Call it a manufactured holiday or an ancient tradition with its roots dating back to a Celtic Festival known as Samhain, Halloween has been celebrated all over the world for at least two centuries. Along with the costumes, caramel apples and the ever obligatory jack-o-lantern, movies have also become a staple during All Hallow’s Eve. However, they don’t always have to be scary. I’m giving Freddy, Jason and Leatherface the night off and exchanging them for some Munsters, Charlie Brown and three resurrected, goofy witches.
10. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958)
Based on Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” which was first released in 1948 under the name “The Adventures of Ichabod Crane and Mr. Toad” and narrated by Bing Crosby, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a piece of childhood nostalgia. Ichabod Crane, an odd looking and lanky schoolmaster, travels to the town of Sleepy Hollow for a teaching position, however he quickly becomes a subject of interest for the town bully, Brom Bones. Brom Bones, having noticed that Ichabod has fallen in love with the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, takes matters into his own hands and tells Ichabod the story of the Headless Horseman, knowing full well that Ichabod is very superstitious. Ichabod heads back home for the night, with his fears about the reality of the tale increasing every second. Though he laughs off his fright with his horse, he is suddenly met by the Headless Horseman, where an adventurous turn of events begin to take place. From the music, to the animation, to the pure oddity of the characters involved, The original Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not one to miss.
9. Teen Witch (1989)
Louise is a high school student who describes her life as a “walking, talking tragedy.” That is, until she discovers that she’s a descendant from the witches of Salem and has consequently inherited their powers. What is a once unpopular teenager to do? User her power to get back at people and win the heart of the school hunk of course! As time goes on however, Louise begins to wonder if “cheating” her way to the top is the road she should take. Originally intended to be a female version of the cult classic “Teen Wolf,” “Teen Witch” comes complete with an awesome soundtrack, the best of 80s fashion and a rap scene (below) that is really out of this world.
8. Munster, Go Home! (1966)
In another classic that has stood the test of time, t.v’s The Munsters star in their first full length feature film, in color! When Herman discovers that he is the new lord of Munster Hall in England, the Munsters travel to Britain by boat to formally inherit the English estate, however Herman’s relatives, most particularly Freddie Munster, are jealous that he has been named Lord Munster. Hilarity ensues from beginning to end. Herman gets seasick, Grampa is accidentally turned into a wolf and Marilyn (the normal one, if you remember) looks like she’s found true love. In the middle of all the excitement, the Munsters find that a counterfeiting operation is taking place in the basement of the estate. Fred Gwynne shines in his role as Herman Munster, as usual and is notable for this memorable line: “I want to go to the party and put on funny hats and be obnoxious and talk too loud and get stoned- uphold the American image abroad.”
7. The Addams Family (1991)
In this film adaptation of the 1960s television series, which was nominated for an Oscar, Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Lurch, Thing and Pugsley return as the mysterious family who inhabit a gloomy mansion. The disappearance of Uncle Fester 25 years ago has left Gomez distraught, and when an evil doctor finds out, she introduces an impostor Fester in order to gain control of the family fortune hidden away in a vault. A number of dramatic events occur, including the family losing their mansion and being forced to live “in society,” where Lurch starts work as a vacuum salesman, and a motel becomes their home. Although we never quite figure out what the Addamse’s connection to the supernatural is, this film is great fun just the same, with great performances from Raul Julia, Anjelica Houston and Christopher Lloyd.
6. Young Frankenstein (1974)
In the “scariest comedy of all time,” Gene Wilder stars as Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Frokensteen), a young neurosurgeon who inherits a castle from his grandfather, Dr. Victor von Frankenstein. Although dismissive and very critical of his grandfather’s work, the famous scientist who attempted to bring the dead back to life, he grows interested after discovering a book with his theories and soon decides to do some experimentation himself, with the help of Igor (pronounced eye-gor) and his attractive lab assistant Inga. Frederick manages to successfully reanimate a body, however “the monster” soon escapes and reeks havoc across the city. Voted in the top 250 films of all time by the Internet Movie Database, Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” is an amazing satire, filled with a well-rounded cast and hilarious one-liners. Watch perhaps the most hilarious scene from the film below.
5. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
Forty-two years after its official release, Charles Schulz’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” has remained a timeless classic and is broadcast every year on cable television in anticipation of Halloween. Linus, convinced that “The Great Pumpkin” is going to show up on Oct. 31st, decides to spend the entire night of Halloween in a pumpkin patch, awaiting his arrival with Sally. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang plans to go trick-or-treating and then stop off at Violet’s Halloween party, which Lucy believes that Charlie Brown was mistakenly invited to. As the gang travels house to house, Charlie Brown ends up getting a rock, while everyone else gets candy, no matter which residence they visit. Linus and Sally however, await the whole night in the pumpkin patch, waiting for “The Great Pumpkin.” Will he ever come? If you’ve forgotten, or if you haven’t seen it, you should definitely add it to your list to find out.
4. Hocus Pocus (1993)
Anytime “Hocus Pocus” is announced on a television lineup, you can rest assured that when it’s on, I will be glued to the screen, watching vintage Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and a young Thora Birch battling it out on Halloween night. The film follows three, 300-year-old witches, The Sanderson Sisters, who are accidentally brought back to life when Max [the virgin] lights the black flame candle on Halloween night. As the witches pursue Max, his sister and his soon-to-be girlfriend, to essentially suck their souls and gain immortality, their only hope lies in the smarts of Thackery Binx, a young man trapped in the body of a black cat due to a curse by the Sanderson Sisters. Throughout the film, the sisters are met with and puzzled by modern society, using vacuums as brooms and mistaking a man dressed as Satan as the real thing. Although “Hocus Pocus” didn’t do too well at the box office, it has grown into a cult hit over the years. The film even features a cameo from Doug Jones of “Hellboy” and “Pan’s Labyrinth fame.” Catch a magnificent interpretation of “I Put a Spell on You” by Bette Midler below.
3. Beetle Juice (1988)
Day-O. Day-ay-ay-o. Daylight come and me wan’ go home and watch Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis in “Beetle Juice.” After Adam and Barbara are killed in a car crash, they become ghosts bound in their former home. Life, errr death, is going smoothly for the couple, until the Deetzes, a quite quirky and cooky family buy the house and move in. In an effort to regain ownership of their house Adam and Barbara plot to scare the Deetzes away, using every scare tactic in the book. However, when their efforts fail, they’re forced to call in “bio-exorcist” to the dead, “Beetle Juice,” but it turns out that he’s more than they ever bargained for. Aside for Winona Ryder (Lydia), the shining star in the film, is Catherine O’ Hara by far, with her portrayal of Lydia’s stepmother, Delia.
2. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The asymmetrical hair, the elaborate costumes and horrifying display of suburbia, the soundtrack, a young and blond Winona Ryder, and of course, the magnificence that is Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands. What more could you ask for in a film? When Avon lady extraordinaire Pegg Bogs discovers a mansion on top of a hill on her route to sell products, she finds a lonely young man named Edward with scissors for hands and brings him back home with her to integrate him into society and enrich his life. As Edward begins to make friends and in the process falls in love with Pegg’s daughter Kim (Ryder), he discovers that life isn’t as good as it seems beyond the mansion. As with many films in this list, Edward Scissorhands is a cult classic and although some might argue that it doesn’t have much to do with Halloween, I would say that it really doesn’t matter. Edward Scissorhands is a movie that seems appropriate for any time, whether or not it involves a holiday devoted to the scarier things in life, or death!
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
If you’ve been reading thus far, you may have noticed that the top three films on this list are Tim Burton classics, and really, that should come as no surprise, considering he won this year’s “Scream Immortal ” award at Spike TV’s Scream awards, for his unique interpretation of horror and fantasy. When Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, who calls Halloweentown his place of residence, grows bored of being the scariest entity in the world, he stumbles upon Christmastown and it catches his eye enough that he proposes Halloweentown celebrate Christmas this year, instead of the usual holiday of, you guessed it, Halloween. Although Jack’s idea is grand, it is also twisted. Blinded by the excitement of Christmas, he decides to kidnap Santa Clause and take over his duties of delivering presents to the children of the world, and as you can imagine, chaos does indeed ensue. With Danny Elfman as Jack Skellington and composer of the original score and Catherine O’Hara as Sally, Jack’s love interest, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is everything you could ever ask for and want, not only in a Halloween film, but in general. From the set design, to the originality of the plot, to the characters and the score, this definitely deserves top billing on any Halloween film list. Besides, virtually no one can resist Jack Skellington singing, “And on a dark cold night, under full moonlight, he flies into the fog like a vulture in the sky! And they call him, Sandy… Clawssss!”
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