Review: The Best (And Worst) Halloween Movies I’ve Seen

Photo edited by Muhammed Muhsin.

 

By Muhammed Muhsin

 

   Last year, I watched thirty-one Halloween movies with my partner and roommate to correlate with the thirty-one days of October. With each day I ranked, rated, and reviewed each film. This marathon was such an event that we are currently doing it again this year. Since we’re not quite done with the marathon yet, I thought it would be nice to give my three best and three worst movies from last year, with an abridged review explaining their placements. 

 

Third Worst: “Halloweentown”

   Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) have never been considered groundbreaking pieces of cinema. “Halloweentown” had a low bar and still was a disappointment. We watched this work of art a day before Halloween and I felt betrayed by my nostalgia goggles because I didn’t remember it being this bad. My biggest gripe comes from the acting. Besides Debbie Reynolds, who played grandma Aggie Cromwell, no performance was remotely decent or compelling for that matter. 

   The characters are already written as unlikeable people and the actors just drive that point home. I found myself frustrated at every pivotal point in the movie and bored throughout the rest. The lack of character does not end in the performances but also the whole aesthetic. The set is a generic “totally not a set in Burbank” New England town square, and the costumes look like they were found in the dumpster behind a Spirit Halloween. 

   Is this review harsh? Yes. Is it warranted? Probably. Would I recommend this movie? Not sober and not alone.

 

Second Worst: “Hubie Halloween”

   It is unoriginal to hate on Adam Sandler, but also this is a weaker Sandler outing even by Sandler standards; which is an odd thing to say considering it does the Sandler Standard.™ The cast is mostly Saturday Night Live alumni. The kids are all Disney Channel stars. Julie Bowen is the hot woman Adam Sandler ends up with, even though his character is gross and a danger to himself and others. And of course: potty humor. If you took a shot for every pee joke your liver would shrivel within minutes. 

   Don’t worry, there’s more to complain about besides crude humor because Adam Sandler made sure to make every antagonist a person of color. To be quite honest, that’s an improvement over having them be the butt of the joke and/or Rob Schnider doing a racist accent. Then again, Netflix will say yes to anything no matter how blatantly it is with it’s offensive nature. At least with this movie you get captions to understand the slurred blabberings. 

 

   

 

First Worst: “The Haunted Mansion” 

   It was difficult deciding whether this or “Hubie Halloween” was worse. It all came down to personal preference. “The Haunted Mansion” was just bland. Eddie Murphy is fine, Wallace Shawn is fine, but neither are actors who save bad movies for me. 

   The best way to describe this movie is cluttered. The sets are cluttered; there’s hardly any variety in lighting, and the set dressing is all ugly and tacky. The story felt like it went on for hours, and it was one of the shorter movies we watched. Every single serious moment was hilarious, while every comedic moment was dull, and I hardly understood why anything was happening. I feel like the lack of quality wasn’t too surprising since it was based off of a theme park ride.

 

Third Best: “Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz)”

   Hot take: The revised cinematic ending fits the movie better than the original Broadway ending, but the movie would have been near perfect either way. “Little Shop of Horrors” might be my favorite movie musical ripped from the stage. It acts as a lovely adaptation while also standing on its own as a film. No casting decision left me scratching my head; if anything, I think the casting of this movie was absolutely perfect. 

   Ellen Greene and Rick Moranis have wonderful chemistry together, understanding their characters inside and out. Steve Martin found the perfect balance in his character, who is so charismatic you enjoy him on screen but so despicable you’re glad when he dies. While the characters are an important element of “Little Shop,” the special effects are the priority and Frank Oz knows his puppets. Audry II, which is a plant that requires human blood to survive, got this movie an Oscar nomination. If they had kept the original ending in, this movie would have won. But as I said before, it would have derailed the movie. 

 

Second Best: “Paranorman”

   LAIKA Studios had three movies in this marathon and I can assure you all of them cracked the top 10. “Paranorman” is a loving homage to classic monster films while adding a commentary on the fear-mongering present in most of these old flicks. The story of a boy who sees dead people has been done before, but this one is infinitely better than any other. 

   Below the surface, there’s a moral about mob mentality and the destructive history of this country. Stop-motion animation and Halloween go together like cheese and toast, and LAIKA Studios always raises the bar on what can be done with plaster and wire. If you have seen “Coraline” and haven’t seen “Paranorman,” you are really missing out. 

 

First Best: “Over The Garden Wall”

   I have made it a point to show at least one new person this miniseries on HBO Max every Halloween, and literally everyone has said it was nothing short of amazing. As a mini-series that originally aired on Cartoon Network, there is something magical about experiencing this adventure on a chilly October evening. 

   Drawing heavy inspiration from early 20th century American opera, the music of this series will play in your head every time you think of the leaves changing. The animation is incredibly unique. While the main character’s designs are incredibly simple, they are incredibly expressive, and exist in such a rich world of oddities and an ambience that will give you goosebumps. 

   There is no moment throughout the 110 minutes of runtime that isn’t earned, and it manages to be incredibly creepy despite its PG rating. I make it a point to watch this miniseries every year as the season changes to get me into the spirit of Halloween, and every year I find something new to love about it.

 

   If you want to see the complete list with the full reviews, here is the link: https://letterboxd.com/darthmu/list/halloween-2020/.

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