Top spooky movies for an at-home Halloweekend

Our favorite Halloween films

For a safe, socially-distant Halloween, the entertainment staff at the NewsHouse picked out some of their favorite films for this time of the year.
Published: October 26, 2020
James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers in the 2018 version of
James Jude Courtney as Michael Myers in the 2018 version of "Halloween."

This weekend marks what is usually one of the wildest on college campuses — Halloweekend. However, with all of the precautions the university is taking amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems house parties and haunted houses will be sparse. If you’re spending Halloween locked up in your apartment or dorm, invite a few friends over, make some hot apple cider (or just crack open an Angry Orchard if you’re of age), break out that bag of assorted fun-size candy bars, pop some popcorn and put on one of these classic spooky flicks! 

Maybe put on your costume  — your friends probably won’t judge you for wearing that sexy Otto the Orange outfit from the comfort of your own home. Or maybe you’ll play it safe and be a witch or a pirate. Either way, who says a socially-distant Halloween can’t still be spooky and enjoyable?

Halloweentown

This 1998 Disney Channel original movie brings so much nostalgia. Every time I see Debbie Reynolds’ signature marron witch’s gown, I feel like a kid again, moseying on into my parents’ living room after hours of trick-or-treating. My dad and uncle are exhausted from walking us kids around all night, my mom and my aunt sipped hot tea as they handed out Twizzlers and Swedish Fish to the lingering trick-or-treaters, my cousins and siblings and I emptied our candy-filled pillowcases onto the floor — and this movie was always on TV… every year, without fail.

Those late-90s-made-for-TV-movie special effects are quite cheesy, but that adds to the charm of Halloweentown. It genuinely feels like a movie made in the season Halloween section at Target, but what’s wrong with that? Who doesn’t want to take a ride on the magic bus with Grandma Cromwell and live among warlocks and talking skeletons and the spooky, giant Jack-o-Lantern? 

It is essentially a requirement to follow-up watching this movie with its many sequels: Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High and Return to Halloweentown. We get to watch the main character Marnie and her younger siblings grow up from middle-school age tweens to college kids. The Halloweentown universe is truly a one-of-a-kind spooky experience.

– Sarah Connor

The Addams Family

Slip into a pinstripe suit and do up some pigtail braids as you prepare for an ooky and spooky family drama with the 1991 film The Addams Family. The black comedy and its sequel Addams Family Values cements each Addams as a Halloween icon, a plethora of Wednesdays, Morticias and Cousin Its spotted every year. Raul Julia and Anjelica Huston’s incredibly kooky chemistry as Gomez and Morticia, as well as Christopher Lloyd’s slow descent into madness as Uncle Fester, makes the film a spooky season classic.

No matter how often Freeform plays it during its 31 Nights of Halloween, The Addams Family never loses its charm. While the familial drama storyline is not the most fitting for the season, the shenanigans of the Addams family and the incredibly iconic lines help make it a Halloween movie I revisit every single year. It’s impossible to deny the family’s rightful place on the Halloween Wall of Fame, a spot they’ve held for almost a century. And with Syracuse University’s ties to the original television series, The Addams Family should be on your Halloweekend watchlist.

– Samantha Savery

Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetle- not so fast. Spend your Halloweekend with a Tim Burton classic, 1988’s Beetlejuice, featuring the stranger and unusual. Follow the Maitlands as they experience their new lives as ghosts, also known as the recently deceased, befriending teenager Lydia Deetz—played by the original goth girlfriend, Winona Ryder—and the spectre Betelgeuse. Michael Keaton’s antagonist Betelgeuse is disgusting, deceitful and incredibly spooky, just what a good Halloween movie needs.

With great visual gags, wonderful dialogue, and my favorite use of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat (Day-O),” Beetlejuice has become a film I return to every Halloween without fail. The production and costume design is somehow both wonderfully dated and impossibly timeless, Lydia’s spiky bangs and Betelgeuse’s striped suit instant go-tos for anyone attending costume parties throughout October. Even someone decades away from receiving their own Handbook for the Recently Deceased can have fun with Burton’s dark comedy, an abundance of spooky season inspiration packed within the film’s 92-minute runtime. But remember, “Never trust the living!”

– Samantha Savery

Suspiria (1977), Suspiria (2018)

 

Any remake prompts the question—is it better than the original? Who cares. The original is baroque decadence to the remake’s postmodern sobriety, lavish Galliano to sterile and subdued Prada. Each Suspiria manifests a gorgon for its age; Argento’s 1977 version sees its coven mother a decaying grotesque, a manifestation of 70s degeneracy; Guadagnino’s 2018 remake presents Mother Suspiriorum as a quasi-fascistic radical, the totalitarian urge within femininity current feminism tries to ignore. Both Suspirias are testaments to the horror of women, temporal expositions of the feminine abject. A reminder bitches don’t just be crazy, we’re straight up demonic.

– Veronica Maldonado

Halloween (1978)

Michael Myers: the killer of celebrities. By my account, he’s the slasher with the most brushes with fame –– Donald Pleasance, Malcolm Macdowell, Tyra Banks, Busta Rhymes, Jamie Lee Curits, and Joseph Gordon Levitt have all died by his knife. Paul Rudd and Michelle Williams only narrowly escaped (can’t say as much for Rob Zombie’s career). And that list bears striking resemblance to the Halloween franchise as a whole: a wicked, mismatched hodgepodge, a sort of island of misfit toys for the murderous and the mad. 

Across a 40 year run, “The Shape,” as co-creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill originally dubbed him, has stalked his way through a series of diminishing returns. From the minimalist hospital-set sequel and the wonky, myth building The Revenge of Michael Myers, to the soft reboot The Curse of Michael Myers and the Reality TV lensed Halloween: Resurrection, horror’s most infamous masked man has had his ups, downs, and occasional bursts of nightmare fueled brilliance in-between (I am a forever Halloween: 20 Years Later apologist, with its 2000’s era faux-sexiness, and John Ottoman’s weirdly playful interpretation of the iconic score).

Before COVID sidetracked most major 2020 releases, Halloween Kills, the sequel to 2018’s Halloween, was scheduled to hit theaters this month –– it’s now expected to be released in October, 2021. Sure, I’m curious to see how director David Gordon Green finishes out his trilogy with that film and its planned follow-up Halloween Ends, but I’m admittedly suffering from some Myers fatigue. And perhaps that’s because, despite ten attempts at expanding the Halloween-verse, no film has managed to capture the thrills of Carpenter’s original. From the virtuoso steadicam opening, with its calmly carried out violence, to that fatalistic ending, and its return to chilling POV, Halloween remains a seasonal staple for a reason – it’s a tightly wound indictment of misplaced suburban trust; a reminder that evil needs no reason to walk through our door.

– Matthew Nerber

Hereditary

Hereditary, a deeply unsettling film and undoubtedly Ari Aster’s great masterpiece, shocks viewers as every scene gets progressively more disturbing. Nothing is off limits, and Aster tests your willpower as you become increasingly engrossed in the plot, unable to look away as the main characters delve deeper into an unending nightmare. Themes surrounding mental illness and witchcraft culminate in the ultimate demise of a family following the loss of their matriarch, as they experience more than they bargained for in their search for answers.

Unlike other supernatural horror films that often provide viewers with some kind of break whether it be comedic relief or false jump scares, Hereditary does nothing of the sort. Truly one of the best horror movies to come out in the last decade, this film scares in a way that leaves you with a psychological burden for days to come. Whether you watch it alone or with a group of friends, there’s no escaping the feeling of unbelievable dread that follows you long after the credits are done rolling.

– Natasha Breu

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