic creatures known as Cenobites. Frank’s brother, Larry, moves into their dead mother’s old house, and when he accidentally spills a drop of blood on the attic floor, it triggers Frank’s resurrection.
Larry’s wife, Julia, finds the newly-animated Frank in the attic, and the two become partners-in-murder. Frank needs more blood to return to fully human form, and Julia can seduce men up to the attic. As the body count rises, Julia’s daughter Kirsty grows suspicious, and the movie devolves into madness.
After the movie’s release, the lead Cenobite (Doug Bradley) became the movie’s MVP. Lovingly nicknamed “Pinhead” by the fans, he would spearhead the franchise through nine more installments.
But anyway, if a story about sex, blood and depraved morality oozing with BDSM energy sounds right up you and your date’s alley, then break out the whips and the Blu-ray. Have yourself a grisly good time.
You can stream “Hellraiser” on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.
For Comedy Fans: “Shaun of the Dead”
Edgar Wright’s “Shaun of the Dead” lovingly spoofs George Romero’s “Dead” series, but the jokes only start there. Add in slapstick, British wit, inventive camera moves and a goofy cast featuring the almighty Bill Nighy (“Love Actually,” “About Time,” – IMDB him; he’s a god), and you get a blast of a movie that flows through scares, laughs and tears effortlessly.
The movie is a coming-of-maturity story about Shaun, a 30-something slacker whose only loves in life are his girlfriend Liz, his best mate Ed and the Winchester pub. There’s just one problem: Liz wants Shaun to grow up and get his life together.
Also, zombies have overrun London. No biggie.
There’s a tenderness and realism to “Shaun of the Dead” that elevates it beyond many horror films in that it truly believes its tragedy. For as much as we laugh at zombies being whacked to the rhythm of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” we reflect on the pain our characters feel from the living dead taking over our world. The characters fear the zombies. We fear the zombies and worry for the characters’ fates. This emotion is what separates the smart parodists from the hacks.
Wright knows and loves the zombie genre, and despite having a laugh with zombies, he takes them seriously. If you pick this one, bring the tissues, because whether you’re laughing or sobbing, you’re going to need them.
You can watch “Shaun of the Dead” on Starz or with a Starz subscription.
For People With Short Attention Spans: “The ABCs of Death”
Movies are too much of a commitment for some people (blasphemy, I know). However, if your date likes to watch films with Twitter and Tik Tok on hand, “The ABCs of Death” is for them.
The movie is made up of 26 horror shorts, one for each letter of the alphabet, directed by filmmakers from around the world. Each director would draw a letter and craft a short about death that starts with that letter.
The title of each short is revealed at the end, so some of the fun comes from predicting what each one could be. Some, like the short for “F”, are self-explanatory, but I’d put serious money on you not being able to guess “Z” or “V”.
Some shorts disappoint, especially after you’ve already been subjected to a series of weird deaths. However, others take advantage of stop-motion animation, meta-commentary and glorious special effects to soar above the bunch.
Some of the directors have gone on to direct features, such as Nacho Vigalondo (“Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway), Ben Wheatley (the underrated “Free Fire”) and Adam Wingard (2016’s “Blair Witch” and next year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong”). It’s fun to see what these visionaries do with such a weird concept.
I won’t say “The ABCs of Death” is a masterpiece of a horror anthology, but it’s endlessly creative, deliciously kooky and often fun. And for the times when it’s not, there’s always Tik Tok.
You can stream “The ABCs of Death” on Hoopla!
For Bad Movie Lovers: “Maximum Overdrive”
“Maximum Overdrive” is insane. Stephen King’s directorial debut sees a group of small-town folks trapped at a gas station diner by a convoy of sentient, killer trucks.
Re-read that last sentence if you have to. I promise, it’s real.
If the device is electrical, it’s alive, from lawn mowers to kitchen appliances. This makes for a myriad of dementedly fun scenes of people staving off assaults from their previously inanimate tools. Did I mention this all plays to the tune of an original score by AC/DC?
Emilio Estevez (“Repo Man”) plays the punk with the single earring who leads the crew of truckers, waitresses and a bulldog of an owner in a rebellion against their gas-guzzling overlords. He’s always had a way of elevating generic characters with his energy and presence, and in a movie where I’m tempted to side with the killer cars, he makes me root for my own kind.
Ultimately, the movie lives up to its name. Explosions soar, blood sprays and AC/DC thunders over it all. “Maximum Overdrive” doesn’t make a damn lick of sense, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun if it did.
I hope these recommendations help make for a successful date night. Whether you’re going gory, relishing in the macabre or kicking back with some laughs, may you celebrate Halloween night with an abundance of scares and smooches.
You can watch “Maximum Overdrive” on Starz or with a Starz subscription.
Let us know what you picks for your Halloween movie night in!
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Featured image credit: Pixabay
Daniel Berrios watches movies in Dallas with his wife and three meowing children. When not watching movies, he’s likely writing about them or discussing them on his YouTube channel. Outside of film, he enjoys “Borderlands,” cooking and playing a guitar that desperately needs new strings.