The list, in no particular order:
Jeffrey Contray The Nightmare Before Christmas – Not exactly a horror movie, but no Halloween list would be complete without Tim Burton's masterpiece. Beautifully told and even more beautifully crafted, it's so moving you'll forget it's a musical.
Shaun of the Dead – Edgar Wright's modern classic has replaced Army of Darkness as my go-to horror comedy DVD. One of the funniest films I've seen in years; the news clips at the end of the movie may perhaps be the most hilarious post-apocalyptic scene of all time.
Pan's Labyrinth – The portrayal of a post-Civil War Capitán in Franco's regime is far more terrifying than the fantasy world created by the young Ofelia, but this dark and disturbing film belongs on anyone's scary movie list. That said, the Pale Man is one of the creepiest monsters in recent memory.
Jeff Morgan The Evil - Classic stuff: Spooky old house, devil in the basement, etc. I saw it when I was little and it scared the [ expletive deleted ] out of me for months. When the guy cut's his own arm off with the circular saw it will turn you off hand tools for life. It still gives me the shivers.
Failing that I'd go for the any of the Halloween or Jason movies. They're always good for a laugh in my book.
Cherri Simonds Arachnophobia - It's cheesy. It's silly. But it has big hairy spiders. I'm scared of spiders. ANY spiders. I had the creepy crawlies for weeks after watching it.
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown - This isn't scary, but it is a MUST and a tradition at my house. I watched it on TV every year as a kid, and now that I'm all grown up I still watch it.
Nathan Cox Scream - Some good, old-fashioned suspense, hack-n'-slash fun, plus lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. It also finally features a female lead who fights back rather than dying in some utterly stupid fashion.
The Cave - It had me jumping, violently out of my seat, even though I don't normally enjoy creature films. Sure, by 2/3rds of the way through, I wasn't scared at all, but it's an accomplishment to make me jump as much as this one did, at first. Be sure to crank up the volume and use surround sound for this one.
Daniel Hendley Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The original) - Chainsaws, massacres, and Halloween all just seem to fit together like a good puzzle. What better way to pump up the kids for a night out of trick-or-treating than to sit them down to watch this and then send them out in the dark streets wondering what might pop up behind them.
Saw - Not only does it do a good job of showing the audience multiple ways to torture people (We are having Hendley "looked at" by doctors - Eds.) but it puts a great deal of thought into it and is overall quite interesting to watch. The sequels ended up lacking a whole lot and I can barely stand to watch them, but the first really stands out.
Sarah Jones The Hills Have Eyes - This movie grabbed me from the graphic opening scene, where a group of scientists is attacked in the desert by a huge creature wielding an axe-pick. This sets the tone of the entire movie, which is about a family that gets stranded in a New Mexico desert and discover they are not alone - they are surrounded by mutants who were once normal people, but deformed by 50's era government radioactive testing. Although I'm not necessarily a huge fan of blood and gore - and there is plenty in this one - the movie is well-crafted, great at building suspense, and held my attention until the end.
The Shining - This is an all-time favorite that totally creeped me out the first time I saw it. The sense of isolation the movie conveys, along with the eerie music and surreal haunted hotel atmosphere, make this a perfect Halloween horror movie. And, of course, Jack Nicholson's classic performance as Jack Torrance.
Lindsay Sakraida 28 Days Later - I don't like to be scared, but I forced myself to watch the zombie-esque 28 Days Later with a blanket pulled up to my chin for the following reasons: the innovative cinematic techniques, the isolationist social commentary, and the nude scenes of Cillian Murphy. I loved it so much, though, that when I finished around 5 a.m., I (stupidly) decided to walk the empty streets like Murphy does at the beginning. Zombie shell shock set in and I ran into a dumpster when a cat jumped at me. Perhaps it "strolled toward" rather than "jumped at", but after two hours of adrenaline-laced, machete-swinging gore, it sure seemed like the latter.
As for me, Jeff Somogyi The Others - Sure, Nicole Kidman is scary enough on her own (A-ZING, Ex Mrs. Cruise! ZING!) but you throw creepy kids into the mix and you've got yourself a power-house of spooky. What is it, by the way, about involving kids that makes scary movies scarier? It's not like I even LIKE kids, so it's certainly not the fact that I'm worried for their safety ... Anyway, The Others: rent it.
Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Evil Dead 3: Army Of Darkness - The best trilogy ever. Period (that is, until the third Elizabeth film comes out - those are just MAGICAL!) It's got laughs, scares, thrills, spills, and a man who cuts off his own hand. On purpose! While laughingly saying "Who's laughing NOW?!?!". See all three, and you'll finally understand why everyone loves that Bruce Campbell fellow.
Night of the Living Dead - Yes, I said this last year, and I'll say it again: Know your roots! This film, in some way or another, is responsible for EVERY single zombie movie, game, and book that exists. Ever. It's the beginning of America's love affair with the shambling dead. And what a beginning it is!
Jeff Somogyi ain't afraid of nuthin'! Except spiders. And flying. And clowns. And ghosts. And heights. And widths. And old people. And teenagers. And My Chemical Romance.