Whether you have kids or just can’t stomach scary movies, there are plenty of alternatives to horror movies to celebrate the spooky season. Only after arriving at college have I been able to enjoy horror movies. Before that, I always found them too scary. Even Harry Potter as a kid left me scared to open my bedroom door, from fear Voldemort would be on the other side. So, if you don’t want to risk nightmares or have kids of your own, there are plenty of alternatives to help you get into the spooky season.
Read on to find out some great spooky movies that may also make you laugh:
1. Hocus Pocus
A Halloween classic, this children’s movie is one of the few I still enjoy as an adult. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, this movie was released in 1993, and the special effects hold up pretty well. The main characters are a brother, a girl he has a crush on, his sister and a talking cat who are attempting to save the town of Salem from the three witches they summoned. The three witches, or the Sanderson Sisters, are urban legends for the town of Salem. They were burned during the Salem Witch Trials for witchcraft, only to be summoned by a virgin lighting a special candle, who happens to be the aforementioned brother, in an effort to impress a girl. One of the witches is played by Sarah Jessica Parker, who is particularly entertaining. Although, honestly, all three witches are hilarious, and while they aren’t the stars of the movie, they are my favorite part. Don’t miss out on Hocus Pocus 2 which came out on Disney + last year.
2. Nightmare Before Christmas
Nightmare Before Christmas, for those who haven’t seen it, sounds like a Christmas movie. However, I think it’s much closer to a Halloween movie. It follows Jack the Pumpkin King through an identity crisis. Jack’s bored of scaring children, so he wants to become Santa Claus. While this might seem somewhat innocent and well-intended, chaos ensues after he kidnaps Santa Claus and delivers what has to be the most terrifying toys ever imagined.
“Really spooky, great animation and music,” University of Iowa Junior Nick Layeux said.
Animated by Tim Burton, it’s a visual masterpiece. It has equally compelling supporting characters, like Sally and Zero, as well as interesting background characters to help fill out the world. I personally love the appearance of the Boogeyman and the trick or treaters who have built a cult around him. In fact, I bought those trick or treaters as stuffed toys for my cat. Overall, this movie has the Halloween aesthetic without being particularly scary. Beyond the animation, this movie is actually pretty heartwarming.
3. Witches of Eastwick
Like Hocus Pocus, this movie follows three witches. Unlike Hocus Pocus, the witches are the protagonists. This is a star-studded cast. The witches are played by Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher. The antagonist, Daryl Van Horne, the Devil, is played by Jack Nicholson, who kills this role. It’s a bizarre and hilarious movie. Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer and Cher have all just experienced failed marriages for various reasons. They wish for a dream man, and they receive him, unknowingly entering into a harem with the Devil. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated movies ever. It’s so weird and funny, with many major stars in strange situations.
This movie follows a young girl named Coraline’s adventure into another world after discovering a hidden door in her new house. Coraline’s home life in the movie isn’t necessarily abusive, but definitely isn’t healthy. This is a reality for many kids, and this tangible threat just adds to the spook factor, in my opinion. From a kid’s perspective, it’s hard not to be invested in Coraline’s well-being as a character because what she’s running from and running towards is easily understood. It’s Coraline’s primary motive to walk into the trap of the other world. The other world has an ‘other mother’ and ‘other father’ who are far more loving and attentive than her own. However, when the ‘other mother’ and ‘other father’ ask her to replace her eyes with buttons, things begin collapsing.
“Coraline was my first introduction to horror as a child,” University of Iowa Junior Madeline Fait said.
Complete honesty, Coraline scared my socks off as a kid. But if you have older kids or kids who aren’t easily scared, it’s a great choice. I’ve returned to it as an adult with a new appreciation for the movie’s fascinating plot and compelling aesthetic. I did like it even as a kid, although again, it scared me witless. But every character in this movie is interesting in their own right, every setting just as fascinating, despite it all being contained within one house.
5. The Thing (John Carpenter’s Version)
I recently watched this movie in my screenwriting class for the first time. I now understand all the hype. A few members of my class mentioned this movie was their favorite as a kid, confirming my idea that it is kid friendly. With the exception of some gorey scenes, most of this movie is understated, which is part of what makes it so scary. In my opinion it’s closer to a psychological thriller than a traditional horror movie.
“Greatest remake of all time,” University of Iowa Junior Jayce Bertrand said.
This movie takes place in the frigid tundra, where a group of scientists are stationed to conduct research. After a brief interaction with Norwegian scientists leads to the chilling discovery that all the Norwegian scientists are dead, the American scientists must figure out why and how before they meet the same fate. The Thing, their primary opponent, is a shapeshifting alien, meaning that none of the scientists can actually trust each other. What follows is the deterioration of relationships that keeps the scientists, and the viewers, wondering who they can trust. The scariest parts of this movie aren’t the gore, but the accurate depiction of paranoia.
6. Rocky Horror Picture Show
Family friendly may be a bit of a stretch, though it would likely bode well with teenagers or especially mature preteens. Rocky Horror Picture Show is a cultural sensation, with live drag performances nationwide during October. It’s an LGBTQ+ classic, and a classic for anyone who is a self-prescribed ‘outsider.’ I’ve watched this movie several times, each time I notice more things, though I’m still not sure I completely understand what’s happening. That said, it’s a very fun, bizarre, and eccentric movie, and if your kid is LGBTQ+, there’s an especially high chance they’ll appreciate it. So many scenes are iconic, if you’ve never seen it, you will likely recognize certain parts or songs from popular culture or external references.