October is by far the most magical and mysterious month. In the midst of the brisk, foggy fall season, the leaves are changing, the air is cool and crisp, and evenings are spent curled up with pumpkin spice lattes and scary movies. Television networks dedicate their airtime to horror movies past and present, and Netflix rolls out an impressive catalogue of spooky genre oeuvres.
Horror films are comparatively niche, but boast a hardcore of dedicated fanatics. Rich in history, this genre dates back to the 1920s. Hitchcock had revolutionised horror by the 1960s, and every horror movie trope – highly effective devices for creating suspense and fear – is a derivative of the earliest filmographic methods. Some might think this would lead to some pretty repetitive movies and yet, a new horror movie rarely fails to get the audience jumping in their seats.
October seems like the best time to release a blockbuster horror – after all, it’s that time of the year when almost everybody, even those who normally avoid scary films, are open to being spooked. Interestingly enough, however, many of the top horror films in history weren’t released during the month of spooks and ghouls but rather during the spring and summer months.
Among those horrors that did make their debut at Halloween, dozens have become cult classics and a few broke box office records. Some successful horror franchises have made it their practice to release movies every October, of course, so we’ve amassed those instances into one category each here. As you browse the list, be sure to add some of these to your Halloween horror movie to-watch list – they’re the perfect festive way to get you in the mood for All Hallow’s Eve!
10. From Hell (2001) – $31,602,566
Released on October 19th, 2001, “From Hell” starred Johnny Depp and Heather Graham and was a loosely based on the Jack the Ripper murders. Suspense, violence, history, and a touch of sexiness, “From Hell” turned out to be the ideal movie to get people in the Halloween mood with the holiday just 12 days away. The movie also resurrected interest in the real Jack the Ripper case, and audiences soon discovered the excessive embellishments on the real story.
9. Bride of Chucky (1998) – $32,383,350
As the fourth movie of the “Child’s Play” franchise, “Bride of Chucky” was released on October 16th, 1998 and starred Jennifer Tilly as Chucky’s wife and a very young Katherine Heigl as the movie’s heroine. With plenty of gore and campy material, “Bride of Chucky” was one of the movies in which the franchise began to transition from pure scares to sneaking in a few laughs with a semi-ridiculous plot that included doll sex. Released 15 days before Halloween, “Bride of Chucky” provided twisted humor while still keeping suspense and jump scares – this franchise is also largely responsible for a widespread phobia of dolls!
8. Halloween (1978) – $47,000,000
Truly one of the classics, the creepy serial killer Michael Myers has become an icon of the spooky season. “Halloween” was released on October 25th, 1978 and its spooky plot takes place on the evening of Halloween. It was the movie that jump started the career of Jamie Lee Curtis and showed that you didn’t need a big budget to truly terrify your audience. All you need is a solid script, suspenseful music and a creepy killer!
7. Annabelle (2014) – $64,394,240 (and growing)
“Annabelle” was released on October 3rd, 2014, and is the prequel to the horror film, “The Conjuring” (2013). While the film has been receiving some negative reviews and feedback, it hasn’t stopped audiences from flooding the theaters for the full cinematic experience of the demon possessed doll. With demons, creepy dolls, blood, Satanic cults, and more, what else do you need for a Halloween movie?
6. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – $72,586,134
“I Know What You Did Last Summer” was a 90s kid’s dream come true with a cast full of the biggest teen stars on television. The movie was released on October 17, 1997, and told the story of a group of teens who hit a pedestrian and dispose of his body “thinking” he is dead. One year later, the pedestrian returns to impose his revenge by killing the teens one by one. It’s an emblematic slasher film with suspense and gore along with a bit of mystery as audiences learn the truth of the identity of the pedestrian…
5. The Grudge (2004) – $110,359,362
“The Grudge” was released on October 22, 2004 and was the remake of the 2002 Japanese horror film, “Ju-On”. They say that no one creates horror and fear like the Japanese, and this American remake doesn’t disappoint since production stayed true to the story’s origins. The movie inspired two more sequels, and continues to freak out audiences with gravely sounds and crab-like walks. The movie was considered to be a success, and left audiences paranoid, perhaps fearing that they too would fall victim to an onryo ghost one day.
4. Texas Chainsaw Massacre & TCM: The Beginning – $120,089,418
The 2003 “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was a remake of the 1974 film and involved the producers of the original film. Released on October 17th, the 2003 remake was a prime example of a movie that received bad reviews but became well-loved by the fans. In 2006, on October 3rd, the sixth installment of the franchise was released and wasn’t quite as well received due to its primary focus on blood and gore and a lack of plot. But considering that these two films were the better performing movies that were released in October, it seems the Halloween release helped boost box office sales.
3. The Ring (2002) – $129,128,133
Considered one of the scariest movies without that avoid gore, “The Ring” was released on October 18, 2002 and is a remake of the Japanese film, “Ringu”. The film was almost a true shot-for-shot remake, and was able to maintain its own style that terrified audiences all over the world. The script was highly regarded and the production’s use of disturbing imagery and suspense is credited for much of the film’s success. The film made audiences fear VHS tapes and phone calls with a creepy whisper that uttered, “Seven days…” that would indicate that they only had a week left to live.
2. Paranormal Activity 2-4 – $241,682,049
You’re probably wondering, “Why isn’t the first movie included in this group?” In fact, the first “Paranormal Activity” film was released on September 25, 2009 so it wasn’t quite a Halloween horror. But the first film spawned a franchise that proved a force to be reckoned with. “Paranormal Activity 2” was released on October 22, 2010, “Paranormal Activity 3” was released on October 21, 2011, and the fourth installment, “Paranormal Activity 4” was released on October 19, 2012. With its low budget and “found footage” style, the franchise successfully released a sequel nearly every year regardless of critical reception and made huge profits.
1. Saw I-VI (Plus 3D) – $416,714,068
The “Saw” franchise has become one of the most successful horrors that has hit Hollywood. The original “Saw” movie, released October 29, 2004, did exceptionally well at the box office and spawned six more sequels, each doing well on their own merit and all released around the same time of the year as the original film. It’s still agreed upon that the first “Saw” film was the best of the franchise, but that didn’t stop audience members from filling the seats of the movie theater, wondering how Jigsaw was going to inflict torture and mental anguish on a new group of victims. The Saw films are said to have been the inspiration for a whole new subgenre of horror movies, wherein the protagonists are faced with disturbing lesser-of-two-evils choices.