“It’s Halloween. Guess everyone gets a good scare,” Sheriff Brackett says in John Carpenter’s Halloween. While the seminal slasher had no shortage of spooky moments and well-placed scares, the Halloween movies are not the only ones to embrace the scares of the holidays. Whether it’s through subtle moments, crude gags, powerful jump scares, or phobia-inducing thrills, Halloween horror offers something for everyone – beyond the iconic franchise.
This Halloween, we’re looking back at ten of the spookiest moments of non-Halloween horror movies that take place around the best holidays of the year. Halloween, of course!
the child – sentient jack-o-lantern
Alicianne has just been hired as a housekeeper and babysitter for young Rosalie Nordon, who has just lost her mother. Alicianne soon realizes that Rosalie has a supernatural gift, including zombies at her disposal, and uses it to get revenge on those who piss her off. Atmospheric terror erupts into Fulci-like chaos on Halloween. Alicianne descends into the den to find a scary pumpkin staring at her. He turns around to keep his eyes shining on her. It’s a low-key little moment of pure goosebumps that sets up a wild final act.
you are not my mother – Let’s dance
Writer/director Kate Dolan’s Irish folk horror is set around Halloween. It follows a teenage girl whose mother, Angela, goes missing, returning home later with no explanation and with an altered personality. What came home might not have been his mother but a Changeling. Dolan’s folk horror flick fosters psychological chills with a strained mother/daughter relationship and atmospheric terror over the jumps. Carolyn Bracken delivers an unsettling performance as the Changeling version of Angela, especially in the scene where Angela beckons her daughter to dance with her in the living room. It starts out benign but becomes more intense and menacing as her daughter Char becomes frightened by the particular behavior.
Something bad this way comes – Spider Nightmare
Based on the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury, this kid-friendly horror/dark fantasy movie didn’t shy away from getting quite dark. He certainly had no qualms about introducing young audiences to arachnophobia either. Poor Will and Jim learn that not even their bedroom is safe from Mr. Dark’s terror when a crack in the ceiling swells and opens, releasing hundreds of tarantulas into the room. They are everywhere. Floors, crawling on pajama pants legs and squirming under bed sheets – the normal respite for night terrors. It’s an absolute nightmare.
slugs – Merger of restaurants
In this 1988 horror film by Juan Piquer Simon (Rooms), a small town is flooded by toxic waste slugs that embark on a homicide carnage. Because this is a Simon movie, these deaths get pretty cruel. The most disturbing takes place in the restaurant, during a business dinner. One of the guests is not feeling very well. Unbeknownst to him, he had eaten lettuce contaminated with slugs, and it hurt him a lot inside. A painful meltdown, profuse bleeding and explosions of slug larvae ensue. All appetites in this restaurant are effectively destroyed.
House of 1000 corpses – Deputy Steve
It doesn’t end well for the deputies and a father searching for his missing daughter when they arrive at the Firefly home. After Mother Firefly (Karen Black) dispatches the sheriff, Otis (Bill Moseley) begins gunning down the deputies. Writer/director Rob Zombie films this in slow motion as Slim Whitman’s “I Remember You” plays on the violence. Zombie then increases the tension to a palpable degree as Deputy Steve (Walton Goggins) drops to his knees in surrender. The music ends and Zombie lets the scene linger in silence as Otis presses his gun to the deputy’s forehead. This excruciatingly uncomfortable moment lasts nearly 40 seconds until Otis finally pulls the trigger, piercing the suspense and leaving us shaken.
The Blair Witch Project – Mike’s corner
In October 1994, a trio of film students set out for the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland to film a documentary about the local urban legend of the Blair Witch. Only their found footage remains to tell their horror story. The chills and thrills intensify when Josh disappears, throwing Mike and Heather into utter panic. They follow Josh’s calls for help to an abandoned house, where Heather and Mike are separated. An unseen force attacks Mike in the basement, and when Heather next ventures out, she too is attacked. Her camera catches Mike standing silently in a corner as she gets attacked off-screen. The terrifying imagery of this moment and its implications stay with you.
The changing – Red bouncing ball
Only a great movie like The changing could make something as benign as a little red ball so scary. For lead character John Russell, he finds himself plagued by strange happenings shortly after moving into a historic mansion. One of them is a small red ball that moves by itself. So, he gets rid of it by driving to a nearby bridge and dumping it. He returns home, takes off his jacket, and is about to enter his office when the same ball oddly bounces down the stairs towards him.
Hell House LLC – Night visitor
A team of Halloween hunters choose the empty Abaddon Hotel for their final seasonal attraction and move in to get it ready in time. Naturally, they don’t realize it’s uninhabited for a reason, and the spooky hotel residents waste no time welcoming their new tenants. One of the scariest moments of this creepfest sees one of the members woken up in the middle of the night by a strange sound. He turns on the light, unaware that a ghost was sitting in the dark, watching him. When he notices her, he turns off the light and burrows under the covers. The macabre night visitor finds it anyway.
Claim – Fear of the lawn mower
True crime author Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) upsets his family and moves them to a new town so he can research his next book. Only Ellison knows the new house harbors a murder story, and soon he discovers a Super 8 snuff box in the attic. Midway through Scott Derrickson’s unsettling horror film, Ellison watches another Super 8 reel, this one feeling different from the others. The camera peeks voyeuristically at unsuspecting prey before retreating to the garage to retrieve a lawnmower. The camera then steps out into the quiet, dark night. The silence becomes almost deafening as the mower rolls on, until it is punctuated by piercing screams as the mower runs over one of the family members. This makes for a surprisingly powerful jump scare.
Ghostwatch – The cellar door
Originally airing on Halloween night in 1992, this horror mockumentary was presented as a live TV event. Involving BBC journalists investigating a house in Northolt, Greater London, where paranormal activity caused trouble for a family, it led viewers at home to believe the events were real. What did Ghostwatch so frightening was his attention to detail; Pipes’ ghost could often be spotted in the background of the frame, causing viewers to panic. These subtle scares and the ever-hidden presence of Pipes heightened the terrifying conclusion that triggers a paranormal attack. The final image of Greene being pulled into a closing cellar door is pure nightmare fuel, effectively sending viewers intoxicated over what happens next.