Halloween, with a Spoonful of Sugar*.

*Sugar is not people. Unless it is. Proceed at your own risk.

As I compile my list of spooky movies, the wind outside is roaring and the rain will likely keep the tiny pirates and monsters from coming by this evening. (Oh, well: More candy for meeeee!)

I’m not a fan of excessive gore or torture porn, so you won’t find a lot of the popular horror films of the last decade here. Instead, I go for psychological thrillers, violence in service of the plot, and, weirdly, anything with Christina Ricci.

So, if you’re looking for something to watch this evening in between handing out candy – or later this evening – I have a few suggestions. (Descriptions may include spoilers, though I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.)

1) Cursed (2005)
Starring: Christina Ricci, Joshua Jackson, Jesse Eisenberg, Judy Greer
Spook Factor: 3 Ghostfaces

The first of my Christina Ricci picks, this Kevin Williamson-Wes Craven joint production is as tongue-in-cheek as the Scream franchise and, if you pick up the unrated version, only slightly less bloody than any of Craven’s many slasher series. But, in this werewolf-in-the-modern-age story, what I love about this movie is how it doesn’t even try to redeem its villain, as so many other stories try to humanize the monsters.

Watch: Amazon | YouTube

2) Notorious (1946)
Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Spook Factor: 2 Ghostfaces

Of my three favorite Hitchcock films (The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes are the other two.), this post-war psychological thriller is guaranteed to stay with you long after the credits roll. While the specifics of the plot are dated, the tension that is artfully ramped up over the course of the movie will eat away at you – as will your curiosity over what becomes of the film’s villain after he’s last seen on screen.

Watch: YouTube

3) The Addams Family (1991)
Starring: Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci, Joan Cusack
Spook Factor: 1 Ghostface

The next of my favorite Christina Ricci movies, I’m hard-pressed to pick the first of the two theatrical Addams movies over the second (The summer camp! The baby jokes! David Krumholtz!), but the first outing of the creepy and kooky family on the big screen stands out because it holds up so well as both a comedy and an artifact of its time. As a little girl who loved both Barbies and the Beetlejuice cartoon, this was the first movie I’d ever seen that reflected my interests in a way that didn’t make me feel like my interests were completely out of place.

Watch: Amazon

4) The Burbs (1989)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman
Spook Factor: 4 Ghostfaces

How terrifying can a Tom Hanks movie be? Let me put it this way: This movie so scared me as a child that I blocked it out for years, convincing myself it was a nightmare I’d had until I discovered it was real as a teenager. It has a cast full of big 80s Hollywood names, and the humor walks the fine line between morbid and ‘how did they get that past the censors’ in this dark comedy that will make you think twice about your neighbors.

Watch: YouTube

5) Penelope (2006)
Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, Peter Dinklage, Nick Frost
Spook Factor: 1 Ghostface

This is, frankly, more a fairytale than a cautionary tale, but as it concerns disguises – and as the denouement takes place on Halloween – I’ll include it. It’s not the strongest plot or the tightest written of these films (and it pales next to Ricci’s turn in Sleepy Hollow), but it’s a good choice if you find yourself settling in for a Halloween evening with a pint of ice cream, and you don’t want to scare yourself silly tonight.

Watch: Amazon | YouTube

6) Sleepy Hollow (1949)
Starring: Bing Crosby
Spook Factor: 5 Ghostfaces
I was never the sort of person who hid behind the couch when I was scared – until I saw Disney’s animated short of Washington Irving’s classic short story. If you’re a fan of all subsequent variations on the story (Theatrical releases, stage, TV movies and the TV show), you’ll enjoy this. And if you’re wondering why I deemed it the spookiest of all the entries here, watch it and consider it was intended for children when it was released 64 years ago.

Watch: YouTube

7) From Hell (2001)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm
Spook Factor: 4 Ghostfaces

Into every life a little true crime must fall, and this adaptation of a graphic novel investigation of the Butcher of White Chapel, Jack the Ripper, is my pick. It’s heavy on gore and while, truly, the most frightening element might strike you as Graham’s attempt at an English accent, the genuinely terrifying aspect of this story is knowing the British government might have turned a blind-eye toward one of their own in order to save face.

Watch: Amazon

8) Fright Night (2011)
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots
Spook Factor: 3 Ghostfaces

While I love the 1985 original version of this movie, the 2011 remake arguably has a better plot and far better special effects. If you have the time this weekend, it’s worth doing a double-feature of both movies, but if you have only time for one this week, make it the remake and settle in for some genuine laughs and a few cringe-and-giggle moments.

Watch: Amazon

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One thought on “Halloween, with a Spoonful of Sugar*.

  1. […] 1-2-3 CONTACT and the NBC movie of the week, I also developed an affinity for melodrama. And, as I have mentioned before, I will watch nearly anything with Christina […]

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