Jerry Garcia’s favorite movie was “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” a 1948 comedy/horror mashup that he says gave him “a general fascination with the bizarre” that would fuel his music career.
“There are things in this world that are really weird. I don’t think I knew that before I saw that movie, that there are things that are really weird and there are people who are concerned with them.” Garcia said in “The Movie That Changed My Life” in 1995. “That became important to me, and I guess I thought to myself, on some level, I think I want to be concerned with things that are weird. […] It seems like fun.”
Many of my own passions are fueled by a preoccupation with the bizarre, the weird, and the fun — chief among them horror movies and marijuana.
The first time I smoked weed was kind of terrifying. I spent most of the evening wandering the streets of Salt Lake City in a paranoid haze of disorientation and massive sensory overload. Overwhelming, awesome, spooky, and hilarious, my first night high awakened in me a deep, primordial fascination with the unknown — a fascination that evolved into a deep love for cannabis and the bizarre, and the rare opportunity to write about both for a living.
As of late, my work has largely focused on the science of cannabis — how and why its winning ensemble of euphoric and therapeutic compounds can trigger a symphony of responses in the body and brain.
I’ve also been watching a lot of horror movies this month. Needless to say, most of my October 2018 horror watching has been under the nuanced and ever-evolving influence of the cannabis high. Embarking on a month-long horror marathon with a weed-influenced head haze and a deeper understanding of the plant’s molecular mechanics has me convinced that the cannabis high is the ideal prism through which to experience a horror movie.
My conclusion may be based on anecdotal evidence, but I can say from plenty of experience and observation that marijuana’s ability to alter perception can directly enhance the sensory impact of a horror film’s visual and thematic extremes.
So, for those who dare treat themselves to a long strange trip of thrills, chills, laughs, and some seriously dank visuals, here are 13 horror movies to watch high this Halloween:
1. ‘Mandy’ (2018)
Make no mistake, “Mandy” is a film for us stoners. Nicolas Cage goes full Cage as a lumberjack whose wife is kidnapped by a cult in the woods, spurring a heavy-metal odyssey of neon, blood and vengeance, with a few psychedelic animated sequences along the way. It all amounts to the dankest, trippiest cinematic terror ride of recent memory.
2. ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ (1986)
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” is director Tobe Hooper take on the psychopathic, killer-hillbilly family of his groundbreaking first film, setting them loose in a world of gonzo, heavy-metal visuals and slapstick gore. It’s funny, it’s frenetic, it’s grotesque, and it’s got a chainsaw battle between Dennis Hopper and series avatar Leatherface. Do yourself a favor — light up a joint and watch this thing.
3. ‘Freddy vs. Jason’ (2003)
I was bordering on stoned-out-of-my-mind the first time I watched this excellent slasher mashup, and I got completely lost in its vivid aesthetic, campy scares, and welcome laughs. “Freddy vs. Jason” ’s visual palette deviates from the aesthetics of both the “Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street” series in favor of something that not only works for both titular slasher titans, but also is sure to engross and envelop the stoned viewer. And if you haven’t seen a single Freddy or Jason movie, don’t worry — “Freddy vs. Jason” is as good a place as any to start.
4. ‘The Shining’ (1980)
I have a friend who’s made an annual tradition of waking, baking, and watching “The Shining” on Halloween. Stanley Kubrick’s “masterpiece of modern horror” is an endless labyrinth of images and ideas — both gorgeous and terrifying — that practically begs for not one, but multiple high viewings. If you’re feeling really adventurous and don’t mind a little recreational, mind-blowing paranoia, toke it up and watch “Room 237,” a documentary about the many obsessive, intricate fan theories surrounding “The Shining.”
5. ‘It Follows’ (2014)
One of the most recognized and acclaimed horror movies of the decade, “It Follows” has a lot to offer the stoned viewer. Its unique twist on the slasher format — featuring a shape-shifting supernatural force that follows and kills sexually active teenagers — is both a visual and conceptual abstraction that, when combined with the film’s John Carpenter-esque synth score and striking cinematography, is sure to pack a fun, cathartic punch for a group of friends passing a joint on a Friday night.
6. ‘Suspiria’ (1977)
With a revived and rapidly growing cult following and a high-profile 2018 remake, there’s never been a better time to get high and watch “Suspiria.” A celluloid acid trip from Italian horror auteur Dario Argento, this movie offers expressionistic production design, mind-blowing gore set pieces, and a spooky, pulsating score from Italian progressive rock band Goblin. Throw a few dabs into the mix, and this is a terror trip you won’t want to miss.
7. ‘Blood and Black Lace’ (1964)
Now let’s cool things down a bit with Mario Bava’s proto-slasher melodrama “Blood and Black Lace.” Set at an early-’60s Italian fashion house, “Blood and Black Lace” is a fashion fever dream akin to Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” only with more colors, more shadows, and a masked slasher villain that predates most other masked slasher villains by nearly 20 years.
“Blood and Black Lace” ’s soap-operatic murder mystery plotline and old-school gore effects are pretty tame by today’s standards, but they’ll allow you to sit back, relax with something Indica-like and let Bava’s cool, animated sense of style, drama, and terror wash over you.
8. One (or More) of the Original Universal Monster Movies
“Dracula.” “Bride of Frankenstein.” “The Wolf Man.” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Take your pick. Practically every film in Universal’s original run of monster movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s is a brilliant exercise in light, shadow, and mood. Having watched a few of these in the company of my dab rig this year, I can vouch for their ability to absolutely wow the stoned viewer with some of the greatest black-and-white cinematography ever put on film. If you don’t like black-and-white movies, it’s because you haven’t seen these movies.
9. ‘Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ (1948)
We’ve already covered this one at length, but now is the perfect point in our high-horror fest to kick back with a giggle-inducing cultivar and enjoy the hokey scares and screwball comedy of “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” In what remains the most ambitious crossover event in history, comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello insert themselves into the Universal Monster universe and cross paths with some of its most infamous characters. The modern-day equivalent would be something like a “Conjuring” sequel with Harold and Kumar. And if that doesn’t convince you that you need watch this high, I don’t know what will.
10. ‘Dracula Has Risen from the Grave’ (1968)
Next stop: Hammer Horror Productions’ 1968 classic, “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave” is one of many Hammer Dracula films starring Christopher Lee. The greatest cinematic Dracula of them all according to many horror fans, this one strikes a winning visual balance between gothic flair and the British mod sensibility of its time. It’s also got a few low-budget, yet entertaining set-pieces that are a blast to watch high.
11. ‘Manhunter’ (1986)
Based on Thomas Harris’ first Hannibal Lecter novel “Red Dragon,” “Manhunter” isn’t quite a horror movie, but this list is as good an excuse as any to get lit and watch this endlessly stylish crime thriller from director Michael Mann.
Released five years before “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Manhunter” follows another FBI investigator — William Petersen of TV series “CSI” fame — hunting down another serial killer with the help of a certain incarcerated, mad-genius cannibal. The plot is sure to please all the true crime fans out there, and its minimalist fever-dream visuals and synth-heavy ’80s soundtrack make “Manhunter” the ultimate couch-lock movie.
12. ‘Under the Skin’ (2014)
“Under the Skin” is a criminally underseen modern masterpiece of sci-fi/horror surrealism. Don’t believe me? Hit that bong and give it a watch.
Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien sent to earth in human form to seduce men into some sort of surreal, fatal captivity. If that sounds vague, it’s because very little is explained in this movie, while much is shown in serenely stylish, yet horrifying fashion. The real story at the heart of “Under the Skin,” which centers in on themes of female self-discovery and, ultimately, destruction at the hands of a world dominated by the violence of male impulse, is told with extreme cinematic daring. It’s the perfect horror movie for stoners in the #MeToo era.
13. ‘Halloween’ (1978)
Time to finish off the season with some OG Kush and a true OG of horror: “Halloween.”
John Carpenter’s “Halloween” takes a cue from the black-and-white horror movies of Old Hollywood and leaves most of the violence in the shadows. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times, but in 2018 I watched it high for the first time in preparation for the October 2018 “Halloween” sequel. The experience was nothing short of stellar, breathing new life into an old classic by magnifying the uncanny terror lurking in every dark corner and creeping through every shadow onscreen.