As children, we embraced Halloween as a night of spooky thrills. We bravely tramped through the neighborhood, demanding candy and creeping past scary skeleton displays, only to shriek our heads off when the display turned out to be the neighbor’s evil teenage son.
Regardless of age, we all find a way to honor Halloween. Films are a great way to get in the All Hallow’s Eve mood. Whether one prefers comedies, horror or a little of both, some films have come to encapsulate the Halloween spirit.
Trick ’r Treat
Few films embody the spirit of Halloween as well as Trick ‘r Treat does. Four stories loosely intertwine on All Hallow’s Eve, from a group of children checking out the site of a tragic school bus accident, to an innocent Anna Paquin, whose sister wants her to embrace her sexy side. The stories are all connected by a creepy masked trick-or-treater. Trick ‘r Treat is funny, sardonic and creepy enough for a few jumps.
The Company of Wolves
The Brothers Grimm are notorious for their dark fairytales. In reality, they often softened the original stories and nixed the sexier elements. The Company of Wolves takes Little Red Riding Hood and restores the connection between dark wolves and dark men.
Presented, by a wise grandmother, as a dreamy series of stories, the film focuses on the message that the worst wolves are hairy on the inside. The film’s Red Riding Hood can’t help but be taken in when she meets a charming hunter. Though the film features one of the creepiest werewolf transformations ever, it’s more moody than scary. It’s beautiful and unique, and one of Neil Jordan’s lesser-known works.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The opening song “This is Halloween” perfectly describes why we love a brush with the creepy once a year. Disney’s dark darling follows a charismatic skeleton in a mid-life crisis that wants to recreate Christmas for morbid Halloween Town. It’s a die-hard cult classic, while also incredibly charming for those who haven’t seen it before.
Before Sweeney Todd, Burton got his gory kicks with Sleepy Hollow, his live-action take on the Washington Irving short story. Johnny Depp plays a neurotic constable in 1799 sent to a remote Dutch village to battle a headless horseman, played by a needle-toothed Christopher Walken. The film is morbid, bloody, funny and a perfect film for Halloween.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The festivities of Halloween can be heady, especially when you find out the punch bowl is more than just Kool-Aid. Francis Ford Coppola’s take on Dracula is sumptuous and baroque and never cops out on its melodramatic delivery. Coppola creates a dream world set across London and Transylvania, and Gary Oldman’s portrayal is a sexy nightmare.
Fright extends far beyond ghosts and goblins. American Psycho is scary, half because of its sociopath protagonist and half because you actually end up cheering him on. Christian Bale is a sleek and classy yuppie businessman who’s also a murderous psychopath.
Forget Dexter Morgan — comedy doesn’t get any darker than this.
Who doesn’t remember this childhood Disney gem? The story follows a moody teenager who accidentally resurrects three evil witch sisters who want to suck the lives out of the children of Salem.
The witches’ awkward integration into the present offers plenty of laughs, and there’s no girl who didn’t want to take home Binx, the hot (at least to our young eyes) Puritan teenager-turned-talking-cat. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, especially when it reminds us of candy and Halloween parties.
Everyone remembers awkward teenage years. Fortunately for most of us, they did not involve disemboweling the school janitor. Early amorous encounters also weren’t likely to spread lycanthropy.
In Ginger Snaps, werewolves are thematically connected with puberty. After Ginger is savaged by a hulking beast, her sister Brigitte begins to notice some rapid changes. Suddenly, her sister is sexier and fiercer — and Brigitte can’t decide if her sister growing a tail is more terrifying than her sister losing her virginity.
Part humorous, part creepy and suitably metaphoric, Ginger Snaps spins a fascinating twist on the werewolf genre.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Halloween might have the more appropriately holiday-themed title, but A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger is still the ultimate Halloween villain. Part ghost, part serial killer and part witty conversationalist, Freddie makes killing teenagers fun. At the same time, it’s still very much a horror movie, with scenes that run from darkly funny to just gross-out disturbing. And like all great slasher films, the ending doesn’t just let the children off the hook.
This might seem unfair on any other day, but on Halloween it’s funny sadism.
Mimi Honeycutt is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column “Cut to Frame” runs Fridays.