Best Halloween Movies – 2018 Edition!

It’s my favorite time of year again! Fall, particularly October have always held a special place in my heart, which is probably why I wanted to get married in this spookiest, most mysterious of months.

But, this is NOT the time for romance, but for thrills and chills. So, here is my 2018 edition for great movies to watch leading up to Halloween.

If you want to check out my previous Halloween movie post, click here.

The Haunting (1963): Forget about the dreadful 1999 remake and stick with this glorious addition to the haunted-house genre. This is the way ghosts stories should be told! Spooky noises, little to no visual evidence of an actual presence, and leaving the viewer in doubt whether all that’s happening is REAL or if the main character is nuts.

And, as a bonus, pick of the original book by Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House

 

Young Frankenstein: A classic parody of the monster movie. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder made this a classic. So, if you’d rather have a laugh than a scream during Halloween, check this one out.

Bonus read: Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

The Craft: I probably shouldn’t advocate for this movie since much of the witchcraft is pretty off. BUT it does give a much more nuanced view of witches than most movies. Plus it’s such a fun 90s romp through the occult that I can’t help but love it.

Bonus read: Though The Craft wasn’t base on Sherryl Jordan’s The Juniper Game, Jordan’s book does explore the consequences of teens messing around with forces they don’t fully understand.

 

What Lies Beneath: Another fantastic example of how moviemakers SHOULD create a ghost story. It has everything listed above, plus a very human twist that ups the suspense. Brrrrr!

Bonus read: Again, not a perfect companion to the movie, but a chilling little YA thriller that features a female protagonist pitted against a ghostly female apparition with vengeance on her mind.  The Accident by Diane Hoh

 

Sleepy Hollow: This next trailer will seemingly contradict everything I just said above about ghost stories. But the fact that Tim Burton made this somewhat of a parody excuses the excessive gore – at least to my way of thinking. And Burton does such a nice job of creating atmosphere that, even during the funny parts, you get a delicious shiver down your spine.

Bonus Read: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving

 

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: To go along with the entry above, I’ve included this delightful cartoon that featured prominently  in my childhood. Mr. Toad is sort of an add-on here, since we’re really interested in Ichabod, Disney’s version of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” A little spooky, a little funny, and all early Disney animation.

Bonus read: same as above

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Despite the title, this movie doesn’t really adhere to the original book. BUT, that’s a good thing in my opinion. I found the book drippy in its sentimentality and two-dimensional. However, Francis Ford Coppola managed to create a Dracula that was completely horrifying, and completely human – the best sort of bad guy. And, notwithstanding Keanu Reeves’ horrid British accent, this was well acted, incredibly costumed, and the music… that in itself is a horror movie for your ears – in a good way.

Bonus read (just ’cause I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t): Dracula by Bram Stoker

 

The Worst Witch (1986): Again, forget the remake and stick with this little gem. Yeah, yeah the special effects were super corny (typical of the 80s), but you’ve got Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae, Fairuza Balk, and… Tim Curry!  I didn’t put the trailer because it gives away WAY too much. So here’s a little clip instead.

Bonus read: check out the original series by Jill Murphy

 

Poltergeist (1982): I’ve said this a lot in this post, but, really, just root out the original of a movie and enjoy it. Most remakes are pale shadows and not worth the time you’d invest in them. This is another example that proves that point. If you can handle a bit more scare, Poltergeist delivers without resorting to gore and gratuitous violence.

I don’t really have a bonus read for this. But there is a novelization out there written by James Kahn, if you want to check that out.

 

The Watcher in the Woods (1980): OMG, the trailer still gives me the creeps. Even though this was a Disney production, it really amps the spook factor. However, I’d like to offer a little caution, if you get the DVD, don’t watch the included alternate ending. Just stick with the original theatrical ending. It’s much more mysterious and satisfying. The alternate ending is silly – much like the ending of Stephen King’s IT.

Bonus read: If you want to subject yourself to the badly written original material… The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

My Top 10 Favorite Fairytales

Twelve huntsmen

With In the Blood coming out in just a few days, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about its evolution. Namely, how it went from being a retelling of “The Twelve Huntsman” to a heroic fantasy about twin sisters on the troubled and dangerous road to reunion.

That got me to thinking about fairy tales in general and how many of the inform the stories we still tell today – though you might not recognize them. It’s amazing how such old tales have survived and continue to ignite our imaginations.

So, in celebration of these stories’ power and longevity, I’d like to talk about some of my favorite fairy/folk tales and what I think makes them so special.

Feel free to share some of your favorite stories in the comments below!

 

east of the sun west of the moonEast of the Sun, West of the Moon

A tale of myriad incarnations – “Cupid and Psyche” of Rome; “The White-Bear-King Valemon” of Norway; “The Enchanted Pig” of Romania; and even the well-known “Beauty and the Beast” bears similarities. What I love about this one is it is a rousing adventure framed around a story of undying love – always a winning combination with me.

 

CinderellaCinderella

I don’t actually like “Cinderella” because of the rags-to-riches element. To me, the prince is an incidental – rendered thus because he is nameless and has only one or two repeating lines. No, I like “Cinderella” because it epitomizes perseverance and the ability to hope even in the most horrid of circumstances.

 

Mulha

from Worldandikids.com

Mulha

This South African tale focuses on the lively and inventive Mulha. The best part of Mulha’s story is she makes the mistake of allowing an evil ogre into her family’s midst through her curiosity, rendering her more human than many other fairytale heroines. But, rather than whine and moan or hide and wait for rescue, she takes charge of saving herself and her little sisters. Plus, she doesn’t suffer fools and is pretty sassy, always a likable trait in a leading lady.

 

 Aladdin

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp

Besides the exciting adventure that Aladdin goes on in pursuit of the wonderful lamp and his beloved princess, I’ve always enjoyed watching Aladdin grow from a lazy, selfish youth to a clever and generous man.

 

 

black-man-white-woodsman-woodcutterThe Three Wishes

This short tale gets to the point pretty quick. Basically, magic wishes (and magic solutions in general) can often be more trouble than they’re worth – especially if you have “nothing in [your] noddle but the wish to sit down and rest.” Which leaves us with the groan-worthy moral that only hard-work and perseverance result in good fortune. Damn it!

 

Beauty and the BeastBeauty and the Beast

To me “Beauty and the Beast” is the quintessential childhood story. Not because of the romance, which is a mere by-product of the real plot, that of Beauty (who could be anyone, boy or girl, man or woman) entering a dark, mysterious place alone and unsure of her fate. Beast represents the frightening and difficult aspects of new journeys as well as the sweet discoveries.

 

kuan yinPrincess Kwan-Yin

Though Kwan-Yin is an early prototype for the Mary Sue character (she’s beautiful, smart, talented, and everyone just loves her – even the wild animals of the forest). But her determination to control her own life, especially in the male-dominated world of ancient China, makes her a fascinating and admirable heroine.

 

 la llorona

La Llorona

I became fascinated with the legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) when I taught an English as Another Language Class. Though a tragedy and a bit of a horror story, “La Llorona” is a story full of passion and drama. It also teaches against choosing life partners simply for their pretty faces.

 

King ThrushbeardKing Thrushbeard

Another story of transformation, though a more explicit example. King Thrushbeard is the epitome of a romantic hero – patient, smart, sweet but firm, and willing to go to great lengths for the woman he loves. I recently read a wonderful retelling of this fairytale called The Scarecrow King by Jill Myles. Her take fleshed out the elements that work so well in the original story.

 

robber bridegroomThe Robber Bridegroom

I think this was probably the very first slasher/horror story. All the ingredients are there: smart protagonist (usually a female, but not always), isolated locale, eerie foreshadowing, inhuman villain, and unbearable gore. Reading this, many of the most famous slasher/horror flicks come to mind – Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, The Evil Dead, The Legend of Hell House, The Hills Have Eyes, and many others. I’m not a horror movie fan. At all. I suffer terrible nightmares after just hearing the plot summaries of some of these movies. And watching the trailers – or even seeing the thumbnails on Youtube – makes me want to vomit. But I like this particular tale because of its super creepy atmosphere and level-headed heroines (I count the old woman as one of the heroines). Margaret Atwood wrote a sublime novel inspired by “The Robber Bridegroom” featuring a female villain who, metaphorically, chews men and women up and spits them out.