We are in the final countdown, everyone. In less than a week, it’s time for the scariest day of the year- Halloween! Now, most people are going to want to be out trick-or-treating, partying, going to haunted houses, basically being out and about to have some good scary fun. But! For anyone stuck at home, or for anyone who wants to get their Halloween spirit on before the big night, there are plenty of movies- both scary and family friendly- to watch and enjoy, to scare and satisfy. When it comes to Halloween, here are some of my go-to movies to get into season.
Family Friendly Choices
There are some people who have kids and have to stay home Halloween night (or at least after trick-or-treating is over) who aren’t quite ready for all of the scary that Halloween entails. But there are some adorable, kid-friendly movies that still prep you with Halloween Spirit.
Elmo Says Boo (1997)
Yes, this is an oldie, but it’s such a goodie. My family had this on every Halloween, and it’s a fun way to enjoy the holiday with a younger audience. Elmo goes to the Count’s castle to learn some Halloween jokes (you have no idea how long my brother and I threw those around thinking they were cool), Ernie and Bert investigate a mummy’s tomb, and Julia Roberts plays Monster. Plus the songs are actually really catchy, I still count some of my bones with the Count’s Bones (Inside of You).
Richard Scarry’s The First Halloween Ever (1997)
This three-part tale of Halloween is another old family favorite, telling the story of the first Halloween, twin witches moving to town, and kids learning how to not be scared on Halloween night and enjoy themselves. Again, there are catchy little tunes and the world these characters inhabit is colorful and fun, perfect for kids, their parents, and teenagers who vaguely remember reading Richard Scarry books and looking for characters in Where’s Waldo-esque books.
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
If this movie isn’t on your list every year of what you’re watching when Halloween rolls around, you are crazy. Charlie and the gang made a classic Halloween tale, between getting rocks instead of candy (you know kids actually sent Charlie Brown candy after this movie came out because they felt so bad for him?), missed football kicks and writing letters to The Great Pumpkin. It was funny when we were kids and we missed most of the grown-up jokes, and it’s funny now that we understand what is funny when Lucy insists that a person’s costume should be a direct contrast to their personality- and puts on a witch costume.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
And now comes the age old question: should I watch this movie on Halloween or on Christmas? The answer is both, always both. Not only is it fantastic claymation and stop motion and a cute little story, but the music by Danny Elfman is wonderfully beautiful and creepy at the same time (you could also get the Nightmare Revisited album from 2008, which is another layer to the music). Though this might be part of the reason that as soon as Halloween is over, Christmas decorations go up, it is still a fun kick-off to both seasons.
(Also you can’t just watch the first one, you should also be watching Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge and Halloweentown High, BUT STEER CLEAR OF HALLOWEENTOWN RETURNS). Some of Disney Channel’s older movies were fantastic, and this series (excluding the fourth one) was definitely a part of that. Not only was it this magical idea of witches and magic being real, but this complete other world of monsters and magic and a place where almost anything is possible. Granted when the movie first came out kids were just excited because Marnie spoke to us- “I’m thirteen, I’m practically an adult!”- but the entire story of growing up, making choices and, yeah, saving the entire world (ya know the normal stuff) is something any age can connect with.
Blood and Guts, Gory and Horrifying
We love the fun of Halloween, but we also love it because it’s scary and horrifying and we love the adrenaline of being scared out of our boots (seriously I have done that to a girl before and it was hilarious). So if you want to gear up for Halloween with good, old-fashioned scary, here are some ideas for the next week.
The Messengers (2007)
Yes, I know it’s a Kristen Stewart movie, but you know she’s actually a good screamer. This was my first really scary movie, and despite some jokes that have invaded it since I’ve shown it to my friends (Hey lady put some socks on!), to this day it does not fail to send chills down my spine. The ghosts of the movie are pretty frightening- actually more frightening than a lot of the ghosts that I’ve seen in movies recently (coughcoughCRIMSONPEAKcoughcough), and the story isn’t quite as predictable as it sounds. Kristen Stewart’s family moves to the country to start over in a (haunted) farmhouse, after the family before them disappeared. Seriously I know it sounds textbook, but it’s actually really creepy and really cool.
The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
This is another “based on a true story” movies. Do I believe it? I don’t really know, especially because the last sentence makes me wonder what exactly they were saying about the movie, but it is shudderingly creepy. I actually cried in the theater watching this movie. When a family relocates to help their son’s illness, they end up in a house that was more than a house- formerly a funeral parlor. It helps that the kid they cast in the lead role (Kyle Gallner) looks somehow more sickly, pale and sleep-deprived than Edward Cullen, but really it’s a movie that is so grounded in reality that even if you don’t believe it’s a true story, you can believe that it’s real. And when you believe that one of these movies is real, that’s when you spend a week sleeping with the lights on and checking your closet for any unwanted visitors, and that’s what most horror movie fans want.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Not the 2010 version. Now, there is a lot to love about this movie. One, it’s Johnny Depp’s first movie, so you get to see him looking kinda normal, and it is hilarious. Two, there is just so much imagination behind this. Wes Craven (rest in peace) came up with many great movies in his time, Scream (1996), The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The Hills Have Eyes (either 1977 or 2006, they’re both fantastic) (And I highly suggest you watch any of those as well), and movies like this show you what was so fantastic about them. There is literally nothing quite like Freddy Kreuger and his wicked dreams. Yes, some of the sound effects are crazy and weird because of how old they are, but that almost adds to the dreaminess of it all. All I can say is that I definitely don’t want this guy in my dreams.
Yes, this movie is a remake. And yes, part of the reason I love it is because after Dexter I love seeing Jennifer Carpenter screaming and potentially dying. But this movie is actually really creepy- I don’t know if it’s the lack of music, which adds to the realism, or because even though its a found footage film, it actually seems like a found footage film that would be made. A reporter and her cameraman are following a firehouse crew for the night- that actually sounds like something that would require a camera to be on all the time, unlike some of today’s found footage where the camera is on just because the camera is on. It’s plausible and it’s frightening. You feel everything that the characters feel because you know as much as they do, but you don’t feel like you SHOULD know more than they do. You want to, but you shouldn’t. When you feel like you should know more than the characters are telling you, the movie’s done something very wrong.
The Grudge (2004)
Honestly just looking up pictures for this post is freaking me out. This ghost is one of the creepiest things I know of. She is the reason that I am partially afraid to look under my covers in the dark because I feel like she’s going to be looking back at me. One of my friends used to be able to do the throat-gurgle-cackle thing and freak me out every time we had a sleepover. It’s twice as scary when you know that most of the contortion shots in this movie were done by the actress without digital manipulation or anything, but this is one Japanese horror remake that actually stays in Japan- somehow the ambiance of it all is twice as frightening as the ones that ended up moving to America when they were redone (The Ring (2002), One Missed Call (2008), Dark Water (2005), ect.). There’s just something about this one that chills you so that you don’t feel safe anywhere, and I love that. I hate it when I’m alone trying to get to sleep of course, but I love it.
I wish you all a happy Halloween 0f 2015! May you be frightened, horrified and candified as you please!