Halloween’s top films usher in scary season

Purbalite staff members have ranked their top 5 favorite Halloween movies.
Purbalite staff members have ranked their top 5 favorite Halloween movies.
Alyssa Thayer

As trick-or-treat draws nearer and the leaves begin to fall, people of all ages are being possessed by the Halloween spirit. 

Everyone who chooses to celebrate the holiday does so differently, but many people settle down with their apple- and pumpkin-flavored goodies to watch a seasonal film. From horror movies to family-friendly pumpkins, the season’s films offer something for all audiences.  

To celebrate, the staff of the Purbalite took a poll of our favorite Halloween movies. 

With the votes tallied, we present the Purbalite’s top five Halloween movies.

A `Great Pumpkin’ yields nostalgia, goodness
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has been a nostalgic watch for generations.
‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ has been a nostalgic watch for generations. (Photo via Gower Street Studio and Desilu Productions)

Few films rank as decisively, or enduringly, among the canon of classic TV specials as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The sincerity of Linus, Charlie Brown’s despairing collection of treats (“I got a rock”), and Snoopy’s World War I fantasies make for a truly special experience.

For me, the Great Pumpkin is a cozy memory, blossoming perennially like a daylily. Each October we would huddle around the television, prompted by my mom, to watch the quick, 30-minute bite of nostalgia and goodness. 

Charlie Brown is woven into the fabric of Halloween, as inextricably as raw Pillsbury cookies and ghost decorations. It simply works. People watch it year after year because it is comfort. As mac and cheese is to the stomach and soul, so is Charlie Brown to the eyes, the ears, and the heart.

 The special follows a cluster of precocious kids and an adventurous beagle on their Halloween misadventures, and it transports us to a world from which adults are almost wholly absent. The Halloween special – and by extension, Peanuts – works so well because of small characters with big personalities, wrapped in a world of childhood innocence. And as October darkens on its approach to Halloween, The Great Pumpkin is essential viewing.

Unfortunately, Apple – in a nefarious corporate power grab – snatched the Peanuts rights in 2018. Now, the special is only available on Apple TV Plus, which bears a $6.99 per month price tag. 

Sadly, the special won’t be broadcast on TV anymore; the two options, both of them grisly, are to either subscribe to Apple TV Plus or get a 7-day free trial. For Peanuts fans, cable users, and those without Smart TVs, this isn’t good. 

But don’t despair. If you can swing it, The Great Pumpkin is certainly worth the hassle of a 7-day trial. So grab the remote. Eat a few of those cookies raw. And dive into a Halloween special worth sharing with your family. Charlie Brown’s town may not have a name, but it’s where Halloween memories are made.

Michael Myers puts the scare into `Halloween’
The film `Halloween has one of the most recognizable villains of all time: Michael Myers.
The film `Halloween’ has one of the most recognizable villains of all time: Michael Myers. (Photo via Compass International Pictures)

Very few movies have become as recognizable as John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween.

From the theme music, which can be heard anywhere in October, to the instantly identifiable mask of Michael Myers, everything about the film screams “iconic.”

The film stars a young Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode, a high school student who has the misfortune of being hunted down by Michael Myers. As a result, Curtis is commonly considered to be a pioneer of the “final girl” trope, in which the last person left to battle with the villain is a young woman, a concept that has influenced decades of horror movies that followed. 

The soundtrack itself is equally as impressive – if not more so – as the film itself, as Carpenter wrote and performed all of it using only a synthesizer. The legendary theme turned the low-budget project into a cultural reset in the world of horror.

Halloween was made on a budget of just $325,000, but managed to gross a total of  $70 million at the box office, making it one of the most financially successful independent movies of all time.

All of these feats come in addition to the film having one of the most recognizable villains of all time: Michael Myers. Sporting a modified mask modeled on the face of Star Trek actor William Shatner, a blue jumpsuit, and a kitchen knife, Myers has struck fear into the hearts of millions in the best way. Myers represents pure evil: He is a serial killer without morals.

Throughout the movie, Myers stalks his victims and kills them without even a hint of remorse. It is not until the end that this unstoppable force struggles, getting shot down by Dr. Loomis, his psychiatrist since childhood. Yet Myers still went on to appear in 11 of the 12 sequels, only missing from Halloween 3: Season of the Witch.

`Hocus Pocus’ captures magic of Halloween
`Hocus Pocus is a classic Halloween movie that mixes horror and childrens comedy.
`Hocus Pocus’ is a classic Halloween movie that mixes horror and children’s comedy. (Photo via Disney Movie Studios)

Hocus Pocus is a classic that manages to mix horror and children’s comedy in one film.

The 1993 movie tells a thrilling story of some kids on the spookiest night of the year battling three witches to stop them from becoming immortal. 

The story takes place in the ’90s in Salem Massachusetts. The protagonist, Max Dennison, takes his little sister, Dani, trick-or-treating. While they are out they meet up with a girl he likes named Allison.

The three main characters decide to explore an abandoned house that belonged to three witches named the Sanderson sisters, who had been killed 300 years before. The kids decide to light a black candle to summon the witches. 

After being summoned, the witches try to use a potion to consume the lives of children and make themselves immortal. This leads to the battle between the witches and the children. 

The witches themselves are the icons of the movie. Each actress has a unique way of displaying their personality. 

Winifred Sanderson, the oldest of the three, is played by Bette Midler. She has four Grammy awards, four Golden Globes, one Tony Award, and three Emmy awards. Aside from Hocus Pocus she also starred in Ruthless People. 

The middle sister, Mary Sanderson, is played by actress and lifelong activist Kathy Najimy. The youngest sister, Sarah Sanderson, is played by Sarah Jessica Parker, who also is famous for starring in Sex and the City.

Hocus Pocus is such a good movie because of its complexity. It is able to add a comedic factor with all the action and make it appropriate for all audiences. It also adds the aspect of teenage love and drama. 

This is an ideal choice for a family movie night. 

Its remake, Hocus Pocus 2, is also a movie worth checking out. It follows a similar plot to the first one with the same three witches we all love. 

`Friday the 13th’ keeps it simple and scary
`Friday the 13th is an iconic Halloween movie to watch because of its simple plotline.
`Friday the 13th’ is an iconic Halloween movie to watch because of its simple plotline. (Photo via Paramount Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures)

While there are many movies that use the “scary masked killer” trope, Friday the 13th stands as the best of that genre.

The film follows a group at a camp near an abandoned summer camp where murders happened a year before the film takes place. Throughout the film, the group is hunted by the masked phenomenon known as Jason Voorhees.

Maybe it’s the iconic hockey mask he wears or the weapons he uses, but the character of Jason Voorhees tops other horror villains. True horror fanatics consider this film to be a classic as it has made its mark, remaining relevant 42 years after its release. 

The simplicity of this film is what makes it so good. Viewers don’t have to go down a rabbit hole to understand what is going on.

Instead, horror fans can focus on elements like the iconic setting of Crystal Lake or the deadly intentions of the villain. 

While viewers can catch the original on reruns around this time on cable TV, Apple TV Plus is the only way fans can see the movie whenever they want. 

While the sequels have hindered the series as a whole, this first Friday the 13th has a place in the hearts of film fanatics everywhere.

`Silence of the Lambs’ provides thought-provoking horror
`The Silence of the Lambs appeals to fans of classic horror.
`The Silence of the Lambs’ appeals to fans of classic horror. (Photo via Orion Studios)

The Silence of the Lambs’ film adaptation is considered the blueprint for modern horror to many, and reasonably so. 

The story follows FBI trainee Clarice Starling, cannibalistic mass murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and the hunt to discover the identity of a serial killer dubbed Buffalo Bill. The film is unique due to its strong female lead and its ability to somehow make Lecter likable. 

Jonathan Demme’s characterization and cinematographic choices throughout the 1991 film, however, are really what put this film ahead within the genre. 

The film relies heavily on open-ended interpretation, but the chilling visuals and elegantly horrifying cinematography keep the viewer drawn in long enough to make this possible. The film hammers in heavily on close-ups to stun the viewer, and it includes the perfect amount of sickening gore. 

Fans of both thought-provoking films and classic horror will love this movie. The acting is brilliant, and the storyline is still one of a kind.

Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Lecter particularly shines through in this film. He channels the cold and unsettling nature of the character, but he also offers snarky comedic breaks at points. His relationship with Starling shockingly makes for an unlikely yet still lovable duo. 

The reveal of Buffalo Bill’s dwelling especially combines all of the aspects that make this film extraordinary, with an intimate characterization of the killer and gloriously disgusting visuals. 

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