thoughts//THE BEST NOT-SCARY SCARY MOVIES

BY KATHRYN GARVIN


As Halloween draws nigh, you might find yourself facing a problem I’ve faced before: wanting to watch a holiday themed movie, but refusing to watch scary/horror movies.

Why, you might ask, do you not like scary movies? You probably didn’t, but I’m going to answer: I don’t like to be scared. Fear is an emotional and sometimes biological response to a real or perceived threat. So why on earth would I pay to feel that/not avoid that at all costs? I know most scary movies aren’t that scary, but I also have an overactive imagination and can go from zero to Worst Case Scenario That Probably Won’t Happen, But Could Happen in a heartbeat. I also suspect it has something to do with my first, actual scary movie encounter:

The year was 2003. My high school had taken a band trip to Orlando, and yes, I was active in band, marching (color guard) and concert (flute/French horn for one year—a logical switch). I truly remember very little from that trip, except on the way there, we watched The Scorpion King, and on the way back, we watched The Ring. You’re probably saying, “Kathryn, c’mon. The Ring is NOT that scary.” I’LL REMIND YOU OF THE FACTS:
  1.             9th grader me—even more prone to hyperbole and Mind Running Away-ness.
  2.            Nighttime drive from Florida to Georgia, many hours long, also very dark.
  3.            Confined area. Guess where I could go if I didn’t want to watch The Ring? Literally nowhere. There was no escape.

I tried not to watch it, but my portable CD player could only go so loud, and it’s very hard not to look at a screen when it’s on and the brightest thing in your vision. (Also, let’s talk about how they put The Mothman Prophecies on right after The Ring until a brave, older, upperclassman soul said something.) Upon my return to Georgia, I slept with my light on for approximately two weeks. Since then, I’ve refused to watch scary movies. I just now went to the IMDB page for The Ring and I felt a little chill. I can’t.

So if you’re like me and you want to watch holiday themed movies, but you don’t want to be scared, don’t worry, I can help:

     1.     Halloweentown: This is a Disney Channel Original, so the scare factor is practically non-existent. There are four Halloweentown movies, and they’re all pretty good. The first one centers on Marnie Piper, who’s thirteen and firmly believes “Halloween is COOL”. She has a wet-blanket brother (DYLAN, ugh!) and a cute sister, Sophie. Marnie’s mother will not let them celebrate Halloween, and Marnie is filled with such angst about it. Their grandmother (played by Debbie Reynolds, ya know, the lady from Halloweentown!) shows up on Halloween and she is all about Halloween. Wanna know why? She’s a witch. And so is Marnie’s mom, except she doesn’t want anything to do with being a witch anymore, hence her distaste for Halloween. Grandma insists that Mom needs to start training Marnie before it’s too late, but Mom says no. Fortunately, Marnie overheard everything, so she follows her grandmother back to Halloweentown. Adventure, comedy, and even some tender moments ensue. Next up is Halloweentown II, then Halloweentown High (this one is pretty good), and lastly, Return to Halloweentown, in which Marnie is played by a completely different actress. But it’s still good. (These movies will inevitably be playing on Disney Channel all month, so you just have to be on the look-out.)
      
     
     2.     Hocus Pocus: This one has a few intense moments, but if you’re over the age of 13, you should be fine. The Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker) are witches in Salem, Massachusetts. At the beginning of the movie, they’re hung because they killed Emily Binx (took her soul so they could remain young, you know the drill), turned Thackery (seriously? THHHHHackery?) Binx into a cat who will never die, and also, they should’ve known better. 17th century America is not the place to be conspicuous about witchcraft. Suddenly, BOOM, it’s 1993, and Max and his family have just moved from California to Massachusetts. Salem is gaga for Halloween, and Max is too cool for it, or anything else, but he likes this girl, Allison and her yabbos (now you have to watch it to find out what that means). He’s forced to take his little sister Dani (Thora Burch) Trick or Treating and ends up at Allison’s house. She suggests they go to the Sanderson house as a fun, scary, stupid thing (seriously, terrible idea). Dani says she’ll go if Max will be the Peter Pan to her Wendy next year, with tights (and I want to know if he was true to his word). There’s a candle that, if lit on Halloween by a virgin, will bring the Sanderson sisters back to life. So, Halloween Hater, Max, lights the candle, and Thackery Binx The Cat Boy tries to stop him, but no luck, because suddenly the witches are back! They have to suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise otherwise it’s curtains! (A literal line from the movie, don’t worry about it) But guess what? They’re confused because 1993 has roads and nobody believes they’re really witches because it’s the 90s and everyone is so jaded, plus Max, Allison, and Dani, led by THHHHHHHHackery stole their spell book and are playing keep-away. Hijinks ensue. It’s hilarious, a little scary, and very good.

      3.     Harry Potter: Duh. Halloween is for witches and wizards battling trolls, other wizards, and teenage angst. Consequently, these are also good for Christmas (Christmas is magical), Easter (allegory), Mother’s/Father’s Day (Harry’s an orphan, he’ll make you thankful for the parents you have), and Arbor Day (SPOILER ALERT: there are trees in the movies).  They do get more suspenseful as time progresses, but if you read the books, you know that. And if you didn’t, I’m so excited because you are in for the ride of your life!

     
      4.     Casper: I saw this movie probably twice in 1995, and zero times since then, but I remember loving it because it was so funny. I also remember Pizza Hut had cool Casper toys, and my mom probably hated this movie. Christina Ricci plays Kat, who’s dad is a paranormal expert, so of course, they move into this old, scary, haunted mansion. Kat befriends Casper, a young ghost (which I only now, as I type this, realize how sad that is) who haunts the mansion with his three ghost uncles (potentially unrelated in life, but I guess once you die, and you’re a ghost, you take what you can get) hilariously named Stretch, Stinkie, and Fatso. The uncles really make this movie what it is, I think. I remember thinking they were a RIOT. It’s a funny and heartwarming story. Plus, it’s probably done wonderful things for Human/Ghost relations. Also wondering why Casper needed the adult supervision of ghost uncles if he was already dead.

      


    5.     Scream 1-4: I know what you’re thinking, and they’re actually not that scary. They’re more suspenseful and a little gross, but also a little funny. Mostly because it’s self-referential in it’s approach to horror. The characters are aware of the clichés in horror movies and use that information to their advantage. And do not be fooled by the movie posters, Drew Barrymore does not get a ton of screen time. How on earth did they make four of them? You’ll just have to watch! A few years ago, my roommates and I invited people over and every week in October we’d watch a Scream movie, and it’s so. much. FUN! because you can have people with varying levels of enthusiasm for scary/suspenseful movies. This is a good one to suggest to friends who actually like scary movies, because it’s kind of a compromise. It’s scary and suspenseful, but not to the point where you’re afraid to be alone ever again. Unless they’re a purist, in which case maybe don’t watch movies with them this month.



So pop some popcorn, grab your favorite pumpkin flavored beverage, and being festive and not scared. Happy Halloween!

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