From “Hocus Pocus” to “Halloweentown,” movies during this time of year often fail to impress. Although the films commercially marketed for Halloween can be a fun watch, it’s nice to watch movies that dare to push boundaries of spooky season cliches. Here are five films to watch this weekend if you want to see a few different takes on Halloween horror.
“Coraline” may be a children’s animated film, but it still gives me chills. It explores the restless mind of the eponymous protagonist as she stumbles into a parallel dimension, commanded by the whims of an otherworldly “Other Mother” who showers Coraline with treats and affection in exchange for her soul. When I first watched “Coraline” in the third grade, my skin would crawl as I thought about the Other Mother’s cryptic existence and the empty void she occupied. With a 90 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie instills fear into the hearts of children and adults alike with its creepy depictions of a decaying realm. From its intricate visuals to its effortlessly unsettling score, “Coraline” keeps viewers at the edge of their seats. The film’s open-endedness has also led to a number of fan theories, which seem to be more interesting than the movie itself. The potential for speculation within the story makes it even creepier than most traditional horror.
A movie satirizing modern white liberalism, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut dazzled the public instantly, and it’s easy to see why. Every time I watch “Get Out,” I find new Easter eggs that sneakily unveil the truth before the twist is revealed. Similar to films like“Sorry to Bother You” and “Parasite,” “Get Out” infuses psychological thrill and suspense with sardonic social commentary. While the movie’s circumstances are outlandish, its social climate is easily recognizable, allowing it to strike a chord with the audience. “Get Out” was a film that left me and my family embroiled in intense discussion after watching it for the first time. It subverts so many cinematic tropes that it rendered me clueless as to what fate would befall the main character, who was not privy to the predictable outcomes exhausted in other horror movies.
Genuinely, “Midsommar” is the weirdest film I’ve ever seen — and I mean that in the best way. It takes a story of a failing relationship and juxtaposes it with a harrowing cult tale. The movie takes delicate, light visual motifs — quaint, pastoral life — and makes them absolutely terrifying, defying norms of the horror genre altogether. Rather than seeing our main character resist and prevail against their opponent, they succumb to madness piece by piece. It pioneers several frontiers in cinematography, from depicting gory cliff falls to portraying extremely uncomfortable barn rituals. This film is not simply a movie, but an experience.
In the same spirit as movies like “Charlie’s Angels” and “Bombshell,” “Diabolique” shows women teaming up against men who pit them against each other. “Diabolique” is a French film that crossed the line between comedy and horror. Following the story of two women — one a wife and the other an employee — in love with the same abusive man, “Diabolique” demonstrates the satisfying demise of a tormentor who (almost) always wins. Viewers most enjoy the writing, which builds suspense throughout the narrative.
Despite its slow start, “The Others” is a breath of fresh air in the realm of haunted tales. Set during World War II, it follows the haunting of a manor occupied by a deeply Catholic mother and her two ill children — or so she believes. While its ambience is dark and heavy, unlike other horror movies, it contains a solemnity that relies on building tension rather than sporadic jump scares. The moral ambiguity of each character makes the story feel all the more organic, eliminating tropes of a struggle between good and evil and rather occupying the same limbo that the characters speak of throughout the film. The movie grapples with the concept of liminal space, unnerving the audience with its amorphous atmosphere. The blurry lines between hero and villain make the story all the more complicated, captivating the viewer with each turn.
If you plan to have a distanced, low-key Halloween this year, these films are a must-have for holiday festivities.