Tis the season for pumpkin carving, house/apartment decorating, and scary movie watching. Yes, folks, it’s Halloween (also known as Nerdoween around these parts), this writer’s favorite time of year. While some folks have the time, energy, and patience to curate 31 films to watch for each day of October, sometimes you have to narrow your list down to the basics. And what better way to celebrate the season than with a Halloween double feature with friends? Gather your buddies, some themed snacks, a few pumpkins to cut up, and one of these cinematic combos for a perfect All Hallows night.
Now, before you say that you don’t like horror movies, or you scare easily, never fear! Whether you’re a fan of the classics, horror-comedy, childhood favorites, supernatural spooks, house hauntings, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Without further ado, here are ten double feature ideas for Halloween.
Hocus Pocus & Casper
Real talk: I watch both of these movies, without fail, every year. Those of us of a certain age range grew up with both of these early ’90s Halloween classics, but they’ve also grown in popularity through endless TV marathons, outdoor cemetery and midnight screenings, and of course, buzzy lists like this one. Thora Birch and Christina Ricci took a cue from Winona Ryder (who, of course, graces us with her presence further down the list) and became two of the spooky, strange, wonderful weird girl icons of the grunge era — and personal heroes of this particular writer. From the endlessly quotable and hilarious characters of the Sanderson sisters and Casper’s ghostly uncles to two dreamboat boys with the 90s-est hair ever to Thackarby Binx, Billy and that final, oh so innocent dance, Hocus Pocus and Casper are a Halloween must-watch. Every year. So say we all.
Big fan of the classics? Want to terrify your unsuspecting friends? The Shining and The Exorcist are still two of the most frightening films I’ve ever seen, so insidiously creepy that these images are probably going to haunt me later tonight. Stanley Kubrick’s psychological nightmare and William Freidkin’s hellish thriller top pretty much every “best of” horror list there is, and for good reason. This might be a double feature for those of you with fellow film aficionado friends, ones that will settle in with you on a giant couch with a large blanket, agree not to talk too much, and allow themselves to be scared shitless.
Gremlins & Ghostbusters
These movies aren’t just cult favorites, they’re legitimately amazing movies. We’re still seeing the influence of Ivan Reitman, Dan Akroyd, and Harold Ramis’ genius comedy, from donuts to reboots to 30th anniversary releases to the moon! While some of you are on the fence about a female-driven reboot, set your differences aside (and maybe chill out) and watch the original paranormal investigators do their thing. Plus, you know: Bill Murray, American treasure. On the flip side, you’ve got a creature feature with heart, straight from the silly and twisted mind of Joe Dante. You may not be afraid of no ghost, but you should beware the mogwai – especially if you feed them after midnight.
Remember those witchy ’90s heroines I mentioned earlier? How about a quadruple feature, featuring Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and the queen of the delightfully macabre, Lydia Deetz, a/k/a Winona Ryder? It’s tough to choose between all of Tim Burton‘s excellent early work (RIP), but my allegiance lies squarely with Beetlejuice, the wonderfully weird romp through time, space, and the afterlife. Bust out your old goth clothes, flip through a few pages of the book of the dead, and journey back to a time of inappropriate, ghostly weddings, stop-motion monsters, and Michael effing Keaton. Follow that madcappery up with Addams Family Values–not, as you might accidentally attempt, The Addams Family, which is difficult to watch compared to its far superior sequel. And for those of you that can recite Wednesday’s summer camp speech, now’s your time to shine.
For some, you can’t host a Halloween movie night without a slasher flick, and two of the greatest are the original Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Sure, both spawned a number of sequels and reboots, some of which should have never seen the light of day, but they’re also the pinnacle of the genre. You can’t throw a stone around a collection of slasher movies without finding some inspiration drawn from Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street. Also, please mentally prepare yourself for the creepy sounds of Halloween‘s iconic theme and an invisible force (spoiler alert: Freddy Krueger) dragging Tina across the room and up onto the ceiling. Good luck sleeping tonight!
Perhaps you feel like injecting a little comedy into your horror. While there are a plethora of horror-comedies to choose from (and no, Ryan Murphy, you did not invent the genre), Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg‘s Shaun of the Dead and Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods are two of my absolute favorites. Shaun of the Dead was not only the film that kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, it introduced the beautiful partnership of Wright and Pegg to U.S. audiences in a big way. Cabin in the Woods, on the other hand, the hyper-meta satire starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, and Jesse Williams, took a surprising amount of time to reach theaters, despite the duo’s nerd cred. If you’re a Whedon fan, horror fan, comedy fan, or just someone who likes good things, you should definitely add Cabin in the Woods to your watch list.
Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to roll, roll, roll in ze hay? I see you shiver with antici—– well, you know the rest. Or at least, you should! Don your highest platforms or your favorite lab coat and gather your flashiest friends for this wicked combo: infamous musical comedy The Rocky Horror Picture Show and beloved parody Young Frankenstein, by the incomparable Mel Brooks. Bonus points if you introduce any unsuspecting friends to these gems from the 1970s. You simply cannot go wrong with a double feature of Tim Curry and Gene Wilder. There is nothing more fabulous.
The Thing & The Descent
This is a double feature I like to call “How to Scare Rachel to Death.” The first is a John Carpenter film from 1982 that I maintain is the most frightening film of all time. It’s a terrifying combination of insidious alien creatures, amazing practical effects, and a paranoia-inducing thriller. It’s a little bit body snatchers, a little bit every alien-in-a-remote-area nightmare story. It also stars Kurt Russell, so you know it’s awesome. Fast forward twenty plus years to The Descent, the Neil Marshall monster movie that also packs a psychological horror punch. If you’re ready to feel claustrophobic, disturbed, and afraid of the dark, watch these two bad boys in a row. (Also try to find the UK ending for The Descent. Trust.)
Time travel with me back to the mid-nineties, where a handful badass witchy protagonists inspired yet another generation of strange girls and boys. (“Mister, we are the weirdos.) There’s a little something for everyone in this set of movies. Neither are particularly “scary” (though that scene with the Jimmy-possessed aunts in Practical Magic is creepy as all hell), but they are a ton of fun to watch. Practical Magic focuses on lighthearted themes like sisterhood and fate, plus it features Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock before they were considered “serious actresses.” The Craft is a 90s slumber party staple, and basically tells you to trust in your own magic but maybe not your emotionally unhinged bff/co-witch.
Let’s talk new horror. There have been a lot of duds lately, but two recent offerings in the genre have stood apart from the rest. Both are of the supernatural ilk, both are directed by James Wan (Saw), and both star musical theater treasure and all around handsome/talented man Patrick Wilson. (Coincidence? I think not.) Insidious derives much of its scare tactics from Poltergeist, but breathes new life into the kid-lost-in-alternate-dimension subgenre. Meanwhile, The Conjuring brings the haunted house / possession genre into the 21st century with a story based on the real-life ghost hunters whose reports inspired the Amityville Horror. Yeah. Truly scary stuff, best watched with friends you feel comfortable grabbing in the dark. Believe me when I say you will never hear a double clap the same way again.
Do you have any Halloween double features to recommend? Let us know in the comments below, or share your ideas with me on twitter @RachelHeine!