Thursday, October 30, 2014

Guest Post: Top 5 Halloween Films of All Time by Brandon Engel

We're happy to have Brandon Engel back on the blog today sharing his Top 5 Halloween Films of All Time.  Love these! Thank you for sharing, Brandon! You can find more info about Brandon below his post.
Top 5 Halloween Films of All Time
If you are looking for a way to celebrate Halloween, there’s nothing better than a full bowl of popcorn and a good movie. Below, we've compiled a list of our recommended viewing materials for

5. Dracula (1931)
The classic Hollywood Dracula was directed by Tod Browning and starred Bela Lugosi. It was based largely the Dracula stage show, which also featured Lugosi, that toured the world. The play was, of course, inspired by Bram Stoker's eponymous novel. The character known as Renfield is on a business trip to Transylvania where he encounters Count Dracula's castle. Locals warn him that vampires live in the castle yet Renfield opts to make the trip anyways. The count, a vampire, welcomes Renfield, hypnotizes him, attacks him and then enslaves him. Most film buffs aren't aware of the fact that the Spanish language version of the movie was filmed simultaneously on the same set at the same exact time.

4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
This 1920 silent film is considered to be the first ever “true” horror film by many critics including Roger Ebert. It tells the story of an evil Dr. Caligari, a circus performer who travels with his “somnambulist” in a box. When night falls, the somnambulist carries out the doctor’s evil bidding. This filming environment required that the actors move in a herky-jerky manner.  The movie includes the use of highly stylized sets made of paper with sharp edged buildings painted onto canvas backgrounds. Critics like to point out that it was the first film to debut cinema's “twist ending.” One of the script-writers, Hans Janowitz, says that he got the idea for the story while he was observing an odd looking man hiding in the shadows at a carnival and later learned that a girl was murdered there. Janowitz saw the same man at her funeral and used these experiences as the foundation for the film's plot.

3. Halloween (1978)
This 1978 slasher classic from director John Carpenter featured the big-screen debut of Jamie Lee Curtis. The film's plot revolves around Halloween night in a Midwestern town where murderer, Michael Myers, escapes from a mental hospital and stalks a teenage girl and her friends. His shrink follows him and attempts to stop him from killing his targets. The film was produced on a miniscule budget of $325,000 but generated $250 million in sales. And even though it was made cheaply, it’s extremely effective! Just as it’s rumoured that Psycho kept many homeowners out of their showers, it might not be such a wild assertion that this film helped spike a demand for home security systems upon it’s release! Most credit it as the first (and possibly the best) “slasher” film ever made. Of particular note is that the movie was shot out of sequence, so Carpenter constructed a “fear meter” to inform Curtis of the level of fright that she should express for each scene.

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Perhaps the best Halloween film on this list, Nightmare Before Christmas provides thrills and eye candy for audiences of all ages. It's a stop motion musical conceived by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick. At the heart of the story is Jack Skellington, a Halloween Town resident who gains entry to Christmas Town. Once he learns of the holiday, he decides to attempt to celebrate it. The film's visuals are spectacular as is its score which was composed by Danny Elfman. Viewers will find it interesting that the film's plot was formulated in a poem written by Tim Burton back in 1982.

1. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
While this television special is decidedly unscary, it is still enjoyable to watch. It is the third Peanuts special and airs each Halloween on ABC. The special centers around the Peanuts crew's preparations for Halloween and their subsequent trick-or-treating misadventures. Linus composes his yearly letter to The Great Pumpkin while Charlie Brown and Patty express skepticism about the pumpkin's existence. The crew spends much of Halloween in the local pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. When the special first aired, child viewers from all over the United States mailed their candy to Charlie Brown so that he could enjoy the holiday as well. Part of what makes these classic Peanuts TV specials so endearing is that the voice work is done entirely by children (very rare for animation). It’s heart-warming, and no Halloween season is complete without at least one viewing of it.

Brandon Engel is a Chicago-based blogger who writes about everything from pulp horror to environmental legislation. Follow him on Twitter at @BrandonEngel2.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Brandon, and sharing these Top 5!  I know for us, it just isn't Halloween until we've watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!


  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas is my favorite! I just adore that movie.

  2. Nightmare Before Christmas! Love that movie!

  3. I have seen and enjoyed all of these, except #4. That one is new to me, but it is one that I will have to watch. Thanks for the recommendation!


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