Halloween for cowards: Six favorite not-so-scary movies

I’m pretty positive I’m mentioned it here before, but I’m a chicken. I don’t like horror movies with lots of gore, and serious suspense just leaves me jumpy for days. Despite all that, there are some Halloween-related movies that I truly love, a few of which I regularly watch around October 31st. I thought I’d share my favorites with you, in case you’re on the lookout for something fun to watch this Halloween. There are even a couple that qualify as kind of scary, so don’t make too much fun of me.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Duh. This is one of my favorite movies ever. I know a lot of people who choose to watch it around Christmas time, but in my opinion, why limit yourself? It’s kind of spooky and dark and most of the characters are denizens of Halloweentown, so it totally qualifies. The story (written by Tim Burton, natch) is great, the voice talent is excellent, and the songs and score are some of Danny Elfman’s best work. I’m assuming most people reading this blog have already seen Nightmare multiple times, but just in case you’ve missed out, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. Go! Right now!

Hocus Pocus (1993)

Go ahead and scoff, but I love this one, too. Hocus Pocus definitely falls into the “silly” movie category, but I just think the performances of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker (c’mon, who doesn’t toss out “amok amok amok!” from time to time?) remain enjoyable year after year. Bonus little tiny Thora Birch!

Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968)

Ok, so Blackbeard’s Ghost is kind of obscure. It’s a funny Disney movie about the ghost of Blackbeard the Pirate, who is forced to perform a kind deed or else his spirit will never be able to rest. It stars Peter Ustinov (the voice of Disney’s Prince John), chewing the scenery for all he’s worth, and it is hilarious. It also stars Dean Jones and Suzanne Pleshette, and is very Disney 60s-ish (think The Love Bug and That Darn Cat), but seriously, Peter Ustinov is worth every second.

The Crow

Ah ha! I included one that’s not for kids! While it’s not scary, necessarily, The Crow is dark and violent, but it’s also kind of beautiful. It’s such a cultural touchstone for Generation X (I think), and for me personally. Starring Brandon Lee, who died during filming, and the brilliant Michael Wincott, The Crow is, above all, a love story. I admit I haven’t seen it in a long while, but I think I might pull it off the shelf this year to see how it holds up. Note: the sequels are best avoided. Stick with the original.

Watcher in the Woods (1980)

More Disney, but this one is actually kind of scary! A young woman and her sister have strange experiences upon moving into a creepy old mansion which seem to be tied to the tragic disappearance of a girl who lived in the house many years before. Bette Davis plays the old woman who owns the house. This movie was very late in her career, and it was the first thing I’d ever seen her in, and she is super-spooky. I have watched this one recently, and it remains creepy and suspenseful. My husband even said so, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t just humoring me.

Bell Book and Candle (1958)

You know I’ve got to sneak a classic in somewhere. Bell Book and Candle stars Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart as a modern-day witch and the man she falls in love with. It actually takes place around Christmas, but it’s about witches, so it totally counts. The supporting cast includes Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold, and a young and adorable Jack Lemmon. It’s really an odd little movie, but it’s very entertaining, if not particularly scary. It’s beautifully shot and has great costumes (at least Novak does). Upon first viewing it is a teenager, I thought it was weird and a little slow at point, but as an adult it’s come to be a favorite of mine. I’ll just leave you with this scene from the movie. It’s not a musical but a few scenes take place at a club, and this number is part of the entertainment. It’s apparently called “The Bored Assassin.”

Happy Halloween!

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13 responses to “Halloween for cowards: Six favorite not-so-scary movies

  1. I happen to love the Disney Channel original movie Halloweentown as well. I know its not a major motion picture, but I always remember it fondly.

    • I noticed that one while looking for any extras to include, but I think I must have missed it. For fun, though, go to Youtube and look up “The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t.” It missed the cut, but I remember it fondly…

  2. Okay I’ll look it up. I’ve been watching a lot of Halloween/Horror films the last few days so anything new would be fun.

  3. In our house, The Nightmare Before Christmas is also an all time favorite for the reasons you stated, but especially the music. Coincidentally, my kid recently posted her own version of Jack’s Lament here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsdeAVvBrDw&list=UUbFePS6FRW6B2MKrtxf7DGQ&index=13&feature=plcp
    If you decide to visit, I offer no explanation for the rest of her weirdness.

  4. Ah, this is a list for someone like me 🙂 I think there are some scary parts in The Crow but mostly it’s a beautiful film, it’s such a pity that Brandon Lee tragically died in this film. Wincott does evil like no other, can’t stand Bai Ling in it though, ahah.

    • Hahaha, she’s SO weird, isn’t she? You’re right, it does have some scary parts. But compared to “real” scary movies, it’s probably totally tame, right?

  5. The Crow is a really good movie. It’s too bad what happened to Brandon Lee.

  6. This is tangential (Tim Burton was a Disney animator, and half the not-so-scary-movies you list here have Disney heritage), but I was wondering what you thought about Disney buying Lucasfilm for 4+ billion. From Disney’s perspective, I think it’s another brilliant move by Bob Iger. From a fan perspective (gender and generational differences perhaps temper your concerns, if any exist, but my fanboy status has been documented: http://articles.courant.com/1999-05-20/news/9905200136_1_star-wars-millennium-falcon-aetna), I absolutely welcome new enthusiasm for the characters and stories of the Star Wars universe, especially if placed in capable hands interested in more than just money: http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/force-strong-dream-star-wars-directors-17640395
    Under Iger, Disney has done a great job with Pixar and Marvel, so I’m optimistic…what do you think?

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