1. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" half of The Adventures of Ichadod and Mr. Toad (1949) or "The Night on Bald Mountain" sequence from Fantasia (1940). I like to intersperse shorts into any movie marathon. They serve as nice intermission pieces, almost like palette cleansers before moving on to the next course, and animation works as a nice contrast to a live action feature film. Just as movie theaters used to show a short before the main feature, I like to start with one, too. The two I've chosen are pretty long for animated shorts, but both really serve the purpose of properly setting the mood for a Halloween movie marathon. Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" is the visual version of a hot cup of apple cider with a cinnamon stick in it. "The Night on Bald Mountain" has a darker atmosphere suggesting the witching hour is upon us no matter the true time of day. Either of these makes for a perfect way to start a true Halloween viewing experience.
2. The Haunting (1963). This is the pinnacle of haunted house movies (The Changeling (1980) is a close second). The movie starts with a real chilling bang with the sequence relating the house's history imparting a dark atmosphere on everything that comes after. I decided last year when I began my own month long marathon by watching it that it is the perfect movie to start with. With this movie the mood is set and there's no turning back.
3. The Tell-Tale Heart (1953) This is a gorgeous experimental short designed by Paul Julian with a perfect voice over narration by James Mason who reads the Edgar Allan Poe story over unsettling visuals. Again, I wanted to intersperse a short between features and following The Haunting, it seemed like anything with any humor in it would appear frivolous and would change the mood that we've been carefully cultivating.
4. Frankenstein (1931) Whether it's windy and rainy outside, or you just want to make it feel that way, Frankenstein is the perfect choice to invoke that dreary autumnal feeling (vs the crisp autumnal atmosphere). It's also the classic horror movie and features one of the best monster designs ever to be shown on screen played to perfection by Boris Karloff. The rest of the cast is pretty darned good as well. I'm a tremendous fan of the classic Universal horror films, warts and all, and Halloween wouldn't feel complete without at least a couple of them.
5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) breaks my intent of separating two features with a short, but it would seem jarring to do so here. Paired with it's predecessor, these two movies are the crowning jewels of Universals monster films. Whether, or not, it's superior to Frankenstein is beside the point here. Superior sets and a great deal more levity than seen in Frankenstein not only reinforce the dreary autumnal weather we began to invoke, but serves as a nice segue to bring some light-hearted fare into our holiday viewing.
6. Water, Water, Every Hare (1952) There are a lot of great choices from the Looney Tunes canon to choose from, but this remains my favorite of the genre related shorts. It's beautifully atmospheric with some gorgeous backgrounds and Bugs Bunny does his usual great job out foxing his opponents, in this case a mad scientist and his monster.
7. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) Required Halloween viewing. Without it, just like the Great Pumpkin, Halloween will not appear. As a kid I always wondered what the Great Pumpkin looked like, and as I grew older I realized that no matter what, if he were ever actually seen, it would be a complete disappointment.
8. The Wolf Man (1941) Back to Universal. It may not be the best of the Universal monster movies, but it's my favorite. Not only does it have a great cast including Lon Chaney, Jr. as the most sympathetic monster in movie history, but it does a good job capturing the spirit of the holiday. Larry Talbott transforms into a monster just as kids everywhere change into an entirely different persona by putting on their costumes and heading off into the night.
9. Lonesome Ghosts (1937) There were a few Mickey Mouse cartoons I could have picked, but this on wins out because it not only contains Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy during the tail end of the period of my favorite look for the characters (and the Mickey Mouse shorts overall) but it includes sound effects that were later included in the classic Chilling, Thrilling Sounds from the Haunted Mansion record album. It's a fun short in which the trio play ghostbusters and end up stymied by various suprnatural special effects employed by the ghosts.
10. The House on Haunted Hill (1959) Just as I believe that It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and at least a couple of the Universal monster movies are essential viewing during the Halloween season, I also believe that a movie starring Vincent Price is required. The Roger Corman movies inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe might be more atmospheric, but The House on Haunted Hill seems perfectly suited for the holiday. It's a playfully macabre film full of tricks and treats as well as one of the best staged bits of misdirection leading into a scare to be found in any movie.
11. Trick or Treat (1952) This Donald Duck short with its catchy theme song may have been responsible for turning the actual act of trick or treating into a central part of Halloween. Aside from its significant impact on the holiday, it's a great looking cartoon filled with nice Halloween visuals and Donald Duck as his nasty self as he proves to be the perfect match against a well meaning witch out to teach him a lesson for spoiling Donald's nephews' Halloween fun.
12. Brides of Dracula (1960) Probably my favorite monster movie of all time. The first third is absolutely perfect, and each act after that contains dialogue and visual gems that ignite the imagination and almost make you giddy with pleasure over just how inventive, exciting and fun a horror movie can be. The color scheme and gothic trappings of this movie also scream "Halloween."
13. Vincent (1982). Tim Burton's ode to Vincent Price is thematically and visually perfect for the holiday and brings us back to black and white.
14. Night of the Living Dead (1968) One of the things I love about this movie is that it serves as a bridge between what are considered the "classic" horror movies of the 1920s-1960s and the "modern" horror movies which really came into their own in the 1980s, even though groundwork was being laid in the 1970s and even late 1960s with this movie and Rosemary's Baby. Fans of horror movies tend to be divided into two camps, those who love the "classic" stuff and those who love the "modern" stuff. There's plenty of modern horror I love, but my heart really belongs to the classics. Night of the Living Dead really feels like both, which makes it close to being the quintessential horror movie; both new and antiquated at once. Dreamlike in many ways, it's a nice way to work towards our finale.
15. The Skeleton Dance (1929) There's something about the way Halloween was celebrated in the 1920s that makes it seem like a completely different animal that what we do now even though it contains so much of the iconography that we associate with the holiday; bats, Jack O'Lanterns, owls, spiders, graveyards and skeletons. This movie has all of those things, especially the skeletons. It's like showing Halloween from the source.
16. Nosferatu (1922) or The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Silent movies have a dream-like quality to them making them the perfect way to close a lengthy Halloween movie marathon. There others I could substitute, but these two seem to fit the season the best.
No doubt many of you are wondering where a particular John Carpenter movie is. Truth to tell, while I enjoy the movie, there's not a lot to it that really says "Halloween" to me beyond the title. The movies I chose all evoke to me the spirit of the holiday and the season, in ways that are most likely only apparent to me. Movies made after 1970 generally do not have that quality present in them, though I keep hoping someone will make one that does.
I'm curious what everyone else would include for their Halloween marathons.