Unlike Devin, I am not a big fan of the horror genre. I’m known among my high school friend group for watching entire movies peeking through my fingers. After Nathan and I watched Silence of the Lambs (1991), I slept with the lights on. However, I adore fall and wanted to get in the spooky mood by watching some films that are Halloween-y and evoke the spirit of the season without being too scary. Read on for some recommendations!
- Edward Scissorhands (1990)
I recently rewatched this movie after having not seen it for years and forgot how hilarious it is, particularly the contrast between Edward (Johnny Depp) and Peg (Dianne Wiest). The film takes place in a sort of gothic dream world, an exaggerated version of our own. As such, it is able to reflect certain facets of our society (ideas about conformity and isolation) in a way that feels disturbingly true. Plus, we get to see a then-18-year-old Winona Ryder pretend to be an octogenarian grandma, which is frightening in its own way.
My family and I usually watch this one at Christmas-time, but even watching it twice in a few months I never fail to be entertained and notice something new about it. The level of detail in each stop-motion shot is extraordinary — from the colors to the textures to the intricate sets — and the songs always get stuck in my head for the rest of the day. Henry Selick’s Nightmare has enough creepy details (“the clown with the tearaway face”, anyone?) to put you in the Halloween mood without being actually scary.
- Monster House (2006)
Yes, many of the films on this list are children’s movies. I’m a wimp. But Monster House is truly so much fun. It takes place in a neighborhood where streets are littered with bright fall foliage and even concludes on Halloween. Watching it, we are transported back in time to both the childhood excitement of Halloween night, marred by the knowledge that we were too old to go trick or treating as we mature, and the freedom and exploration it allowed.
- Coraline (2009)
Henry Selick returns with another classic, which is rated as a PG children’s movie despite being quite unsettling. The film’s early sense of decay (mud, mold, rain) is later papered over with colorful attractive details in the Other World that Coraline visits; we are drawn into the narrative with a sense of childlike wonder, as is our protagonist. But when the facade gets ripped back and the truth revealed, it turns into a dangerous game wherein a young girl is the only person who can save herself and her family.
- Get Out (2017)
Hear me out on this one! I know it’s truly a horror movie, but Jordan Peele’s innovative film is so beautifully crafted and well acted that I am always eager to watch it anyway. We talk about Get Out frequently at PFR because it’s a scary film for a new generation, one that has moved beyond scream queens and jump scares to the deeper insidious forces plaguing our country. What is most scary is when the horror depicted on screen also hits home with what’s happening in our real lives.