ByAlisha Grauso, writer at
Editor-at-large here at Movie Pilot. Nerd out with me on Twitter, comrades: @alishagrauso
Alisha Grauso

Everyone has that one film they watched as a kid (or adult) that scared the pants off them, drilled deep into their mind and took hold, and instilled a particular, permanent fear. Some of us moved past that, and some of us, well...some of us can't look at clowns or dark basements the same way ever again.

Join the Moviepilot staff writers as they reveal their favorite horror films in honor of Halloween. Permanent brain warpage is optional (but probable).

Alisha Grauso

Child's Play (1988)

Know what's awesome? Puppies. Cake. Waking up early on a Saturday and realizing you can sleep in. Know what's not awesome? Dolls. Well, dolls, clowns, the Slender Man, cockroaches, and the eyeball-slicing scene from Un Chien Andalou. But mostly dolls.

I blame this on Child's Play. When I was in the third grade, I had a sleepover at a classmate's house for her birthday, and somehow, we were left unsupervised and found Child's Play on TV. One look at the pint-sized serial killer and I was done, my fragile little mind warped by the fact that it wasn't the big, shambling, Jason Voorhees-style slashers I needed to worry about, but a tiny little freak who could fit under my bed. I spent the next month having nightmares and laying awake at night in a fevered agony, wondering whether it was better to turn my back to the dark room behind me and face the crack between my bed and my wall, or face the room and leave my back exposed to that gap where a small, knife-wielding monster could hide. Obviously, I was permanently scarred.

Plus, Child's Play is the only horror franchise that has shown true continuity, with each sequel, no matter how many years in between, building upon the story of the last. The fact that has provided the voice of Chucky for 25 years now is also remarkable, and a testament to the steadiness of the franchise.

No matter how much it has damaged me.

Scott Pierce

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

We all have to thank for The Walking Dead. After all, he crafted the concept of what a rotting flesh eater was capable of in his 1968 horror masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the genre was plagued by predictability over the course of 40 some years since. That’s why director Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 The Return of the Living Dead is my undead du jour. The characters, the zombies, and the perfect blend of scares, comedy, and violence are still fresh. The film actually uses Romero’s work as a jumping off point. What if he made the film based on a real incident, but he just changed the facts a bit? Instead of lumbering idiots, the zombies of RoLD are fast, smart (they even make jokes), and they can’t die. Ever. As a hodgepodge of likable punk teens battle gnarly dead people, the movie still manages to find time for naked tombstone dancing. Comedic aspects aside, this is a great horror movie through and through.

David Latona

The Exorcist (1973)

It takes guts to put Satan in a 12-year-old girl's body. It takes even more guts to actually watch such a seriously cringe-worthy and harrowing depiction of human suffering in one sitting, and that's why I consider The Exorcist (1973) the best horror film of 'em all. Sure, it relies on some visual gimmicks that might not have the same impact in 2013 as they did back then, but nonetheless it can still shock newer generations with its visceral profanity and sheer, horrific power to simultaneously enthrall and appall. At times nauseating, at others obscenely fascinating, this supernatural film never plummets into the ridiculousness it could easily have; with the vomiting and bed-banging contributing to the hair-raising bizarreness of it all, never detracting from its blood-curdling quality. In essence, The Exorcist is a horror classic which will actually scare the Hell outta you, but doesn't stop at that; after the daunting and unnerving watching experience comes the post-viewing questioning and reflecting. Believe me, the latter can become even more spine-chilling than you think.

Mark Newton

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Let me start with an admission. I don't like horror movies. This isn't because they scare me, in fact, it's quite the opposite. Horror movies rarely scare me — and if they don't scare you, all you're left with is an empty husk of a movie with bad dialogue and over-the-top special effects.

But there is one exception to this: The Blair Witch Project.

Generally speaking found footage horrors do freak me out more. With normal horrors I find it hard to dissociate myself from the fact it's a movie. But Blair Witch is different. It pioneered the found footage horror, even going so far to actually terrorize the actors playing the role, denying them food, sleep and generally creeping them out all night. It proved that often the scariest thing of all is what you DON'T see. The result is a horror which is tangible, realistic and chilling to the bone.

Eszter Simor

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Since a coworker dressed as a zombie has literally just walked in to the office, it reminds me that Halloween is unimaginable without these creatures. And zombies for me definitely mean Romero. Night of the Living Dead was THE movie that started the zombie-fever back in 1968 and since then it has become a cult classic. Everyone knows these stumbling, undead monsters, who move around in groups and gorge on human flesh, through Romero films. No wonder that it shocked the contemporary audience back then – Roger Ebert, for example, gave a detailed description about how children left the cinema crying when the movie was not yet rated – its brutally natural visuals bite into your flesh even 40 years later.

A handful of people are trapped in a country-house fenced in by the undead. However, the heroes not only have to face an outside threat; madness is slowly spreading inside the house too. Family members are not safe from each other either and the savior just won't arrive. Is it possible to get out alive of this craziness? What makes the movie great is that Romero is a genius at creating a truly claustrophobic atmosphere and the depicted cannibal scenes are horrifying. And the monsters wear human faces. As we are watching their decaying bodies in terror, our own hidden fears come alive? Romero makes us face our own mortality. We are the zombies ourselves, the all-destroying and devouring human society.

Jancy Richardson-Dawes

Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)

If the title doesn't win you over then there may be no hope, but Killer Klowns is the ultimate movie to watch with your friends at Halloween. Get some beers in and revel in the most colorful, daft and enjoyable movie you could watch while drunk. Violently acidic custard pies, killer puppets and randy clowns abound in this verifiable Citizen Kane of 80's trash horrors. God help us all, they're currently working on a sequel.

Abi Toll

The Orphanage (2007)

My favorite horror is the mesmerizing The Orphanage, directed by in 2007.

Presented by , it takes its setting in an abandoned orphanage; which embodies del Toro's fantastical gothic atmosphere. The corridors are terrorized by the child spectre Tomás who- due to severe deformity- is forced to wear a sack over his head. It is an image that will be emblazoned onto your retinas for months.

For me, The Orphanage is the perfect balance of stunning cinematography and a tale masterfully told. The film's pacing is so well managed that the plot can seamlessly slip into a psychological decline to arresting effect. One can not help but be drawn into the Mother's despair of losing her child and the torment of the events that unfold thereafter. This is a film which demands multiple viewings to distinguish between that which is reality and that which is delirium. At least I can now watch it, knowing that there is some suggestion of hope in the final scene.

Matt Carter

Event Horizon (1997)

The best horror movie of all time is clearly The Exorcist, which is a genre masterpiece and 's most accomplished work. But as this was the movie of choice for my esteemed colleague Dave, I decided to go with a film so demonically disturbing, so freakishly frightening that after watching it as a 13-year-old I slept with the light on for three whole nights.

That movie was Event Horizon.

Set on board a demonically-possessed spaceship recently returned from the gates of Hell, Event Horizon took me on a journey into the abyss and what I found there was 's mutilated face starring back. It's not the greatest film ever made, and I've only ever seen it that one time, but if you're a 13-year-old kid with a fear of burning in damnation for all eternity aboard a spaceship, it's perfect.

Sarah Gibson

La Piscine (1969)

If you haven't seen 1969's La Piscine, I would recommend that you watch it. Now. It is a piece of timelessly cool French cinema from , which means that not only can you boast to your pals about how chic and cultured you are, but you also get to enjoy watching gorgeous bourgeois people in a glamorous St Tropez setting, some incredibly evocative and beautiful camera work, and observe nervously as the suspense sets in and the insanely dark undertones of murder and distrust unravel. and play Jean-Paul and Marianne, a seemingly perfect couple who spend their days hedonistically around the titular swimming pool. But, when Marianne's ex Harry () shows up for a visit, Jean-Paul makes no secret of how he feels about Harry's hot teenage daughter () who has also joined. Imagine Lolita, with a sh*t-ton more jealousy. And death. Definitely death.

Tino Jochimsen

The Thing (1982)

I re-watched The Thing recently and found that it – at least partly - really didn't make much sense. What the monster can and cannot do in human shape? No f**cking idea! But the delights the movie, soaked in 1980s aesthetics, offers are too plentiful for me to give a hoot in hell. That ominous score which sounds suspiciously similar to synthesizer antics, the doom-impending atmosphere, the collapsing thorax (wonderfully gross!), and that ending, oh my, that ending, will never lose their charm. Last but certainly not least there is and his mighty, mighty beard, having none of it. God, I love The Thing.


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