It's October. A cold front recently sent pleasant gusts of dry and chilly air to my corner of the world. Autumn is upon us, but, more importantly, what can you watch to start celebrating Halloween? My list grows every year, but I always try to return to my tried-and-true store of childhood nostalgia when planning my Halloween movie marathons.
5.) The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (1991 and 1993)
I'm referring to the adapted films and not the syndicated television show in this case. Both films appeal so well to the offbeat, creepy-cute nature of kids' shows at the time. I somehow grew more attached to the sequel, even though it takes place primarily over summer vacation and not Halloween. The entire aesthetic of both films helps get you in the mood for morbid jokes and the oddities and curiosities that come with Halloween.
4.) Under Wraps (1997)
I wish you luck finding this made-for-TV movie on DVD or VHS; at last check it was going for over $150. All the same, the charming kid-centric movie follows a horror-movie-obsessed preteen who finds a real-life mummy with his friends while exploring in a for-sale house. The quest begins to reunite the former palace guard with the mummy of his royal lover, locked away in a museum. It's got adventure, in-references to horror greats, and a ridiculously well-played mummy who keeps getting mistaken for a burn victim or someone's costumed father.
3.) The Halloween Tree (1993)
Another made-for-TV film, this animated Ray Bradbury adaptation follows a group of kids on Halloween night as they fight to save the life of a sick friend by exploring the histories behind their own Halloween costumes. They see a coven of witches, fight through catacombs of skeletons, build a magnificent Gothic cathedral to form gargoyles, and meet real mummies, all to catch the escaping soul of their friend to ensure he wakes up once Halloween ends. It seems harrowing, but the adventure makes it all worth it.
2.) Hocus Pocus (1993)
I'm fairly sure that most people have heard of Hocus Pocus in some degree. A full, released-to-theaters movie with Bette Midler is hard to miss. This classic gets kids up to speed on some Salem witch folklore with a heavy sprinkling of comic relief and teenage angst throw in. Talking cats! Zombies that don't want to listen to their masters! Sarah Jessica Parker eating spiders! What's not to love?
1.) Halloweentown (1998)
And so it comes to this. I've watched Halloweentown more times that I care to count; I even gave the sequels a fair attempt. This film just captures what it feels like, specifically, to be a near-preteen girl with a predilection for the peculiar. It's so satisfying to see someone who always wanted something more find out that they are special and have the power within them to do what is right. The fantasy world of Halloweentown itself is beautifully immersive, like a tiny Terry Practchett Discworld novel with its own lore and rules. The costuming works well, the characters are considerably developed for a made-for-TV movie, and the whole thing just fills me with the whimsy usually achieved by Alfonso Cuaron or Guillermo del Toro or Hayao Miyazaki or Terry Gilliam.
Also, if you find a special edition DVD of it, I will offer you goods and services in exchange for the transportation of said DVD to my possession.