Double double, toil and trouble, spooky season is upon us at Stony Brook University (SBU). Though looking at one’s tuition balance is terrifying enough, many prefer to celebrate the season of the witch in more festive ways. One of the most beloved ways to usher in that Halloween feeling is to plop down on the couch — or raised Twin XL dorm bed — with some candy and a spooky film. So, what are the best films to watch as October creeps to a close?
Let’s begin with some honorable mentions. Perhaps one of the most notable of the Disney Halloween collection is “Halloweentown,” with its campy depiction of the ghosts and ghouls of generations past. With themes of girlhood, coming of age and family ties that are injected with bits of boisterous wisecracking, “Halloweentown” makes the story of teen witch Kimbery J. Brown’s Marnie and her family an absolute pleasure to watch. The entire saga can be streamed on Hulu or Disney+, making it the perfect choice for a dorm room movie night.
A more recent and nuanced choice would be the 2017 animated film, “Coco.” The film follows the story of Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, who’s a young musician stifled by his family’s generational ban on music, as he navigates the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos. In an excellent representation of Mexican culture, the film showcases both the importance of tradition and modernity. “Coco” is a heartfelt story on the value of family, with a captivating soundtrack and lovable characters; another Disney hit, the film is best enjoyed with a sugar skull and a box of tissues.
And now, for the Top Five Halloween Movies to enjoy this holiday season:
Perhaps an unconventional choice to begin this list, but “Heathers” offers incredible softcore horror for the 80s teen movie fan, creating an effortless blend of genres to enter into the Halloween spirit. In this slasher comedy, we watch Winona Ryder play angsty teen Veronica Sawyer who navigates the cruelty of the clique of “Heathers,” until her new boyfriend, Christian Slater’s character Jason Dean arrives and begins to stir up trouble in the form of murder. The flick earned a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, showcasing the love of audiences and critics alike for the haunting commentary on teenage tyranny, showcasing “Heathers” as an excellent spooky film for the young adult crowd.
Jim Sharman’s cult classic adaptation of “The Rocky Horror Show” cemented Tim Curry as one of the most versatile and talented actors of his time, and to this day. In “Rocky Horror,” we witness newly engaged couple Janet and Brad, played by Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, as they become stranded in a storm at the mansion of Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the cross-dressing mad scientist, where they meet a host of colorful characters, including Frank’s most recent achievement, Peter Hinwood’s Rocky. Though the film is comedic, with an incredible soundtrack, there is no denying the eerie undertones and extravagant costuming make it the perfect film for a hall-wide sing along. The joint horror-comedy-musical, bearing as many hyphens as its main character, makes a wonderful musical edition to this list.
Here’s one for all the gore-loving grads (and undergrads) at SBU. “Scream” is one of the most widely popular horror films, with its premise being adapted and parodied amongst a variety of mediums. This classic slasher explores the story of Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, a teen who ends up the target of a masked local killer known as Ghostface. The film is both a satirical representation of many common horror tropes and an incredible black comedy and chiller. “Scream” is widely acclaimed by critics, who gave it a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and last minute costume buyers, who are relieved to find the classic Ghostface mask at Party City. Be sure to pack in the popcorn for this film, and don’t answer any phone calls.
Tim Burton strikes again with one of the most notable and classic animated Halloween movies. “Christmas” illustrates the journey of pumpkin king Jack Skellington, voiced by Chris Sarandon, as he attempts to tackle boredom by adopting — or rather kidnapping — a new holiday and its mascot. Unsurprisingly, he schemes to overtake Santa Claus and Christmas alike. His romance with Catherine O’Hara’s lovable ragdoll Sally and his appreciation for the thrill of the holidays make Skellington the quintessential endearing antihero. The film boasts another stellar original soundtrack, as well as a host of creative costumes to inspire your group look this year. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” straddles both age groups and seasons for the perfect end-of-year flick.
Ironically, our list’s number one contender has the lowest critic rating, as it earned only a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a staggering 71% from audiences. With that statistic alone, it’s clear that “Hocus Pocus” is yet another Halloween classic. In this Kenny Ortega film, Omri Katz plays new kid Max Dennison on his first Halloween in Salem, as his attempt to woo the gorgeous Allison, played by Vinessa Shaw, threatens the entire town when the Sanderson witches are brought back to life. The film has something for everyone: nuanced adult comedy, edgy teen romance, an incredible goose chase around the haunted town, a catchy rendition of “I Put A Spell On You” and a heartwarming story about the power of sibling love. Because of its plethora of offerings for the Halloween season, “Hocus Pocus” earns the number one spot on our list and hopefully in your heart when you flip it on this coming weekend.
Though there are a host more movies to get into the spooky spirit, this list picks a bit from all the genres of the season, offering something to every witch, zombie or vampire who wants some background noise for all the candy swapping to occur this Halloween season.