The softie’s guide to Halloween movies

When Halloween rolls around, horror movies are nearly impossible to avoid — which for some people is a dream come true. But if scary movies aren’t your thing and you still don’t want to miss out on some good Hollywood fun, there are still many excellent not-so-scary scary movies for you to choose from.

“It’s so bad it’s good” is a popular and eye-roll-worthy phrase but Ed Wood(1994) is actually a good movie about bad movies. As Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s second collaboration, the film follows the infamous “worst director ever” Ed Wood as he tries to get his career started. This movie also features Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi, the actor whose performance as Dracula is timeless. Shot in stunning black and white and filled with Burton’s clever touches and a more subdued, younger version of Depp, Ed Wood is Hollywood at its most classic.

Keeping Burton in the writing and producing chair, stop-motion classic The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) makes for an endearing story about accepting and celebrating each other’s differences. Jack Skellington — a fantastical being from Halloween Town — accidentally finds himself in Christmas Town where he attempts to steal the holiday for himself, resulting in a clash between two very different cultural celebrations. The animation is stunningly beautiful and Danny Elfman’s music is awe-inspiring, making this a must-see.

For more stop-motion, ParaNorman (2013) is about a boy who can talk to the dead. He soon discovers that his town is hiding a sinister secret from the past that threatens to literally climb back out of the grave. Watch for references to famous movies here as the animators have hidden countless homages in the background. ParaNorman is a wonderful film about accepting and loving people we don’t understand. Its voice cast is spectacular — featuring actors such as Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick and Casey Affleck — which fills the story with memorable and likeable characters all across the board.

Also be sure to check out Monster House (2006), a motion-capture animated movie co-written by Dan Harmon — the mind behind television’s Community — about a group of kids who go exploring their neighbour’s house which they believe to be haunted. The script is clever and the characters are earnest, while the set pieces are sure to set the tone for the rest of the holiday.

If you really want to kick it up a notch but you still need some comedy to distract you from the gore, Shaun of the Dead (2004) is the movie for you. Edgar Wright’s subtleties, synchronicity and use of iconography take this script from good to spectacular as the title character Shaun (Simon Pegg) tries to get his life together and save his romance in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. However, despite Wright’s knack for metaphors, its namesake Dawn of the Dead (1978) is still the best of the zombie genre.

Maybe zombies are a bit overdone. In that case, before Joss Whedon brought his vision to television, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) was a teenage kick-ass romp about unassuming Buffy (Kristy Swanson) who learns that she is the chosen one — the vampire slayer. The movie didn’t go the way Whedon hoped, which is why he later re-envisioned it for the small screen — but his script is still sublime and you can never go wrong with early 90s fashion.

If you’re looking for laughs and thrills in equal measure, look no further than Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). This meta-movie plays on every cliché of horror movies, turning the expected back in on itself to create a thoroughly enjoyable horror-comedy that will thrill you but won’t leave you hiding under the blankets the whole time — just don’t wander off on your own because everyone knows that those who do don’t come back.

Last but definitely not least, no Halloween movie list is complete without The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Trust me, if you can make it to a theatrical screening, you’ll want to see this movie with a large crowd. Even if you can’t, you should still give it a shot. The longest theatrical release ever — the movie has been playing in theatres around the world continuously since it premiered — The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical throwback to B-horror and science fiction movies about a mad scientist who invents a man to fulfill his every desire and the unfortunate couple who happen upon his mansion one stormy night.

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen; your softie’s guide to being totally cool this Halloween season. Remember, it’s only a movie — no really, it’s safe to turn off the lights. I promise.


by Samuel Rafuse via The Sheaf –