Here at the Houston Press, we think it's a little unfair that we only get to have advent calendars for the month of December. Halloween isn't so different from Christmas – after all, just like on December 25, you end up with a ton of loot at the end of October 31. Or at least those of us young enough to trick-or-treat do.
To rectify this wrong, we've put together an advent calendar of horror movies to build up your anticipation for the terrors that await on Halloween. (If you're not planning to get scared, you're doing Halloween wrong.) You can watch most of them at home – as long as you've locked your doors and checked under your bed – though we've also found a few movie screenings to visit if you're too paranoid to watch them alone. Enjoy, and feel free let us know what you would've included in the comments.
If you're trying to take on a massive marathon like this, you have to know what you're getting into. These films are the template for cinematic terror, creating the standards against which all other horror movies are compared. And if you can't handle these, good luck getting through the rest.
October 10 – The Exorcist
A demon possesses a preteen, and it's up to a couple of Catholic priests to perform the film's titular act. (If you want to watch it again – because The Exorcist really is just that good – the Mason Park Alamo Drafthouse is screening it on October 22 at 7:30 p.m.)
October 11 – Psycho
After stealing money from a bank, a woman escapes to the Bates Motel. Anybody who's ever seen this film's famous shower scene knows it doesn't end well.
October 12 – The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The title basically gives the whole movie away: There's a massacre, and it involves chain saws.
October 13 – Suspiria
Honestly we have no idea what this movie's about, other than the fact that it involves ballerinas and witches, but that suits Suspiria: It's practically a filmed nightmare.
October 14 – Halloween (Watch it at midnight at River Oaks Theatre. Learn more here. If you can't make it to this screening, catch it at the Vintage Park Alamo Drafthouse on October 30.)
An escaped mental patient returns to torment his childhood neighborhood. Halloween basically fulfills every single horror movie trope ever, from teenagers dying immediately after having sex to having a final girl take on the masked killer.
October 15 – The Omen
A young boy's parents are tormented by their adoptive son, who just so happens to be the Antichrist.
October 16 – The Ring
Anyone who watches a haunted video tape only has seven days left to live. Okay, yes, The Ring is far more recent than any of other films scheduled this week, but remakes of Japanese horror movies took over American screens for a few years and deserve to be recognized for their contributions to the genre.
Women's Empowerment Week
Since horror movies so frequently feature women as main characters – or at the very least, as “the final girl” – enjoy seven days' worth of movies where women are actually recognized as three-dimensional humans. Sure, not all of the female protagonists in these films actually end up empowered, or even survive, but none are treated like disposable arm candy for the male lead.
October 17 – The Witch
After being banished from their 17th century village over religious differences, a Puritan family tries to survive in the New England wilderness. This film's devotion to period accuracy only drives home how terrifying it must have been for New World settlers who really did believe witches were real.
October 18 – Carrie
Moral of the story: Don't piss off hormonal teenagers with psychic powers.
October 19 – Scream
In one of the first – and best – self-aware horror movies, a high school student tries to save her friends from a serial killer named Ghostface. (So creative.)
October 20 – The Silence of the Lambs
When a serial killer starts skinning his victims, the FBI pulls in young trainee Clarice Sterling to interview Hannibal Lecter, another serial killer who eats people, for insight. Mind games and multiple Oscars ensue.
October 21 – Teeth
A young Christian woman realizes that she has the ability to emasculate men. Literally. Men, cover your eyes; ladies, enjoy the escapist, feminist comedy.
October 22 – A Nightmare on Elm Street
A long-dead killer torments his victims in their sleep. It's unbelievably campy – it is directed by Wes Craven, after all – but it's also got baby Johnny Depp.
October 23 – Alien
Sigourney Weaver first earned her science fiction bona fides as the leader of a spaceship being terrorized by an alien life form. This film also has the greatest tagline ever: “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
Of course, horror movies are known for being over-the-top, but these films go especially crazy. Whether it's for their sheer inventiveness, for their meta-textual commentary or for their pioneering of a genre, these films stretch the boundaries of what people expect horror movies to be able to do.
October 24 – It Follows
A college student contracts the worst possible STD: a lumbering monster that follows you endlessly and, if it catches you, kills you.
October 25 – The Evil Dead
After reading aloud a mysterious book – the second-worst decision you can make in a horror movie, just after “splitting up to cover more ground” – Bruce Campbell battles a horde of disgusting demons. (And if you like this, check out the sequel Army of Darkness at the Vintage Park Alamo Drafthouse on October 26 at 7:30 p.m.)
October 26 – The Shining (Watch it at 2 and 7 p.m. at Cinemark Memorial City and Edwards Houston Marq'e Stadium 23 theaters. Learn more here.)
Jack Nicholson and his family move into a remote hotel, and Nicholson's character quickly descends into madness. It earns a place in this week thanks to all the absurd theories surrounding the movie; if you have time between all the other movies, check out Room 237, a documentary that details many interpretations of The Shining.
October 27 – Dead Snow
A group of Norwegian college students find themselves stranded in the mountains and pursued by a swarm of Nazi zombies. It's exactly as crazy as it sounds.
October 28 – Phenomena
A young American girl enrolls at a Swiss boarding school, where she uses her psychic connection with insects to try to catch a serial killer. While Suspiria is usually called Dario Argento's masterpiece, Phenomena is hugely underrated (and has an actual plot).
October 29 – Hellraiser
An evil man dies, gets tortured in Hell and comes back to life, but needs victims to survive. Oh yeah, and there's also a dude with a head full of nails chasing after him.
October 30 – The Babadook
A single mother struggling to raise her son starts to unravel while dealing with the leering, black-hatted monster that lurks in her basement. Prepare to be both scared and moved, as this film examines what it means to live with grief and depression.
October 31 – Night of the Living Dead (Watch it at 7:30 p.m. at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. Learn more here.)
This film's zombies are now regarded as conforming to every living dead stereotype, but think about how crazy it must have seemed to audiences in 1968, when it was released. Plus, what better way to celebrate surviving this advent calendar than enjoying a black-and-white film in the crisp October air? (Okay, still relatively warm air. This is Texas, after all.)
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.