Katherine Noble, Contributing Writer
Halloween is an inherently cinematic time of year — with costumes, candy and a defined visual language that speaks to the masses. The movies on this list all feature engaging plots, unique visuals and seasonally appropriate themes. Additionally, they’ve each earned their place by being good enough to stick with me for long after the credits roll. So, with all the expertise of a first-year film student, here are my top six favorite Halloween movies.
‘The Love Witch’ (2016)
This comedy-horror film follows a love-obsessed witch with murderous tendencies on her quest for the perfect man. What really stands out about this film is its production quality and completely unique aesthetic. Director Anna Biller spent years handmaking the costumes, props and sets for this homage to ’60s horror movies.
Shot on 35mm film, “The Love Witch” throws in a dash of feminist gender theory exploration to bring it all together in a really vibrant and engaging way.
‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (1975)
“Rocky Horror” is as much about the experience as it is the movie itself. I saw this film for the first time a few weeks ago at the Shafer Street Playhouse and had pretty much no idea what to expect. I was blown away to see the theater packed with dozens of students in full costume, including ripped fishnets, makeup with exaggerated contours and multiple layers of leather.
There is a clear community of Rocky Horror aficionados; some have memorized portions of the movie and scream out the most unexpectedly hilarious lines at crucial plot points. This movie was one of the early pioneers of camp and kitsch with its drag queen villain, wacky plot and dramatic visuals. It’s wickedly funny, desperately ridiculous, and let’s be honest — Tim Curry is absurdly sexy as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
This cult classic science fiction horror musical has to do a lot to earn a place in that many categories. I think it wholeheartedly succeeds.
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (2014)
If you want a movie that will actually make you think (and probably cry) Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian vampire Western is perfect. Funded through an Indiegogo project, it uses classic film techniques like shooting in black and white to emphasize the dreamlike atmosphere. Amirpour creates a sly, moody film that can’t help but elicit emotion. It’s intellectual, but it’s also deftly funny and deeply romantic in its own time. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you.
‘Jennifer’s Body’ (2009)
Criminally underrated for years, Karyn Kusama’s horror flick is more than its surface-level thrills (although it has plenty of those). Diablo Cody’s darkly comedic screenplay contains nuanced commentary on female friendship and obsession. It subverts typical horror movie tropes while still serving up plenty of blood and gore.
‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ (1989)
This heartfelt animated classic is the perfect family Halloween film. Centered on a plucky young witch setting off on her own for the first time, it features themes of persistence and self-love, and a charming cast of characters.
However, the standout of this film is the trademark Ghibli watercolor animation. Director and skilled animator Hayao Miyazaki went over every single frame in his films to make sure they were up to par, and this painstaking attention to detail is visible. It’s gorgeous and a wholesome alternative to the oversaturated saccharine garbage typically marketed to kids.
‘American Psycho’ (1991)
Mary Harmon’s psychological horror classic “American Psycho” checks a lot of boxes. It’s elegantly horrifying, visually engaging and just straight up really fun to watch. Christian Bale gives a disconcertingly brilliant performance as a slick Wall Street psychopath with a penchant for murder. The themes of materialism, narcissism and consumer culture elevate it from a delightful slasher to something far more disturbing.