There are friends I know who wait all year to watch Halloween movies the same way some people wait to watch Christmas movies. I’m not just talking about scary movies — although Scary Movie does take place at Halloween. I’m talking about movies that embrace the spirit of the season and make you really feel like it’s October.
Judging by all the memes and what I’ve been asking my Facebook friends, it seems that Hocus Pocus is one of the films at the top of that list. Although very much a product of the ’90s in the way that the teenage kids dress and act, it’s very much in the season of the witch, not just because several iconic actresses are playing three witches. There’s trick-or-treating, fantastic costumes, decorations and young Dani is really enthusiastic about the holiday. Heck, the whole thing happens on Halloween.
The Halloweentown series might also scratch that Disney nostalgia itch for some fans. Although you might not watch these Disney Channel original movies outside of October, there’s something about being able to visit a magical town that embraces the fun and spooky side of Halloween. Maybe it’s time for Disney to bring back the original Marnie Piper for another movie. Kimberly J. Brown is still very much into Halloweentown, judging by the items she sells on Etsy and her yearly appearances at the Halloweentown festival in St. Helens, Oregon. She also authored a children’s book: Poppin’s Pumpkin Patch Parade. Perhaps it’s time for Marnie Piper to have a kid of her own and introduce her to the magic of Halloweentown.
One kid’s movie that my brother and I watched when we were little was Halloween is Grinch Night. Although a television special, it’s a testament to this classic that I can still recall some song lyrics many years later. Considering it was written by Dr. Seuss, it’s unfortunate we haven’t seen another incarnation of this film, while The Grinch Who Stole Christmas has received a live-action and a computer animated version. Maybe with the impending success of the Benedict Cumberbatch-voiced movie, it’ll prompt the studio. If nothing else, it might encourage kids to discover this classic on their own.
Another animated character known for his Christmas special, who also has a Halloween special, is Charlie Brown. I’m sure some kids will want to wait up with Linus to see the Great Pumpkin after they’ve gone trick-or-treating. Peanuts seems to have a special for every major holiday — Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Arbor Day — and with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Halloween is no exception.
Speaking of animated specials and trick-or-treating, I remember my brother talking about Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. Garfield and Odie go trick-or-treating and encounter some ghost pirates after listening to the creepy tale from an old man. I remember that moment in the comic being scary. Although I don’t remember the animated version well, my brother said it was a scary moment to watch as a kid. But it can be a thrill to be spooked out as a kid, as long as you’re not scared stupid… which brings me to my final family-film mention: Ernest Scared Stupid.
While I’m sure there’s other films for the family to watch together, I want to get to the really scary movies to watch this Halloween season. Scary Movie and the franchise it parodies (Scream) take place during and around Halloween. At the end of Scream, the group is gathered together to watch the quintessential Halloween horror movie: Halloween. Of course, after the recent return of Laurie Strode in a theatrical feature, I’m sure you all have already tracked down and re-watched all the sequels with Michael Myers. One of the films in the series that’s often overlooked, yet embraces the spirit of the season, is Halloween III: Season of the Witch.
Another often overlooked film is Trick ‘r Treat. Written and directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus, Godzilla: King of the Monsters) it’s a flick I’d often recommend to my customers at Blockbuster, who thought they’d already seen all the good horror movies. It tells several different stories that are all interconnected, taking place the night of Halloween. It has some great actors and some good horror. For me, the last story is the most memorable. It has Anna Paquin (True Blood, X-Men) dressed like Little Red Riding Hood and features werewolves.
While we’re on the subject of werewolves, let me bring up Ginger Snaps — which also takes place around Halloween. This cult film is one of the best modern werewolf movies. Much like how the X-Men movies use genetic mutation and powers as an allegory for the changes taking place in the teenage body, so does Ginger Snaps with the curse of lycanthropy. I’m a big fan of the use of practical effects in movies. While critics always praise the transformation sequence in An American Werewolf in London, credit is due to the prosthetics and makeup that Katharine Isabelle had to don for her transformation and still deliver a killer performance.
On a humorous note, I actually watched the three films in this franchise in reverse order. That might not have initially been a bad thing, since the third film is a prequel and set almost 200 years before the events of the first film. While there’s normally not a lot of action in this series, I just wanna say that there’s a scene at the end of the third film that would make the Underworld franchise proud.
Anyway, I probably shouldn’t have watched the second Ginger Snaps film before the first. Still, in the age before streaming took off, you were at the mercy of whatever was on the shelves and in stock at Blockbuster. It’s been a while since that last film. It might be time they created another movie. While a sequel could spawn from the second outing, the third film might be the way to go. The prequel sets up the Fitzgerald Sisters’ bond and another movie could take place anytime within the last 200 years. It only needs to focus on the bond between two sisters with the last name Fitzgerald and feature werewolves. It’d be wonderful if Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle could return in a future Ginger Snaps movie in some capacity.
Silver Bullet is another werewolf film whose climax occurs at Halloween. There are other horror movies that happen around Halloween as well: the Saw movies, the Night of the Demons franchise and both Amityville Horror films (1979 and 2005). I’m sure there are many more, some people will mention Mean Girls, but there are few things more keeping to the spooky spirit of Halloween than the tale of the Headless Horseman. If the trick-or-treaters are still awake, you can dig up Disney’s animated The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. But the movie I’ve seen many times, whose actors I admire, whose director I like, whose creepy American Gothic style entrances me, the movie that inspired a show: Sleepy Hollow.
And speaking of stuff Tim Burton inspired, there’s one movie you can watch over and over from the time of October through the December holiday season: The Nightmare Before Christmas. In the meantime, Happy Halloween!