“Wait, AP. Halloween month? Isn’t Halloween just a day?” Psh! No! Halloween and punk rock go together like bloo-… milk and cookies, so we’re making a month of it with our SEVEN CIRCLES OF SCARE series, where we’ll be bringing you seven new frightful stories in the weeks leading up to October 31.

Last week, we injected some new, gruesome imagery into your nightmares with 15 scary album covers. This week we return with 21 shows and movies you'll inevitably see showing up on your channel guide this month that we highly recommend. 

8MM (1999)

What happens when the guy who wrote Se7en, the guy who directed Falling Down and two pretty fearless actors make a movie? You end up with 8mm, a film that still creeps me out to this very day. Nicolas Cage stars as a private investigator hired by an old widow to determine if the snuff film she found in her dead husband’s belongings is actually real or not. Fun premise, right? Joaquin Phoenix co-stars as a blue-haired porn store employee who seemingly isn’t afraid of anything. There’s a scene toward the end of this film where Cage enters a run-down house looking for someone and all of the sudden industrial music starts blaring loudly out of nowhere—it is one of the biggest jumps I’ve ever experienced. —Scott Heisel

 

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984)

Wes Craven’s 1984 classic A Nightmare On Elm Street spawned six sequels, a TV series, a crossover film with the infamous Jason, a terrible remake and (most importantly) introduced the world to an unknown actor named Johnny Depp. The list of unforgettable mementos from this film truly does go on and on: from its antagonist’s iconic name, sweater, face and glove, to the terrifying child-sung jingle “One, two, Freddy’s coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door.” Since it’s one of the most definitive and impactful horror films of Halloween, October is the perfect time to sit around and watch this classic slasher. —Nick Major

 

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)

Upon its initial theatrical release in 1999, The Blair Witch Project was seriously the scariest thing my 17-year-old brain had ever tried to comprehend. I saw it opening night with two friends, and as we left the theater, we drove back to my parents’ house, sat in the basement and debated the film until the wee hours of the morning, where we delivered such insights as, “Dude, like, I know it was just a movie, but what if it’s actually real? What if they’re just telling us it’s a movie so we don’t worry about these people? They could actually be dead!” I have never watched the film again, save for a bootleg VHS copy I bought the following week, which I watched once (and that had footage that didn’t make the theatrical cut, which I thought was pretty neat), so I don’t know if it would still scare me now, but the ending of this movie is burned into my brain forever and ever. —Scott Heisel

 

CHILD'S PLAY (1988)

By the time my 20s rolled around, the statute of limitations for my fear of seeing Child's Play had finally expired (still, I watched it with a buddy). Okay, the story of a possessed doll named Chucky wasn't that scary, but his tiny stature and hide-and-seek ways made it suspenseful. Tourist tip: Visit the Brewster Apartments in Chicago to pose in front of Andy and Karen's pad, also pictured on the release poster. —Brian Kraus

 

THE CRAFT (1996)

Is it weird to say a movie about teen witches, revenge and the balance of good and evil shaped me? Maybe. But nonetheless, The Craft was a real game-changer for me as a six-year-old girl in the prime of idolizing “cool teenagers” and believing in magic. While not scary exactly, this movie is just timelessly fucking cool—I mean, the trailer features a cover of the Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” by Psychedelic Furs side project Love Spit Love, for goodness’ sake. For many of us, this was probably our first exposure to goth fashion (thanks, Nancy) and the reason we played “light as a feather, stiff as a board” at slumber parties. Did I mention how cool it is? —Cassie Whitt

 

 

 

DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Yeah, yeah, yeah: I know I should be listing a classic Peanuts cartoon like Your Brain Stem Is My Beef Jerky, Charlie Brown or a similar episode of whimsical Hallow’s Eve entertainment. Look, Halloween is all about getting the fear only to walk away from it unscathed, save for some hideously soiled underwear your friends will goon on you about for five years from now. If you’re all about the dining habits of flesh-craving zombies, it is imperative that you see director George Romero’s inarguable 1978 classic, Dawn Of The Dead, the sequel to his groundbreaking Night Of The Living Dead. Now I’m not going to rehash the story arc for the umpteenth time, but I will tell you about the scene that still completely nauseates me to this day. It’s right here at 1:32:16: A hungry zombie seeks a fresh human entree to dine on, and she starts by sticking her thumb into the bandaged wound of a survivor trying to escape. Reading that last sentence back seems kinda anti-climactic, considering the special effects enhancements that have been made (like that one intestinal bacchanal in Shaun Of The Dead) in the motion picture industry. And that’s the point: Romero’s five-seconds-of-bummer clip terrifies me to no end because there’s no over-the-top, CGI magic going down—and it looks horribly, disgustingly real. A noted rocker dude once told me, “Violence isn’t real until it happens to you.” Decades after that film’s release, I still feel like that could be my leg squirming in that hatchback and not actor Scott Reiniger’s. Writing about it makes me want to ricochet my breakfast back up. I have to go outside and get some fresh air now. Hand me my AK-47, would you? Jason Pettigrew

 

THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)

Rob Zombie’s 2005 horror film The Devil’s Rejects—a  sequel to his 2003 film writing/directing debut House Of 1000 Corpses—is  one of those creepy movies that reminds you why barren towns should be avoided and clowns should not be trusted. Zombie assembles a cast (including his wife) that together create one of the most demented families in film history who thrive on kidnapping, torturing and murdering their innocent and unsuspecting victims. The film makes staying in a hotel off the desert freeway seem like a bad idea, but the Halloween season is a great time to put on this gore-tastic flick to get you in the mood for all the creepy things that come with the annual celebration. —Nick Major

 

ERNEST SCARED STUPID (1991)

Only '90s kids will get this. No, that's not the guy from Dirty Jobs. That's Ernest! He went to camp, jail, played basketball and even went to Africa in the name of goofy family fun. When he was scared stupid, I was scared shitless, and my young, bowl cut-having self never made it through this VHS rental. —Brian Kraus

 

THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

Before he went on to helm the original Spider-Man trilogy and Oz The Great And Powerful, horror maven Sam Raimi got his start with the cult classic The Evil Dead. Perhaps the quintessential “cabin in the woods”-style thriller, Evil Dead is simply terrifying. Featuring scenes of demonic possession, explicit gore, tree rape and other stuff of nightmares, the film is a definite Halloween staple for those of you with strong stomachs, and definitely benefits from its low-budget, rogue charm. It would later go on to spawn two sequels and a reboot, but, before you check those out (and you should), give the classic a shot. —Philip Obenschain

 

THE FOURTH KIND (2009)

The Fourth Kind is the most terrifying take on aliens you’ll ever see. It’s based on a bunch of strange (and real) disappearances that happened in Nome, Alaska. In 2005, the FBI was even brought in to investigate 20 disappearances, and nine bodies were never found. The film blurs the line between fiction and reality in a mockumentary/sometimes found-footage style, asserting alien abduction as the reason for the disappearances. The most terrifying part of the story is how painful the abduction process sounds. I’ll just leave it at that. Even though it’s science fiction, the film really asks the question, “What do you believe?” —Matt Crane

 

FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) 

What do you do when you suspect that your new next-door neighbor is a vampire? If you're Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), the teenaged protagonist in Fright Night, you reach out to local B-movie TV horror host (that was a thing in the pre-cable ’80s!) Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall). Vincent is a self-styled vampire hunter. The problem? He's just an actor (duh) and a total coward. Vampire neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon) is calm, cool and seductive, with designs on Charlie's girlfriend, Amy (a pre-Married With Children Amanda Bearse, aka Marcy D’Arcy). Fright Night is brilliant for combining camp, comedy, teenaged angst, genuine horror and even some nods to Hitchcock. The scene-stealing performance by Stephen Geoffreys as Brewster's best friend, Evil Ed, is one of the most beloved aspects of the movie. Geoffreys was a promising, Tony-nominated actor who dropped off the map and starred in several gay pornos in the ’90s. Atreyu fan Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse played Evil Ed in the 2011 remake, which ain't half-bad! — Ryan J. Downey 

 

HALLOWEEN (1978) 

“The Night He Came Home!” What a tagline! More than 30 years ago, now-legendary fan-favorite auteur John Carpenter laid the blueprint for the entire slasher genre of the 1980s: the silent, slow moving killer; the oversexed teen victims; the virtuous, virginal heroine who survives to the end; the false deaths and subsequent never-ending followups (eight directors and 10 sequels, including Rob Zombie's two well-intentioned, but disastrous remakes). Michael Myers' badly designed William Shatner mask obtained by the low-budget production has since become one of the most iconic faces in horror, right up there alongside Jason's hockey mask, Freddy's burned-up face, and the ghost mask from Scream. Young Michael Myers is sent to a mental institution after murdering his sister, a scene visualized through extremely unsettling POV. This film charts his return to town on Halloween after his escape and the carnage that ensues. Halloween is pretty gore-free by today's standards, which frankly makes its old-fashioned suspense that much more realistic and terrifying. It’s a landmark in the independent film genre, still imitated today, and part of the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. ­­–– Ryan J. Downey