Let’s set the record straight - I do not like being scared. Even with the incredible number of scary movies I watch throughout the year, I don’t actually enjoy being in my dark bedroom at night in complete silence. Good movies stick with you long after the credits roll - your mind will fill a dark room with all of the scary things you can’t see. It’s just a side effect of enjoying horror - the fact is that these dark, atmospheric, creepy movies will scare you.
Fortunately, you can still get in the Halloween spirit without being terrified. Now that the air is chilly and leaves are pumpkin-colored, here are four fantastic movies that won’t leave you shivering at night.
This 2001 cult classic is many things. In addition to being a cerebral adventure movie similar to a comic book adaptation, it’s one of the movies most emblematic of Halloween. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titular character, a disturbed teenager who has visions of alternate universes, proselytizing bunnies, and the end of the world. Along the way, he comes to terms with himself and his purpose in life. Heavy handed? Certainly. But in my eyes, no fall is complete without a screening of Donnie Darko. In addition to all of the wonderful nods to horror and macabre culture, the little town of Middlesex spends the course of the movie preparing for their big autumn bash. The climax of the movie is a Halloween party. When the hero of your movie is saving the world while wearing a skeleton costume straight out of Hot Topic, you can’t lose. It is so entrenched in Halloween culture that its opening soundtrack song, The Killing Moon, is the perfect song for the autumn. When you track this movie down, make sure you skip the Director’s Cut. It’s much more serious and bizarre than the theatrical edition. Trailer
Back when kids movies could get away with an F-bomb, Tim Burton made Beetlejuice. What makes this movie special is that it’s got all of the levity, ridiculousness, and fun of a kids movie, but none of the stereotypical pitfalls. Unlike most stereotyped characters in kids movies, each character is distinctive and plays an important role in the plot. In addition, they’re all incredibly well-acted. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis star as Adam and Barbara Maitland, an idyllic suburban couple with a beautiful old house in New Hampshire who die in a car accident and are doomed to haunt their house. When a snobby New York family moves into the seemingly abandoned house, Adam and Barbara decide to have a “reverse exorcism” to banish their new human tenants. Michael Keaton gives his role as Beetlejuice, bio-exorcist extraordinaire, everything he’s got. The result is Tim Burton’s haunted house full of ridiculous special effects and wonderfully bizarre creatures and set pieces. Trailer
Despite the fact that Creepshow is helmed by two of the greatest and most respected names in horror, Stephen King and George Romero, this horror anthology is 100% camp. I like to imagine that this movie came about when the two masters of horror were chatting it up at a bar, lamenting to each other about what a drag it is to take themselves so seriously all the time. As a result, Creepshow is one of the silliest, most fun Halloween movies ever made. It’s an anthology made up of five different short films. The film’s framing device is a kids’ Tales from the Crypt style comic book that his father punishes him for reading. They don’t try to hide that this movie is rooted in the B-movies and pulp comics of yesteryear. Leslie Nielsen, best known for his comedic roles, takes on his first semiserious role in years. Its monsters, reminiscent of old Universal movies, are tongue in cheek that your screams will be mixed with lots and lots of laughs. Creepshow’s tagline sums it up this best: This movie is “the most fun you’ll ever have being scared!” Trailer
Here we have another horror anthology in the same vein as Creepshow, but rather than being a comic book narrated to the audience in movie form, Trick ’r Treat follows several characters around a Halloween-obsessed town. It’s reminiscent of Love Actually in this way; characters know each other and everything flows from story to story naturally. Trick ’r Treat manages to never take itself too seriously, but still has a purpose: to entertain the audience with a rollercoaster of a fun movie. Instead of the old horror tropes that Creepshow takes on, Trick ’r Treat is all about the mood and feel of Halloween. It captures all of the whimsy and wonder of being a kid again, but turns it up to eleven for an adult audience. From exploring an old quarry in search of an old urban legend to carving pumpkins with your family, this movie lovingly riffs on Halloween nostalgia and makes it creepy, funny, and most of all, fun. It’s the most recent movie of the bunch, released in 2007 to very little press but almost universal acclaim. Trick ’r Treat is the cinematic equivalent of a spiked pumpkin spice latte. Trailer
Check out Part 2 and Part 3 of Halloween Movie Club!