Halloween is just around the corner, which means it's time to light the jack-o'-lanterns, pop the popcorn and settle in for a scary movie marathon! But with decades of spooky material to choose from, how do you decide which films make the cut? Here are some suggestions sure to appeal to horror-lovers of any persuasion. You can mix and match to create your perfect blend of horror -- or, if you have a whole day and are feeling particularly adventurous, pick one from each category to craft the most legendary Scary Movie Marathon of all time!
For those of you who, like Agent Mulder, "want to believe," check out these alien-themed flicks. Warm up with the paranoid thriller "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" (1978); dive into claustrophobic terror with "Alien" (1979); get taken over by "The Thing" (1982); uncover a conspiracy in "They Live" (1988); and battle extraterrestrial teachers in "The Faculty" (1998).
For those who like a dash of the satanic, try these tales of demons and possession. Give birth to the devil's offspring in "Rosemary's Baby" (1968); have your head spun by "The Exorcist" (1973); literally go to hell with "Hellraiser" (1987); and feed your fear of evil clowns with the demon in "It" (1990); and watch Jennifer Carpenter ("Dexter") battle possession in "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose".
For those who think the most terrifying things on earth are innocent-looking children, don't miss these murderous youths: Rhoda Penmark, the original evil child in "The Bad Seed" (1956); Damien Thorn, who may actually be the Son of Satan, in "The Omen" (1976); Isaac and his cult of killer kids in "Children Of The Corn" (1984); Samara and her possessed videotape in "The Ring" (2002); and the titular terror in "Joshua" (2007).
For those who might have some children lurking around your house come Halloween (though preferably not of the demonic variety), here are some family-friendly picks to get you in the mood for the holiday without scarring your kids for life. Rid your house of those pesky living people with the help of "Beetlejuice" (1988); contend with an evil Anjelica Huston in "The Witches" (1990); delight at the bumbling exploits of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy in "Hocus Pocus" (1993); travel to Halloweentown for "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993); and befriend the friendliest ghost in "Casper" (1995).
For those who like a dose of shaky-cam "realism," make an evening of these popular found-footage-style films. Begin your evening with the one that started it all, "The Blair Witch Project" (1999); lose some sleep over "Paranormal Activity" (2007); get trapped with a camera crew in "Rec" (2007); try to escape the monster of "Cloverfield" (2008); and go searching for mythical creatures in the little-seen but totally awesome "Trollhunter" (2010).
For those who prefer a little (or a lot of) blood with their scares, here are some must-see gore-fests. Lose your lunch over the famous Japanese film "Audition" (1999); enjoy the Rube-Goldberg-ian death traps in "Final Destination" (2000) or any of its numerous sequels (which get progressively more elaborate); revisit the film that started America's gore craze, the gruesome "Saw" (2004); torture some tourists in "Hostel" (2005); and bathe in the fountains of fake blood on display in the "Evil Dead" remake (2013).
It's not Halloween without some ghosts, is it? For those who love things that go "bump" in the night, begin your marathon by roaming the haunted halls of the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining" (1980); pray that your house isn't built on a cemetery like the one in "Poltergeist" (1982); experience one of the greatest twists of all time with "The Others" (2001); play a ghostly game of hide-and-go-seek in Guillermo Del Toro's horror film "The Orphanage" (2007); and cap off your night with this summer's smash hit "The Conjuring" (2013).
For those who find ghosts less scary than intruders who are very human, besiege yourself with an onslaught of home invasion movies. Start with the crown jewel of the genre, Audrey Hepburn's Oscar-nominated turn in "Wait Until Dark" (1967); explore the dark depths of the human psyche with Dustin Hoffman in "Straw Dogs" (1971); watch "Panic Room" (2002) and then draw your own plans for an intruder-proof chamber; fight off unknown assailants in the French thriller "Ils" (2006); and give yourself nightmares of the creepy masks in "The Strangers" (2008).
For those who need a little humor to get through a scary movie, start your night in "groovy" style with the classic Sam Raimi sequel "Evil Dead II" (1987); follow that up with some silly zombies in "Shaun Of The Dead" (2004); continue with the funny/gross/scary "Drag Me To Hell" (2009), also from Sam Raimi; fight aliens with inner city kids in "Attack The Block" (2011); and finish the night with the surprisingly intense but consistently hilarious "This Is The End" (2013).
For those who enjoy their humor a little more subtle or tongue-in-cheek, fill your night with these meta-movies that comment on horror movie tropes while simultaneously using them. Check out "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" (1994), where Freddy terrorizes the actors of the original "Nightmare" franchise, including Heather Langenkamp (who played Nancy) and even Robert Englund (who played Freddy himself); enjoy "Scream" (1996) for the umpteenth time, and memorize the rules of surviving a horror movie; watch a film crew follow a killer who models himself after famous horror villains, in a world where these villains are very real in "Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon" (2006); learn what it takes to survive the zombie apocalypse in "Zombieland" (2009); and watch Joss Whedon deconstruct the entire horror genre in the brilliantly creative "The Cabin In The Woods" (2012).
For those who like watching monsters wreak havoc on the populace, take a gander at these creature features. Start your night with the movie that created the modern blockbuster, the iconic "Jaws" (1975); break the rules and unleash the "Gremlins" (1984); watch Jeff Goldblum mutate into the Brundlefly in "The Fly" (1986); venture deep underground and do battle with cave-dwellers in "The Descent" (2005); and live in fear of South Korea's underrated flick "The Host" (2006).
For those who like to watch unsuspecting teens hacked down one-by-one by a masked foe, work your way through slasher history by starting with "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (1974); then treat yourself to the horror trifecta of "Halloween" (1978), "Friday The 13th" (1980) and "A Nightmare On Elm Street" (1984); and finish off your marathon with the oft-parodied "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997).
For fans of vampires who feel the genre has been betrayed by youth-oriented films like "Twilight", pop in these truly scary films. Start with the granddaddy of them all, the still-terrifying silent film "Nosferatu" (1922); find out your next-door-neighbor moonlights as a vamp in "Fright Night" (1985); revel in the creepy glory of "Interview With The Vampire (1994); kick some blood-sucker butt in "30 Days Of Night" (2007); and open the door to one of the best foreign horror films of all time, the Swedish "Let The Right One In" (2008) (the 2010 American version "Let Me In" is also acceptable -- it's a rare excellent remake).
For those who like their undead monsters more brain-eating than blood-sucking, here are some classic zombie films to whet your appetite. Run for your life from the fast zombies in "28 Days Later" (2002); barricade yourself inside an abandoned shopping mall for "Dawn Of The Dead" (2004); lighten the mood with the pulpy grindhouse flick "Planet Terror" (2007); get back to business with the intensely creepy "The Crazies" (2010); and finish up with Brad Pitt's blockbuster "World War Z" (2013).
What's your favorite genre of horror? Do you have a must-watch scary movie for Halloween? If you're planning a marathon this year, which films made the cut? Let us know by tweeting us @Stagebuddy!