Six Halloween films that aren’t ‘Halloweentown’

Six MOVE columnists share their favorite scary-good films that will get you into the Halloween spirit.

Movies aren’t essential to any time of the year quite like they are to Halloween and October. From the excitement of summer to the chill of autumn, the holiday caps off a month-long transition where a late night’s cool breeze suddenly feels frigid. This eerie sense of the season has been captured on film in the form of Disney amusements, horror nightmares and touchstone classics. From these six columnist perspectives, which cover a variety of seasonal favorites, movies are key qualities in the spirit of Halloween.

These reviews contain spoilers.

1. ”Rosemary’s Baby” - Psychological horror

Columnist Jesse Baalman

Based on Ira Levin’s book and directed by Roman Polanski, “Rosemary’s Baby” is a 1968 psychological horror film that tells the story of a woman who suspects her neighbors are part of a Satanic cult in pursuit of her unborn child. As the odd occurrences and unexplained events start adding up, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) grows increasingly more paranoid while experiencing supernatural nightmares. When her husband (John Cassavetes) acts shockingly cavalier about the escalating situation, it becomes clear to the viewer that they have no control over what terror lies ahead. Dealing with themes of sexuality, religion, evil and purity, “Rosemary’s Baby” is a classic horror film from the master of paranoia (see “Repulsion” and “Knife in the Water”) that is worth revisiting each year and has inspired many works since its release.

2. “Suspiria” - Gothic Horror

Columnist Joe Cross

This German horror classic is as bizarre as it is colorful -- and it’s extremely colorful. If style-over-substance movies aren’t your thing, it’s best to avoid this one, where the style is the substance, in a way. The plot is somewhat nonsensical -- a young dancer named Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) enrolls in a Berlin dance academy and strange things follow, vaguely involving witches, cults and other occult happenings. Look past that, and you’ll find a horror experience for the ages -- the neon visuals are often beautiful and quite shocking, and the score by the appropriately-named Goblin carefully walks the line between being eerie and goofy. Plus, Luca Guadagnino’s remake starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson is due in theaters on Nov. 2, so now’s your chance to catch up.

3. ”Don’t Look Under the Bed” - Family-Friendly

Columnist Megan Altschul

If you’re considering watching “Halloweentown” for the fifth time this month, it’s probably time to branch out and watch “Don’t Look Under the Bed,” another beloved Disney Channel Original Movie. The 1999 film is centered around Frances McCausland (Erin Chambers), a pragmatic and knowledgeable high-schooler whose seemingly mundane life takes a sharp turn once she is blamed for the unusual events happening in her town. A strange boy only she can see, Larry Houdini (Eric “Ty” Hodges II), informs her that the diabolical Boogeyman is to blame for the town’s misfortune and that they must stop him before more damage is caused. While the monster-under-the-bed cliches and amplitude of juvenile jokes stay true to the film’s PG rating, the small, off-putting details cause it to be one of the more frightening Disney movies. You may not cover your face in fear, but it’s sure to make you wonder how many nightmares you’d have if you watched it as a child.

4. “Hocus Pocus” - Fantasy

Columnist Jennifer Somers

“Hocus Pocus” takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, a town fittingly known for its witch trials in the late 1600s. After hearing the legend of the three witch sisters that fed on the souls of children, skeptic Max Dennison (Omri Katz) accidentally summons Winifred (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary Sanderson (Kathy Najimy) from the dead. Dennison, younger sister Dani (Thora Birch) and crush Allison (Vinessa Shaw) spend Halloween night on a quest to save the children of the town and prevent the witches from becoming immortal. The 1993 film is iconic with its flying vacuum cleaner, table salt circles and Winifred’s wicked rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You.” To me, “Hocus Pocus” is nearly synonymous with Halloween. It’s a travesty to go even one Halloween season without watching it.

5. ”The Blair Witch Project” - Found Footage

Columnist Jake Price

Released in 1999, “The Blair Witch Project” was one the most controversial horror films to have been released that year. The movie tells the haunting story about three film students who are shooting a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch in the woods of Maryland when they’re suddenly attacked by a supernatural force, leaving only their footage behind as evidence. The reason why this film was so controversial at the time was due to the fact that it was one of the first found footage films to have been made. This caused a lot of theories and speculation that the movie was actually composed of footage that showcased the disappearance and death of three film students. The unique format and style the movie was produced in made it seem so real, which is why this a movie I watch every Halloween. Its realism produces such a terrifying atmosphere that immediately draws you in and keeps you engaged throughout the entire film. It’s horrifying experience that will surely keep anyone awake on Halloween night.

6. ”The Cabin in the Woods” - Horror-Comedy

Columnist Julia Karsteter

“The Cabin in the Woods,” released in 2012, is not exactly your typical horror movie. It starts out cliché enough -- five college student are taking a trip, each with their own different but standard roles: the jock, the dumb blonde, the nerd, the stoner and the girl next door. Once they arrive at the eponymous cabin in the woods, everything begins to hit the fan. Eventually, and after a couple deaths, the surviving members of the group learn that all of the supernatural occurrences that befell them were orchestrated by an underground company below the cabin. They were also all selected based on their specific personality roles, and even manipulated to act more in the tradition of them. This leads to them taking action against the company and wreaking havoc. The film was made to be a homage and satire of the standard horror film that it almost tricks you into thinking it is, and it manages to be a terrific film of its own along the way. If you want a movie that’ll keep you guessing and laughing, this one’s your Halloween pick.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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