I approach the month of October with very much the same enthusiasm as most people do Christmas; I start looking for new pumpkin carving ideas in July and picking out what horror films to watch in August. I also have a little gander at my book collection and see what stories I might revisit this year, as well as have look around online for some creepy podcasts and audio plays to entertain myself with while going about my mundane routines. I really try to go all out and make the whole month as all about horror as humanly possible.
But what would a great festive season be without great food! For me, it’s almost as important as the horror. Cooking with seasonal ingredients is part of my personal cooking philosophy and something I do practice all year round, but for special occasions like Christmas or indeed Halloween, I always try to find something new and exciting to put on our plates. A problem I have encountered in many years while searching for Halloween recipes is that all you seem to find is silly recipes for children’s parties or just a variety of desserts that have all been flavoured with, you guessed it, pumpkin spice. Not that there’s anything wrong with pumpkin spice, it definitely has its place in this season. I just happen to think that this wonderful time of the year has so much more to offer than mere squash-based desserts.
So, with all that in mind, I have collected a list of ten delightful horror films, all to be enjoyed with equally delicious dishes. Like the films, I have tried to keep the recipes varied, so there is little something for everyone (not forgetting the fans of pumpkin spice) and also made sure that everything on this list can easily be cooked in your own home kitchen. So, watch, eat and most of all, enjoy this festive season!
- Night of the Demons (1988)
Let’s kick starts this list with an actual Halloween film. Night of the Demons is one of those films I regularly watch during the month of October. It is just pure, unadulterated fun from start to finish, with some of the best one-liners in horror history. And not only that, among all the 80’s silliness it actually has some pretty decent special effects, as well as plenty of quality scares. Acting is wonderfully cheesy all around and Linnea Quingley and Amelia Kinkade both do amazing roles as the demon temptresses that they turn into. Laughs, scares, a rad 80’s soundtrack; Night of the Demons has all the right elements for a great Halloween romp.
Food pairing: Pumpkin donut holes
It was clear for me from the very moment I picked this film on my list that the food accompanying it had to be something sweet. While you could easily just fill a bowl with your favourite sweets and have that as your movie snack, I chose something slightly (but only slightly) more sophisticated. These delicious donut holes are so easy to make that even a complete novice baker can make them. All in all, it will only take you about 40 minutes to cook these puppies and the best part is that they are baked rather than fried, so you don’t even have to stress about setting your kitchen on fire! I served mine with a dark chocolate dip and a raspberry coulis, but if you’re feeling more adventurous, why not try one of these teeth melting dip recipes: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/g3114/best-dessert-dips/ Donut hole recipe from: https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/baked-pumpkin-donut-holes/
- The Resurrected (1991)
You can’t have Halloween without a bit of Lovecraft. Now, I could have gone with good old classics like From Beyond (1986) or Re-animator (1985), but instead, I opted for a perhaps lesser known and definitely underrated, The Resurrected. This direct to video adaptation of Case of Charles Dexter Ward is often completely passed by when talking about Lovecraft films and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. For me, it is one the best serious Lovecraft adaptations to date. Yes, it’s a little dated and as such slightly cheesy on parts, but the special effects actually still look surprisingly decent today and the whole film captures the dark atmosphere of the classic Lovecraft story surprisingly well.
Food pairing: Baja Fish Tacos
With a Lovecraft film, there is only one possible food pairing: fish. I admit that when you think of autumn, Baja fish tacos isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, but these wonderful crispy, crunchy tacos are just the ticket on a rainy, gloomy day when you need a bit a cheering up. Any firm white fish will do the job, as longs as it can withstand deep-frying without falling apart. These tacos are usually served with some type of cabbage slaw and fresh tomato salsa, but no one is going to stop you from putting whatever favourite taco toppings you have in them. I went all the way and even made my tortilla wraps from scratch, but to save some hassle and give yourself more time to focus on some lovely Lovecraft action, store bought ones will do just as well. Recipe from: https://thecozyapron.com/baja-fish-tacos/
- Noroi : The Curse (2005)
Noroi is truly a gem among the found footage films and something that every fan of the genre should see. It builds up the story in a very subtle yet effective way and can almost pass itself for a real documentary. In fact, if you were to start watching it from the middle without knowing what it was, you could easily be fooled into thinking it was all real (like was the case with a friend of mine who wandered in while I was watching it). Rather than scaring you with big jump scares, Noroi sucks you in with its intriguing storyline, great acting and ever-growing feeling of dread that slowly increases throughout the film, until its final, shocking conclusion. It’s a great watch for any time of the year, but if you want something genuinely creepy this Halloween, Noroi might just be the film for you.
Food pairing: Vegetable tempura
I love crispy fried things as much as the next girl, but they can sometimes be a bit heavy and leave you feeling sickly afterwards. However, when done right, this should not be the case with vegetable tempura. The batter should be airy as a cloud and give the vegetables a delicate covering, making this a much lighter option than other deep-fried recipes. What’s especially great about this dish is that you can pretty much use whatever vegetables take your fancy, so you can go as seasonal as you like! Add a tangy soy-based dip and you get a lovely balance of flavours, that complement each other and make the whole dish feel fresher. Recipe from: https://www.amuse-your-bouche.com/vegetable-tempura/
- Deep Red (1975)
I couldn’t imagine writing a list like this and not have at least one Italian horror in the mix. The trouble was; which one? There’s just so many great options that it was nearly impossible to just pick one. While Suspiria might have maybe been a more topical option, in the end, I chose the 1975 classic Deep Red. As Argento films go, it has always been one of my all-time favourites. It’s a great thriller with some of the most iconic kill scenes ever seen on the silver screen. It’s stylized, beautiful and forever captivating piece of giallo cinema.
Food pairing: Squash and goat’s cheese bruschetta
This seasonal twist on a classic Italian appetizer is a real revelation. The classic mix of sweet butternut squash and tangy goat’s cheese is a match made in heaven and combined with roasted garlic and a drizzling of luxurious sage butter, it is simply irresistible. If, like my husband, you are not a fan of goat’s cheese, feta will do the job just as well. Recipe from: https://www.taste.com.au/recipes/pumpkin-goats-cheese-bruschetta-sage-burnt-butter/67315d0e-7cac-401f-8fe9-6ed521c9cce2
- Hell House LLC (2015)
The reason for choosing this particular found footage romp was not only its seasonal theme but the fact that I was quite taken back by how much I actually liked it. In the vast sea of similar found footage titles, my expectations were pretty low. For some reason, this particular film had gone completely under my radar and I pretty much picked it by random one night. Despite my hesitations, I was very pleasantly surprised. While Hell House LLC is nothing ground-breaking, it still offers some very decent low budget scares and actually managed to creep me out quite a bit. It’s light, easy seasonal fun. A great choice for when you’re in a mood for something that doesn’t take up too much brain capacity.
Food pairing: Cheesy Monkey bread
For such a fun, light horror film, I needed to come up with something equally straightforward to compliment it, and this wonderful savoury monkey bread recipe seemed like just the ticket. While the preparation takes a little bit of tinkering, it’s still a relatively easy bake and I promise, all the hassle will be worth it in the end. It’s a dish made for sharing so make sure you have someone with you to enjoy it with (or eat it all yourself. I wouldn’t blame you, it’s very moreish.). These little bread balls are delicious on their own, but if you want to make them extra tasty you could try a tomato or yogurt-based dipping sauce. Either way, they are best served fresh from the oven while the cheese is still melty. Recipe from: https://www.macheesmo.com/cheesy-monkey-bread/
- Lake Bodom (2016)
Any self-respecting Halloween listing has to have at least one slasher. Again, wanting to avoid the obvious options, I have picked a film from the darkest corners of the north that might have gone unseen by quite a few slasher fans. And it’s a shame too because it’s a damn good one, and I’m not just saying that because it was made in my dear home country. Lake Bodom is genuinely fresh and enjoyable addition to the genre. Yes, it starts with a very classic slasher setting: a group of teenagers going camping by a lake where bloody murders took place a few decades earlier (the murder part is real by the way. You can check the actual story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Bodom_murders ). But like any great representative of its genre, Lake Bodom has a couple of satisfying twists in store that will keep you on your toes. It’s good, bloody fun in a dark, autumnal forest and a wonderful watch for Halloween.
Food pairing: Steak and Guinness stew
While I did toy with an idea of a more traditional Finnish recipe, in the end I opted for this Irish twist on a hearty, warming stew. The ingredients are pretty much the same as you would find in any seasonal Finnish recipe, except for the addition of Guinness. It gives the whole stew an incredible depth of flavour to which there is no comparison. I cooked mine in my trusted cast iron pot, but the beauty of this recipe is that you could just chuck it in the slow cooker in the morning and then forget about it for the next 6 to 10 hours. Or if you are well organised enough, you could even cook it the day before, making the stew even tastier as the flavours develop overnight. However you decide to make it, I recommend serving it with some creamy mash and a big piece of rustic soda bread to mop up all the lovely sauce left on your plate. Recipe from: https://www.recipetineats.com/irish-beef-and-guinness-stew/
- Mystics in Bali (1981)
If you are in the mood for something completely nonsensical this Halloween season, I can full heartedly recommend Mystic in Bali. This fantastically bizarre Indonesian horror romp won my heart from the very get-go. It’s got all the right element for a perfect exploitation horror: outlandish plotline, bad acting, terribly dubbed dialogue and a ridiculously weird monster (although it has to be mentioned that the said monster is based on some genuine Balinese mythology). Just complete absurdity from start to finish. It’s best enjoyed in likeminded company, preferably accompanied by some alcoholic drinks.
Food pairing: Beef rendang
This fragrant beef curry is undoubtedly the most famous Indonesian dish. Its deep, rich sauce hides layers and layers of aromatic flavours and the slow cooked beef just melts in your mouth. Now, don’t be alarmed by the long list of ingredients; as curries go, rendang is actually fairly simple to make. As it benefits from a long cooking time, you could easily leave it to simmer hours before you actually intend to eat, giving you a chance to enjoy a couple of beers before tackling the madness that is Mystics in Bali. Recipe from: https://rasamalaysia.com/beef-rendang-recipe-rendang-daging/
- Night of the Demon (1957)
M.R. James’ famous story Casting of the Runes has been adapted to TV and film numerous times. The theme of a curse that has to be somehow passed on makes for a great horror story, so it’s no wonder that many filmmakers have made good use of this premise. The variations of this classic tale can be seen in such (relatively) recent films as Drag Me to Hell (2009) and It Follows (2014), but the best version by far has got to be the 1957 film adaptation Night of the Demon. It might not offer the biggest scares, but is a very well-crafted film with some great actors and genuinely intriguing and suspenseful plotline. It also happens to be taking place around Halloween, making it a more seasonal watch than one might think.
Food pairing: Garlic bread popcorn
There’s nothing better than cuddling up underneath a warm blanket with a big bowl of popcorn to watch a black and white horror film. Somehow the two just go perfectly together. Now, you can find a myriad of sweet popcorn flavours online with the most creative flavourings and toppings you could possibly imagine, but as I have never been (and never will be) a fan of sweet popcorn, I wanted to find a savoury alternative to all of these sickly-sweet treats. This simple yet tasty recipe combines some of my favourite flavours and offers an utterly delectable alternative to plain old salted popcorn. Recipe from: https://www.yellowblissroad.com/garlic-bread-popcorn/
- Bone Tomahawk (2015)
Bone Tomahawk is undeniably one of the best genre crossovers of recent years. It very elegantly combines all the best aspects of westerns with some shockingly violent and bloody horror, creating a truly enjoyable cinematic experience. This is of course helped by the incredibly well-written characters played by a stellar cast, as well as genuinely satisfying plot. It takes its time in setting up the story and doesn’t ruin things by rushing straight to action. But as they say, good things come to those who wait, and the brutality of the last scenes pays off in a massive way. It is fantastically gruesome, and definitely a worthy addition to any Halloween watch list.
Food pairing: Tex Mex chicken and zucchini
Given the relatively long running time of Bone Tomahawk, I figured it deserved an actual meal to go with it. This one-pan wonder takes only about 15 minutes to prep and further 20 to cook, so you won’t be spending all evening in the kitchen. You could serve it with rice or quinoa as the recipe suggests, but I served mine with crispy potato wedges and home-made flatbreads. Absolutely delicious and a great companion to any horror/western combo. Recipe from: https://ifoodreal.com/chicken-and-zucchini/
- The Wicker Man (1973)
I pondered long and hard whether to include The Wicker Man in this list or not. Not because of the film itself (obviously!), but because it has always been a springtime film for me and I usually tend to watch it around May Day. However, when going through some of my favourite British films of this time period, I couldn’t get past this classic. It’s just such a perfect film in so many ways and one that I never tire of watching, no matter how many times I see it. I only wish I could see it for the first time all over again, so I could enjoy the mystery and suspense it has to offer even more. It may not be the most seasonal option, but it definitely deserves its place on this list.
Food pairing: Spiced toffee apple cake
For such a quintessentially British film, there had to be an equally British dish to accompany it. Furthermore, the film in question being The Wicker Man, that dish had to have something to do with apples. This spiced toffee apple cake is just the thing. It’s spicy, warming, wonderfully seasonal and ridiculously easy to make. Best served with a nice cup of tea (and a side order of pagan rituals). Recipe from: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1758668/spiced-toffee-apple-cake