As the leaves change colors and the cooler weather arrives in the month of October, the only thing that seems to occupy our minds is the sweet essence of Halloween. Something that captures the spirit of the season is all the movies on TV that play throughout the month leading up to Halloween. However, not all Halloween movies are filled with fright, blood and guts.
My favorites are the ones that I grew up with, the ones that scared me as a child but now fill me with a sense of nostalgia and even more love for the holiday. So, if you’re someone like me who isn’t the biggest fan of gory movies, grab a glass of hot apple cider and a bowl of popcorn and get cozy for a night in with one of these not-so-scary alternatives.
1. “Hocus Pocus”
When I was younger, “Hocus Pocus” was the movie that I would see on Disney Channel’s Halloween lineup and instantly skip past. Now, I can’t get enough of the classic film. The story follows Max Dennison and his younger sister Dani after their recent move to Salem, Massachusetts. In the days leading up to Halloween, one of Max’s new classmates, Allison, tells him the story of the Sanderson sisters, three witches who were hanged during the Salem Witch Trials and whose home still stands in its original spot in Salem.
Not heeding his classmates’ warnings, Max awakens the trio and ends up having to save his younger sister from their wrath, along with Allison and Thackery Binx, who was turned into a cat by the witches during the time of the trials. An iconic performance by the legendary Bette Midler as Winnifred Sanderson, the leader of the coven, added to the overall kindness of the movie. The best scenes to put a person in the Halloween spirit: Midler’s rendition of “I Put a Spell on You” and the three sisters mistaking Garry Marshall’s character for the Devil, fulfilling his every request.
Another classic trilogy (yes, I’m intentionally leaving out the fourth film) most millennials will remember from their childhood is the “Halloweentown” movies. In the first movie, Marnie Piper learns that she and her siblings are descended from a long line of very powerful witches: the Cromwells. The original trilogy follows Marnie’s adventures as she grows into her powers, saves Halloweentown and the mortal world and bridges the gap between the two, guided by her incredible grandmother Aggie, played by Debbie Reynolds, who practically screams Halloween from the very first moment she appears on-screen.
Marnie’s magical adventures and girl power attitude had every girl wishing they could be her and pushed each and every one of them trying to make her own magic. As if the costumes didn’t capture the spirit of the holiday, the mascot of the city of Halloweentown was a giant jack-o-lantern, shining bright and making every single day Halloween for its residents. From Benny, the friendly skeleton cab driver, to Luke, the annoying teen turned lovable goblin and Marnie’s friend, this movie has it all.
Imagine finding out you have a long-lost twin sister and then finding out that you both have magical powers and are destined to save a far off land. Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s “Twitches,” which opens on Halloween night when, in the land of Coventry, a pair of identical twins, Artemis and Apolla, are transported to the mortal realm as babies by their parents in order to save them from the terror happening in Coventry. On the day of their twenty-first birthday, Alex (Artemis) and Camryn (Apolla) bump into each other while shopping for clothing and realize that they are twins. Not long after finding each other, the pair meets Ileana and Karsh, their guardians for the last twenty-one years, and learn of the great darkness taking over Coventry. Despite their initial reluctance, the sisters band together to save Coventry and their biological mother.
The first time I saw “Twitches” (and “Twitches Too”), I felt like my twin sister was waiting out there somewhere for me and together she and I would open the door to Coventry and save the land from the darkness. I still wish that I could create a portal to this magical land, but for now, I’ll settle for revisiting Coventry through the magical eyes of Tia and Tamera Mowery as Alex and Camryn.
4. “Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire”
This Disney Channel Original Movie is severely underrated. The movie centers around Chelsea, Adam and Taylor Hansen as well as their mother Lynette. Lynette meets the handsome Dimitri and the two go out on a date while the older children have their own plans for the night. After meeting Dimitri, Taylor figures out he’s a vampire and calls the famous vampire hunter Malachi Van Helsing.
Despite Adam’s original protest, he ends up believing his younger brother and along with Tyler, Van Helsing and Chelsea, works to save his mother from Dimitri and the vampire trance he’s put her under. The movie is tinged with all of the fashions reminiscent of the early 2000s and even includes Caroline Rhea as Lynette, also known as Aunt Hilda from “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” This Disney original may have gotten lost in the crowd of all the incredible early movies of Disney Channel but is definitely worth a watch this Halloween.
5. “The Addams Family”
In the Addams home, every day is like Halloween, so it’s only fitting to watch the original film and its sequel, “Addams Family Values,” during the month of October. It’s got a little bit of romance, a hermit of an uncle, a butler reminiscent of Frankenstein and a helpful hand that floats around to help out with everyday tasks. Not to mention, the dark sense of humor of Wednesday Addams and the countless gruesome near-death experiences she inflicts on her brother Dudley, creating the perfectly creepy, yet not-so-scary, Halloween movie.
6. “Casper Meets Wendy”
“Casper Meets Wendy” follows the story of a friendly ghost who befriends a young girl named Wendy, who just so happens to be a witch. Casper’s uncles and Wendy’s aunts warn against the friendship, but the two don’t care and end up banding together to stop the trouble being inflicted by an evil warlock. Wendy and Casper prove throughout this feel-good movie that friendship is the most magical thing of all and just because a person is small doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t strong.
The main characters showed off a lesser seen narrative to ghosts and witches, with Wendy and Casper acting exactly the opposite of their respective aunts and uncles. The message of kindness and love as well as Hilary Duff’s adorable portrayal of Wendy the Good Witch is what makes this movie both nostalgic and perfect for the month of October.
7. “The Haunted Mansion”
From comedy to good old-fashioned family fun, “The Haunted Mansion” follows the Evers family on their way to a much-needed family vacation. Along the way, they visit a creepy mansion that Jim, the father played by Eddie Murphy, is asked to sell. In Gracey Manor, the Evers family encounters strange things, such as a floating orb of a fortune teller and a barbershop quartet of stone busts. Jim and his children work to break a curse, which is conjured when Jim’s wife is mistaken for the master of the house’s deceased love.
The strange happenings of Gracey Manor are almost mock-scary, which is perfect for a Halloween movie. This movie is the happy medium for those who claim to like scary movies but shield their eyes at the first sign of gore.
After Adam and Barbara, die in a car crash, they are left in constant limbo, haunting their home that houses a new family, the Deetzes. Adam and Barbara try hard to scare off their new unwelcome permanent visitor, and after many failed attempts Beetlejuice, played by Michael Keaton, shows up to their rescue. When someone utters the name Beetlejuice three times, that’s when the scare-master shows up.
Getting rid of the Deetzes starts off as fun, but quickly spirals out of control as Beetlejuice takes everything to the extreme. The film finds its happy endings with the Adam and Barbra living at peace in the home; they even striking up a friendship with Lydia Deetz, the daughter of the new homeowners. All of the dark makeup mixed with the comedy of the story itself makes for a fun October movie enjoyable for people of all ages.
9. “The Goonies”
In this classic movie, a band of misfits set out to find the rumored treasure of One-Eyed Willy. The squad, who call themselves the Goonies, work together to overcome multiple obstacles, most of which are inflicted by the evil Fratelli family.
Although it’s not your typical Halloween movie, “The Goonies” still embodies all the fun of the holiday, complete with a deformed cyclops and packed with adventure; all with the importance of friendship at the center of it.
10. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” follows Brad and Janet who on their way to spreading the news of their proposal to their beloved Dr. Scott, stumble upon Frankenstein Place in the rain. At the helm of the manor filled with Transylvanians is Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who brought to life an immaculate specimen of a man named Rocky. This cult classic perfectly blends together science fiction and musicals to create something that fully embodies the craziness and uniqueness of each genre.
At movie theaters all over the country, actors play out the movie live alongside the film, creating the perfect interactive Halloween experience. So, don’t just sit there shivering in “antici…pation,” go out and find yourself an interactive show and become a part of the craziness this October.