Arts, Features

A review of Halloween-themed films to celebrate the spooky season

Those looking to celebrate spooky season while safe at home this year can grab some popcorn and watch one of these Halloween-themed films. ILLUSTRATION BY LAURYN ALLEN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“The Evil Dead”: Netflix

By: Jonas Bishop Hayes

“The Evil Dead,” now streaming on Netflix, is Sam Raimi’s schlocky and exhilarating directorial debut. Raimi, who later directed the early-2000s Spider-Man trilogy, went with a few friends out into the middle of the woods and made a lo-fi horror classic.

The 1981 film follows a group of friends who take a vacation in a cabin in the middle of the woods. They soon discover — or a mystical force pushes it upon them — a book that unlocks something horrifying. The group then tries to survive whatever ancient terrors are after them.

The technical prowess Raimi and Co. show in such a low-budget movie is spectacular and hilarious all at once. The practical effects have not aged well, but there is something magical about them. Raimi doesn’t rely solely on 80s practical effects. He does indeed use genius filmmaking techniques.

There’s a moment when a pair of headlights in the darkness is more horrifying than one could ever imagine. This movie could easily haunt your nights while also giving you chuckles the following morning.

The acting is phenomenally in line with the horror and horror parody, and bounces back and forth between over-the-top and rightfully scared. If there is one thing to take away from this movie, it’s that horror is not easily defined. Sometimes the funniest movies are also the scariest.

Rating: A


“The Nightmare Before Christmas”: Disney+

By: Molly Farrar

The 1993 Christmas and Halloween hybrid that is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a film filled with classic characters and catchy songs. Jack Skellington, Oogie Boogie, Sally and even Santa are beloved characters in this beautiful, claymation movie that’s good for both holiday seasons.

Don’t mistake this as strictly a children’s film — the dark fantasy, stop-motion effects and strangely eerie music make it an October must-watch, despite the title. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, discovers portals to multiple different holiday worlds, but what intrigues him the most is Christmas Town. Obsessed with the holiday and understanding it, Jack begins wreaking havoc on a holiday that isn’t his.

While it has some frightening moments, this is far from horror. The musical moments give the scares a break, even though the most sinister aspect is the overall vibe of the film. If you want to get in a festive mood, while singing and laughing along and occasionally covering your eyes, this is the film for a wholesome spook.

Rating: A+


“Monster House”: Amazon Prime

By: Cameron Morsberger

Halloween, like any other holiday, prompts us to return to our favorite childhood memories and indulge in the comfort of spooky nostalgia. “Monster House” is the perfect movie for that.

The 2006 stop-motion film is one I rewatch each October, not only because it’s become tradition, but the plot, humor and overall quality hold up 14 years later.

The story follows three young teenagers as they unravel the mystery behind an old haunted house across the street, and it’s all set around Halloween in the 1980s, which adds another level of seasonal fun.

The older teens and adults are the usual antagonists: the older sister and her obnoxious punk boyfriend, the old child-hating owner of the “monster house” and the clueless police officers investigating the disturbances.

The interactions between the kids and adults are a bit tropey, but are pretty dynamic for a kids’ movie. When I was younger, the dialogue felt genuine and made me laugh, and that humor stands the test of time and age for sure.

There’s also something really special and Halloween-esque about stop-motion animations — other classics such as “Coraline,” “Corpse Bride” and, of course, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are enchanting in their movements and memorable in their style.

“Monster House,” like these other films, is charming with occasionally grim plotlines, but this film is the most lighthearted of the bunch. Dark imagery and color schemes are paired with snarky, crude humor, which makes for a remarkable Halloween treat.

Rating: A-


“Alice in Wonderland”: Disney+

By: Toni Baraga

Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” provides an intense and brooding take on the traditionally whimsical story. The film stars Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh, Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter and Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen.

The film follows Alice as an adult, referencing Underland — or Wonderland, as she calls it — as a place she visited in recurring dreams throughout her childhood. After receiving a surprise proposal from Lord Hamish Ascot, Alice follows the White Rabbit down a hole and into Underland where she must complete a prophecy and slay the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky — a dragon creature the queen uses to threaten her subjects into obedience.

Burton and Disney take the classic tale of “Alice in Wonderland” and give it a fantasy twist. The whole film builds up to an epic battle between Alice and the Jabberwocky with an ending that gives new meaning to the infamous “off with their heads.”

While the film is entertaining, the intense conflict and battle take away from the fictional nonsense 19th century author Lewis Carroll perfected. The whimsical and eccentric tale is replaced with a sad and dark story filled with mediocre computer-generated imagery and typical Disney tropes.

One of the best aspects of the movie was Alice’s costume changes. Throughout the course of the film, she wears a number of different outfits, each reflecting the stages of Underland she goes through. By the end, Alice comes back to reality more free and fearless, as does her look.

Overall, the film provides a mediocre depiction of the classic tale with forgettable performances and bad effects.

Rating: C+

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