31 Days of Kaiju

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! October is the month in which you’re not only permitted but encouraged to watch at least one horror movie a day, celebrating the spookiest, goriest, campiest holiday of the year.

With that in mind, we’re offering our list of the 31 best monster/kaiju movies to watch this Halloween season. Please note: this isn’t a list of the best monster movies — you won’t find Godzilla, King Kong, Jaws, or other all-time classics below. Even terrifying standouts like Alien and The Thing are nowhere to be found; true horror fans know they can always be relied upon for a frightening good time. Rather, these movies place an emphasis on scary over tasteful, ridiculous over refined, obscure over celebrated. These are, in other words, our recommendations for a singularly bloody good time this October.

1. Fiend Without a Face

We’ll start with a classic of cult British horror: the 1958 splatterfest Fiend Without a Face. Despite its European provenance, the film is actually set in Canada, on a U.S. Air Force base in rural Manitoba. Near the base’s long-range radar, a series of mysterious deaths has occurred in which the only clue is a pair of puncture marks at the base of the victims’ skulls. Wouldn’t you know it, the locals suspect that nuclear radiation from the base’s experiments are to blame, making Fiend Without a Face yet another example of Cold War-era fear and paranoia. Indeed, the nuclear fallout has contaminated a British scientist’s experiments in telekinesis, resulting in a brood of invisible monsters who suck out humans’ brains and spinal columns to propagate. Eventually, these unseen beasts do become visible, resulting in a gruesome final reel populated by disembodied, slimy brains with squirming tendrils wreaking havoc. The film was so gory for its time that the British Board of Film Censors demanded cuts before approving it, and still gave it an “X” certificate upon release; critics and viewers alike were repulsed by the blood and brain matter that abounds in the last twenty minutes. All the better for us modern audiences to revel in this peculiar mixture of B-movie crudeness and nonstop viscera!

2. Island of Lost Souls

Let’s go further back in time to 1932, that wondrous era of American movies known as “pre-Code cinema” — before the Production Code Administration began strictly enforcing censorship constraints regarding sex, violence, irreligiosity, and other supposedly immoral subjects. Around this time, movies like Island of Lost Souls were not uncommon: torrid spectacles that revel in the shocking and profane. This adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau stars Charles Laughton as the mad scientist who experiments with human, animal, and horticultural evolution, with disastrous results. Featuring Bela Lugosi in a bit role, the movie doesn’t shy away from themes like vivisection and bestiality, which led to the film’s banning in 14 American states, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Hungary, India, and elsewhere. H.G. Wells himself lamented how the adaptation played up the overt horror elements and downplayed his philosophical intentions — but arguably, that’s what makes the film so visceral and memorable.

3. The Hidden

No horror movie marathon is complete without some grisly ’80s monster mayhem, the first appearance of which on our list is The Hidden from 1987. Kyle MacLachlan (fresh off his appearance in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet) plays an intergalactic lawman hunting down an alien supervillain who jumps from body to body as a slimy, gargantuan slug. After an electrifying car chase opens the movie, The Hidden veers from one outrageous setpiece to the next, culminating in the flamethrower image above (which I won’t dare ruin in this synopsis). Chock full of gnarly gore effects and sleazy ’80s fashions, this walks the fine line between trash and artistry so prevalent in the horror genre.

4. The Gorgon

In the annals of Hammer Films, the production company’s early Dracula and Frankenstein movies (like The Curse of Frankenstein and 1958’s Dracula) get the most love. But the studio’s best releases are the under-the-radar gems that exist outside of those two franchises. Our vote for the best Hammer horror film goes to The Gorgon, which features those ubiquitous Hammer MVPs, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as doctors who investigate the mysterious deaths of victims who are turned to stone. There are heavy doses of camp, but also some gorgeous cinematography and set design, and even a dash of poignancy in its tragic ending. (Nothing too dour to ruin our monster mayhem vibe, though.)

5. Demons

It’s time to get seriously gory. Italian giallo directors like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Michele Soavi could often be relied upon to provide visceral kicks and eye-popping carnage. Demons, directed by Lamberto Bava (son of Mario, who directed such horror classics as Black Sabbath and Kill, Baby…Kill!), is an appropriately ludicrous example. In a Berlin cinematheque, a group of moviegoers realize that the violence being projected onscreen (the film within the film features hellish demons unleashed when the grave of Nostradamus is unearthed) is happening in real life, as those in the audience start turning into disgusting, ultraviolent monsters themselves. There’s dismemberment, decapitation, impaling, and gallons of blood. A generous interpretation could look at the film’s meta-cinematic setting and plot and consider Demons a comment on our insatiable cinematic bloodlust. But, first and foremost, this is an absurd and exhilarating ride (the “dirtbike and katana” clip above isn’t even the most outlandish setpiece in the film). It’s tailor-made for Halloween season, sure to make you groan with equal amounts of pleasure and revulsion.

6. Cronos

For our next pick, we go from Italy to Mexico for Guillermo del Toro’s feature debut (and still his best film). A gothic blend of Frankenstein and Dracula (with some of The Picture of Dorian Gray mixed in), this is a work of feverish imagination and fantastic melancholy. It begins in 1536, when an alchemist invents a device that grants eternal life through an insect enclosed in a scarab-like contraption. Flash forward to modern-day Mexico City, when an antiques dealer accidentally discovers the invention and, after being “bitten” by the ageless creature, finds himself unable to resist the youthfulness that it offers…even if it turns him monstrous in the process. Del Toro has a habit of making his monsters utterly sympathetic and his humans utterly monstrous, but that dichotomy is less obvious here than in many of his later movies. With stunning visual design and committed performances, Cronos is a modern-day monster classic, if a little sadder than most of the other entries on this list.

7. Bram Stoker’s Dracula

We’ll stay in the general vampiric realm but shift from gothic elegance to hyperbolic abandon. Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the landmark vampire text may not be the most complex or refined version of the tale — but with opulent style and lush visuals like these, who cares? Like he did with Rumble Fish, Coppola uses the source novel as an excuse to indulge in all kinds of stylistic trickery. The complete inappropriateness of actors like Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in their Victorian-era roles somehow just adds to the over-the-top fun. They (along with Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Sadie Frost, and Monica Bellucci) make this not just one of the most visually stunning versions of the story, but also one of the sexiest.

8. The Witches

Director Nicolas Roeg is no stranger to provocative, in-your-face style himself. After making acclaimed, adult-oriented classics like Don’t Look Now (1973) and The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Roeg might have seemed like an unusual choice to adapt Roald Dahl’s fanciful but terrifying story of a boy who stumbles into a witches’ convention. But it turns out he and producer/puppeteer Jim Henson were the ideal pair to bring Dahl’s macabre imagination to life. With Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch — a befuddling combination of sex appeal and grotesquerie — and Rowan Atkinson as a dull upper-class father (skewering English elitism), The Witches is both a children’s story masquerading as horror and a tale for adults disguised as fun family fare. As many movies from this era remind us (The Dark Crystal comes to mind), the best so-called children’s films are the ones that scar us for life.

9. Shivers

Grimy, low-budget, and nasty as hell, David Cronenberg’s early film Shivers is far from his best, but it has a pervasive ickiness that makes it perfect for this list. (It’s telling that one of the early titles for the film was Orgy of the Blood Parasites.) In a luxury apartment tower outside Montreal, the residents are getting infected by a slimy parasite compelling them to act in highly sexual and violent ways. It’s all the result of a mad doctor (but of course!) who, in an effort to revert humanity to its primal instincts and away from what he sees as its “overintellectualization,” created a parasite that was both an aphrodisiac and venereal disease, with the ability to control human organs. Given this storyline, it’s hardly surprising that Canadian critics and politicians decried the sleaziness of this taxpayer-funded film; one critic said (not incorrectly) it’s “crammed with blood, violence and depraved sex.” That makes it ideal viewing for the month of October.

10. Messiah of Evil

Taking a break from the utter grossness of something like Shivers, let’s switch it up to the more atmospheric suspense of the underrated Messiah of Evil (1973). Directed by the husband-and-wife team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (who coincidentally would go on to write and direct the infamous flop Howard the Duck), Messiah of Evil is a marvel of ambiguity and understatement. A young woman heads to the small town of Point Dume, California, to visit her father, a painter; but she discovers his house abandoned, finding only a journal entry he left behind in which he warns about the darkness consuming the town. After a local eccentric (played by legendary character actor Elisha Cook, Jr.) starts raving about “the blood moon” and “the dark stranger,” it becomes clear that the titular Messiah — a minister who had been turned into a zombie-like vampire — is returning to spread his new and evil religion. But let’s be clear: the plot doesn’t make much sense and ultimately is irrelevant. This is a movie that floats along on its own nightmarish logic, crafting scenes of almost unbearable dread and illogicality. If the scariest horror sometimes remains unexplained, Messiah of Evil demonstrates that in singular fashion.

11. Nightbreed

Regardless of how you feel about Hellraiser, Clive Barker deserves a spot on any list of horror greats; we’ll take the 1990 film Nightbreed over Pinhead any day. The wildly imaginative story follows a psychiatric patient named Boone (Craig Sheffer) who, convinced that he’s a serial killer by his evil doctor (David Cronenberg in a prominent role), finds refuge in the underground city of Midian, where all kinds of monsters take shelter from the bigotry of humanity. The plot serves as a metaphor for outcasts and ostracism; in particular, the film has been read as an allegory for the prejudice experienced by the LGBTQ community, with commentators as far-ranging as director Alejandro Jodorowsky and theorist Harry M. Benshoff applauding this “spectacularly queer” film. That’s the most admirable feat that the movie accomplishes, but it also provides spectacular makeup and costumes, some cringe-inducing gore effects, and a rollicking story that’s absorbing throughout. Butchered by producers and stymied by poor marketing, Nightbreed received a new lease on life when Scream Factory released Barker’s director’s cut in 2014 — the version that we recommend watching.

12. A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge

From one film loaded with queer subtext to another: the next pick on our list is arguably the best movie to come out of the numerous horror franchises of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. Freddy Krueger is the best slasher beastie of all time because he’s not just a masked boogeyman lumbering from one victim to the next; Krueger taps into our deepest subconscious fears, bringing our nightmares to life. In the case of this sequel, young Jesse Walsh and his family have just moved into the house formerly occupied by Nancy Thompson, protagonist of A Nightmare on Elm Street. One of Jesse’s greatest fears is that he will act on his repressed sexual desires for other men, particularly a classmate named Grady (Robert Rusler); before long, Freddy is viciously tapping into Jesse’s sense of confusion and alienation. This is that rare horror sequel that’s bloody good fun (there’s one massacre at a pool party that must be seen to be believed) but also surprisingly moving and compassionate toward its young ensemble of characters. Director Jack Sholder (who also helmed the third movie on this list, The Hidden) makes a strong case as one of the most underrated horror directors of all time with bold and subversive movies like these.

13. It Follows

As the last few movies on this list suggest, horror and sexuality are natural bedfellows: lust and desire can be transformative urges, making us behave in unexpected ways. One of the best recent horror movies to encapsulate those feverish emotions is It Follows (2014). A young woman named Jay (played by Maika Monroe in a star-making turn) has casual sex with her boyfriend Hugh (Jake Weary), who then informs her that he’s “passed on” a deadly succubus to her through intercourse: an entity will now target her unrelentingly until it kills her, or until she passes on the entity to someone else by having sex with them. This is the best kind of horror concept: a little ridiculous, not very logical, but loaded with metaphorical power. The horny monster that starts pursuing Jay isn’t only the most vicious STD imaginable; it also represents fear of betrayal, the specter of time looming over us, even film form itself, evoking dread through nothing more than a slowly-moving camera. Smart, scary, and eerily sexy, It Follows is a 21st-century horror classic.

14. The Descent

Speaking of 21st-century horror classics, Neil Marshall’s The Descent offers a new spin on the classic monster movie. When a group of thrill-seeking women explore an uncharted cave system in the Appalachians, their fraught emotional relationships are nearly as foreboding as the brutal humanoid creatures who roam their subterranean lair, picking off the spelunkers one by one. There’s no shortage of brutal, gory carnage, but what really enlivens The Descent is unanimously strong performances and Marshall’s skill at evoking dread through the claustrophobic setting.

15. Alligator

Now, back to the campy side of kaiju: written by John Sayles and directed by Lewis Teague, Alligator is a delirious highlight of the apex-predator-grows-to-gargantuan-size subgenre of monster movies. When an alligator in the Chicago sewers eats the discarded carcasses of animals who were subjected to radical growth hormones by a pharmaceutical company (!), it grows to nearly forty feet long and starts wreaking havoc on the streets of the city. Simultaneously embracing and poking fun at monster movie cliches, Alligator features some amusingly bizarre special effects (the use of puppets and miniatures isn’t exactly convincing, but it looks amazing anyway) and a charismatic performance by Robert Forster. It also delivers one of the best examples of snooty upper-class villains getting their just desserts via an over-the-top slaughter at an ostentatious wedding.

16. Piranha

How could you not put Alligator and Piranha back-to-back in a monster movie marathon? Alligator‘s screenwriter, John Sayles, also wrote Piranha, which was directed by another master of American genre cinema, Joe Dante. A skiptracer named Maggie (Heather Menzies) teams up with a reclusive woodsman (Bradford Dillman) to investigate the mysterious deaths of several people near bucolic Lost River Lake. The culprits? Genetically engineered piranhas that were created by the American military to be released in North Vietnamese rivers during the war to combat the Viet Cong. Not surprisingly, there’s a dash of political commentary alongside the campy performances and frenetic bloodshed. Sure, Jaws (which Piranha shamelessly imitates) is the better movie; but for our purposes, you can’t beat the sheer fun and delirium of Piranha.

17. Kuroneko

Let’s switch it up again and visit feudal Japan, where we encounter a different (and more sympathetic) kind of monster. In Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko (1968), a woman and her daughter-in-law who live in an eerie bamboo grove are raped and murdered by a band of samurai, who subsequently burn down their home. A black cat suddenly appears, licking at the corpses and foreshadowing the women’s reappearance as vengeful ghosts who vow to kill all samurai in the manner of predatory cats, brutally ripping out their throats. Kuroneko adds a touch of class to our list — it is simply one of the most beautiful horror movies ever made — but it’s also thrilling and highly visceral, connecting to a long history of Japanese folklore about cats. Japan’s legacy of horror is one of the strongest anywhere in the world, and Kuroneko is one of its unforgettable highlights.

18. The Blob (1988)

The original 1958 version of the The Blob is also a must-see for monster movie lovers, despite (or because of) its stilted performances, campy dialogue, and outdated creature effects. But the 1988 remake by Chuck Russell is almost certainly the superior movie. Once again, a gang of teenagers contends with the rampaging, amorphous mass, which in this case is the result of a Cold War experiment mutated by intergalactic radiation. What you notice first and foremost are the grisly special effects by Tony Gardner: as the Blob swallows, dissolves, and otherwise mutilates unsuspecting humans that get in its way, the movie makes it clear that it’s not going to shy away from the gruesome specifics of evisceration. But there are many other smaller pleasures to be had: the fact that Meg (Shawnee Smith) becomes the heroine, and one of the only capable characters in the entire film; the ineptitude of the police and the military; the implication that the world will be alright if the younger generations wrest power away from their elders. All that, not to mention a hell of a good time.

19. Bad Taste

Real horror fans know that Peter Jackson’s best movies came before he grabbed Hollywood’s attention. Case in point: his feature debut, Bad Taste (1987), which resembles the grossest, goriest episode of Looney Tunes you can possibly imagine. Made in Jackson’s native New Zealand, the story follows four agents from the Astro Investigation and Defense Service (AIDS — a crude example of the movie’s titular sense of humor) who arrive in a small town where the residents have been wiped out by aliens harvesting their victims as fast food for their home planet. With do-it-yourself makeup effects that are both cartoonish and revolting, Bad Taste will make you groan in disgust and delight (and maybe even cover your eyes for some scenes). As long as you don’t mind some proudly puerile jokes (like a man who dons a hat in order to keep his brain from leaking out the back of his skull), this is good, old-fashioned, offensive fun.

20. Leviathan (1989)

It’s a travesty how underappreciated 1989’s Leviathan is; sure, it’s a ripoff of Alien and The Thing, but imitation when it’s done this well is the sincerest form of flattery. Directed by George P. Cosmatos (who combined the inane with the visceral in movies like this, Of Unknown Origin, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Tombstone), Leviathan takes place in an underwater mining facility where the crew discovers a sunken Russian ship on the ocean floor. From the remains of the ship, they unearth an ominous captain’s log and a flask of vodka with an unknown mutagen inside. Before long, the trapped miners are battling a hideous mutant that rivals the man-monster hybrid seen in The Thing (thanks largely to special effects work by Stan Winston). Starring Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson, and other ’80s standouts, this is more fun and stylish than its reputation as a Z-grade knockoff suggests.

21. Splice

One of the best (if under-the-radar) horror films of the 2000s is this ambitious thriller from Vincenzo Natali (Cube). Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody star as genetic scientists, Elsa and Clive, who fuse human DNA with that of vermiform creatures they spawned in a lab, resulting in a young humanoid female named Dren. It’s made abundantly clear that Clive and Elsa’s experiments in human gene splicing are a result of their own fraught relationship and uncertain feelings about parenthood; as Dren becomes increasingly violent and unpredictable, Elsa grows closer to her as a surrogate mother, which does not bode well for everyone involved. With the story containing incest, rape, and monstrous pregnancy, Splice may not always be a fun watch, but it is uncommonly attuned to its characters’ warped desires and insecurities, making the chills as well as the emotional impact unexpectedly powerful.

22. The Howling

Joe Dante’s second appearance on this list is the best werewolf movie ever made, a thrilling and unpredictable thriller with smart and subversive ideas about humanity’s untapped animal nature (creating an unexpected linkage with Shivers). A Los Angeles news anchor named Karen (Dee Wallace) attempts to capture a serial killer by meeting him at a sleazy porno theater, but when she actually encounters him in a cramped viewing room, the creature staring back at her is wholly unexpected. Suffering from amnesia in the wake of this traumatic incident, Karen is sent (along with her husband) to a mysterious retreat called “the Colony.” This is only the beginning of a wild, twisty ride that’s enlivened by a flashy visual style and Rob Bottin’s spectacular makeup effects.

23. The Fly (1958)

David Cronenberg’s 1986 remake of The Fly is an absolute masterpiece — so good, in fact, that it tends to overshadow the greatness of the original. This Halloween season, we suggest you take another look at Kurt Neumann’s still-effective shocker from 1958, which taps into Cold War-era paranoia and the lengths to which man will go to play God. The first half hour plays like a murder mystery before the film flashes back to the seemingly happy marriage of André and Hélène. Of course, André’s experiments in matter transportation will soon put an end to their familial bliss. This has a reputation for being campy and outdated, but nothing could be further from the truth; thanks to committed performances (Al Hedison, Patricia Owens, and Vincent Price are all fantastic), The Fly achieves a more poignant emotional impact than most movies of its ilk. When André finds himself trapped in a spiderweb near the end in a now (in)famous scene, with an enormous spider coming right at him, the effect is one of terror instead of incredulous laughter.

24. The Vampire Bat

Made by the Poverty Row studio Majestic Pictures in the midst of the Great Depression, The Vampire Bat (1933) convincingly achieves an air of prestige: it used sets left over from James Whale’s Frankenstein and The Old Dark House, and features stars like Fay Wray (King Kong) and Dwight Frye (Dracula). The story begins like so many other vampire pictures, with mysterious deaths in a small village where the victims have two small puncture wounds and are drained of blood, but the ultimate story is much weirder than that: a mad doctor and a sentient brain-like organism both make appearances. Quick, twisty, and atmospheric, The Vampire Bat offers 63 minutes of Halloween-season fun.

25. It’s Alive

Larry Cohen and American independent horror cinema are practically synonymous, and It’s Alive is his best, most serious-minded movie. A husband and wife, Frank and Lenore, head to the hospital as Lenore gives birth to their second child; after a shocking massacre in the delivery room (in which Lenore is left alive but all the doctors and nurses are slaughtered), the infant — a hideous monster with fangs, claws, and insatiable bloodlust — escapes, leading to a manhunt for the newborn baby. The child’s monstrosity is revealed to be the result of contraceptive pills peddled by a shady pharmaceutical company, but the movie works best as a metaphor for the anxieties of parenthood (four years before David Lynch’s Eraserhead presented similar themes, albeit in more surreal and singular ways). Benefitting from somber music by Bernard Herrmann and effective (if chintzy) creature effects by Stan Winston, It’s Alive is a creative and affecting standout of ’70s horror cinema.

26. Basket Case

A remarkable snapshot of a grimy, vivid New York City in 1982, Basket Case is one of the most unsettling movies on this list, but also one of the most idiosyncratic. It follows a young man named Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) who was surgically separated from his hideous conjoined twin as a child; Duane now carries his “twin,” Belial, in a wicker basket wherever he goes, with the latter slaughtering the doctors that the two consider responsible for their separation. Director Frank Henenlotter wears the film’s low budget as a mark of pride, achieving a sleazy, foreboding tone in which the most heinous violence always seems right around the corner. But alongside that grungy vibe is a sincere look at two brothers who share a remarkable (and tragically destructive) bond.

27. Color Out of Space

The accusations against director Richard Stanley are extremely concerning, but Color Out of Space deserves a spot on this list as one of the best horror movies of the 21st century. An adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s eponymous short story, it follows the Gardner family, headed by Nathan (Nicolas Cage) and Theresa (Joely Richardson), as they move into a remote farm formerly owned by Nathan’s father. After a meteor crash lands in their front yard, strange events start occurring — lapses of time, changes in behavior, the growing of strange plants and fungi, the fusing of human and animal bodies — all of which seems to be the result of “the color” emanating from the meteor. Visually astonishing and ultimately perplexing in the ways that Lovecraftian horror can be, this is a truly fantastic experience, with horrific creatures that rival the great practical makeup effects of 1980s horror.

28. John Dies at the End

Let’s take a moment to shout out another recent horror highlight, helmed by the director of the original Phantasm, Don Coscarelli. Based on David Wong’s one-of-a-kind novel, John Dies at the End is a horror-comedy-cult-sci fi headtrip that hurtles along with madcap dream logic. Featuring zombie skinheads, alternate dimensions, time travel, a mysterious drug called Soy Sauce, demonic insects, and monsters which may or may not be hallucinatory, this is the kind of movie that throws everything at the wall in an effort to assault the audience. Funny, scary, and absolutely unique, this probably won’t satisfy viewers looking for cohesion or legibility — but those semblances of middlebrow quality shouldn’t be prioritized around Halloween anyway.

29. Dog Soldiers

Before Neil Marshall directed The Descent (see number 14 above), he made the excellent under-the-radar werewolf movie Dog Soldiers. In the Scottish Highlands, a platoon of British soldiers conducts a training exercise but soon finds out that something in the woods is picking them off one by one. First and foremost, Dog Soldiers is exhilarating, bloody, and breathlessly scary, with immaculate visual form and top-notch blending of animatronic, makeup, and digital effects. More than its surface pleasures, though, Dog Soldiers also offers a sharp satire of the uber-aggressive tactics of soldiers, who are taught to be loyal to ideals of country and brotherhood but are considered expendable by their own military. It’s that rare thrilling horror flick with ideas on its mind, which also happens to end with one of the funniest visual punchlines in recent memory.

30. Evil Dead II

More well-crafted than The Evil Dead, less self-deprecating than Army of Darkness, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II might be the best horror-comedy ever made, equal parts Marx Brothers and George Romero (with gallons of fake blood added in for good measure). The plot is simple but kinetic, as a group of strangers descend upon a remote cabin in the woods for various reasons; one of them, Ash (Bruce Campbell in his most prototypical role), accidentally unleashes a “Kandarian Demon” that wreaks gory havoc on everyone and everything. This is the kind of movie in which the book A Farewell to Arms is visible as a character chops off his own possessed hand, in which taxidermy comes alive in ways both hilarious and terrifying; puns and quips abound as the camera flies, crawls, spins, and somersaults in every direction, a spectacle in every sense of the word. You can’t do much better than Evil Dead II for Halloween eve viewing.

31. Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween III: Season of the Witch has nothing to do with Michael Myers and is all the better for it. A toy company called Silver Shamrock Novelties is about to peddle its line of Halloween masks throughout the country; it turns out the masks contain microchips with fragments from Stonehenge, which will kill anyone wearing them and unleash an army of snakes and insects in unison on Halloween night. The Halloween franchise was initially intended to be a different story in each film, until the popularity of Michael Myers diverted John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s original intentions; it’s a unique pleasure to see this single outlier in the series, boasting an imaginative script and entertaining (if occasionally barebones) direction by Tommy Lee Wallace. At its best, Halloween III: Season of the Witch offers bizarre, inexplicable chills like a woman who is mutilated by an evil beam of energy, only for a huge insect to crawl out of her mouth — a moment as befuddling as it is horrifying. Sure, the movie ends just as it’s rising to a fever pitch of terror and mayhem, but for our purposes, that’s not the worst thing in the world: on Halloween night, you can imagine your own finale, both to this film in particular and to the parade of horror you’ve enjoyed for the last 31 days.

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