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Shows that will keep your screens scary into the holiday season.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)
A more modern adaptation of the life of Sabrina Spellman, this TV series does justice to the darker sides of witchcraft. Whereas Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1996) is concerned primarily with using magic for good (ew!) and the romance between Sabrina Spellman and Harvey Kinkle, this sinister counterpart revives the meaning of black magic, focusing more on satanic rituals and worship. Not only does it feature sacrifices, possession and fratricide, but it is also surprisingly political. Indeed, it manages to incorporate topics relating to feminism, sexuality and being transgender, which is itself appealing to a diverse and modern audience. Still, on top of this, I think we can generally agree that the entire cast has a closet to die for!
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
What can I say about this timeless classic? In line with the ‘outcast’ characteristics of Tim Burton’s many films, Edward Scissorhands has a Frankenstein-feel to it. Created by an arguably sane scientist, Edward has life, but never finishes his body; in place of hands, he has scissors. The story is one of isolation, misunderstanding and finally acceptance, with an equal distribution of the comedic and tragic. While Beetlejuice (1988) or The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) may have been more appropriate recommendations to follow the Halloween-theme, it is Edward Scissorhands that conforms to the elements of Halloween, as well as the spooky vibes more commonly associated with the holiday.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? Witches, trick-or-treat, black cats? This film has them all! Featuring a zombie chase, time-lapse, a talking cat (no, I’m not referring to Salem), and even a musical number, this film is enough to appeal to even the sourest critic. Markedly, it is Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy that steal the show as the excellent Sanderson sisters. Their attempt to adjust to the year 1993 is hilarity itself, with comedic elements ranging from slapstick to caricatures. What’s more, is that Hocus Pocus is so diverse in its appeal, it can be watched with younger siblings, a group of friends, or if you value your independence, alone. Such flexibility in entertainment can mean it can only be regarded as the ultimate Halloween movie.
Yet another film directed by Tim Burton, but let’s face it…he is the King of Creepy. Despite this films certification as PG, the animated scenes of children with their mouths sewn shut and of a parallel world where people have buttons for eyes suggest the content is perhaps a tad too mature for young children. Even watching this at 17 creeped me out to no end, but then again, I am a bit of a wuss so that might not be the best indication of the scare factor of this film. Were it not for the talking cat (anyone else sensing a theme here?), and we can only assume Coraline would have fallen prey to the Other Mother, completing the disturbing cycle of the film; one which sets us up for the Halloween spirit.
Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
For those of you that enjoy a good cry, this is the film for you. The plot follows two teenage protagonists into a magical forest, alive with fairies and giants, as well as the more morbid and mischievous creatures. The setting itself is what gives this film a sense of autumn-nostalgia. The woodlands, streams and evident cold weather as indicated by the woollen clothes makes you want to wrap up yourself and take a wander in the great outdoors; ears strained to the crunching of leaves and nose burning with the chilly air. It is, in a word, cosy, but to reiterate, also incredibly sad.
The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
If like me, the thought of horror as a genre scares you silly, this is NOT the TV series for you. Utilising all the conventions of what makes something a horror, this series calls on a gothic setting, the peril of innocent children and the cynicism of adults toward children’s complaints to instil fear in its audience. Of course, the sense of mystery combined with demonic possession aid the general horror of the series as well. Spanning two seasons, The Haunting of Hill House will leave you gripped, suspending the terror for days or months, depending on whether you are a binge-watcher or prefer to take your time.
What We Do in the Shadows (2014)
I can only describe this mockumentary as spooktacular, apologies for the pun. Created by Jemaine Clement, who is known for Flight of the Conchords and his appearance in Moana, it follows the lives of three vampires; Viago, Deacon and Vladislav. In an attempt to shed light (again, pardon the pun) on these vampires’ existence, the mockumentary explores the difficulties of having eternal life and not being able to see your reflection. As well as incorporating other ‘monsters’ into it, thus making it an apt programme choice for Halloween.
Warm Bodies (2013)
Warm Bodies takes a softer approach to the zombie apocalypse than many of its counterparts. Focusing on the notion that zombie-ism, for want of a better description, is a disease, it incorporates comedy and romance into an otherwise horrific genre. It is the tasteful combination of romance, gore and humour that makes this a Halloween winner for romantics and action-lovers alike.
V for Vendetta (2005)
Not a choice that immediately springs to mind, V for Vendetta is nevertheless applicable to the season, specifically in its references to Guy Fawkes and Bonfire Night. Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving emit extraordinary chemistry throughout the film, but the storyline itself is what makes it one to watch. In the political nature of the film reminds audiences of the reason behind Bonfire Night, a tradition that can be seen to mark the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. More importantly, it is the memories of Bonfire Night itself this film evokes, with mulled wine, fireworks and scratching scarves wrapped tightly around your throat, that makes it the perfect watch.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Perhaps the best of The Cornetto trilogy, Shaun of the Dead explores the relationship between pubs as a place of sanctuary and their role in a zombie apocalypse. With a running joke referencing British culture (“have a cup of tea and wait for this all to blow over”), this film is packed full of comedy, from slapstick to blundering stupidity. And who doesn’t love the dynamic duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg?