Halloween movie reviews

13 spooky films that I have never seen, or have seen too many times *beware of Spoilers*


Halloween movies are a staple of the season

Addison Etnier, Staff Writer

The Halloween season is rife with scary and spooky movies that people love to marathon. Popular movies include horror, creature features and films with some sort of gothic theme, like magic. This list is comprised of movies that aired on SyFy and Lifetime, as well as movies from my own library. Here are 13 Halloween classics.

1. “Nightmare on Elm Street”

This classic is about the ghost of a murderer who appears in dreams to kill his victims, all while those in the land of the awake are unable to solve these mysterious murders. This movie is creepy and unnerving. The visual effects felt pretty real and the story progression through the movie was enjoyable and gave it depth. The characters themselves were fairly unhelpful to the protagonist (as it seems most characters tend to be in horror movies), with each character being gruesomely taken out one-by-one in their sleep, but the lead was an interestingly clever rival to Freddy Krueger. It was actually an enjoyable and genuinely creepy movie, worthy of its standing as a popular horror series.

2. “Underworld”

The first installment of the gothic film series is a favorite of mine, with its action-led story and iconic trench coat-wearing tough female lead. The story follows Selene, werewolf (called ‘lycan’ in the film)-killing vampire, as she uncovers a conspiracy planned by the leader of the lycans who is trying to successfully merge the vampires and lycans into one being, using a direct (human) descendant from both the lycans and vampires. This is truly the epitome of the edgy 2000’s movie trope, another being “The Matrix,” but a visually entertaining one. The scenes are dark and most of the characters wear leather, and the action is over-the-top and dramatic. However, this movie fleshes out its characters’ motivations and backstories well, giving a heartbreaking depth to all of its leads and creating interesting dynamics between the characters to unfold throughout the movie. A dramatic and aesthetic concept driven by a unique story and entertaining action, this film is a gothic must-have.

3. “Friday the 13th”

I have to preface this review with the fact that I viewed a censored version of this film. This first installment in the popular series was underwhelming. A bunch of teenagers arrived at Camp Crystal Lake as camp counselors, but each person is getting mysteriously murdered one by one on Friday the 13th. The murders were overly cheesy, the story was lacking, and the characters were pathetic. The fairly large cast was full of unmemorable characters who were picked off one by one by the mysterious killer. The story was nonexistent, as its plot was driven solely by the suspense caused whenever a character was murdered. The story didn’t become interesting until its fourth quarter, where the final survivor is pursued across the camp by the mysterious killer. Without revealing spoilers, the killer was not who I expected and led to my confusion due to their previously unestablished nature and conflicting with my background knowledge of the film series, though the character was extremely creepy throughout their scenes, resulting in some sort of emotional response. However, the character’s terrifying persona was counteracted by the pathetic fight scenes between them and the heroine. The finale was a twist ending, but it actually left me confused due to its suddenness. The film was clumsy and uninteresting and the only saving aspects were easily countered by how cheesy its execution was.

4. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”

A thrilling action-adventure zombie flick that also beautifully tells the story of the Jane Austen classic, this film pits prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet and prideful Mr. Darcy not only against each other but against the undead as well. Yes, this spoof of an idea sounds ridiculous, but this movie is full of great acting and story, as well as humor, that pleasantly surprises its viewer. Highlights include Elizabeth as played by Lily James, who gives an indignant spunk to the 19th century warrior, and “Doctor Who” actor Matt Smith who shows off his comedic genius as Mr. Collins. This movie is perfect for fans of action, comedy, and horror. The movie also encapsulates Austen’s original romance stunningly well, with the stakes of the relationships raised given the zombie-apocalypse setting. The romantic story was so beautiful to me that it sparked my interest in the original novel and its adaptations, which truly earns its praise as both a wonderful classic tale and as a timeless story that is still prevalent today.

5. “Hocus Pocus”

A fan-favorite Disney film about three witches who, after being hanged for their wicked crimes, are accidentally brought back to life by a teenage boy on Halloween night. The witches spend the rest of the film tracking down this boy and his friend and sister in the hopes of draining their energy to become immortal. It is a nice tale of the bond between family, as they compare Max’s struggle to keep his sister safe with the heavy guilt that Binx feels after being unable to save his own sister from the witches and being transformed into a cat to live out the past three centuries. While I am not quite sure it deserves all the praise it receives, it is a fun and entertaining view.

6. “The Addams Family”

Based on the popular gothic television show, “The Addams Family” details the mystery of the long-lost brother to Gomez Addams when a lookalike and his mother decide to use the similar looks to their advantage to gain money from the Addams Family. Having never seen any media of the Addams Family and with only a background knowledge to support me, this movie was basic. Its characters were unique and intriguing, but their execution left me wondering if there is more to the characters and story than what was shown. The film was full of awkward humor that left me giggling nervously or in confusion, as it attempted to be a comedy but left me kind of terrified at the morbid implications of the jokes. It was entertaining, but the film didn’t feel entirely self contained. Maybe that makes it a good entry point to the Addams Family story.

7. “Halloweentown”

A Disney Channel Original Movie about a young girl who discovers that she is the newest in a long line of witches in her family. She, along with her brother and sister, follow their grandmother into another world inhabited by strange creatures, called Halloweentown. This was a childhood classic of mine; the story was fun and full of wonder and led to several enjoyable sequels. However, upon my recent rewatching I discovered its flaws. The acting is exaggerated and the story is limited. The execution of the scenes are awkward and laughable at the ridiculousness of the behavior of the characters and the situations; however, the writers do manage to appropriately portray the behavior of a bratty thirteen year-old well. Its sense of wonder holds up, akin to other movies where the viewers discover a wondrous place for the first time. While this movie lives fondly in my heart, it does not hold up well to a critical eye.

8. “Corpse Bride”

When Victor, a young man who is going to get married to a woman he had never met but after meeting her is charmed, messes up his wedding vows during rehearsal, he goes off alone to practice and ends up accidentally married to a dead woman. This stop motion animated film by Tim Burton is quite popular, and for good reason. Its characters are given designs that are charming yet gothic, with Emily’s (the Corpse Bride) design in particular giving a sense of unease that still highlights a life taken too young. The film’s score and musical songs were written by Danny Elfman. The piano themes were beautiful and tragic, though the ensemble musical numbers were lacking, but did help in way of giving exposition to the characters and motivations. The film is tragic yet charming, with an interesting plot that connects several characters together and gives a tragic example of what some do for love.

9. “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

The highly popular Tim Burton film for Disney is about Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of the monster-inhabited Halloween Town responsible for Halloween celebrations in the human world, who is suffering through a fatigue from doing the same thing every year. He wanders through the town and notices a gathering of doorways into other holiday-themed lands like his, and the Christmas Town in particular interests him. He is amazed by what he finds there and returns to Holloween Town to encourage the town to host their own Christmas celebration, while his friend Sally gets a premonition that something will go wrong if he succeeds. The songs, once again written by Danny Elfman who even provides the singing voice for Jack, are very catchy and iconic. The stop motion sets and characters are all very gothic and unusual, creating a world where everything is Halloween-themed. This movie is entertaining and the characters and songs are iconic and memorable.

10. “Matilda”

Based on the popular book, Matilda is about a young girl who becomes incredibly intelligent at a young age, and she soon learns that she has special powers, which she uses to teach evil-doing grownups a lesson. This movie is very much a children’s movie. The humor was aimed at younger audiences, the characters were so exaggerated and over the top that the movie hardly felt realistic. However, there were a few interesting characters, especially the lead, Matilda. I felt like she was basically a grade school version of Stephen King’s Carrie. Matilda is a highly intelligent and spunky girl with powers, and I can see how her story was inspirational to girls growing up.

11. “Doctor Sleep”

The sequel to “The Shining” (both by Stephen King) is about Danny Torrence, the young boy from the first movie, who is older now and discovers that there are others like him as well as evil people who suck out the Shining and the life from these people in order to sustain youth. This film was better than “The Shining,” which was suspenseful with little payoff. “Doctor Sleep,” however, was extremely creepy and gruesome. The ending is full of action sequences, and the entire movie puts the viewer on edge as the villains continue to do disgusting deeds. This film is perfect for anyone who wants to watch a genuinely scary and unnerving horror film.

12. “Twitches”

This Disney Channel Original Movie is about two girls who discover at 21 that they have a twin. After spending the day together they also learn that they have magical powers, and a dark threat is after them. Hence the title, a play on ‘twin witches.’ This film has a really interesting story filled with background and mystery. The darkness that seeks to destroy the twitches and the world leaves the viewer full of dread. The film is of course light-hearted, but its story is full of heart and peril. The film is heartwarming and enjoyable, placing it as one of Disney Channel’s best Halloween films.

13. “The Purge”

This movie is about a reimagined American society where crime is illegal all the time except for one night, where anyone can commit any crime without repercussions. This movie was unnerving with its themes and the characters were scary. I appreciated how the main characters all went through some sort of arc. The second half of the movie was pretty suspenseful, as the viewer is just waiting for a person to show up and attack the main characters. This movie was not only a good horror movie, but a really entertaining movie in general.