The Atlantic Daily: Five Halloween Movies for Scaredy Cats and Hard-Core-Horror Fans

Our critic David Sims selects a few films to get you in the Halloween mood.

A still from the movie "Train to Busan" showing a bloodied man on a train with other passengers
Well Go / USA Entertainment / Everett

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The scariest weekend of the year is here. I asked our critic David Sims to select a few movies to get you in the Halloween mood.

David’s five picks span the universe of spook to fulfill the needs of wannabe witches, little pumpkins, and hard-core-horror fans alike. I summarize his choices below.

1. A zombie movie that isn’t corny: Train to Busan

A father-daughter pair are on a train from Seoul to Busan when a terrifying zombie outbreak grips South Korea. Will they make it or be derailed?

David’s not the first person to recommend this film in our pages: The Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins recounted watching this with his partner (and fellow director) Lulu Wang during last year’s COVID-19 lockdowns: “It transported us, in a way! We turned the lights off, enjoyed the jump scares.” (I even deemed it the best thing I watched last summer.)

Where to watch: Peacock or Amazon Prime Video

2. Something magical to awaken your inner witch: The Witch

The 17th-century period piece, starring a then-unknown Anya Taylor-Joy, was a smash hit at Sundance 2015. “Like the many hokey tales of women in bonnets that have preceded it, it features a pious family with a growing suspicion of witchcraft,” David wrote in his review. “The only difference is that almost immediately, the audience sees that the threat is real.”

Where to watch: Showtime or rent online

3. A movie that’ll make you double-check your locks before bed: Funny Games

Christopher Orr’s description might give you the shivers on its own: Funny Games is “a brutal psycho flick in which two preppy killers systematically imprison, torment, and murder an innocent family.” Both the 1997 original and the 2007 remake are worth your time, David tells me.

Where to watch: HBO Max (1997 version) or rent online (2007 remake)

4. A film appropriate for tiny trick-or-treaters: ParaNorman

The genre of children’s horror is somewhat controversial, Scott Meslow noted in 2012. But when executed correctly, it can empower kids: “Children may be scared at the beginning of ParaNorman, but there’s nothing left to fear by the film’s end.”

Where to watch: Netflix or rent online

5. The classic that everyone needs to watch at least once: Halloween

Four decades and a dozen franchise follow-ups later, the 1978 original still can’t be beat. The director John Carpenter, David wrote last week, “didn’t need a double-digit body count to communicate the message that got under people’s skin: Suburban life, despite all of its comfortable trappings, offers only the thinnest veneer of safety.”

Where to watch: Rent online

Nothing here feel quite right? Planning a 48-hour movie marathon? Check out David’s expanded list of 25 horror movies, ranked by scariness.

Explore the week that was. Our senior editor Alan Taylor rounds up photographs from around the world.

Read up on kid vaccines for COVID-19. The FDA authorized Pfizer’s option today, and a CDC recommendation could come next week. Here are five big remaining questions, plus what to expect from a rollout.

Watch. Don’t want to watch a movie this weekend? Catch up on television: Netflix’s Midnight Mass “illustrates the insidious dangers that can arise from seemingly ‘good’ religious communities,” Matthew J. Cressler writes.

HBO’s Succession, in its third season, exploits the fun of watching bad people pretend to be good.

Listen. For music fans: Lana Del Rey’s new album suggests that the forever-sad girl is still searching for happiness.

We’ve got three new arrivals for people who love podcasts:

  1. The Experiment this week is about what it means to give away our DNA.

  2. The Review dissects the new Dune movie.

  3. How to Build a Happy Life focuses on living in the moment.

Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.