Halloween is nearly upon us! And with parties and trick-or-treating being muted due to the pandemic, more people are looking for some spooky movies to get into the spirit of the season.
Horror films are naturally among the most popular to watch this time of year, but many are hesitant to dive into the genre due to the…well…horror of it all.
There are some who may want to give it a shot but are worried about specific scary things popping up in the movie they choose.
If you’re thinking about giving the horror genre a try this Halloween, here are five movies that are good choices as a way to dip your toes into the frights without having to dive directly into the sheer terror (or the graphic violence) that some of the genre’s more hardcore offerings can bring.
Based on the popular novella by Neil Gaiman, Coraline tells the story of what happens when a young girl moves to a new apartment located in a quirky and mysterious old house with her overworked parents, she gets more than she bargained for when she discovers a small hidden door which leads to a seemingly idealized version of her life.
Don’t be fooled by this film’s status as an animated feature – it’s definitely not just for kids, and has even been deemed too scary for some adults.
The colourful stop-motion sequences are breathtaking, and the juxtaposed dark and shadowy scenes provide much of the mystery and frights of the movie.
Coraline was the first full-length feature film produced by Laika, known for their creative – and often dark – stop-motion animated films.
The comedic-yet-creepy Paranorman is another of the studio’s projects worth checking out and might make for a nice double feature with Coraline.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
This one is an adaptation of the novel by Ray Bradbury (who also penned the film’s screenplay, which was actually written prior to the book).
It’s all about two young boys who come across a carnival with a carousel harbouring mysterious powers and unfortunately end up on the bad side of its leader, Mr Dark.
This is another movie on this list that’s technically considered a “family film” but is known to be frightening to not only children, but some adults too.
There’s no gore involved, but it’s the sense of mystery and the tension of knowing the main characters are being tracked down that provide most of the scares.
Did you know that Something Wicked This Way Comes is actually a Disney movie?
A lot of lesser-known live-action Disney films have become cult horror-lite classics, such as Don’t Look Under the Bed, which was actually one of the first Disney Channel Original Movies.
Return to Oz
Speaking of underrated live-action Disney movies known for terrifying a generation, here we have an unofficial sequel to The Wizard of Oz.
Return to Oz is based on several novels in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series, particularly The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz.
This is yet another “family-friendly” movie, but there’s plenty of nightmare fuel to be found.
If the late-1890’s psychiatric hospital doesn’t terrify you, chances are the Wheelers or the claymation Knome King will.
While it’s not nearly as well-known as the first movie, Return to Oz is a much more faithful adaptation of Baum’s work.
The tone is darker, the land of Oz is stranger, and the character of Dorothy is played by a much younger actress, adding to the scariness of seeing her in peril.
Twilight Zone: The Movie
This movie – based on the television show The Twilight Zone – keeps the spirit and style of its anthology series source material by consisting of four distinct segments based on different episodes of the original run of the series, with each having a different director at the helm.
While no gore is featured in the film and there aren’t too many jump scares, the tone varies from segment to segment.
Steven Spielberg’s take on “Kick the Can” is generally considered to be the sweetest and least frightening of the four, while John Landis’s “Time Out” is probably the scariest considering its subject matter is the most grounded in reality (and its star and two child actors were brutally killed while filming it, though the scene was ultimately cut from the film after the tragedy).
But if you have a fear of flying, you might be wise to be wary of George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” remake.
If you’re curious but hesitant to watch this movie, you might be keener to check out some episodes of the television show.
There have been four iterations of the series, with the current Jordan Peele-helmed one on its second season as of fall 2020.
The original 1959-1964 run created by Rod Serling is definitely the most beloved version of the series.
Some of its classic but not-so-scary episodes you can use to test the waters include “A World of His Own”, “The After Hours”, “One For the Angels”, “A Game of Pool”, “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”, “The Night of the Meek”, and “Nothing in the Dark”.
Little Shop of Horrors
Based on the Off-Broadway musical with songs done by the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman team (of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin fame!) Little Shop of Horrors is about a talking Venus flytrap who lives in a florist shop…and has a taste for blood.
Despite the gruesome subject matter, the movie never gets gory and even the “scary” parts are quickly whisked along by the music.
If a blood-drinking or human sacrifice isn’t set to a catchy song, it’s a safe bet that one is just around the corner.
For more musical-inspired horror, you can check out the much darker Tim Burton-directed Sweeney Todd (though be warned there is plenty of bloodshed in that movie and the film doesn’t shy away from bluntly showcasing every last beheading).
What do you make of this feature?
What will you be watching on TV this Halloween?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.