Happy mid-October, everyone. Halloween is fast approaching, and since it’s my favorite holiday by far, I’ve been watching Halloween movies since the start of the month. Bittersweetly, it’s also the last Halloween I will spend as a college student, and I’ve been reflecting on the years of childhood and adolescence that have brought me to this point. To unionize these two thoughts, I’d like to write a list of Halloween movies for your inner child — movies that I adored as a child, movies that I wish I would’ve seen as a child, or movies to make you feel like a child once more.
- “Halloweentown” 1, 2, 3, and 4. Somehow, I never saw these movies before now — the DVDs were always rented out at my local library — and when I watched them as an adult, I realized how much miraculous Halloween magic I had truly missed as a child. The first film begins with a young girl discovering she’s a witch after eavesdropping on grandma Debbie Reynolds casting spells in the kitchen. She and her siblings soon discover they come from an alternate dimension called Halloweentown, where it’s Halloween all year long and the citizens are goblins, vampires, werewolves, and the like. “Halloweentown” 2 and 3 are full of adventures in this dimension as well as the epic highs and lows of American high school — dances, football games, and a “foreign exchange” program complete with Halloweentown teenagers dipping their toes in the human world. Of course, there is always an evil mastermind attempting to thwart the siblings’ plans, but with a little Halloween magic, anything can be saved. Halloween town 4 is more of the same, with wonderful appearances from recurring characters, and a grand grand finale to wrap up the series.
- “Hocus Pocus.” It goes without saying that this may be the greatest children’s movie ever. Years before I watched Sarah Jessica Parker strut down the streets of Manhattan as Carrie Bradshaw, I knew her as the silly, dim-witted witch of the Salem coven accidentally brought to life by a teenager, Max, trying to impress his crush on Halloween night. In order to ensure the Salem witches don’t become immortal and ravage their town forever, Max and his little sister Dani must work with a book of spells and a wickedly smart black cat to save the day. As always, the kind-hearted soul of a young girl prevails. Still, this movie is full of tension and iconic Halloween tropes, like teenage romance, witches around a bubbling cauldron, and a graveyard after dark. What more could you ask for?
- “Corpse Bride.” Oh, how my little heart beats for “Corpse Bride.” The illustrious voices of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter in two awkwardly proportioned, deathly pale Tim Burton claymation characters. The horrifyingly drab world of the living compared to the boisterous, hilarious underworld of the dead. The little maggot that lives in the corpse bride’s eyeball and offers her words of wisdom. There is little else to desire. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is about an ill-fated man who accidentally proposes to a corpse while practicing his vows to his real-life fiancé in the woods, propelling him into a cursed marriage. After meeting a variety of colorful characters in the underworld, however, he realizes that death really isn’t so bad, and that his new corpse bride might make for the best of friends. For some reason, the ending always brings me to tears. I’ll let you watch for yourself.
- “Kiki’s Delivery Service.” This is Hayao Miyazaki’s interpretation of a Halloween movie, filled with colorful characters, whimsical magic, and the gorgeous colors of his trademark animated landscapes. Kiki is a 13-year-old witch who must spend one year alone with her black cat, learning how to control her new powers before she can be seen as a proper witch in the eyes of the townspeople. I love this film because the conflict is entirely real — while riding her broomstick for a delivery service and meeting new characters along the way, she becomes self-conscious of her newfound identity. It’s a classic teenage problem that can only be solved with self-love. Miyazaki shows us that when you doubt yourself, your powers disappear, only to be reclaimed with confidence. Be still, my childhood heart.
“Coraline.” “Coraline,” “Coraline,” “Coraline.” One of my favorite films ever, Halloween or not. I was first introduced to “Coraline” in fifth grade when I read the novel by Neil Gaiman (which is horribly scarier than the movie), and I have seen the film countless times since. Brought to the screen by the same director of “James and the Giant Peach,” Coraline is about a spirited young girl who discovers a hidden crawlspace in her family’s new house, which leads to a world very much like her own but with a few key differences — it is much more colorful, much more exciting, and all of the people have buttons instead of eyes. What begins as an exciting, fantastical adventure, however, quickly devolves into an inescapable nightmare from which Coraline cannot seem to awake. I adore the details in this movie, like the recurring images of insects and flowers, the mundanity of her parents’ conversations over the dinner table, the little claymation sweaters and rainboots worn by Coraline and her best friend. Critics on the internet have surfaced with a variety of interpretations about the ending of this film, which is a bit mysterious and a little twisted. But I’ll let you watch and figure it out for yourself.