When Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday night, it is obviously time to party. (Unless carrying out social interactions with people dressed like Bob’s Burgers characters is your own personal nightmare, that is.)
When the most spooktacular day of the year falls on a Wednesday, however, as it does this year, the far more sensible option for job-holding adults is to forego the fiesta and maybe watch a horror movie.
But which one?!
In the age of infinite content, it’s hard to choose something to watch in any genre, but horror is particularly fraught. As much as the overall quality of horror movies has risen in recent years in tandem with a newfound prestige, much of horror production remains a schlock factory. The fact that so many fun entries in the genre get deathly low scores on Rotten Tomatoes renders the review aggregator even more useless than usual. Fret not, though, Fast Company readers, as I have put together a guide for finding your perfect Halloween movie.
Have a look below for 13 options, broken out into categories scarily consistent with the themes of our coverage.
Pulse is a Japanese horror movie from 2001 wherein the internet has become a breeding ground for malevolent spirits. I think we can all agree that no film of the past 17 years was more prescient.
Cell is a recent Stephen King adaptation starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson (who previously teamed up for another King adaptation, 1408. The newer movie begins when an electronic signal broadcast across global mobile networks turns every single person with a working cell phone into a zombie. It’s a horror movie cautionary tale that goes a long way to make the same case as every essay you’ve ever read about the magic of unplugging.
Newly disgraced director James Gunn wrote 2017’s The Belko Experiment in between Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It’s a nasty piece of work about what happens one day when an entire office becomes mysteriously and abruptly locked down and a voice announces that two employees must be murdered or else four will be killed at random. What follows is an ever-heightening glimpse at just how cutthroat office culture can be.
The brilliance of the 2000 film adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s notoriously toxic American Psycho is that the scenes in which colleagues compare business cards (scenes invented for the film) are every bit as tense as the murder scenes in this famous cultural commentary on late-’80s capitalism.
Much like the recent John Cho thriller, Searching, Unfriended unfolds entirely on a computer screen. However, only Unfriended features the ghost of a young woman who killed herself after going viral in an unflattering way, haunting her former friends on social media. A standalone sequel from earlier this year, Unfriended: Dark Web, removes the supernatural element from the first film but equally emphasizes the perils of leaving too deep a digital footprint.
Research and development
The Fly is David Cronenberg’s viscerally disturbing ode to why it is never a good idea to field-test a new product before it is ready.
An immediately pre-Matrix Keanu Reeves stars in The Devil’s Advocate as the titular assistant to Al Pacino’s Beelzebub. Reeves plays a Southern lawyer with an undefeated track record who moves to New York to join Pacino’s literally unholy law firm. Ultimately, the scary hours Reeves keeps to retain his undefeated status comes at the expense of wife Charlize Theron’s well-being. None of us need to work for the devil himself to find ourselves in a similar position.
Natalie Portman won an Oscar for her role in Black Swan, a ballerina set to play the dainty White Swan in a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by the ridiculously prestigious New York City Ballet company. She would rather play the role of Black Swan, however, and the outsize pressure she puts on herself to win the part from a dancer played by Mila Kunis should be familiar to anyone who has ever felt competitive at work. (Hopefully not this competitive, though.)
The gig economy
Unlike many other found footage horror films, Creep’s premise completely justifies the use of the trope. Director and co-creator Patrick Brice plays a videographer who responds to an ad placed by the film’s other co-creator Mark Duplass, totally magnetic in the role. Brice’s character is ostensibly there to make a video for Duplass’s unborn son, but his true purpose there should terrify anyone who spends each day looking for new clients to service.
Women in STEM
In Morgan, Kate Mara works for a genetic-engineering company that’s created an artificial being named Morgan with nanotechnology-infused synthetic DNA. When Mara goes to investigate the titular character’s supposed stability, what follows is a perhaps slightly dramatized metaphor for the battle all women in STEM face to achieve equal pay and respect.
The Temp, featuring Lara Flynn Boyle as the murderously ambitious titular character, demonstrates just how hard it can be to find and retain top talent.
Finally, there’s Misery, Rob Reiner’s Oscar-winning Stephen King adaptation, a cautionary tale about what happens when you turn your back on power users.