There are plenty of Halloween-related movies to be watched in October. The trouble is, however, a lot of them are terrifying (like the film series named after the Oct. 31 holiday, with the spine-chilling Michael Myers at its center), and that can be rough on those who don’t fare well with horror (yours truly, included).
But fear not, scaredy cats! There are still a lot of movies to enjoy in the spirit of the haunting holiday, minus the fear factor. Particularly, those that favor pumpkins and trick-or-treating over blood and guts. Read on for seven spooky – read: not scary – Halloween-appropriate recommendations.
IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN (1966)
The low-down on the spooky: Writer Charles M. Schulz’s TV movie tells the ongoings of the Peanuts crew on Halloween night. Most of them go trick-or-treating (see Charlie Brown’s “I got a rock”) and then head to Violet’s bash, except Linus and Sally who wait in a pumpkin patch all night for the Great Pumpkin to arrive.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: The scariest thing to be seen here is Sally’s temper when she realizes she wasted the night waiting for the Great Pumpkin rather than getting her sugar high on. This flick has been around for nearly 50 years so it has nostalgia going for it, making it a solid pick for any generation.
The character to be for Halloween: Snoopy as a World War I flying ace, and you must re-enact his Red Baron battle scene (below).
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Young Frankenstein (1974)
The low-down on the spooky: Despite having rejected the experiments of his grandfather, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) embraces his mad scientist relative’s creations when he inherits his castle — and he does so in a big way, bringing a monster into the fold himself.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: While most films centered on monsters can be a fright, director Mel Brooks’ comedy is delivered with a hilarious twist by Peter Boyle. Wilder, and the ensemble for that matter, is comedically brilliant in the movie, which is a parody on the film adaptations of the Mary Shelley classic. (You can’t be too scared if you’re laughing, right?)
The character to be for Halloween: Dr. Frankenstein, and don’t forget to excitedly yell “It’s Alive!” all night.
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
The low-down on the spooky: After experiencing some car trouble, a recently engaged couple pop into the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry) and encounter a wonderful world of weird (i.e. the “Time Warp” scene). Things get increasingly more nonsensical, so you really just have to watch from here.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: This one definitely pushes the limit for those who prefer lighter fare in their Halloween-related viewing, but it’s quirky and strange in all the best ways — and as a renowned cult film, it’s truly a cinematic rite of passage. For optimum viewing, see this one at a midnight showing with live performances in your local area.
The character to be for Halloween: Take a cue from fans (real and fake) like Wilmer Valderrama’s Fez on That 70’s Show and Ezra Millers Patrick in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and be the dynamic, charismatic, so out-there Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991)
The low-down on the spooky: Based on the work of cartoonist Charles Addams, this film adaptation tells the story of a group of con artists who attempt to wipe the Addams’ vault clean by way of a collaborator who looks peculiarly like Gomez’s long-unseen brother Fester.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: It’s all in the quirky characters, and the actors who brought them to life. Anjelica Huston is deliciously seductive in her Golden Globe-nominated turn as Morticia*, and Raul Julia is her equal as the eccentric pinstripe-sporting Gomez. The film received moderate reviews, but it’s a fun watch all in all.
The characters to be for Halloween: Wednesday and Pugsley Addams, because they’re the darkest and coolest siblings around — or if you want to be more abstract, you could always be the Addams’ helping hand Thing.
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*Huston also received a Golden Globe nomination for the 1993 sequel, Addams Family Values.
HOCUS POCUS (1993)
The low-down on the spooky: A group of kids team up with an immortal cat to stop the Sanderson sisters — a trifecta of witches named Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker), and Mary (Kathy Najimy), who return to Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night after 300 years — from terrorizing the town and sucking the life out of children to take their youth for themselves.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: This one from director Kenny Ortega is just straight up kookie. Sure, the idea of a group of witches attacking children in order to remain forever young is unsettling, but it feels more eccentric than scary when delivered by this this trio of talented ladies. Also, you just can’t go wrong with a talking, black cat (Sabrina the Teenage Witch proved that point a couple of years later).
The character to be for Halloween: Dressed as Winifred, with that crazy hair and devilish snarl, you’d be the winner of any costume contest. A show-stopping performance of “I Put A Spell On You” is required.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)
The low-down on the spooky: Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, decides to hand out presents and pine trees upon discovering Christmas Town. As the title suggests, things take a nightmarish turn when Jack poses as Santa Claus and brings severed heads, ghoulish creatures, and other terrifying treats to those on the “nice” list — but it’s all with the best intentions.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: Oogie Boogie is a frightful creature, but the film’s upbeat tracks like “This Is Halloween” and “Kidnap the Sandy Claws” from composer Danny Elfman give it a creepy yet fun vibe. Not to mention, the animation is so unique, and the overall premise so intentive.
The character to be for Halloween: Grab a friend and be both faces of the Mayor, or be both yourself if you’re feeling really creative!
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SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)
The low-down on the spooky: When a zombie plague breaks out, Shaun steps up to the hero’s plate to get his ex-girlfriend back, repair his relationship with his mother, and remedy his very mundane existence. A play off of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, this is comedy’s answer to the zombie genre.
Why it’s good for scaredy cats: While there are some jumpy moments and a few scenes for those who don’t mind gore, this movie is full of clever campy, witty dialogue, with hysterical performances by Simon Pegg as Shaun and Nick Frost as his BFF Ed. Plus, it’s all delivered with a fast, fun, and smart style, compliments of director Edgar Wright (who also wrote the film with Pegg).
The characters to be for Halloween: You’ve got to represent the ultimate bromance between Shaun and Ed.