This article was written by Maisie Higgins.
Every October, I make a list of films to watch. I started this tradition this past two years as I have come to realize: I love horror and why did I wait this long to start watching it? I’ve made it a mission to get through all the Halloween classics I’ve missed out on these past 18 years. Here are my hot takes of the films I watched last year with some old favorites mixed in:
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): Not very scary but I loved the creativity and insane visuals. Props to them for making Johnny Depp speak normally. Camp out of ten!
Poltergeist (1982): It’s time to give up the ghost. Which is the opposite of what the actual Poltergeist did. This movie is the definition of an identity crisis. I later found out it was because Steven Spielberg, who was the producer, fired director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and filled the position himself, which is like replacing the Matterhorn Yeti with Elsa. The battle between horror and Spielberg is long and tiresome. From chair-stacking shenanigans to ripping off faces in the bathroom to whimsical Twilight Zone plagiarism to pool skeletons; all done without a hint of self awareness. I think it could have been salvaged if Spielberg had just re-started the whole project. Or even better, if Hooper finished the job.
It (2016): A fun action adventure that is faintly reminiscent of Stranger Things. Bill Skarsgard is good, but it’s nothing spectacular. I liked the maintained simplicity, it wasn’t trying too hard to blow people away and succeeded in doing it anyway. Ten or twenty years from now, this will be a classic.
It Chapter 2 (2019): In accordance with Stranger Things, It 2 took the simplicity that worked so well in the first part and chucked it into the sun. Long, strangely homophobic, and at some points just stupid, it felt like a bunch of stand alone scenes with a thin plot intertwined between them. I will admit the casting was on point but refuse to believe all the kids grew up to be hot.
Beetlejuice (1988): Now, this article is called hot takes for a reason.
Love this movie. Love it to death. But, Winona Ryder is a can-on-a-string dragging behind the Beetlejuice truck. There are so many other actresses that could have brought some roundness into the overplayed goth teen, and yet we got her. I never liked Lydia or really understood the point of her character other than to move the plot along. Barbra and Adam are already the straight players to balance the wacky cast, so why include her?
Carrie (1976): Two words: Sissy. Spacek.
I have yet to read the book, but I was surprised by the complexity shown within the characters (no, not you Chris). I was not expecting the movie to include kind-hearted people who tried to help Carrie. Knowing that their efforts were all in vain makes the movie more sad than scary.
Labyrinth (1986): I’m sorry but WTF was this movie?!
Jennifer is not only boring, but quite possibly one of the worst protagonists of all time. What kind of psychopath is so resentful of a BABY that she gives it away to a “goblin” who didn’t make his audition for Kiss? The puppets were cool, but every single set looked like someone sneezed on it. I’m pretty sure I lost ten brain cells during the fart bog, Jareth’s date-rape esque dance with Jennifer, and the cinema’s first greenscreen test. David Bowie and his pronounced bulge (not even going there) are fabulous, but to be quite honest, I don’t really remember any of the songs–they were unremarkable.
Coraline (2009): Take that PG rating off. Right. Now.
Coraline is marketed as a kids movie but Jesus Christ, is it far from one. I did not watch Coraline until I was in middle school and avoided the collective childhood trauma that it dumped onto Gen Z. The amount of people who watched this movie before seventh grade is frightening. It’s sad because many of them never got to appreciate its awesomeness later in life…because they refused to watch it again. Exciting, creepy, beautifully animated and executed.
Corpse Bride (2005): I watched this movie at the same time everyone else did, and several times after, but I just don’t hold the same deep attachment to it.
There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a good movie. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of entertainment. For whatever reason, Corpse Bride and Coraline are put in competition with one another, and we always fight about which is better. But they are different projects set out to achieve different goals. Coraline is provocative and rich with themes to be analyzed while Corpse Bride is standard and safe. Not every movie needs to be a work of art. Stop saying it’s art!
The Omen (1976): It’s a cool premise but wonky.
At times, when the movie tried for screams and seriousness, I found myself laughing. The boy’s mother and her comical amount of injuries didn’t help. The lore is so crazy that when the child’s origins are unveiled, you gasp, pretending to feel scared when you are in fact very confused. I could see it being labeled under “so bad it’s good.”
The Haunting (1963): This is one of the few movies that has succeeded in thoroughly scaring me.
Those who’ve watched the show should know that Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House is in no way reminiscent of The Haunting, which is directly adapted from the novel. You never see the ghosts, but by god do they make an impression. A brilliant psychological thriller that succeeds in creating an atmosphere of suffocating tension at all times with eerie and often brutally uncomfortable visuals. The Haunting leaves you with more questions than answers in the best way possible.
Black Christmas (1974): This movie is often credited as being one of the first slasher films, inspiring franchises like Halloween and Friday the 13th.
However, Black Christmas does not operate like a classic slasher or whodunnit. It feels like it was made after decades of murder mysteries and slashers, here to bring fresh nuance to the formula when in reality, it set the bar. Every time you think you know what’s coming, the movie slaps you across the face. It has its problems, but Black Christmas is a fascinating piece of filmmaking that deserves more love.
Alien (1979): Quite literally one of the best movies ever made.
It’s not so much scary as it is exciting. Modern audiences may have issues with the pacing and to that I say: shut up. Slow isn’t always bad. If you’re a cinephile, it is recommended, no, required that you watch this film. I cannot think of a single flaw. The techniques used are so imitated now that, while they feel like cliches, just remember: Alien walked so modern horror could run!
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966): The origin of one of the best fall songs: “Linus and Lucy.”
The Great Pumpkin provides a break from all the scary stuff and immerses the viewer in the smaller more personal aspects of fall. I often find myself crying when I watch The Great Pumpkin and it’s often hard to identify the source. It might just be nostalgia, or perhaps the answer lies somewhere within all the old Charlie Brown specials: their sad undertones.
Classy, deep, melancholy, and without a hint of sentimentalism.
Hocus Pocus (1993): Cinematic Masterpiece. Period.