Witchcraft, hauntings, and murderers, oh my! With the countdown to Halloween dwindling smaller and smaller every day, it’s (finally) socially acceptable to deck out in black and orange and embrace the spooky season. At least for me personally, October means pulling up Netflix and watching as many creepy movies as possible, whether it be nostalgic childhood classics or nightmare-inducing horror films. Since the list is practically endless, here’s my top picks for films guaranteed to get you into the Halloween spirit.
Arguably the best Disney Channel movie of all time, “Halloweentown” follows Marnie, a young girl who, after discovering her Grandma Aggie is a witch, is tasked with saving a magical town from an evil demon’s wrath. As a child, I wanted to visit Halloweentown nearly as much as the wizarding world in Harry Potter and I endlessly hoped my grandma would come to tell me that I too was a secret witch like Marnie. While this movie is special in so many ways, the real star of the show is Grandma Aggie played by the late Debbie Reynolds who wins practically anyone’s heart with her well-intentioned rebellious nature and wise advice that “being normal is vastly overrated.”
Nightmare Before Christmas
I swear there’s something about claymation movies that automatically make them 500% creepier than other movies, but that might just be me. That said, I was actually terrified of this movie as a kid but nowadays I wholeheartedly love this Halloween-Christmas movie hybrid. Similar to “Halloweentown”, The “Nightmare Before Christmas” explores magical worlds based on the different holidays. The film’s protagonist Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, accidentally leaves his spooky home and lands in the Christmas Town. From there, chaos breaks loose. If the incredibly unique plot isn’t enough to draw you in, the score by Danny Elfman 100% will, with hits like “What’s this?”, “Kidnap the Sandy Claws”, and of course, “This is Halloween.”
Charmingly cheesy and super fun, this Disney movie set in Salem, MA follows the chaos after the accidental resurrection of the Sanderson Sisters, three witches dead set on casting spells on children to achieve eternal youth. While the acting and visual effects questionable to say the least (trying to create a believable talking cat in the 90’s was a mistake), there’s so much to love in this ridiculous movie, especially all things involving the three witches. The Sanderson Sisters are truly infamous and their banter adds so much charisma to the film (also, they’re the perfect inspiration for a trio costume). Also, Bette Midler’s performance of “I’ve Put a Spell on You”, accompanied by some amazing choreography for Sanderson Sisters, is truly iconic.
Out of all five family-friendly movies, “Coraline” is truly the creepiest of them all. Though not truly centered around Halloween, this claymation movie tells the story of a young girl who after movie into a new home transports through a door in the wall into a eerie parallel universe full of magic. Including the unnerving claymation, the spooky-meter shoots up past the roof with the button-eyed people in the other universe and the Other-Mother’s hunger for kids. This movie is a perfect combination of children and scary movies, and I love its unique approach to the world of creepy films. There are no witches or ghosts (well, kinda) but it uses magical horror concepts to get everyone to reconsider their wishes to live in a parallel world.
The Haunted Mansion
Seriously, this movie was lurking in the deepest corner of my subconscious and I honestly forgot about it until doing some research on beloved Halloween movies, but I’m so glad I remembered it. I religiously watched this movie as a kid and it freaked me out every. Single. Time. “The Haunted Mansion” follows a realtor’s family as try to escape a seriously ghost-ridden mansion and simultaneously break the curse placed upon the house. Its classic storyline is nothing new but its wit and rather terrifying visuals really stuck with me as a child, so this movie is a nostalgic-must for this Halloween season.
Of course, the creepiest movies are based on true stories. Detailing the horrifying occurrences plaguing a family after their move into an old, the movie is awesomely-terrifying as it shows the paranormal investigation into the demonic hauntings. What sets the movie apart from others of its kind is the rather talented cast, which is unheard of in most modern day horror films. While of course there’s jump scares from time to time, the actual storyline is so detailed and thrilling you’ll be on the edge of your seat for its entire duration. No doubt, it’s my favorite scary movie of all time.
What’s scarier than a demon trying to possess you as you sleep? In “Insidious”, a family experiences hauntings when their son enters a coma. In the coma, the son becomes susceptible to possession after entering a demonic world full of demon brides and devilish-figures called “the Further” in his sleep. I love the uniqueness of this franchise and the whole exploration into the concept of astral projection and demonic possession, which is honestly terrifying. If you’re looking for a movie with tons of horrific twists and one of the most shocking cliffhangers of all time, “Insidious” is perfect. Also, I highly suggest watching “Insidious 2” to further understand the crazy backstory of the first movie.
This film is a classic for a reason. It differs from the other Halloween movies because it lacks any jump scares and starts rather slow. However, it’s crazy good. This classic movie follows a young woman who stays at the eerie Bates Motel and the creepy encounters between her and the innkeeper Norman Bates. The shower scene in the movie is infamous for good reason and even freakier in context. Though not nearly as fright-inducing as modern horror movies, Hitchcock’s masterpiece is a must-watch and its well-crafted eeriness is perfect for the spooky atmosphere of October.
How could I not include this iconic slasher film that’s centered all around the holiday? Similar to Psycho, the movie exposes the freakiness of human beings rather than ghosts and demons. Detailing the murder spree by serial killer Michael Myers after his escape from a sanitarium, the movie is horrifying and will get audiences watching their back for any stalkers wearing creepy masks. Though released in 1978, the film hasn’t lost its touch when it comes to creep-factor and suspense. Also, with a new installment in the series being released later this month, it’s time for a revisit of the film which solidified Michael Myers as a horror icon.
Stanley’s Kubrick’s infamous film is truly one of kind as it combines all things considered terrifying: ghosts, murder, and insanity. “The Shining” is about the Torrance family who moves into the empty Overlook Hotel for the winter after the father, Jack, gets the job as the winter caretaker. From then on, the eerie hotel and paranormal atmosphere messes with the family and slowly drives the father Jack into insanity. While not really “scary” like most modern horror movies, the movie is so suspenseful and full of unsettling scenes that will leave you on edge. Whether it be the twins, Redrum, or “Here’s Johnny”, the Shining’s iconic scenes will stick with you for a long time after the credits roll.