There are few things more controversial that lists of all-time "best" anything but, even in this briar-patch, horror movies stand out. Whether you're debating the clown phobia of Stephen King's It, the gross out factor of The Human Centipede, or the international appeal of Ringu, everyone has favorites. Though the staff of AtmosFX didn't reach any kind of consensus on the all-time best movies, we did have some ideas about which five make great themes for parties.
To make it onto our list, movies had to inspire pairings of the film and food, decor, and costume. We also looked at which flicks had good matches to our digital decorations. Some of the runners up included Blood Walls paired with Crimson Peak and Arachnophobia paired with Creepy Crawlies 2.
So, without further ado, here is our top five movie party themed countdown:
5. Nosferatu (1922)
When people think Halloween, they think monsters, and what more monstrous monster is there than the classic vampire? This movie was almost lost to time as Bram Stoker’s widow, claiming that Nosferatu infringed on the story of Dracula, successfully sued to have all copies destroyed. However, film lovers around the world squirreled away prints of this silent classic. It has since become Rotten Tomatoes second best-reviewed horror film of all time.
Nosferatu's original, German release was in 1922, so we recommend a roaring Oktoberfest Fest menu:
For appetizers, start with:
- Potato Pancakes with Applesauce & Sour Cream
- Pretzels with Mustard
- A bracing glass of absinthe, prepared in the classic manner.
Then Courses of:
And finally, dessert dotted in blood-red to finish:
- Bavarian Cream with Strawberries
For decor you just can’t go too heavy with the spray cobwebs and gloom. To get the true feel of a sepulchre, we suggest not dusting for a couple centuries or so. If people question your housekeeping, tell them it's art.
As a silent classic whose original score has been largely lost, Nosferatu has inspired countless composers and bands to contribute original music. We recommend something instrumental that is rich in undertones of German Expressionism and perhaps, just a hint of accordion.
Black and white, of course. Let there be no garish color to jar your guests out of your silverscreen fantasmagoria. White face powder and black lipstick, with a few accents of grey, will turn de rigueur, into rigor mortis.
4. Hocus Pocus
If you're looking for a party theme for kids, Hocus Pocus is the go-to contemporary classic the whole family can enjoy.
Aside from brooms, witches are most associated with cauldrons so our Hocus Pocus movie menu starts with any party punch in a cauldron with dry ice.
From there, move on to that most magical of kitchen appliances: the instant pot (a slow cooker, pressure cooker and stove-top stand-in, all in one, etc) and this warming recipe from the Food Network, Black Bean Soup.
Serve the soup with a side that's as cheesy and wickedly spicy as the movie itself, this Jalapeno and Cheese Cornbread.
What could be more appropriate for dessert than Ossa dei Morti (Bones of the Dead) cookies? In Italy, these crunchy treats are usually reserved for All Saint’s Day (Nov. 1) but they are good enough to break out a day early. Check out Cook with Grazia for an easy and delicious recipe.
For the adults, we suggest sweet Hocus Pocus cocktail using either the modern recipe from Torani, or the more obscure version from the Fourty-Four in New York. Named for a 1971 song famous for its yodeling, accordion, whistling, and other breathy sounds, the latter version of Hocus Pocus is sure to mystify.
Who doesn't like fog machines? We recommend the dry ice version as the resulting fog will creep along the floor versus filling the whole room. Just be sure to move any low tables or other objects that could cause tripping.
Winnifred, Sarah and Mary mainly wore the colors green, purple, and red so swath your space in coordinating fabrics for an easy patchwork effect that also makes clean up a snap!
Add some digital decorations with Eerie Eyes with a large styrofoam ball for a 3D prop as a stand-in for the googlie-eyed spellbook.
Our friends at HalloweenCostumes.Com have an easy set of do-it-yourself instructions for dressing not only the three witches, but the Devil and Zombie Billy. If the kids don't want to dress up, they can always leave the best costumed fun to the grownups, just like in the movie.
3. The Shining (1980)
Stephen King never cared much for Stanley Kubrick's interpretation of his novel but the film has become a source of endless analysis and imitation. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance, the tortured writer, is an excellent study in madness and gives the movie an enduring quality.
For a suggested menu, we turned to the blog, Food in Books. The blog recommends a menu suitable for being snowbound in a hotel (though the writer provides a selection of yummy homemade recipes as well). For the authentic experience, try:
Other suggestions include a stiff snifter of Red Rum. This adults-only beverage can actually refer to any of the three drinks below. Be warned, however; Jack Torrence's alcoholism opened him up to dark influences thereby beginning all the screaming, running and explosions.
- A tropical flavored rum available at RedRum.com
- Rum mixed with grenadine and orange juice
- A cocktail of rum, lemon-lime soda and raspberry schnapps
Rest assured that the dedicated staff at AtmosFX will thoroughly research all these options to determine the best version of Red Rum. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Movie aficionados love to point out stacks of mysterious luggage (the Overlook Hotel is closed for the season, whom do they belong to?) and moving furniture. So, for fun, play musical chairs while wearing furry bear suits or creatures from the novel’s hedge maze. Throw some loudly patterned rugs on the floor and use spray frost to give your windows a “trapped far away from civilization” vibe. Go ahead and toss a hairless mannequin covered in oatmeal into the bathtub and you’re well on your way to a solid haunting.
Turn down the heat and break out the flannel. Add an axe as accessory (we strongly recommend a plastic version). Then, shove your head through a piece of plywood or cardboard with a doorknob attached and repeatedly shout “Here’s Jonny!” to bring the look alive. For a fast, yet eternally creepy couple's costume, go as the ghostly twins that roam the halls of the Overlook Hotel. If you happen to have a Big Wheel and pair of brightly-colored overalls, you can also play Danny, the boy who talks to his psychic finger.
2. Trick r’ Treat (2007)
With its many characters and interlaced stories, Trick 'r Treat has great decor and costume ideas. Set at Halloween, the unifying element is the watchful Sam, a mysterious trick-or-treater wearing shabby pajamas with a burlap mask over his head. Sam lurks around the town, ever-ready to punish those who would break Halloween traditions.
Appetizer: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Soup course: in a nod to the many jack o' lanterns in the film, we suggest this hearty pumpkin soup.
For the main course, a nice roast chicken reminds us all of the importance of courage during Halloween.
To wrap up the evening and ensure that all the characters in your life get their just deserts (just desserts?), finish the meal with candy corn and Epicurious's popcorn balls. Back in simpler times, some households used to prepare homemade treats and popcorn balls were a favorite among trick or treaters of decades past.
For digital decor, the best choice, the only choice really, is to feature Sam himself. Download our Trick r’ Treat scenes and create some doorway hollusions to remind your guests that Sam is often just around the corner.
CostumeBeing one of the top Halloween-themed movies means that this film is rich with costume ideas. You can start with the patched jumpsuit (maybe repurpose last-year's Orange is the New Black) and burlap mask. Or, check out Laurie's DIY robot costume or her husband's vintage Flash Gordon from the black and white serials of yesteryear.
1. Halloween (1978)
It’s the movie that spawned a genre. Made on a tiny budget of a few hundred grand, the John Carpenter film launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis and grossed $70 million worldwide (that’s about $265 million in today’s money). For many, this is THE slasher film.
Set aside any ideas you have of "artisnal cuisine" and return to the simpler times of being young in the 1970s. Start with a couple boxes of pizza. The, to add the essence of a summer camp, we suggest s'mores, with canned beer (domestic of course).
For movie time, hunt down an old-fashioned air popper and serve up a bowl of candy introduced in the decade like: Bottlecaps, Blowpops, Twix, Ronald Reagan's favorite, Jelly Bellies, and the much-feared Pop Rocks. A generation of children grew up thinking that drinking soda and eating Pop Rocks could to deadly stomach explosions.
If you're a fan of print invitations (and some of the best hosts still are) you'll enjoy the Halloween font available on the official website and their jack o' lantern carving template.
Michael Myer’s signature face was a rubber mask of actor, William Shatner, that the Halloween crew modified to by removing the eyebrows and painting the whole thing white. Today, our AtmosFX researchers were unable to find a rubber mask of William Shatner online. However, the search terms bring up premade Meyers masks that can jump start your costume.
But, let’s not forget the most famous of the “Last Girls,” Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, Laurie. For her, all you really need is a frumpy blouse, a plaid skirt, and an ear piercing shriek.
Donald Pleasence’s, Dr. Loomis, can be evoked with an inexpensive pair of round glasses, a drab suit, and a receding hairline.
If your guests still don’t get the reference, try playing “Michael Myer’s Theme” on a cheap synthesizer or your phone. As one of the most recognizable riffs in soundtrack history, even people who haven’t seen the movie will remember why we are scared at Halloween.