A couple of weekends ago, I was sitting on the floor of my friends’ apartment as we got ready for our weekly movie night. The popcorn was hot, the seasonal snacks had been purchased, and our cups were brimming with cider from a local apple orchard. We were ready to get in the spooky October mood, and the only thing left to do was pick the movie. Little did we know how difficult that was going to be. Getting a group of people to agree on what to watch was hard enough, but to make matters worse, there were all of these extra (and sometimes contradictory) parameters. It had to be spooky but not scary: no blood, jump scares, or overall horror. It had to be Halloween-y but not tacky. (These parameters were partially my fault because I have fears of everything from the dark to ax murders to the common bruise). So we went around and around for an hour before settling on a movie that had nothing to do with autumn or Halloween at all. Perfect.
During the time of year when people think about Halloween movies, they tend to lump any and every horror movie into their recommendations. This list takes a different angle by taking fears, aversions, and overall squeamishness all into consideration. If you’re like me and can’t handle the sight of blood, or just have issues with classic horror movie tropes and themes, here's a short and definitely not comprehensive list of movies and TV shows that have just the right amount of creep. Light some candles and eat something pumpkin-flavored as you dig into this list that features everything from classic Halloween themes and monsters to films with just a vaguely autumnal vibe. Use this list for your next movie night to get into the spirit of the season without the blood, guts, and gore.
"Hotel Transylvania" (2012)
Starting with a basic, fun-filled kid’s movie, the Hotel Transylvania franchise is perfect for some laughs and classic frights. In this animated and G-rated series, we meet your quintessential Halloween monsters: Frankenstein's monster, mummies, werewolves, and vampires (oh my!). In this film, we explore Count Dracula’s hotel for monsters during the biggest event of the year: his daughter Mavis’s 118th birthday party. While the Count manages the party, he also has to hide the human intruder in their midst. This lighthearted movie has plenty of love and laughter as you meet history’s most infamous monsters on their days off.
Halloween masks are essential to this franchise, but it strays away from the jump scares or suspenseful music of the horror genre. The Scooby-Doo gang can be found in multiple TV shows, live-action movies, and countless spin-offs and remakes. There is so much to choose from when enjoying the antics of this group of impossibly independent teenagers. If you want a more explicitly seasonal, spooky watch then the movie "Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost" is perfect. Set in a New England town, the Mystery Gang encounters witches, goth girl bands, and the supernatural. If you'd rather opt for the typical mysteries and unmasking, then the early 2000s film "What’s New Scooby-Doo" is the perfect binge.
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966)
If you’re looking for a quick watch that packs a heart-warming and nostalgic punch, then this recommendation is for you. One of the many seasonal Peanut-inspired shorts, “It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is sure to have you dreaming about the trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving of your childhood. This simple adventure of Charlie Brown and his friend Linus waiting for the infamous Great Pumpkin is best experienced cozied up with some black and orange treats and maybe even an arts and crafts project. This recommendation is free from any distressing themes or staple Halloween monsters. If you want to relive (or experience for the first time) the magical, elementary school version of Halloween, then this one is a must-see.
"The Addams Family" (1991)
If animated movies aren’t your vibe, then the live-action movie "The Addams Family" is the perfect fit. This version is a more recent take on the original TV show and comic strip of the less-than-normal American family. Full of creeps and crawls, and of course the dramatic Addams flair, this quirky film introduces you to all sorts of odd characters. A Halloween classic that is tame enough for a casual weekday viewing.
"The Twilight Zone"
This cult classic TV show from the mid-twentieth century is not traditionally Halloween-y but spooky enough to make the list. This black and white fever dream has multiple seasons of self-contained episodes that are guaranteed to make your head spin. The sometimes eerie installments are free of blood and psychological thrills, opting instead for unthinkable plot twists and pushing the limits of the human imagination. If you would rather spend your October questioning reality than being plagued by nightmares of chainsaws, this is the recommendation for you.
"Dead Poets Society" (1989)
This one is for the people out there who aren’t the biggest fan of Halloween but are still trying to squeeze every last bit of fall out of the season. This is an intellectual and heartfelt flick that makes you fall in love with the New England seasons. The film follows a group of stifled young men at Welton Academy Preparatory School and how their lives change after meeting the inspirational new professor, Mr. Keating. Secret societies and a vigor for life make the cool October air feel electric. Complete with critiques of elitist society and overbearing parents, The Dead Poets are free from any sign of Halloween creep and gore (besides one or two bloody noses.) Check out a poetry book from the library, sit back, and listen to the inspiring words of Robin Williams.