Unlike providing a list of favorite books, it’s fairly easy for me to recommend my favorite films for Halloween. I’m not a big horror movie buff. Shock and gore isn’t scary to me, and as for suspenseful “surprise” endings—I tend to them in the first ten minutes. So, to be a personal favorite, a movie has to be one that I’m willing to watch more than once and still enjoy. In fact, many of my picks tend toward the macabre or darkly humorous or “just fun.” And, yes, I cheat (there are some ties).
1. The Crow (1994)
Flawed, yet perfect. Set on Devil’s Night/Halloween and a love story to boot: “If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. Buildings burn. People die. But real love is forever.”
2. The Haunting (1963)
The only black-and-white movie that ever held my kids spellbound (and also scared them). Sounds and shadows and suspense are scarier than blood and guts any day.
3. The Witches (1990)
A sinister black comedy, Roald Dahl’s novel is a super read and the movie is almost as good. Anjelica Huston is a wonderfully terrible Eva Ernst
4.(Tie) Sleepy Hollow (1999) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton is Halloween. The former is both eerie and enchanting and the latter is twisted and charming at the same time.
A fearless young girl and a hidden door to an alternate version of her own reality, which, of course, is tempting at first, but turns terrifying. A visual treat, the story delves into a great deal that really scares youngsters. One of the few films that equals the original book (by Neil Gaiman).
6. (Tie) The Others (2001) and The Sixth Sense (1999)
Okay, I did figure both of these out before the endings, but it took more than ten minutes and M. Night Shymalan deserves major credit for making two incredibly suspenseful films. The Sixth Sense owes a great deal to the script as well as the performances. In The Others, Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of an overprotective with kids allergic to light, pulls you right in. Both are visually superb.
7. Dark City (1998)
Like The Crow, directed by Alexa Proyas. Very noirish exploration of concepts of reality, identity, and more. The obvious rip-off of Clive Barker’s cenobites is sort of a bummer, though.
8. Hocus Pocus (1993)
An absolute over-the-top blast of a movie with scene-chewing, laugh-inducing performances by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy—witches who return 300 years after executed in Salem. The three children who accidentally bring them back have to pull out all the stops to defeat them. Sure, there are tons of anachronisms, but it this one is for fun, not logic.
9. Ghost Busters (1984)
Who you gonna call? Three unemployed parapsychologists set as a ghost removal service and, of course, save New York from a unique threat, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. (What else would a Sumerian demonic deity take form as?) And the toys were great!
10. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Okay, it wasn’t really a movie, but a TV special. Who cares? A true classic of faith (the grst Pumpkin), the perfidy of life (“I got a rock), and imagination (Snoopy as a World War I flying ace).
And, of course, if you want to discover some fine new seasonal stories, you really should read Halloween: Mystery, Magic, and the Macabre—available in bookstores online and off!