It’s autumn. It’s October – and it’s Halloween. We don’t really do much for this holiday, if it can really be called that. One time we bought a box of Celebration chocolates, expecting children to come trick or treating. No one rang the door bell, so we just ate the chocolates ourselves.
This year we are most likely not going to do anything. But what we will do this year, which I never do: is watch some Halloween films. But not the ones you think. I abhor horror films. My imagination runs a little too wild and I really can’t stand jump scares or anything too grotesque. So here is what I plan on doing for my kind of Halloween.
Films for the faint of heart
This year we will be watching classic Halloween films for the faint of heart. Halloween films that I have seen before and enjoyed – and remembered. These are absolute classics, and not scary at all, for obvious reasons. I plan on watching:
1. Hotel Transylvania
Count Dracula runs a hotel for monsters, but a human discovers it and forms a connection with Dracula’s daughter.
Why I’d re-watch it: I’ve seen all three Hotel Transylvania films and love them all. Great fun and funny, and of course not scary at all.
2. Hubie Halloween
Good-natured and over-cautious Hubie must save the town when his enemies/ pranksters get kidnapped and a mysterious figure roams around the town.
Why I’d re-watch it: We saw this last year, and it was surprisingly really good. The mystery and uncertainty, I had no inkling on who the culprit was at all. Thoroughly entertaining.
3. Addams Family Values
A new baby joins the Addams family and a nanny is hired who falls in love with Uncle Fester. The children become suspicious of the new nanny, who sends them to summer camp as she actions her nefarious plans on the Addams.
Why I’d re-watch it: I loved Wednesday as a kid and was thoroughly entertained by this film. Sending the kids to summer camp and seeing them out of their element was really funny. Yes, the jokes can be a little macabre and there is a lot of attempted murdering going on, but you have to suspend your sense of disbelief.
4. Hocus Pocus
A teenager inadvertently resurrects three witches after 300 years who want to seek revenge.
Why I’d re-watch it: Of course this classic makes the list: an oldie but a goodie. I used to watch this almost every Halloween as a kid and saw it advertised again recently.
Scientists who lose their jobs start a business that catches ghosts in New York City. When paranormal activity increases, it is up to the Ghostbusters to save the city.
Why I’d re-watch it: Another classic. Not scary, just really fun and entertaining.
TV shows for the faint of heart
I’m not as bad on “scary” TV shows. I quite like the mystery, suspense, and gothic vibe of some. Of course, throw in a witch or a strong female ass-kicking character, and I’m sold. My top TV shows for this mysterious month would have to be:
1. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
Dark coming-of-age story about a half-witch, half-mortal, as she learns more about her powers whilst trying to save her family and friends against evil forces.
Why I love it: I love the magic, folklore, and history that is always in the background of this show. I adore the family relationship with Sabrina, her aunts Zelda and Hilda, and her cousin Ambrose. I like that the stereotypical high school drama is overtaken by magical life-or-death drama – you’re usually wondering how Sabrina and her friends, the Fright Club, are going to save the town or save themselves.
2. Stranger Things
Set in 1980’s America, a group of children discover supernatural events happening that the government are trying to cover up.
Why I love it: Almost every episode ends on a cliffhanger, this is so binge-worthy. The acting is superb, the banter between the friends is hilarious, you are just rooting for the kids from the get-go. The adults are oblivious, the teenagers have drama but are still interesting to watch. Also the mystery of what’s going on in the town is absolutely gripping. I didn’t grow up watching 1980’s movies, but I appreciate all the 1980’s references and homages.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy Summers just wants to be a normal girl. But she is destined, as the slayer, to fight vampires, demons, and other dark forces that try to end the world.
Why I love it: Girl power for the win. This TV show turns stereotypical tropes on their head: the pretty blonde is actually an ass-kicking vampire slayer, the nerdy girl is actually a powerful witch, the popular shallow cheerleader can actually help save the world, blood-sucking vampires can actually redeem themselves. There is humour, action, and gothic horror. This was the first show I ever watched where the main character was a female. And she was epic: Buffy was complex and 3D, she was strong and kicked ass. The show itself dealt with love, death, sacrifice, overcoming fears, friendships, family, inner and outer strength.
4. True Blood
Resolves around the lives of telepathic waitress Sookie, her shapeshifting boss, and vampires who “came out of the coffin” after the synthetic blood drink called True Blood has been released to the world.
Why I love it: Similar to Stranger Things, every episode ends on a cliffhanger. So much happens in one season: a season takes place across just a few days. There are telepaths, vampires, shapeshifters, werewolves, witches, and many other supernatural things. The audience learns about these things with Sookie as she fights to save her family and friends. I found the vampires’ struggle for equal rights against the anti-vampire organizations really interesting too.
Three sisters discover they are witches, destined to be the most powerful witches the world has ever known. They must rally together, learning about their powers, trying to protect people, and save the world from evil forces.
Why I love it: I was absolutely obsessed with this show. Obviously, girl power, this show had three female leads each with their own spunky personality. It showed sisterly relationships, keeping it together whilst having a career – and then later seasons – having children, learning your craft, protecting and looking out for people, and I do love poetry so I appreciated the rhymes used in spell casting. There was humour, a bit of mystery, and more realistic romances. I appreciated that the sisters couldn’t use their magic for personal gain, I suppose it taught me altruism.
Gothic books for the faint of heart
I’m definitely better at reading gothic books. Not necessarily scary, but books with gothic tropes and a lot of mystery and suspense. If you’re keen to get into some gothic reading this month, I would recommend these stories, as I have thoroughly enjoyed reading them:
1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The narrative is related through letters, diary entries, and newspaper articles. Solicitor Jonathan Harker visits Count Dracula’s castle for business, but he is imprisoned while Dracula makes his way to England. Harker escapes the castle and a small group led by Abraham Van Helsing hunt Dracula with the aim to kill him.
Why I’d recommend it: This is a slow burn and not as action-packed as the film adaptations. There is mystery and intrigue, things are implied but you don’t always know what’s happening in the shadows at night. I liked the character Mina Harker, Jonathan’s wife, who is symbolic of the “modern woman of science” (this was written in Victorian times). But the portrayal of other women is quite dated, mainly being that if you are a sexually active or seductive female then you will die and deserve to die. This was of course written by a Victorian man. Dracula himself presented themes such as “the other”, race, and disease, which are littered throughout the book and was interesting to read.
2. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Framed as a story within a story within a story. Captain Walton writes to his sister, recounting the tale of a Victor Frankenstein who lies wounded on his ship; Frankenstein then explains his story of creating a Creature from multiple bodies; and then we learn of the Creature’s life.
Why I’d recommend it: The majority of the book is from Frankenstein and the Creature’s perspectives. The full title of the book is Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus and I suppose Frankenstein is the Prometheus character here, trying to pursue a life of knowledge and create life from non living body parts, trying to surpass the boundaries of science and death. You can’t help but feel sympathy for the Creature, the only acts of kindness he is given is by a blind man who cannot see how malformed he is. The Creature is innocent and kind of heart, but people assume the worst in such an abhorrent-looking being, and soon enough the Creature loses all hope in humanity and attacks and murders people. The characters are complex and in the end all they want is companionship and to feel accepted, if not by society, then by a life partner.
3. Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey
Coming-of-age novel and satire of gothic novels about naïve Catherine Morland who has an over-active imagination and fondness for gothic novels.
Why I’d recommend it: I just love Jane Austen and therefore would naturally recommend any and all of her work. Though not my favourite of her novels, Northanger Abbey is still a decent read. Catherine realises that the stories of her gothic novels are not representative of real life when she visits Northanger Abbey. Themes of reading, appearances, love, marriage, and high society are all here. Worth a read.
4. Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk: A Romance
About an orphan who becomes a monk and then spectacularly falls from grace through desire, greed, and lust. Also tells the story of a nun and her ex-lover.
Why I’d recommend it: This book has almost every gothic trope under the sun. When you read it, it feels almost cliché. But then you remember that this was written in 1796 and only feels cliché because there has been so many copies of it since – this was the original. The two stories intermingle and it almost feels over-the-top, but it’s still a riveting read. There’s ghosts, murders, incest; there really is a lot going on in this book. Not to everyone’s taste, but an entertaining read for a good old traditional gothic horror story.
5. The String of Pearls
The inspiration for Sweeney Todd, “the Demon Barber of Fleet Street”, who murders his customers and passes their bodies onto Mrs Lovett who bakes them into pies and sells them to the public.
Why I’d recommend it: A Victorian classic that is super short. Of course you know the general story line, I haven’t seen the film or musical, but there is added reasoning why Sweeney Todd murders his customers – it’s in the title.
So that’s my list of non scary Halloween films, strong female centric mystical TV shows, and gothic Victorian/ Georgian-era books. All for the faint of heart ie people like me.
However you choose to spend your Halloween this year, I hope you spend it with a mug of hot chocolate or a box of real chocolates. I’m interested to know what films, TV shows, or books you would recommend to the faint of heart too.