Halloween is my favorite time of year. I will take any excuse I can get to eat handfuls of candy, dress up like a superhero and toilet-paper my neighbor's house. But even more than the haunted houses, campfire stories and college girls wearing their underwear outdoors, I appreciate the barrage of horror programming that the holiday brings to our televisions.
But one cannot rely on the bean counters in cable programming at AMC or ABC Family to provide you with a balanced diet of horror films. There is an art to selecting the perfect Halloween film. It is alchemy.
I have compiled a list of fantastic Halloween movies below and arranged them by their appropriate uses. Combine at will.
IF YOU WANT TO REVEL IN THE COLORS OF FALL "Sleepy Hollow" (R, 1999).
Tim Burton does "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" with a script by the writer of "Se7en." Starring Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane and Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman, "Sleepy Hollow" is loaded with beautiful, atmospheric set design and Burton's trademark cinematography.
It's the most fun Burton has had behind the camera in the last decade — and easily the best role Walken has played without a head.
IF YOU LIKE A LITTLE HEAVY METAL WITH YOUR TRICK-OR-TREATING "Trick or Treat" (R, 1986).
Easily located in your Netflix queue, this film is a certified diamond in the rough. A lonely teenager brings his heavy metal hero back to life — after his tragic death in a hotel fire — by playing the rocker's final record backward on Halloween night.
Featuring a solid '80s metal soundtrack and cameos by Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne, "Trick or Treat" will remind you of the power of rock 'n' roll. But watch out for the guitar solos; they might just melt your face off — for real.
IF YOU WANTED TO WATCH THE OTHER MOVIE IN YOUR NETFLIX QUEUE WITH A NEARLY IDENTICAL TITLE "Trick 'r Treat" (R, 2009).
Criminally denied a theatrical release by Warner Bros. — allegedly because of the film's mean streak toward children — this horror anthology weaves together several different tales before merging them in a surprise ending.
Clever, funny and often creepy, this film reset the bar for horror anthologies already placed high by movies like "Creepshow" and "Tales from the Crypt." Obsessed with the minutia of the holiday, "Trick r' Treat" is a modern Halloween classic.
IF YOU WANT TO SEE SOMEBODY HIT SO HARD WITH A BASKETBALL THAT THE HEAD EXPLODES "Deadly Friend" (R, 1986).
Wes Craven's follow-up to "Nightmare on Elm Street," about a teenage girl who goes on a killing spree after being brought back to life by a computer chip, has been mostly forgotten by the world since its release. And for good reason: It's awful.
But I was able to rent this from the Google Play store on my cellphone (technology be crazy, y'all), and for $1.99 I was rewarded with a healthy serving of '80s cheese — and a scene where the old lady from "The Goonies" and "Throw Mama From The Train" gets her head exploded by a basketball! Mama mia!
IF YOU'RE TIRED OF HORROR MOVIES WITH PHOTOGENIC TEENAGERS BEING HUNTED BY PSYCHOPATHS "Cabin in the Woods" (R, 2012).
This is best horror film of 2012. Like "Scream" before it, "Cabin in the Woods" dissects the horror genre while simultaneously playing within its confines.
Co-written by geek god Joss Whedon (of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" fame), "Cabin in the Woods" combines gut-busting laughs with actual gut busting, and it contains a central mystery that is so compelling even the most unwilling viewer will have no choice but to finish and discover the secret behind the cabin.
Beware the unicorn!
IF YOU'RE TOO YOUNG TO WATCH ANY OF THE R-RATED FLICKS I HAVE SUGGESTED SO FAR ... "Ernest Scared Stupid" (PG, 1991).
A dimwitted garbage man accidentally unleashes a troll from its centuries-old prison the night before Halloween. A fun, campy children's movie that has aged better than one would have expected anything from the early '90s to age. (Looking at you, slap bracelets.)
Jim Varney, as the titular Ernest P. Worrell, carries the movie with affable slapstick charisma. This is the film responsible for putting the line "How 'bout a bumper sandwich, booger lips?" into my pickup artist lexicon. You're welcome, ladies.
IF YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST WATCH A JASON MOVIE "Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan" (R, 1989).
Sure, most "Friday the 13th" fans cite this as the worst entry in a series full of worst entries, but it's my personal favorite. At this point in the franchise, the inexplicably hockey-masked Jason Voorhees is an out-and-out supernatural being that cannot be killed by conventional means.
Despite the fact it was subtitled "Jason Takes Manhattan," Jason never actually makes it to Manhattan (due to production costs) and spends most of his time on a cruise ship full of recent high school graduates. A more accurate title would have been "Jason Visits Toronto for 15 Minutes at the End."
But in its defense, there is a scene where a guy challenges Jason to a rooftop boxing match. You can imagine how that turns out.
IF YOU WANT SOMETHING SCARY THAT WILL STICK WITH YOU FOR A COUPLE DAYS "Kill List" (R, 2011).
A serious horror film about three-dimensional people over the age of 30 is a rare thing.
The less you know about this film going in, the more effective it will be.
Ryan Jackson prefers Chucky to Jason, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.