Halloween Movies Without the Screams

Some people just don’t crave scary movies come Halloween. Oh, they like the candy and the costumes and hearing “Thriller” and “Monster Mash” on the radio. But flipping around the various cable movie channels that evening? It’s nothing but a murderers’ row of masked killers, homicidal dolls and menacing monsters.

For those sensitive souls, have no fear! There are a number of good flicks for rent or purchase that can still get you in the mood for the holiday, but won’t leave you trembling under the covers into the wee hours of Nov. 1:

Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” (1982) – One of the classic scenes from director Steven Spielberg’s fantasy blockbuster was when Elliott (Henry Thomas) and his big brother, Michael (Robert MacNaughton), took their new friend from outer space trick-or-treating. Of course, the real reason for hiding E.T. under a white ghost sheet was to safely get him into the nearby woods where he would build a transmitter to “phone home.” The best moment comes when Elliott leads E.T. through a rush of neighborhood kids. E.T. takes one look at a boy in a Yoda costume and immediately starts following him, chanting, “Home! Home!”

“The Karate Kid” (1984) – No one was in need of a Halloween costume more than poor Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), the new kid in school constantly picked on by a cabal of karate-crazed bullies. Dressed as a shower (yes, a shower), Daniel is chased by his tormenters from the school’s Halloween dance to a chainlink fence where they proceed to kick the living plumbing out of him. Just in the nick of time, Pat Morita’s Mr. Miyagi shows up and lays a geriatric beat-down on the pack of teens brutalizing his ward.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) – This twisted Tim Burton fantasy centers on the efforts of Jack Skellington (voice of Chris Sarandon), the pumpkin king of the fantastical Halloween Town, who kidnaps Santa Claus and turns Christmas into a dark, ghoulish holiday. Warped, but not scary, this flick features amazing use of stop-motion animation. The best line comes during a musical number when Skellington croons, “There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads. They’re busy building toys, and absolutely no one’s dead!”

“A Perfect World” (1993) – Clint Eastwood directed this kidnapping drama in which a young boy (T.J. Lowther) confesses to his captor (Kevin Costner) that he’s never gone trick-or-treating because his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Costner’s sympathetic Butch Haynes steals the boy a Casper costume and goes to the first house he sees. Unfortunately, it’s the evening after Halloween, and the candy has all been handed out. But the woman at the door sees Butch’s gun and offers cash and food instead. Well, at least the kid didn’t get a rock!

“Fun Size” (2012) – This is one weird teen comedy! Victoria Justice stars as Wren, a not-quite-popular teenager who’s invited to a Halloween party by Aaron (Thomas McDonell), the cutest boy in school.  Unfortunately, her widowed mother (Chelsea Handler) has a hot date and orders Wren to take her mute little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), trick-or-treating and then watch him for the evening. The kid brother is abducted no less than three times during the course of Halloween night. The film also features references to Aaron Burr, Charlie Rose and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg throughout, and one of the supporting characters is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter suffering from … a yeast infection! Hmmm. Come to think of it, a good “Friday the 13th” movie on Halloween might not be such a bad idea.

And a few more:

ODDEST COSTUME: Scout’s canned ham in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

WORST THING ALIENS CAN DO ON HALLOWEEN: Invade a small town in the Midwest in “Spaced Invaders.” Everyone will think you’re costumed trick-or-treaters!

LEAST SCARY VAMPIRE TO AN 8-YEAR-OLD TRICK-OR-TREATER: The elderly Bela Lugosi, opening his door in full costume and makeup in “Ed Wood.”

BEST LINE OF DIALOGUE: “How would you like to go through all eternity dressed as a head waiter?” laments George Hamilton’s excessively tanned Dracula in “Love at First Bite.”

AND, finally, WORST FAUX PAS A TEENAGE GIRL CAN MAKE ON HALLOWEEN: Not dressing like a total prostitute as Lindsay Lohan finds out in “Mean Girls” when she attends her first high school Halloween party. Of course, maybe that wasn’t the best lesson the young Lohan could have learned at an early age.

— By Teddy Durgin • October 2016