In the field of scary movies, there are plenty to choose from, especially around Halloween. Regardless of the movie’s cinematic success, millions of Americans annually flock to streaming services and theaters to rewatch and relive their favorite Halloween movies. But which ones are truly the best? This October, I made it my mission to watch one Halloween movie every day, and evaluate each one. These seasonal movies range from lighthearted kid’s movies to critically acclaimed horror. This first week of October, I watched mainly kids animation and action movies, including Coraline, Corpse Bride, and Ghostbusters, but only a select few made it to the top of the list.
Ghostbusters, Addams Family, and Nightmare Before Christmas all received similar rankings near the bottom of the list. However, this doesn’t mean they’re bad movies. I enjoyed them the same, but none of them really wowed me. Ghostbusters is one of the most iconic films of all time, and the humor and scares hold up to this day. The use of practical effects does a credible job at delivering horror without making it too scary or dating the film as opposed to bad CGI. Addams Family, another classic, has a distinct mood and atmosphere that enhances the film’s story and setting. It succeeds at making us care for a family who we would normally describe as antagonistic – a difficult feat to accomplish in a kids movie. The Nightmare Before Christmas has stunning stop motion animation and successfully weaves music into a film where music could seem out of place. The intense world-building by Tim Burton puts the audience in a constant state of wonder and awe.
Coming in third place for this week was The Corpse Bride. I heard about this film for the longest time, but I never took the time to sit down to watch it. Another Tim Burton animation joint, the story tells of an arranged marriage between Victor and Victoria – two heirs to semi-powerful lords in the mid-1800’s. When walking in the forest, while practicing his vows, Victor slips the ring onto what he thinks is a tree branch. In reality, it’s the decaying hand of Emily, a corpse who was murdered on her wedding day and forced to wait for another groom in the afterlife. The animation brilliantly contrasts the land of the living, a dull and gray color palette, with the land of the dead, a neon and dynamic color palette. The story also accomplishes a lot in a small period of time, as the movie has a running time of only an hour and seventeen minutes. Throughout the movie, blue butterflies are used as a masterful symbol of Emily and her rebirth into a better person. Overall, this movie was intriguing and has a mood that is synonymous with fall time, and I rate it a 7.5/10.
In second place this week is Hocus Pocus. This movie may have been made for children, but it is one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen come out of the Disney Channel. The three witches give great performances and don’t treat this like a dumb kids movie. They are arguably the best part of the movie. The comedy enhances the plot and almost all of the jokes still hold up even after more than twenty years since the movie’s creation. The plot hinges on our protagonist, Max, accidentally bringing back three ancient witches from the dead and his task of vanquishing them before dawn on Halloween night. Max’s younger sister, Dani, adds the self-awareness and comedy this film needs. The amount of clever writing and liveliness this movie contains surprised me greatly. The only complaint I have is that the main love interest, Allison, has little to no character or personality and barely does anything during this movie besides following Max around. Other than that, I would highly recommend this movie, and I rate it an 8/10.
Finally, the best movie I saw this week was hands down Coraline. It centers on the young girl Coraline and her journey to a parallel world that contains everything she wants as opposed to the boring and monotonous real life. But the sinister nature of her Other Mother in this parallel world makes her question if she wants to stay there forever. The visuals and animation are incredible and are definitely worth watching in full just to take in its beauty. The transitions between scenes are also the best I’ve seen in any movie and they help keep the pace of the film. The writing and symbolism in Coraline are also alluring: from the mice guiding her way eventually becoming rats, to the numerous bug imagery that makes viewers unsettled. The build up to the third act, with horror and suspense, makes rewatching the movie even more exciting. It shifts from a lighthearted kids action movie to horror and it blurs the line between both genres. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys fantasy and horror and when they combine. My rating is a 9/10.
October is the best time to get into horror movies and hopefully my lists will help you get started. Stay tuned into the Hawk Herald this month so you don’t miss my weekly Halloween movie review. To find more movies I’m watching this month and recommendations for other films, you can click here for my Letterboxd where I rate and review many more films.