Harper's List: Halloween Movies


It's the most wonderful time of the year: when things get spooky. Combining two things I love, Halloween and movies, I've put together a list of great movies to watch during Halloween. Some are fun, some are scary, and some are just dark. I'm gonna skip adding in all the movie posters, because I feel like that's a little overwhelming in a post this long, but I'll link to everything on IMDB!

Hocus Pocus
I really could not make this list without Hocus Pocus. I mean, there is no more Halloween-y movie ever. For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past couple decades, it's a story about a bunch of kids who accidentally set free three witch sisters who set upon the town to terrorize the people. It's a lot of fun, full of gags, and a really baller rendition of "I Put A Spell On You."

Kiki's Delivery Service
This Miyazaki Classic is about a little witch learning to make her way in the world by becoming a Delivery Girl. She goes to a new city and some people are suspicious of her since she's a witch, but eventually, she learns to just focus on doing the right thing and not worry so much about what other people think of her.

ParaNorman
Norman just can't fit in-- not at school, not at home-- and it's mostly because he can talk to the dead. This kid finds out he's caught in the middle of the town's curse as the only other ghost whisperer dies, and he's got to pick up where the other guy left off and keep the witch at bay another year, or else the dead will rise! This is a really cute movie. I love the use of lighting and texture with the animation, and the storyline might surprise you. It's really endearing and full of fun jokes. It's totally underrated.

Heathers
This 80s classic tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, a smart girl who somehow finds herself in the uber-popular clique of Heathers: Heather Chandler, Heather Macnamara, and Heather Duke. Despite her intellectual and moral conflict surrounding her relationship with these elite bitches, Veronica can't break free of their toxic pull. Suddenly a mysterious, dark new kid named JD arrives on the scene, and Veronica thinks he'll be her escape-- but it turns out he's pretty damaged and more than a little psychotic. (Don't forget to check out my Heathers themed giveaway! It ends October 7) This isn't a scary or spooky movie, but it's definitely a dark comedy.

Beetlejuice
A deceased couple refuses to let go of their house, so when a family moves in, they turn to the Underworld to find a human exterminator to get the living out of their home. They hire Beetlejuice and it turns out they've opened up a can of worms-- the have no way to control him. This movie is spooky fun and it's stylistically magical.

Ghost
Some people like to watch spooky movies around Halloween, and some people just take every opportunity to see Patrick Swayze being a total dream boat. For those in the latter camp, you can use this movie to pretend like you are in the former camp. Best known for its iconic romantic-pottery-wheel scene, this movie is about Swayze being in love with Demi Moore and getting offed because he discovered some dirty dealings going down at the financial firm where he works. He starts bugging a medium played by Whoopi Goldberg to help him get back to Demi only to discover she's in grave danger because the guy who killed him thinks she might know about his crimes too-- so now he's gotta save her from beyond the grave. It's mostly a romance movie, but since it's also about a ghost, you can tell yourself that you are watching this movie more because it's the Halloween season, and less because Swayze is a babe.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Another Tim Burton classic, this is the story of how the King of Halloween, Jack Skellington, got bored of doing Halloween year after year and tried to mix things up by taking over Christmas. It's got a great soundtrack and gorgeous stop-motion animation.

Fright Night
So, there is an older version of this movie, but I haven't seen it-- I watched the 2009 remake with Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, and David Tennant. Half because I'm super into David Tennant (hello, Doctor), and half because I am really into Anton Yelchin's voice. It's basically about a guy (Anton Yelchin) who's a total nerd, but his social capital has significantly gone up since a totally gorgeous girl fell for him, and now he's kind of stuck between being a cool kid and sticking with his nerdy friends. Then a vampire comes to town, moves in next door, and comes for pretty much everyone he cares about, so it's up to this former geek to find a way to kill a real-live vampire.

Young Frankenstein
A Mel Brooks comedy featuring Gene Wilder as the grandson of evil scientist, Victor Frankenstein-- you know, the one you know about from the books. He's spent his entire life trying to escape his grandfather's insane shadow, but it's only a matter of time before he gets into the family business. It's a goofy parody of Frankenstein, and includes a fun musical number!

Silence of the Lambs
The first film in the Hannibal Lecter Trilogy, Silence of the Lambs is not a horror movie, but certainly a thriller. FBI trainee Clarisse Starling is working on a case involving a serial killer who has been skinning his victims and turns to a notorious serial killer and cannibal, Dr. Lecter, to gain insight. Dr. Lecter is at this point in an asylum for the criminally insane-- although he's less insane and more just a serial killer and a cannibal. While Clarisse is solving a string of murders, Lecter's got his own plans in the works.

Carrie
Based on a Stephen King novel, this classic film (and the recent remake starring Chloe Grace Moretz) is about a girl living under the roof of a border-line insane, religious fanatic mother. Like many kids from broken homes, Carrie is socially ostracized and struggling to come into her own. As she comes of age, she develops psychic powers, and tries to cope with a world that has constantly been cruel to her. This is a borderline horror film in that I wouldn't characterize it as horror, but others certainly would.

Corpse Bride
Another Tim Burton animated classic, Corpse Bride is about a nervous young man being forced into an arranged marriage for the good of both families. Whilst trying to cope with the idea of marrying a girl he only just met, he accidentally practices his vows, not to a twig or root sprouting from the ground, but to a dead almost-bride's finger, exposed from her grave. As far as she's concerned, they're husband and wife, and Victor finds himself in the odd predicament of having maybe-married this lovely, sweet dead girl and also having a living-breathing fiancee. I really love the music in this one as well.

How To Be a Serial Killer
This is, I suppose, a horror movie, not for the gore factor or the terror, but because of how very dark it is. It's an independent flick, and I think it's still available on Netflix. The title is pretty apt, because it's about a serial killer who leads a pretty happy double life, and decides he's going to take on a protege, played by Matthew Grey Gubler (who plays Dr. Spencer Reid on Criminal Minds, a show where he catches serial killers). The film basically tells the story by switching between real action in a documentary style, and this sort of fantasy in which the main serial killer is doing a motivational presentation about how all your dreams can come true by becoming a serial killer. I found it to be a really interesting watch, from a storytelling perspective. Warning though, the kill scenes are done pretty realistically, so it might be extremely disturbing to watch for some.

Edward Scissorhands
This is probably Tim Burton's best work, in my opinion. Starring Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder, it tells the tale of Edward Scissorhands, a boy created by a genius, lonely, kind, and eccentric inventor, who died before he could give his creation real hands. Edward is taken out of the castle and brought into suburbia, where he struggles to be himself, given that he looks and feels so differently than everyone else in town. It's a story about being misunderstood, struggling to fit in with convention, and cruelty versus compassion. It's a really beautiful story, and the visual direction is amazing.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Based on the Sondheim musical (which is based on a play, which is based on a book, which is based on rumors of the actual day), this is yet another Tim Burton film. Starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd is about a barber who has returned after being wrongfully imprisoned for the horrible travesties committed against his wife and child, now back for revenge. As he murders, a certain smitten pie-maker helps him dispose of the bodies by feeding them to the masses. There is quite a lot of singing in this, so if you're not fond of musicals, skip this one.

Monsters Inc.
Don't like murder or black magic? Monsters Inc is all about monsters but is also totally cute and sweet. It's all about the world of monsters, where they live pretty much just like us, apart from having extra body parts and getting their electricity by scaring kids. It centers around Mike and Sully, a scare team that accidentally lets a kid in through a closet portal and over time discovers that there's something very wrong with how the company runs itself. You'll have a lot of fun and be left completely nightmare free.

Men In Black
I don't think I can explain how completely essential Will Smith was to my childhood. Combine that with my childhood obsession with aliens, and this movie was essentially, for me, as formative as Mean Girls is to Americans in their 20s. It's about a new agent, J, played by Will Smith, who signs up for what he thinks is basically the chance to become part of a super elite police force or something-- he passes with flying colors, only to find out that he's part of the super secret agency that handles all relations with aliens. Plus, he's got a grumpy traditionalist partner to show him the ropes. It's a buddy cop movie, essentially, with the added bonus of an aliens, both good and bad.

Constantine
This movie got a lot of mixed reviews, but being a sucker for both comic book style plots and the whole angels and demons genre, I actually rather enjoyed this movie. It's a story about anti-hero John Constantine who can see the spirits that exist on the mortal plane. He commits suicide and is brought back. Now he has to atone for committing suicide, considered a sin in the eyes of heaven, and he goes about it by protecting people from those spirits who seek to do harm to humans. Then he finds himself caught up in a pretty big angels versus demons plot. I think it's visually well executed, but the script and story do feel a little self-important and muddled from time to time. There's a TV show of the comic it's based on coming on this season on NBC, and I'm excited for it, since comic book stories, in my opinion, are better told in the TV format. All in all though, I did enjoy the film.

Halloweentown
There are like, 4 of these Disney Channel Original Movies out. They are pretty much all good, lighthearted, Halloween-y fun. It's about a family of witches that lives with one foot in the mortal world, and one foot in the magical realm known as Halloweentown, where every day is Halloween and the creatures and magic are all real!

The Craft
This is a dark movie about high school witches. These girls experiment in dark magic to get what they want, but find themselves spiraling out of control, lusting after the power that comes with their rituals. The newest member of their group, a natural born witch, tries to bring them back from the depths of evil, but when it's to no avail, she has to fight against her newfound friends to save her town and herself.

Ghostbusters
This 80s classic is about a group of friends that start a ghost extermination service. It's a comedy full of adventure and laughs, and honestly, if you haven't seen this film, you absolutely must.

High Anxiety
Another Mel Brooks comedy, this film parodies Hitchcockian thrillers. It tells the story of a highly nervous psychiatrist, who may or may not be surrounded by murderers, or might even be a murderer himself!

Brick
Have you ever wanted to see a high school, noir-style mystery starring Joseph Gordon Levitt from before everyone realized he is a total babe? If so, this indie flick from 2005 is exactly what you've been waiting for. JGL is brooding, dark, clever, and bad-ass in this film where he's out to figure out what's happened to his ex-girlfriend after getting a confused and terrified call from her.

Treasure Planet
This movie is so underrated but it's so cool. I wish Disney would make more stuff like this, but since it was so underrated, we're missing the boat. Treasure Planet is a sci-fi retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Treasure Island. It's a really cool reimagining, with great character designs, and wonderful animation. It probably doesn't jump to the top of everyone's Halloween Movie List, but you've got pirates, aliens, and robots-- that's a lot of stuff off of anyone's Halloween checklist.

Shutter Island
Starring Leo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island is a pretty ace thriller, full of dark brooding and mind-bending twists. It's a psychological thriller about a US Marshall who goes to investigate a psychiatric facility-- or is it?

Lunopolis
This is a 2009 independent sci-fi film that is totally cool, in my opinion. If you can get past the low-budget effects, the story will intrigue you. It is told like a documentary, centering around found footage of some guys recovering a strange device, which turns out to have roots with a strange religious cult that believes that there are humans living on the moon in a sort of utopian society, literally above all the strife on earth. As they search for answers, the truth is more mind-blowing than the crazy cult followers could ever imagine. This film goes into space travel, time travel, religious fanaticism, and parallel universes as it builds a story explaining the 2012 apocalypse prophesies.

Warm Bodies
In a post-zombie-apocalypse world, things look grim for humanity-- and also for the zombies. What kind of existence are they living?, they ponder, between long stretches of hunger and groaning. That is, until R comes across a human girl and suddenly decides he kind of likes the idea of being human again, and not eating brains, etc. This is a zombified reimagining of Romeo and Juliet, with the Capulets and Montagues swapped out for humans and zombies. I really like the visual direction of this movie, and the soundtrack is totally amazing. It's probably also the most interesting romantic lead you'll ever think of.

Phantom of the Opera
A classic musical, with dark, broody music, Phantom is about a madman living in the opera house, disfigured, abandoned, and lonely, he becomes obsessed with a rising starlet named Christine. Christine, having been orphaned, hears the Phantom's voice guiding her and believes it to be the Angel of Music, sent by her dead musician father to guard her. Not until later does she realize that it is in fact the Phantom of legend, and that he is in love with her-- meanwhile, following her rise to fame, she is reunited with her childhood love, Raoul, and they plan to get married. But this sparks the Phantom's ire, and he takes matters into his own hands.

That's all I could think of for my list. I hope you enjoyed it! I know I did.

 Are there any that you would add? What are your favorite genres and creatures?

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