Welcome to The Pulse, your lifeline on media and pop culture. It’s Halloween!!!!!! Well, it’ll be Halloween in a couple of days, but humor guys alright? Keeping with the spirit of the season we are going to be wrapping up the month and spending Halloween the way I spend it best, so let’s talk horror movies. Ok, so I say horror movies but that’s not entirely true, trust me there are definitely a few (more than a few) horror movies on this week’s list, but Halloween is about more than just being scared right? There’s plenty of great films you can watch with those of more..tender sensibilities, so rather than just listing my top 10 horror movies or even top 10 scary movies to watch on Halloween, let’s broaden our horizons a bit, be a bit more inclusive, this week we will be counting down the Top 10 Movies to Watch on Halloween!
Top 10 Movies to Watch on Halloween
10. It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
It’s hard to go wrong with a classic. Entirely wholesome and full of memorable moments, you’d be hard pressed to find a better pick to watch with the whole family during the spookiest time of year. Don’t be left out waiting in the pumpkin patch, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown is more than just a rock in your bag of treats.
9. Garfield’s Halloween Adventures (1985)
I’ll admit this pick is more for nostalgia than anything else. I have so many fond memories of watching this special with my sister when we were kids. My dad was obsessed with Garfield, heck he still is, and so the sarcastic orange feline was a mainstay of my childhood. Featuring some fantastic and catchy tunes, gorgeous animation and some genuinely spooky (for kids) moments, Garfield’s Halloween Adventure is worth a look even if it isn’t quite as nostalgic for you as it is for me.
8. Halloweentown (1998)
I absolutely loved Disney Channel Original Movies (or DCOMs as they would come to be called) back in the day. We got a new one every year (I feel like they may have been more frequent than that, but I could be misremembering) and they ranged from kind of ok to genuinely good movies (The Color of Friendship and Tru Calling deserve special mention). While High School Musical would ultimately go on to be the big breakout franchise for DCOMs, their little Halloween movie that could would have a legacy all its own to the point that the film is still celebrated over a decade later in the town the film was, well, filmed. Leading actress Kimberly J. Brown still makes appearances and sells merchandise based on the film, and for those of us growing up in the 90’s this story about a family that’s just a bit, different, discovering where they really came from helped to define the Halloween season. Remember, being normal is vastly overrated.
7. Don’t Look Under the Bed (1999)
A somewhat spookier DCOM than our last entry, Don’t Look Under the Bed tells of the tragic and horrifying fate that befalls imaginary friends when their kid stops believing in them too soon. With a fun cast of characters, a frightening villain and some great visuals going into the final act, Don’t Look Under the Bed is a fun romp for you to share with your slightly older little ones looking to dip their toes a bit more into the genre for Halloween.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
It’s hard to imagine a time where Tim Burton’s (directed by Henry Selick, I feel obligated to mention, credit where credit is due) The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t popular, and yet such a time did exist, I swear it’s true. One of my favorite Disney, hell one of my overall favorite films growing up, you really didn’t see it mentioned all that much, there wasn’t all this merchandise, there wasn’t an elaborate overlay of The Haunted Mansion every year, it was just sort of tucked away in the dark corner and seldom talked about. I won’t get too into the whole mall goth, hipster, I was into it before it was popular thing here, but this movie absolutely exploded in popularity in the early 2000’s shortly after Hot Topic started pushing and promoting it, helped of course by Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay. Now it’s absolutely everywhere and you can’t get away from it. The classic tale of two holidays that couldn’t be more different coming together in a glorious catastrophe is undercut (albeit rather heavily) with questions of finding ones own true place and doing what you do best (it’s sort of a muddied message honestly, mayhaps we’ll get more into that another time), The Nightmare Before Christmas is absolutely gorgeous to look at full of wonderfully creative sets and characters, an absolute banger of a soundtrack (by none other than Danny Elfman of course), it’s long since become a holiday tradition and is a must watch at least once between October and December. You sure won’t be able to get away from it even if you tried.
5. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Happy happy Halloween Halloween Halloween, happy happy Halloween, Silver Shamrock!
Now that you hate me for getting the jingle stuck in your head, Halloween III: Season of the Witch. The black sheep of the original Halloween franchise. The one not about Michael Meyers. Probably the best sequel the series got until the 2018 reboot of the franchise. Originally Halloween was going to be an anthology series, Michael was never going to be this recurring character or constant element. The success of the first of course saw his return for the sequel, but they really did try and do something different for the third, which of course confused audiences and really hurt the film’s reception. It wasn’t until so many years later that people stepped back and gave the film a chance and looked at it on its own merits and it’s a really creative concept with some great and disturbing visuals (ever wanted to see a kid’s head disintegrate while wearing a Halloween mask and listening to that horribly catchy jingle?). It still doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but Season of the Witch more than deserves to be appreciated for the movie it was and not disregarded for the movie it wasn’t.
4. Casper (1995)
Cristina Ricci, ghosts, completely unnecessary cameos, Cristina Ricci, terrible puns and aged cgi and did I mention Cristina Ricci? Yeah, I definitely had a bit of a thing for Wednesday Addams herself growing up so that definitely played into my appreciation of this film as a kid, those childhood celebrity crushes right? There were some good gags, the cameos were gratuitous but fun. It never really got too scary, but it managed to have a sort of surreal and dreamlike atmosphere at times and Whipstaff (I really should have looked that one up before typing this out) Manor had a great mood about it and was gorgeous and interesting visually. Plus it has Eric Idle and who doesn’t love Eric Idle? Casper is a fun and charming family film that feels right at home for Halloween.
3. Halloween (1978)
As I said, it is hard to beat a classic and it is hard to get more classic than John Carpenter’s original 1978 slasher masterpiece, Halloween. The film that really brought the genre to the limelight, the film that introduced us to Michael Meyers and paved the way for horror juggernauts like Freddy and Jason, with the iconic score, fantastic cinematography, great performances by Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance. Let us not forget that iconic opening sequence with young Michael stalking and killing his older sister in a fantastic POV shot, doing so much more for the character and franchise than the drawn out, generic and character destroying opening hour or so of Rob Zombie’s ill-fated remake. There’s a reason that Halloween is often held as one of the greatest slasher films of all time, it helped create the genre and is still worth looking back on today over 40 years later.
2. Hocus Pocus (1993)
The witch is back. This movie is just fun. The performances are over the top, the visuals are fantastic, the humor is all over the place from stupid little wisecracks to things that went way over my head as a kid. I never really appreciated just how damn funny this movie was until rewatching it a couple of years ago, before I just laughed here and there and enjoyed it as a somewhat spooky piece of my childhood because I watched the hell out of this one growing up. Of the more family oriented films listed this is definitely the one that skews the oldest as far as the age group I’d recommend it to, but even for younger kids it could be fun. It never gets too scary, though it does have moments that could freak them out at least a little (it’s generally underscored with some humor too, mind) and most of the more adult humor should go over their heads or leave them wondering why you’re sitting their laughing your ass off. Run amok, have fun, don’t light the candle if you’re a virgin, it’s just a bunch of hocus pocus!
1. Trick ‘r Treat (2007/2009)
I don’t want to go into too much detail here as I actually do plan on having a full In Retrospect for Trick ‘r Treat next year, but this absolute masterpiece from writer and directer Michael Dougherty (also the man behind the recent Krampus and Godzilla King of the Monsters) just oozes with Halloween. It has everything, from jack o lanterns to sexy werewolf chicks, blood and guts, nudity, poison candy, serial killers, zombies, all woven together in an intricate melding of various tales told over the course of a single night, weaving in and out of eachother with all sorts of little nods and easter eggs here and there that reward careful viewing and rewatches. Sam has gone on to become an icon of the movie and the holiday itself. There has never been a movie I more associated with Halloween than Trick ‘r Treat, a film that literally IS Halloween. It’s such a fun and clever film, it has just the right blend of funny and scary, great dark humor, awesome monster designs and visual fx, the way the stories flow in and out of eachother with just enough connective bits. Trick ‘r Treat is one of my favorite films of all time, every year on Halloween I watch it, it is my Halloween tradition and as Sam teaches, traditions are not to be broken.
I hope I have inspired you, my beloved readers, and given you something to watch this October the 31st. Be safe out there, have fun, be spooky, have a Happy Halloween!