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.
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.
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.