Top 5 Non-Horror Movies for Halloween

Originally Published on

I don’t know about you, but horror movies scare me. When choosing an alternate reality to slip into for a few hours, I would prefer it not be one where I was being hunted down by a serial killer or some creepy ghost child who is pissed off at its parents for throwing it in a well–or any kind of dolls whatsoever. Most of the year, it is fairly easy to avoid these bits of sado-masochistic cinema, but every October people seem to get a hankering for the heebie jeebies. So for all of you out there with a low tolerance for slashers, zombies (Rob or otherwise), and mutant desert folk, here are five films totally appropriate for the Devil’s evening that won’t leave you curled up in the fetal position on your couch:

1. Forbidden Zone (Richard Elfman, 1980)

Besides being one of the strangest musicals ever conceived, this low-budget romp through the 6th dimension was the impetus for the formation of Oingo Boingo, one of the more colorful bands ever to get crowded into the desperate genre of  80’s alternative music. The film follows the adventures of Frenchie (played by Marie Pascal Elfman, then-wife of the director), a sweet and somewhat innocent damsel in and out of distress after she ventures into the forbidden basement, where she finds a forbidden door leading to the… well, you can guess. The standout roles belong to Hervé Villechaize (Fantasy Island) as the over-sexed Dwarf King Fausto, ruler of the 6th dimension, and Oingo Boingo front man Danny Elfman as a Cab Calloway styled Satan. It’s got theme-park-rejected costumes, disturbingly intimate sex scenes, and cardboard backdrops. What else do you need?

2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols, 1966)

While nothing traditionally scary happens in this dark and brooding tale of two couples sharing a booze-filled evening on the edge of sanity, if viewed in the proper setting (I suggest in a darkened room, naked, alone, and on some kind of pharmaceutical), this adaptation of Edward Albee’s groundbreaking work of theatrical distantiation will have you wondering which parts of your own life will ultimately end up being just a figment of your own twisted imagination. Starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at a time when the pair’s combustible personal relationship couldn’t help but flare into their onscreen roles, this living-room drama will keep singing its titular question in your ear until finally, without understanding what it means, you will find yourself saying out loud to your dark, empty, and now spinning room: “ME! I’M AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF!”

3. Salesman (Albert and David Maysles, 1968)

Parking it with this 1968 documentary about a Bible salesman may not seem like the most exciting Halloween evening ever, but its depiction of mid-century America’s attitudes of religion mixed in with Glengarry Glen Ross–esque hard-salesmanship is enough to get you right into that Devil’s Eve spirit. After watching these desperate soldiers of capitalism under the guise of religious crusaders slog the word of God all over the countryside, you’ll feel like you got to share the evening with a uniquely vulgar group of demons—or a severely disguised group of angels. And isn’t communing with supernatural harbingers of tricks and treats what Halloween is really all about?

4. R.I.P.: The Murder City Devils’ Final Show-Halloween 2001 (Ryan Short, 2001)

The Murder City Devils’ unique style of music would have been the perfect soundtrack for a Satanic biker-gang funeral. Often shoved into the all-encompassing pocket of “punk,” this grinding team of salty dogs turned out some of the darkest, hippest, grizzled rock and roll to grace the mopey mid 90s. Unfortunately, upon returning to their hometown of Seattle after their 2001 tour, the gang announced they were giving up the ghost. R.I.P. is a straight concert movie of one of the most shredding rock concerts ever. Without much in the way of interruption, the group rips through all of their hits in one non-stop assault on the teeming audience. The group shifts their chain-saw tunes into overdrive and proceeds to tear the roof off the mutha. Getting down with a loved one in leather to the Murder City Devils’ rocking your ears off on All Hallow’s Eve? Yes, please.

5. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Mel Stuart, 1971)

On a night when children are given the unfair privilege of indulging their sweet baby teeth to their hearts’ desire, is there a better movie for the aprés trick-or-treater to watch while eating the candy you decided you didn’t feel like handing out after all? I think not. Without going on a tirade about why the older adaptation of this twisted Roald Dahl tale is superior to Tim Burton’s 2005 travesty, it suffices to say the candy action in the ’71 version is far more delectable to watch. As you slip into a diabetic coma from the onslaught of sweet, you can watch little hallucinated Oompa Loompas marching around your head singing their catchy little life lessons.