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31 days of scares: Your Halloween horror movie checklist

A red balloon, a Chucky doll, an old tube TV with hands pressed against a window showing and an illustration of a stack of VHS tapes with a pumpkin on top with the number thirty-one carved into it.
Image Credit: Briana Brissett

The year’s scariest holiday is quickly approaching with jack-o-lanterns, candy corn and costumes to enter everyone’s minds. One part of the Halloween season that shouldn’t ever be ignored is horror movies.

While many people love the more fun Halloween movies such as The Addams Family and Hocus Pocus, the real thrill and scares that come from horror movies are undeniable and set the tone for the holiday.

Many people who want to try out horror don’t know where to start though and some of the best movies can often be lower-budget and slip under the radar of even seasoned horror veterans.

With that, I’m here to give you 31 horror movies for 31 days of October, with movies ranging from classics to new releases, greats to underrated gems, memorable villains to “final girl” favourites.

1. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

For me, this is what started it all. What better way to kick off a list of horror than with one of the all-time greats in Freddy Krueger. The third installment in the series, Dream Warriors, is also a perfect follow-up watch.

2. Grave Encounters (2011)

Starting off as a “mockumentary” based around a ghost-hunting crew, they quickly realize the dire situation they’re in as the haunted asylum starts working against them. Great flick!

3. Saint Maud (2019)

This one is a slow, atmospheric burn that reels you in with the great story and spectacular acting. Can’t talk about Saint Maud without bringing up the ending, which left me stunned for about five minutes straight.

4. •Rec (2007)

Yes, another found footage so soon. On the plus side though, this one happens to be a zombie flick. This Spanish movie has the perfect build-up as well as some of the best subtle jump scares I’ve seen in film.

5. Hellraiser (1987)

Clive Barker had a direct hand in the creation of this, as well as its sequel, with the love and attention clearly on display in this (kind of BDSM-y) horror classic.

6. Saw (2004)

The movie that popularized the unfortunately named “torture-porn” genre. This brutal movie, along with its incredibly low budget, broke horror records and set the path for the now long-running series.

7. Candyman (2021)

Don’t get me wrong, I adore the original along with the original Candyman himself, Tony Todd. That being said, if you’re looking for a well-thought-out, artistic re-quel that honours the original, 2021’s Candyman is an amazing watch.

8. The Conjuring (2013)

If you’re looking for some good demonic horror, this one is a great pick. Go clap twice beside someone’s head, they’ll know exactly what you’re doing if they’ve seen this one.

9. Evil Dead 2 (1987)

This one was tough since I adore every single Evil Dead movie. That being said, when you think of Evil Dead and Ash Williams, Evil Dead 2 encapsulates the whole series.

10. Train to Busan (2016)

While there will always be classics to talk about, Train to Busan takes the emotion, the action, and the gruesomeness of the zombie genre and combines it into one amazing Korean horror thriller.

11. Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele’s debut horror movie didn’t disappoint and set the path for him to become one of the best horror directors in the business.

12. Scream (1996)

Now one of the highest-rated horror series, this meta thriller combines a great slasher with the makings of a stellar whodunit. All of which has lasted through to the later films, with the original setting the pace. 

13. Midsommar (2019)

If you’re looking for atmospheric horror, this is the pick. I have never felt so unnerved watching a movie that is set in a bright Swedish countryside as I did this one. Plus, Florence Pugh is amazing.

14. Paranormal Activity (2009)

While some of the sequels leave a bit to be desired, few movies climbed to such immense international attention as the original Paranormal Activity, repopularizing the found-footage genre.

15. It (1990)

The only technical non-movie on the list, this two-part miniseries brought Pennywise to life thanks to the amazing performance from Tim Curry. Freaked me out as a kid for sure.

16. The Exorcist (1973)

Four people reportedly died on set while making this one, with many people saying that the film is cursed. It’s also the only DVD that I’ve had to ever pry out of my player.

17. Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The perfect blend of horror and subtle comedy. Pokes fun at the genre while also being fully integrated into it. Bet you can’t spot all the horror easter eggs either!

18. As Above, So Below (2014)

If you’re claustrophobic, this one might not be for you.

19. The Purge (2013)

You know how it goes, a dystopian alternate-reality where America has one day a year where all crimes are legal. A less-than-subtle allegory on classism, capitalism, racism and more.

20. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The marketing is the big story of this one, with the team putting out real websites dedicated to finding the “missing” characters. This is the found-footage horror movie.

21. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

A summer camp slasher, this slightly controversial cult-classic shows the tougher sides of camp and the perfect amount of cringe to go along with it.

22. Creep (2014)

Creepy is the perfect way to describe this one. A slow-building psychological horror of a videographer filming the final messages of a dying man.

23. Halloween (2018)

This re-quel perfectly brings the classic series into the modern age of horror and it’s always great seeing the final girl, Jamie Lee-Curtis, reprising one of her most popular roles.

24. Would You Rather (2012)

The classic game of would you rather is turned into a sadistic evening of psychological horror. You, much like the poor characters, will find yourself debating which you’d rather do as well.

25. The Thing (1982)

You can’t trust anyone in this sci-fi hit, mixing horror with mystery in trying to find out who is still who they say they are.

26. The Green Inferno (2013)

This is the one movie on here that I wouldn’t recommend for your average horror watcher. This gruesome and gory movie, made by the creator of Hostel, is definitely not for the faint of heart.

27. Alien (1979)

The definition of good sci-fi horror. Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, remains to this day one of the best horror protagonists ever put to film.

28. The Ring (2002)

You’ll never want to mess around with old VHS tapes after watching this one.

29. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Anytime I take a drive into the country and see an older building in the middle of nowhere, this is the movie I think of. A creepy and brutal horror classic.

30. Incantation (2022)

This is the newest horror movie that made the list, covering curses, cults and creepy children. Just make sure to avoid the English dubbed version of this Taiwanese film.

31. Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986)

Can’t have a list of horror movies without talking about Friday the 13th. While there are many to pick from, this sixth installment gives us the Jason Voorhees we all know and love: an unkillable, brooding, zombie of a figure who has a weird fascination with teenagers.

Honourable Mentions:

Hereditary (2018), Trick ‘r Treat (2007), Ju-On: The Grudge (2002), Child’s Play (1988), 28 Days Later (2002).