The leaves have fallen, the air is brittle and every other storefront is dressed in autumnal regalia. Meanwhile, costumes have started to come out of the attic and “Monster Mash” can be heard on every oldies station from here to Hawaii. It means only one thing…
Even though I’m a college student, I can’t help but get all nostalgic when Halloween rolls around. Yeah, I’ve outgrown trick-or-treating and hardly think of the holiday as anything more than a fun diversion (and the cause for a severe hangover), but there’s just something about the season that brings it all back to me.
One of my fondest memories is watching Halloween-themed movies on television all through the month of October. Sadly, since college, I haven’t had time to indulge myself. So I figured, this month, why not?
So here, in no particular order, is a list of what I consider to be the best Halloween-themed movies you can find — movies that just so happen to be from my childhood. They’re all perfect for viewing a day, or even a week, before the Big Night. (And, no, I’m not endorsing staying in on Halloween to watch “Hocus Pocus.” So don’t take me for that kind of guy.)
“Ernest Scared Stupid” (1991)
The immortal Jim Varney decided to get in the Halloween spirit with this film, perhaps the most fucked-up children’s movie ever made. Here’s a taste of the plot: A troll is running around a small town turning little kids and dogs into wooden statues to add to his collection, and it’s up to our resident goofy hero Ernest (Varney) to save the day.
Even as a five-year-old I was no wuss, but this scared the crap out of me. And, honestly, I don’t know what’s more disturbing: thinking about the troll waiting for me under my bed, or thinking about whoever wrote this head-trip sitting next to me somewhere in public. Yeesh.
“Hocus Pocus” (1993)
To be perfectly honest I haven’t seen this film in years, but I felt I had an obligation to put it on the list — I loved this film when I was a kid.
Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy play witches resurrected in modern-day Salem, Mass. They spend most of the movie chasing a bunch of kids who, for some reason or another, have the ability to destroy them. If I recall correctly, it had something to do with a book. And there’s a talking cat in it, which is cool.
“Halloween II” (1981)
Okay, so there had to be at least one full-fledged horror film on this list. This sequel scared the bejeezus out of me every time it played on American Movie Classics when I was younger, and, years later, I can still attest to its effectiveness.
I mean, there are only a few things scarier than hospitals, and one of them is a masked maniac running around with a knife. Sadly for us, “Halloween II” features a masked maniac with a knife running around the inside of a hospital. If that’s not enough to make you bury your head beneath a hill of pillows, I don’t know what is.
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” (1966)
Behold, the greatest Halloween-themed film ever made.
Charles M. Schulz was an American genius, and “It’s the Great Pumpkin” is one of his defining achievements. Spooky, goofy and very odd, this classic cartoon tells the tragic tale of Charlie Brown’s friend Linus and his doomed goal to stay up late to see the Great Pumpkin rise from its place in the pumpkin patch one faithful Halloween night. Of course, it never does. Humorous, bitter and poignant, as only something written by Schulz could be.