12 horror-free Halloween films for these scary-enough times

  • Adam Sandler stars as Hubie Dubois in Netflix's "Hubie Halloween."

    Adam Sandler stars as Hubie Dubois in Netflix's "Hubie Halloween." Courtesy of Netflix

 
 
Posted10/24/2020 6:00 AM

Halloween is somehow one of the least scary things going on this month, so we understand if you'd rather not turn on a horror movie right now.

This writer counts herself among the Frankenweenies who would rather mark the holiday this year by watching something campy or cute, with a dash of spookiness. Or maybe cute and spooky, with a dash of camp. Regardless of the campy-cute-spooky ratio, let's just agree that Michael Myers and Co. are most unwelcome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Here are a dozen such movies to watch now. (Note that this list omits rentals and only includes titles that are available to stream on popular services for no additional cost. Please don't yell about "Beetlejuice.")

"The Addams Family" (1991)

Streaming on Amazon, "The Addams Family" is such a classic that it isn't really necessary to describe why it's a perfect watch for Halloween, is it? There's no such thing as too much Anjelica Huston. But if for whatever reason you do feel a need to mix it up, an animated "Addams Family" film is streaming on Hulu.

Raul Julia and Angelica Houston star in the film adaptation of "The Addams Family."
Raul Julia and Angelica Houston star in the film adaptation of "The Addams Family." - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
"Clue" (1985)

Streaming on Amazon, "Clue" might be the pick for those who have filled their quarantine hours dusting off board games. Like "The Addams Family," it stars Christopher Lloyd -- the king of Halloween! -- alongside others such as Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan and Madeline Kahn.

Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull) and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) are all suspects in "Clue."
Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull) and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) are all suspects in "Clue." - Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
"Halloweentown" (1998)

Streaming on Disney Plus, "Halloweentown" is the preeminent Disney Channel Original Movie dealing with all things spooky. Sure, the channel also put out "Twitches" and "Phantom of the Megaplex," but for millennials of a certain age, Marnie Piper (as played by Kimberly J. Brown) will always be the chosen one.

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"Hocus Pocus" (1993)

Streaming on Disney Plus, "Hocus Pocus" was panned by critics as an "unholy mess" and "about as much fun as celebrating Mardi Gras under the influence of candy corn." And yet it remains a beloved film to this day, perhaps thanks to the very idea of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy playing a coven.

"Hubie Halloween" (2020)

Streaming on Netflix, "Hubie Halloween" is not the extremely bad movie Adam Sandler promised to make after the Oscars snubbed him for "Uncut Gems." Instead, it is a surprisingly warm movie featuring Sandler as a man named Hubert Dubois -- Benoit Blanc is shaking! -- who is simply too nice for the mean townspeople. It also stars Ray Liotta in one of his best roles since "Bee Movie" and those Chantix commercials.

"James and the Giant Peach" (1996)

Streaming on Disney Plus, "James and the Giant Peach" is a Roald Dahl adaptation produced by Tim Burton, meaning that it's more off-kilter than one might expect of an animated Disney film. All the better, no? This is, after all, a movie that begins by establishing that the protagonist's parents were eaten by a rhino.

"Kiki's Delivery Service" (1989)

"Kiki's Delivery Service" is one of many Studio Ghibli films available on HBO Max, the WarnerMedia service that launched this year. It focuses on a teenage witch who moves to a beautiful coastal town to hone her powers and features her very adorable talking cat, Jiji.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The devious plant Audrey II asks for food from the flower shop clerk Seymour (Rick Moranis) in "Little Shop of Horrors: The Director's Cut." It is shown in special cinemas on Sunday and Tuesday, Oct. 29 and 31.
The devious plant Audrey II asks for food from the flower shop clerk Seymour (Rick Moranis) in "Little Shop of Horrors: The Director's Cut." It is shown in special cinemas on Sunday and Tuesday, Oct. 29 and 31. - Courtesy of Warner Bros.
"Little Shop of Horrors" (1986)

Streaming on HBO Max, "Little Shop of Horrors" is about a nerdy flower shop worker whose Venus flytrap not only speaks but subsists on human blood. It stars Rick Moranis, most recently in the news for being randomly attacked in New York. (Thankfully, he's fine.) What is life if not a big shop of horrors?

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993)

Streaming on Disney Plus, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" follows Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween Town who travels through a portal to the Christmas equivalent. We're attaching the Burton disclaimer to this one as well, as it is not "cute" in the traditional sense and actually bears some similarities to "Batman Returns," Burton's bizarre film (streaming on HBO Max) that also takes place during the holidays.

Jack Skellington tries to usurp Santa's job description in Tim Burton's animated musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
Jack Skellington tries to usurp Santa's job description in Tim Burton's animated musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas." -
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)

Streaming on Hulu, the R-rated "Rocky Horror" is the kind of fun, outrageous experience we would normally recommend you see at a midnight showing but, alas, we do not live in normal times. Home will have to do!

"Scooby-Doo" (2002)

Streaming on HBO Max, the live-action "Scooby-Doo" summons the gang to a place called Spooky Island, where they have to investigate a bunch of paranormal mysteries. Ruh-Roh. This is just one of many Scooby gang movies available on the platform, including the pandemic release "Scoob!"

"What We Do in the Shadows" (2014)

Streaming on Hulu Live TV and Kanopy, "What We Do in the Shadows" is a mockumentary written and directed by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who play vampires struggling with modern-day life. The cult film was adapted into an FX series last year, so the silliness doesn't have to stop at the 90-minute mark.

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