It’s October, that magical 31 day stretch where everyone becomes a bit of a horror fan. For those of us who live this season out year-round, it’s better than Christmas. Of the many traditions and customs, I have for this time of the year, movie nights with the family are right up there at the top of the list. My kids range in age from 2 to 16 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a toddler is just as poor a decision as a Baby Shark Halloween with my teenager. So, in the spirit of the season and the idea of being able to watch some true classics with everyone in your home, here’s a quick list of options to jump start your spooky season.


It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Look, I don’t care what your opinions are about the Peanuts gang or their creator, the fact of the matter is watching The Great Pumpkin in October is like watching The Grinch in December. It’s just something you have to do. The 55-year-old animated adventures of Snoopy and friends as they go trick or treating and wait for the Santa Claus of Samhain to arrive has entertained kids and families for decades. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is literally the least frightening but still enjoyable bit of seasonal media you’ll find. Bonus points if you want to dredge up The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror parody, It’s the Grand Pumpkin, Milhouse as a double feature.


Hocus Pocus

Another beloved Halloween classic, Hocus Pocus sees the witchy trio of the Sanderson sisters as they attempt to steal the youth from the children of Salem to grant themselves eternal life. Like a lot of late 80s and early 90s kids’ movies, this one has something for the whole family in terms of humor and storytelling. It also includes some special effects and subject matter that wouldn’t allow it to keep its PG rating if were made the same way today. The incredible Doug Jones portrays the zombie Billy who, while resurrected by the witches, has no intention of helping them. I was about eight when this movie came out and I remember the scenes with the reanimated colonial corpse freaking me out just a bit the first time I watched it but, otherwise, loving this movie.


The Simpsons Halloween Special (Treehouse of Horror I)

In what has become maybe the most surprising of Halloween traditions, at least to me, the yearly Halloween episode of The Simpsons is almost always a treat with some exceptions in recent years. The very first of what has now become known as the Treehouse of Horror episodes back in 1990 featured parodies of classic horror and science fiction tales. “Hungry Are the Damned” is an amazing, comedic retelling of the classic Twilight Zone episode “How to Serve Man.” “Bad Dream House” is a nod to Poltergeist with the family moving into a home possessed by evil spirits. And, of course, “The Raven” is the James Earl Jones narrated retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem. Even after 30+ years, the episode still holds up well and is just as entertaining as it was when it first aired. This is definitely worth a watch.


Young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, and Peter Boyle all starring in a Mel Brooks directed film. Do I really have to list any other reasons for you to watch this? This 1974 comedic retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is by far of the best films ever made. Shot in black and white and utilizing tropes and props from the Universal Frankenstein (1931) as well as several other sources, it holds to the heart of the original story while being a hilarious romp. Yes, there are some dated references younger viewers might have to look up but the crude, absurd humor seemingly timeless. This is also, in my opinion, one of Gene Wilder’s greatest performances of all time. That said, it will bore most of your grade school aged kids to tears.


Ernest Scared Stupid

A little more lowbrow than some of the other options on this list, Jim Varney’s incredibly unhelpful handyman, Ernest P. Worrell. When Ernest accidentally releases a troll from its woodland prison in suburban Missouri, it’s wacky carnage. The trolls are all practical effects, mostly people in rubber suits, and they’re wonderfully well done. While being extraordinarily family friendly, it actually does have some gross out moments. It’s one you can at least enjoy with your kids if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun.


WNUF Halloween Special

Shot like the old primetime specials we used to live for in the 80s and 90s, WNUF Halloween is entertaining, creepy, and has a twist in the end. That said, it’s largely a remake of the Tales from the Crypt episode “Television Terror” but it’s nonetheless entertaining and fun. There’s blood, violence, bad language, and lots of cheap, found footage/mockumentary jump scares interspersed with commercial breaks and news segments that provide a bit of foreshadowing. This one’s definitely not for the younger viewers in the house unless they’re the sort of well-fortified, warped minded latch-key kids you might have found in the era when this film was set.


I could go on for pages with great holiday themed options for you to share with your family. There’s really no wrong answer when it comes to finding a good, scary, funny, schlocky movie to help get you in the mood for the season. Grab a bowl of candy corn, turn the lights down low, and have a Happy Halloween!

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