Halloween films: the good, the bad and the truly scary

Ari Mattes | First published: 31 October 2016, 19:14 IST

If you are sick of children knocking on your door and demanding lollies and if you don't feel like dressing up in a sexy or grotesque costume tonight, here are some Halloween films to help you ward off evil spirits. Unsurprisingly, most are in the horror genre.

The obvious "go-tos" are the films from the eponymous franchise, John Carpenter's Halloween of 1978 and its seven sequels and two remakes. The majority of these films, however, are unwatchable; mostly boring and sometimes unpleasant.

By far the best two films are Carpenter's original and its in-name only sequel, Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982): the only one of the series that doesn't feature lethal, masked maniac Michael Myers.

Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween.

Compass International Pictures/idmb

Carpenter's first film is, contrary to popular belief, a carefully measured and effectively manipulative slow burn. The film unfolds in what feels like close to real time, following the actions of heroine Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she and her group of friends are picked off one by one by the killer.

It is, of course, notorious as one of the earlier American "slasher" films - a sub-genre that virtually began with Italian auteur Mario Bava's answers to Hitchcock, films like Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970) and Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) - and remains one of the most profitable and influential independent films to this day.

Halloween offers a brilliant, post-Vietnam War examination of the potential horror simultaneously germinated in, emerging from, and entering the American small town. Carpenter seems to recognise, and clearly develop, the macabre potential of small town life.

Rob Zombie attempted to reanimate the franchise with his remake in 2007. Although Zombie has made a couple of worthwhile films - The Devil's Rejects is easily his best - his take on Halloween is a complete dud. Whereas Carpenter depicts Michael Myers as the personification of evil, Zombie tries to psychologise Myers, making the film about his inner development as an abused child institutionalised from a young age.