A Halloween horror primer

Five of the spookiest Halloween flicks—and a Charlie Brown classic

With Halloween just around the corner, everybody’s searching for the perfect horror movie to watch with friends, family or furry companions on the spookiest night of the year. Yet with dozens of streaming services and thousands of flicks to wade through, it’s tough to know where to start. Here are five perfect horror films—and one perfect Charlie Brown film—to watch this Halloween.

The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter

John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing is a contender for the greatest horror film of all time. A remake of Christian Nyby’s 1951 original, Carpenter constructs a rollercoaster of suspense that whirls through a wintery arctic research base in 109 breakneck minutes. The film tells the tale of a shape-shifting alien capable of imitating the form of any living creature; it hunts down crewmate after crewmate, using their bodies as disguises to facilitate its bloodthirsty spree. Carpenter’s frequent collaborator, Kurt Russell, leads an ensemble cast of rugged scientists pitted against both the Thing and, eventually, each other. It’s gory, visceral and makes for a perfect watch this Halloween. Watch The Thing streaming on Showtime.

Suspiria (2018) – Luca Guadagnino

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is less of a remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 original and more of a thematic reinterpretation. Whereas Argento’s film is a Technicolor nightmare bathed in vivid, contrasting colors, Guadagnino’s take is a muted drone of a movie shaded with tones of sepia and gray. Argento’s Suspiria is a staple of the giallo genre, whereas Guadagnino’s vision is a delicate albeit deranged ballet about the violence of oppression and the liberation of autonomy in the height of German conflict. The film stars Tilda Swinton as the matriarchal head of the Markos Dance Academy in Germany and Dakota Johnson as a prodigious dance student who gradually discovers the truth about the academy and the witches that command it. Guadagnino crafts a deranged hellscape built on the basis of powerpower over others, autonomy and authority. Fueled with an entrancing score by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Suspiria is a puzzling and disturbing nightmare that will leave you speechless. You can stream it on Amazon Prime Video.

The Fly (1986) – David Cronenberg

If you’d like to cry and scream at the same time, David Cronenberg’s The Fly is the perfect film for you. Loosely based on the 1957 short story “The Fly” by George Langelaan, Cronenberg’s classic stars Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, a scientist who becomes molecularly fused with a fly after an experiment goes wrong. Cronenberg’s penchant for viscera and body horror is cranked up to eleven here, with fantastic prosthetics, puppetry and makeup work that transforms the debonair Goldblum into a disgusting, deteriorating man-fly hybrid. The so-called “Brundlefly” is less of a ravaging, rampaging monster, and more of a woeful being confused about its place within the world. As Cronenberg himself states, The Fly is a meditation on “fly-ness” and humanity, and it questions the ephemeral nature of existence and our innate desire for change. The Fly is streaming on Starz.

Carrie (1976) – Brian De Palma

Before Blow Out, Mission: Impossible and Scarface, Brian De Palma directed Carrie, the first film adaptation of any of Stephen King’s works. The iconic teen horror flick stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie White, a high school student ostracized by her peers and berated by her abusive and religiously zealous mother. Unbeknownst to everyone, Carrie possesses supernatural powers and uses them in retaliation. De Palma and King meet at creative crossroads that are realized slickly and gorgeously, with a third act that can only be described as apocalyptic. You can stream Carrie on Starz.

House (1977) – Nobuhiko Obayashi

Nobuhiko Obayashi’s cult classic House is surrealist, insane, hilarious and supernatural all at once. The Japanese horror-comedy features a schoolgirl and her group of friends on vacation to visit her aunt’s country home. There, they are plagued by a fleet of ravenous and bizarre creatures: a flying, cackling head, a piano that eats its player and an incredibly suspicious cat. Together, they all wreak havoc and induce panic throughout the haunted house. Despite being basically incomprehensible, House is incredibly creative, imaginative and borders on hallucinogenic. All these elements work to forge a vivid and entertaining experience that is unparalleled in the horror genre. House is streaming on HBO Max and the Criterion Channel.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – Bill Melendez

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may not be a horror film, but it is the perfect film for a cold Halloween evening and makes a perfect pairing with any of the above five films. Bill Melendez’s half-hour special, based on Charles Schultz’s landmark comic strip, is a warm dose of nostalgia perfectly fit for the season. Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus and the rest of the gang band together for a tale of tolerance and kindness that is a reminder of the joy and wonder inherent in life. It is a testament to the duality of childhoodthe difficulty in digesting the truth that you don’t know everything coupled with the whimsical magic of discovering what you don’t know. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a passionate love letter to the season and a quintessential Halloween flick. It’s streaming for free on Apple TV from Oct. 30–Nov. 1.