Halloween also called All Hallow’s Eve and Samhain, this Autumn festival historically marks the end of harvest season and the beginning of Wintertime. Celtic and Gaelic traditions saw huge bonfires lit, as well as celebrations to mark the occasion. This is where the practice of dressing up comes from, since costumes were supposed to keep the cold, dark, evil spirits at bay by confusing them. It was the last festivity before the onset of the coldest months.
Today, we’re fortunate enough to live in a time where electricity, air-conditioners, heaters, and a marked jump in health institutions are enough to keep most of the cold chilly darkness under control. Nonetheless, we still celebrate Halloween. Apart from the usual parties, costume competitions, pumpkin fairs and trick-or-treating, many also take the opportunity to watch some good old horror movies to get into the mood.
Here are a number of some old favourite movies which I always make a point to watch during this time. These are not films of the slasher-horror type, but rather those which I associate with childhood, and which always leave me feeling of good cheer. Definitely ‘must-sees’ for all those with children and for those who can’t handle scary flicks!
The Tim Burton Quartet – The Nightmare before Christmas (1993), Corpse Bride (2005), Beetlejuice (1988) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). Tim Burton’s work is just perfect to watch cuddled on the sofa while a heavy rain lashes against the windowpanes. These dark fantasy movies are all, somehow or other, centred around Halloween. The first two mentioned are animated, full of catchy tunes and delightful characters. In fact, the ghouls, ghosts, skeletons and monsters aren’t scary at all. Although all of these movies are targeted at children, they also have dark sinister meanings which only adults will be able to appreciate, and which have nothing to do with Halloween and everything to do with the society we live in; a society which can be cruel and intolerant, and end up pressuring people into doing what is acceptable instead of being happy with their own individuality.
Above: Tim Burton
Hocus Pocus (1993) – I must admit, the Sanderson sisters have always been my favourite media witches. Especially Bettie Middler, who’s somehow perfect in her rendition of an angry yet funny medieval witch, who after being burnt at the stake, comes back to the present to take her revenge. Unfortunately, she and her sisters are totally unprepared for today’s world, not to mention today’s children, who are much pluckier and smarter than the ones she was used to.
The Addams Family (1991) – The stories of this eccentric, affectionate clan who don’t care what others might think about them have always been close to my heart, and the 1991 rendition with Angelica Houston as Morticia, Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester and Christina Ricci as Wednesday is just perfect in complementing Halloween. The Addams seem to live in a perennial Halloween all year round. Their neighbours think them strange, and society tries to shun them. And yet, they love and care for each other, especially when it matters the most.
Casper (1995) – Sometimes, one needs to go out of one’s usual way of looking at life to find a new perspective. This is what Dr Harvey and his daughter Kat (also played by Christina Ricci) discover when they start living in a strange old mansion. In a world where appearances are deceptive and loneliness can be closer to us than the members of our own family, this tale of spirits and memories really makes us appreciate the importance of taking time to care for those we love.
Practical Magic (1998) – There’s a secret mystery around the Owens women. Strange things seem to happen around them, which is why their neighbours are so scared of them. Yet, when disaster strikes, it’s not just sisterhood, but the same neighbours and villagers who had shunned them, who come to their rescue. A movie which shows that Halloween, like all other festivities, is in the end a way of celebrating friendship, community, and that invisible spark in all of us which makes us who we are and connects us together.