Harper's List: Halloween Movies


It's that time of year again-- the time when I come out with my list of movies you should watch this Halloween! I love Halloween and I love movies, so this list combines so of my favorite things. I'm linking at all the movies on IMDB, but if you're looking to stream these movies, I recommend checking out CanIStream.it, a site where you can find out where things are legally(!) streaming or available for digital download. This list is an updated version of the list seen on this blog last year, so you may see repeats-- that's just because I'm trying to make as comprehensive a list as possible. This list also contains some movie-ish things like mini-series and webseries-- things that you can definitely marathon in around the time it might take to watch a movie or two.

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."

Carmilla - The Webseries
Based on the novella by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla is a modernized retelling of the story in the novella centering on a girl named Laura who narrates and investigates the very strange happenings at Silas University where she encounters a hot, amoral female vampire. Action, adventure,  mystery, paranormal activity, lesbians, and a frat boy with a heart of gold. This series gets really epic, and they've just completed season 2.

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. Family friendly, and not creepy or scary for all you weenies out there.

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. This isn't a scary or spooky movie, but it's definitely a dark comedy.

A Monster in Paris
I've reviewed this movie before-- but if you want the top notes, here it goes! A Monster in Paris is a really cute animated film about two best friends, Emile and Raoul, who accidentally create an 8-foot-tall flea that unwittingly terrorizes Paris-- until singer and childhood bully of Raoul, Lucille, takes him in and discovers he has a wonderful singing voice. She hopes to hide the beast and keep him as a performing partner, but the power-hungry mayor will do anything to kill the beast and distract the people from all the problems he's not fixing. Set in a Jules Verne-esque Paris, flooded with no end in sight, this movie is really cute and unexpected.

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 (which has spawned endless parodies), 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 pulled 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.

The Fourth Kind
Okay, so I really liked this movie-- it's totally freaky-- but a lot of other people did not like this movie. I think that honestly depends on where you stand on aliens (and like, being terrified). This movie is supposedly based off of real life accounts, actual documentary/therapy footage etc. and centers around a series of strange events in Alaska that happen in a small town. A woman (reenacted by Milla Jovovich, but with actual footage of herself) begins to investigate these strange happenings only to find out that there have been apparent government cover ups. Oh yeah, and a lot of alien activity.

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!

Frankenstein MD
Can't get enough Frankenstein? Always wanted to see Frankenstein done with a driven female doctor in modern times? Watch this series, brought to you by the team who turned Pride and Prejudice into The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma into Emma Approved. This series was made in partnership with PBS and there's some awesome real-life, cutting-edge science in this web series. If you like Frankenstein and like medical science, you'll get a real kick out of this show.

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. This is my favorite movie that I've seen in the Hannibal Lecter universe.

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.

Over The Garden Wall
Ya'll, I'm obsessed with this series. It's a mini-series, 10 episodes around 10 minutes each, resulting in a full-watch-through time equivalent to a movie. It's a really beautifully done story about two brothers who get lost on Halloween and are trying to find their way home in a strange and mythical land called The Unknown. Monsters, beasts, demons, and tricksters await them in this tale of life and death. This is a masterpiece of a show. Please watch it, you will not regret it.

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.

Teen Witch
This movie is terrible. But it's terrible in a really fun to watch 80s way. If you are looking for a light movie to watch with your friends to comment excessively during about the clothes, the ridiculous, numerous, inexplicable, terrible musical numbers, and the sheer "stereotypical boy-crazy teen girl"-ness of it all, this is the movie. Teen Witch is about a teen who discovers she is a witch. (Astounding.) And with her witchness, she does what pretty much any teen girl would do if you were the kind of one-dimensional teen girl people like to talk-down about: get revenge on girls who are more popular than her, and try to get the guy. If you want a taste of it, just to know what level of ridiculous I'm talking about, watch this.

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 most 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.

Interview with The Vampire
I recently watched this movie and found it strange and hilarious. It has massive cult-film value. It stars Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, and a young Kristen Dunst since the film was made in the 90s. A vampire named Louis (Pitt) is being interviewed by a reporter (Slater) and he basically recounts his love, loss, and anguish throughout his life of being a vampire. This movie is one of those movies that tries to be serious, but can't help itself with how ridiculous it is. It's also very homoerotic, but like, in a way that I think was supposed to appeal to women? There's also female nudity in it so heads up on that front. I enjoyed watching it but it's very ridiculous. I wouldn't say that this is a favorite movie, but it is a movie full of vampires, flouncy period clothes, and the most male-to-male face-caresses I have seen in a mainstream movie, ever. I also almost always enjoy movies where Tom Cruise plays an absolute nutjob, so this one made the list.

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. This is such a great, classic movie for weird girls everywhere. It's all about the struggle between community and independence versus temptation toward evil. How far will you got to fit in? How hard will you fight against the evil that tries to overtake your coven-- and if it succeeds, are you willing to destroy that evil?

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.

The Babadook
I've mentioned this movie before on the blog-- If you like really well written horror that relies more on tension than gore or jump-scares, this is the movie for you. It's about a single mother, Amelia, who refuses to deal with the grief associated with her husband's death. Her son, Sam, was born the day her husband died, and as a result this difficult child's existence is tied to the death of his father. A boogeyman called the Babadook comes for Amelia and Sam, and slowly you realize that the Babadook is the grief and resentment she refused to deal with, manifested. Throughout the film you wonder if this creature is a real, physical monster made of her grief, or something in her head entirely. It's definitely scary, but in a suspenseful, dark way, not a gory, jump scare, effects-driven way.

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?

Horns
TW: Sexual violence. This was also reviewed by me earlier this year. It's a fantasy-horror-mystery starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ig, a guy who gets accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend, and suddenly finds horns growing out of his head. he is innocent, but no one believes him, and the horns are giving him a bad rep and even worse powers. This movie was pretty hard to watch at a couple points, but I think it was really well-done overall. If you like romance-turned-horror/revenge-story, you will probably like this.

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.

The Book of Life
This movie is so beautifully done and I highly recommend everyone see it. It centers around the mythic Book of Life of Mexican legend and the Day of the Dead. This film is about the love triangle between Manolo and Joaquin who are competing for the affections of Maria. Their childhood best friendship and love triangle take on a level of supernatural importance when gods La Muerte and Xibalba make a bet on who Maria will choose.  On top of the animation being amazing, the story and music are also wonderful. I love this film because it tells the story of another culture without trying to tone down that culture to make it more mainstream. This movie is funny, has tons of heart, and the values of family are deeply examined. I also love that the women in this movie are totally bad-ass-- which is not something you'd expect from a movie centering on a childhood love triangle.

Monster High: Ghouls Rule
Okay, I had to put some Monster High on this list-- and I promise you, they are surprisingly good. All the Monster High movies are on Netflix, and you can also watch all the mini (2D animated) webisodes on Youtube.  Monster High: Ghouls Rule is the Halloweeniest of the Monster High movies since it's actually set around Halloween. In the Monster High universe, all the students learn that Halloween is typically a time when non-monster people (aka Normies) hunt Monsters. Though the monster hunting traditions aren't as big a deal in the last century, some Normies continue to hunt to this day, and are often regarded as dangerous to Monsters. A few Normies decide to go after the students of Monster High, and though the Headmistress bans retaliation, many of the monsters won't let the insult stand. All the while, the main characters find out that Halloween once celebrated the friendship between humans and monsters until some humans decided that people would be easier to control if humans feared monsters. This movie is actually a pretty solid demonstration of how a lot of oppressor/oppressed dynamics come to be and can be torn down. I really do recommend it-- especially if you're like me and you like stuff that is creepy and cute.

The One I Love
This isn't particularly Halloweenie, but it is kinda creepy. It's a little Twilight Zone-y and a little creepy-short-story-y. The One I Love is about a couple whose marriage needs work. At the suggestion of their therapist, they go off to a little cottage to get away from everything and work on their relationship. When they get there, things get a little... unusual. I don't want to spoil the movie-- it's pretty damn original. Watch this movie if you're more into suspense and tingly weirdness than monsters and guts.

That's all I could think of for my list. Tell me if you watch any of these, or if you want to do a watch-along / witch-along on twitter!

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


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