Some of us don’t like to be scared: there’s no shame in it. Some of us are just extremely impressionable and even a film aimed at children is enough to scare us: and honestly? That’s… kind of embarrassing. But no matter. Regardless of the reason, sometimes you want to sit back and have a Halloween with more hooting and hollering than horror. To that end, our team of HeadStuff movie buffs got together to come up with a list of their favourite non-horror Halloween films for your viewing pleasure. Among other things, you’ll discover that 1993 was some sort of golden year for non-spooky festive features – what’s with that, I wonder? – and hopefully find some interesting movies to add to your holiday watchlist.
Addams Family Values (1993)
As the Addams family readies itself for a new arrival, an uninvited presence causes trouble for the entire family. A “family” comedy that’s darker than the soul of any Addams worth their salt. This film (along with its predecessor) is a superb example of what can be done when a collective effort is made to create something that can be categorically defined as “fun for all ages”. There really is something for everyone in a film that confused a younger version of myself to no end in wondering how a floating hand could be so well trained!What is the secret behind its greatness?
In the cornucopia of films that can be said to have nailed their respective casting, The Addams Family films (not the new animated entries…) must be championed. Christina Ricci creates a benchmark for child acting with a role that doesn’t even allow her to crack a smile. Raul Julia is so bombastic in his delivery that Anjelica Huston’s subdued brilliance perfectly compliments each other. Their chemistry plays a supporting role in the creation of possibly the most innuendo-filled film of all time… no seriously there is a lot more than you remember! At its cold heart, the film manages to pack in quite a bit. From sibling jealousy, to even the discussion of the genocide of the indigenous population of the U.S.A. for good measure! Fun for all the family! William Healy
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Gentle body horror with a stellar cast and a wicked sense of humour, anyone? Death Becomes Her is a rip-roaring affair with Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn battling it out for access to their own version of the fountain of youth while Bruce Willis tries to get out of the way of the cross-fire (in that way, maybe it’s not as dissimilar to Die Hard as previously indicated).
There are almost as many plot twists and turns as there are twists and turns to Meryl Streep’s neck, as the two leading ladies make a deal with the devil (in the form of a particularly alluring Isabella Rossellini) which leaves them with immortal bodies. The catch being that immortality doesn’t mean that their bodies won’t deteriorate over time. Cue plenty of state-of-the-art CGI as the characters endure catastrophic and hilarious injuries that leave them alive and more angry than ever. Sarah Cullen
Hocus Pocus (1993)
After 300 years of slumber, three sister witches are accidentally resurrected in Salem on Halloween night, and it is up to three kids and their newfound feline friend (Binx stans, where you at?!) to put an end to the witches’ reign of terror once and for all.
A critic-proof film if there ever was one. Having initially tanked during its theatrical run (losing Disney as much as $20 million in the process), Hocus Pocus has gone on to become essential Halloween viewing. Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and – a pre-Sex and the City – Sarah Jessica Parker star as the devilish Sanderson sisters. And while Doug Jones’ good-guy zombie Billy Butcherson remains a fan favourite, Thora Birch’s performance as the precocious Dani Dennison steals the show. I just wish, now, 28 years later, we had more of her on our screens. Here’s hoping she makes an appearance in the film’s long-gestating sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, set to hit Disney + in autumn 2022. Brian Quinn
Return to Oz (1985)
Here’s one that slipped through cracks and is only now getting hailed as a quirky classic. A horror film it is not; but Return to Oz, directed by the renowned sound designer Walter Murch, still offers the hibbiest of jibbies.
The film is an unofficial sequel to the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz and is based on L. Frank Baum’s early 20th century Oz novels. We’re back in Kansas, where Dorothy (played by 90s icon Fairuza Balk) is rescued from a psychiatric experiment by a mysterious girl. Soon, she finds herself back in Oz to fight a vain witch and an evil king intent on destroying the land. As you can tell from the synopsis, the film’s tone differs drastically from that of its whimsical predecessor. It’s a truly nightmarish vision but wholly enchanting at the same time; still, you may need to muster all of Cowardly Lion’s courage for this one. Brian Quinn
They Live (1988)
The best Halloween films feature two things: costumes and one-liners. They Live delivers both. While the alien design is iconic, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s faded denim, plaid shirt, and feathered blond hair is an inspiration to those who balk at the idea of a fancy-dress party. And that’s before he dons the sunglasses. And if the costume is a little like pouring perfume on a pig, the film is loaded to bear with excellent dialogue. John Carpenter exploits Piper’s two most obvious characteristics: his physicality and his ability to make dumb shit sound cool. And if you disagree, he’ll make you eat this trashcan.
This is well and good, but, if you’d rather stay in for Halloween, They Live remains a quintessential Halloween flick. While this is no horror, it follows a familiar Carpenter structure. The outline of our reality is peeled away to reveal the monstrosity within. Whereas a film like The Thing milks this for every ounce of possible tension, Carpenter here chooses a more cathartic outlet. Yuppies, as we already knew, are aliens, invading our daily lives and distracting us from the nature of our reality. What they need, of course, is a swift kick in the ass. They Live delivers this in droves. Thomas Mozden
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The problem with The Nightmare Before Christmas? Trying to figure out which holiday it’s not appropriate for.
That’s right, there’s the chance that our old pal Jack Skellington might just make an impromptu visit down your chimney any time of the year. Following Jack as he searches for some meaning beyond the borders of Halloween town, The Nightmare Before Christmas has some wonderfully memorable musical numbers scored and written by Danny Elfman, who also voiced the pumpkin-headed protagonist. I almost hesitate to mention that, among the wonderful animation, lies the dreaded “Oggie Boogie’s Song” in which Mr. Oogie Boogie holds Santa Claus captive: it’s almost enough to push Nightmare off the list.
Still, I think it’s worth enduring for the feature’s fabulous atmosphere and wonderful art style. And if nothing else, it’s hard not to admire a film that inspired a whole damn borough in London (I’m looking at you, Camden). Sarah Cullen