TTT: 10 Slightly Creepy But Not Horrifying Halloween Movies

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week’s prompt was a freebie related to Halloween. I love Halloween. The dress up and magic and witches and candy and caramel apples….so fantastic. One of my favorite things to do around this time of year is watch Halloween appropriate movies. But I’m not a fan of horror. I don’t particularly like to be scared. I do like things that are a little dark, unexplained, morbid, and/or creepy–just nothing with a ton of gore and violence and jump scares and menacing music so that I have to sleep with the lights on for a week.

So I went through my list on Kanopy. Kanopy is a streaming service that your library might subscribe to–every month you get a certain number of views of mostly indie, classic, international, and documentary films. I picked some films off of my watchlist that aren’t horror but are certainly appropriate for this time of year that always feels closer to pumpkins, warm drinks, and walks at twilight. Scroll down to find lots of Halloween appropriate documentaries, foreign films, and fairy tales.

If you don’t have Kanopy, you can rent these on your favorite rental streaming site or probably pick them up as DVDs from your library. If they’re streaming on a different site, I’ve noted that. These are in the order that I viewed them.

Stuffed (2019)

How do you feel about taxidermy? It’s a little creepy to me in that it brings up uncanny valley feelings–the best taxidermy is beautiful and still, it is pretty clearly not alive. I thought this documentary was great–they interview a ton of different taxidermy artists. Some have a very scientific approach because they work in museums, others use taxidermy to create stories. It’s a good amount of creepy, but what I appreciated was the care and respect for animals as well as for the artform and fellow practitioners. Also, if you’d asked me before how taxidermy was done I would have had no idea, so in that sense this documentary is fairly educational as well. It’s well shot and compelling.

Burke & Hare (2010)

If Sweeney Todd was not a musical and was laugh out loud funny (when it wasn’t gasp inducing), it would pretty much be this film. It is, in a word, ludicrous in all the best ways. It’s set in 1828, and the famous anatomists in Edinburgh need bodies to dissect so Burke & Hare bravely step up to fulfill this need. Every character is mocking each other, but rarely themselves, and the cast is fantastic. Everyone is talking in a Scottish accent. There’s murder and an all-female production of Macbeth. I mean–what more can you ask for?

also available on Roku, Sling TV, and Amazon prime with premium subscriptions.

Exhumed: A History of Zombies (2021)

So I am not a big fan of zombies. But I am a huge fan of pop culture histories. And this documentary traces the story of zombies in popular culture all the way to its roots. And by doing so reveals the real horror–racism and enslavement. I learned so much about a genre I typically avoid–if you’re even passingly interested in zombies or how horror elements proliferate in culture, I would highly recommend this short documentary.

Available online through PBS.

Therapy for a Vampire (2014)

Okay so this one is actually a monster movie. But it’s more of a comedy than anything. I mean the vampires sound like roaring lions. If anything, this German film is kind of campy. But I love the premise of a vampire seeking psychoanalysis from Sigmund Freud. It’s delightfully ridiculous and plays with vampire tropes in a really amusing way. It also has really interesting things to say about image and understanding of ourselves.

Also streaming on Tubi.

Mary Shelley (2017)

This biopic starring Elle Fanning wasn’t really horrifying (except for how much I disliked the costumes, maybe), but since Shelley is the author of Frankenstein, it seemed appropriate for this list. It kind of reminds me of Shakespeare in Love in that it traces an author’s work through a love story. This is much sadder though. But it ends fairly well, so you won’t necessarily be reaching for the tissue box.

Also streaming on Tubi.

La Belle et la Bete (1946)

Jean Cocteau’s classic take on Beauty and the Beast has been on my list for a while. And since I tend to watch a lot of fairy tale films this time of year, it seemed appropriate to include. Plus watch this film and tell me that the disembodied arms holding the candelabras and the fireplace heads aren’t all kinds of creepy! The film is really well done, and you can see a lot of inspiration between this film and the Disney version in the early 90s such as the talking objects, the character of Gaston, the way the Beast is drawn, and so on. I loved the costumes in this film. They are so over the top in the best possible way. Also–no I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it. But it’s a great ending!

Also streaming on HBO max. It was also remade in 2014, and that version, titled Beauty and the Beast is streaming on Amazon Prime, Pluto, Tubi, Peacock.

Tale of Tales (2015)

This is the closest film to actual horror on this list. There are a few pretty horrifying scenes, but I didn’t find it particularly scary. It’s not really dark–all the horror is in the light–and nothing jumps out at you or anything. But the whole thing is masterful. The film explores three adjacent kingdoms and the magical craziness that happens in each one. Each kingdom has a different path, and the tales are interwoven. They seem to draw from a lot of different fairy tales and tropes, so if you’ve got a lot of knowledge of folklore, you’ll definitely recognize certain elements and tales. But the cinematography, the mise en scene, the talented character actors they chose–it’s just captivating. It’s been a long time since I watched a film that was this magical–in the dark, Angela Carter sense.

The Frankenstein Complex (2015)

This documentary introduces you to the people behind the monsters from horror, science fiction, and action films. The documentary moves chronologically from the use of special effects makeup through puppetry, stop motion, animatronics, and finally to CGI effects. Although the people interviewed were really fascinating, I wasn’t a huge fan of how the film was cut together (a lot of scenes from films are referenced but not shown) and the editing was a little off pace. But I loved seeing how some of these props were made and seeing the people who brought some amazing creatures and characters to life.

Blancanieves (2012)

If you watch one movie from this list, I hope it’s this one. This Spanish adaptation of Snow White, told as a silent film about bullfighting was so gorgeous. It’s in black and white, so there’s this amazing attention to texture and detail. And it’s just really beautiful and heartbreaking. I feel like over the years a lot of the feeling has been stripped from this story, but this film really puts heart back into it.

Also streaming on Tubi.

The Witches of Hollywood (2020)

This documentary looks at how witches have been portrayed in films in the United States. This is a pretty narrow focus, but there’s plenty to look at and talk about. I wasn’t a huge fan of the voiceover, but the people they interviewed were interesting, and they showed a lot of film clips. I found a couple films to add to my watchlist. The documentary didn’t go too deeply into film analysis (although there is some of that), instead it focuses on how the witch evolves alongside the progression of culture in United States and responds to the current preoccupations about womanhood. Pretty fascinating, all told.

Any of these films catch your eye? Do you have a favorite movie to watch around this time of year? Let me know in the comments.

What I’ve Been Reading This Week

I subscribe to lots of things–probably too many–and as such whenever I go on vacation (or don’t feel like reading things), I develop a huge backlog of reading. While I was cleaning this week, I’d take I-can’t-stand-it-one-more-minute breaks that I told myself were productive because I was clearing out the back log of feminist newsletters, book/literary news, and daily poetry.

Here are a few pieces from Lit Hub that I really enjoyed reading this week:

Poetry is one of those things that I never seem to be motivated enough to buy and read collections of, which is a shame because there’s so much good poetry out there–even if you don’t think you like poetry. This list is broken down by types of readers and includes some great poets–ancient, modern, and contemporary. A lot of them are famous enough that your library might have them, which is great because I don’t often return to a book over and over again.

I may be borderline obsessed with Jane Austen, but it’s only because I think she is such a great observer of humanity. Korducki shares her opinion in this essay that marriage is still mired in the bizarre mix of practical considerations and affection that was just starting to make itself known in Austen’s time. She also shares her own experience of coming to Austen’s work, which is less of my fan-girl type experience and more of a this-is-an-18th-slash-19th-century-English-class-and-you’re-an-English-major-so-reading-Austen-is-compulsory type of experience.

I love 90s movies. And adaptations. And Shakespeare. Some of my favorites like Much Ado About Nothing and 10 Things I Hate About You are on this list as well as some others I haven’t seen and now have to add to my watch list, which is always growing.

And, saving the best for last:

My obsession with Shakespeare, Austen, and film is only rivaled by my love of fairy tales. Fine’s essay about the nature of desire in fairy tales (and the consequences of getting what you want or wanting too much) was riveting for me. A totally different way of looking at what a fairy tale is meant to do.

 

Have you read anything that sparked your interest this week? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Halloween!

It’s so strange–as a kid you’re excited about Halloween no matter what day of the week it falls on, but as an adult I feel like I’m usually more excited about the weekend closest to it. This year, our friends threw a party and everyone dressed up as their childhood dream job. I dressed up as an archaeologist a la Indiana Jones, and Paul dressed up like a fighter pilot.

The atmosphere of disguise and pretending to be someone else is my favorite part of Halloween, so in honor of that, here are 10 memorable costumes from my childhood and 10 books to go with them.

Archaeologist—Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

This book is probably the best (as well as only) book that I’ve read recently that features archaeology as its subject. The protagonist acts as a translator for the dig, helping them secure permission from the government. Also a great love story

 

Esmerelda—Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

Oh I loved this costume. My mom didn’t make it, but it was homemade by someone. The cotton fabric had this rich, watery quality to it.

Anyway, I think of Esmerelda as a character who stands up for those in need, even at great personal cost. I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies that more than Miep Gies, who helped hide the Franks with her partner at great personal risk.

 

Belly Dancer—Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

My family did make this costume. It felt like everyone had a hand in it. Unfortunately we lived in Oregon, which meant I had to basically ruin the costume with layers or I’d get wet from the rain.

This YA book was one of my favorites around this time in my life (5th grade or so). I loved the emphasis it placed on storytelling and the intrigue. The life it depicted was as enchanting as it was disturbing.

 

Cleopatra—Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff or watch the movie with Elizabeth Taylor

This was probably one of my more memorable costumes. My hair was the right length and the right color to fit all the images you probably have in your mind of the Queen. My makeup was a bit sloppy, but that didn’t matter because I felt incredibly regal.

I like this biography of Cleopatra because it tries to rescue the woman from behind the legend created for her. I also love the movie with Liz Taylor because it does exactly the opposite.

 

Delores Umbridge—Matilda by Roald Dahl

It would be too easy to choose a Harry Potter book for this character. Instead I chose one with another despicable school administrator.

 

Bumblebee—Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I don’t really have any memories of this costume, but it’s featured in lots of toddler pictures, so it definitely existed. I chose a book that’s sweet but also stings.

 

Pink Power Ranger—Bossypants by Tina Fey

Not that Tina Fey would have ever dressed up as a Power Ranger, but the message behind the costume is I will clearly kick your butt while defying all of your expectations–hence Tina Fey’s book.

Did the Power Ranger costume not say that to you? Maybe it’s just me.

Alice—Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book seems like the perfect counterpart to Alice in Wonderland. Not only does it have a quintessentially English feel (complete with footnotes), there’s also some traveling via mirrors going on. I will rave about this book more later. But it and the show are perfect Halloween reading.

 

50s housewife—Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

This book is a really interesting look into the mind of a woman who seems to be a perfect 50’s housewife, but is really a person with her own complications, flaws, and concerns.

 

Snow White—The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I didn’t actually consider this costume to be a costume for Snow White. My mom and I found a bunch of these pretty German-style costumes at the thrift store, and the three of us (Mom, me and my best friend) went around dressed up as Bavarian beauties or something–we never quite settled on that. But I went dressed up that way to the preschool where my aunt worked, and all the kids called me Snow White, which was flattering.

Anyway, Angela Carter’s not-so-fairy tales are perfect for Halloween or really any time of year.

 

What was your most memorable costume? Let me know in the comments.