Invite friends over for an evening of popcorn, horror movies (whether cheesy, gory slashers, or truly frightening), and a relaxed, casual introduction to autumn's upcoming frivolities.
Begin the festivities at 7pm for snacks and appetizers; start your first movie at 8pm and the second (for night owl friends) at 10:30 or 11pm. (Allow time in between for snacking, mingling, saying goodbye to departing guests and greeting late arrivals).
Select a horror movie or two (depending on how late you and your guests want to stay up) to watch. Tailor the movie choices to your preferences (and that of your guests). Do you prefer slashers, serial killer movies, gore fests, cheesy horror, vintage horror, black-and-white classics, 1980s teen horror films, actually frightening horror movies, zombie movies, or suspenseful ghost stories?
Watching a couple horror movies is a pleasant way to spend an evening together, but not very suited to conversation and catching up with your friends. This is why I set a table of snacks upstairs away from the media room. It forces people to get up, mingle and wander around, chatting with each other while they refill their plates with snacks.
Announce the two movies you'll be showing ahead of time - that way you don't have any sudden departures as the movie starts, and you don't have to hear whining about which movies you picked.
Have young kids or can't handle very-scary movies? Try Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original) instead - the tunnel scene is scary enough!
You can also create a quick icebreaker game of Horror Movie Trivia if your friends are willing to participate in a game or two.
If time allows, show a collection of old horror movie or B-movie trailers during your cocktail hour. You can play them normally, or have them on silent/muted in the background so people can chat over them.
Greet guests with orange or purple twinkling Halloween lights in your windows or strung in trees outside your home. You might have a merry fire burning in a fireplace, but keep the light well away from the media viewing room. You'll want to keep the TV area dark and spooky. I wouldn't go full-on Halloween or horror decorating, as there's still a whole month of parties to enjoy. Ease your guests into the holiday month slowly.
Have a few decorative pumpkins strewn about your house here and there, but don't overdo it. October has just begun and there's plenty of time for Halloween decorating later. Instead, focus your energy on selecting movies and delicious treats.
Set up your living room or media room with comfortable couches, a few pillows, and plenty of blanket throws for scared movie viewers to snuggle under. Keep candles to a minimum in the movie room - use them in your kitchen or dining room instead.
Before the movie starts, you can set up a themed playlist of horror movie soundtracks. Rather than just pop in the soundtrack for an entire horror movie (especially if it's one you're about to show), mix up the songs in random or planned order so your guests are treated to multiple memorable songs from their favorite horror films.
Since snacks like chips and popcorn will be available during the movie, keep appetizers simple. Set out a few finger foods so guests can nibble. A few mini pizzas, for example, and maybe some pigs in a blanket, mini corn dogs, or sliders. I suggest not doing too many Halloween-themed appetizers this early in the month, as any guests attending your multiple parties this month might tire of the theme too soon.
You don't want your guests too drunk to remember the movie party tomorrow, so keep it simple. A few autumn-flavored beers and apple ciders, and red punch or a signature theme cocktail for the evening will do.
Apply these Halloween beer bottle stickers over the top of your regular beer labels, for added fun. The stickers say "Monster Brau," "Dead Stripe Lager," "St. Zombi Girl," and "Samuel Deadmans."
Have plenty of sodas available, too, to wash down salty popcorn and chips.
You can also apply Halloween soda bottle labels over your 2-liters to make them more festive.
As this is a Friday night party, you'll have been working all day, not staying at home cooking. Try starting the party a bit later, like 8pm, to give people a chance to eat dinner before arriving. Then serve finger foods, snacks and nibbles. Just make sure guests know what to expect.
Make homemade microwaved colored popcorn and set it out in big bowls. Stick with red popcorn for a general horror movie slasher theme; try orange if you're going for a Halloween autumn theme; green if you're watching an alien or ghost movie.
Or serve up some bloody looking hand-shaped hamburgers.
I'd stick to a monster, ghost or horror theme for desserts, rather than Halloween in general, if possible. If you can find a dessert that ties into your movie theme, even better.
BOOKS FOR PARTY PLANNING:
Visit 31 Days of Halloween Parties for tomorrow's party idea: a Halloween Decorating Cocktail Party.