In recent years, Halloween movies have tended towards R-rated blood-and-guts horrorshow cash-in sequels, so it’s tough recommending Halloween movies that’ll suit people without a taste for blood. So if you love Halloween but are not particularly fond of disembowelings, this list is for you.
Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat
This 1989 horror/comedy starring Bruce Campbell and David Carradine is kind of a bit True Blood, a bit Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and a bit National Lampoon’s Vacation. Vampires living in the town of Purgatory have set up an artificial blood factory and are trying to lead normal, non-vampy lives. The plant is having a few problems so Jozek Mardulak (Carradine) summons an engineer and his family to come to Purgatory to figure out what the problem is. Naturally, things do not go as planned, and soon the family is fighting for their lives in a full-on vampire war. Totally funny and a bit gory, with a great cast featuring people from Twin Peaks and Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman, this is a cheesy and fun film that will break the tension on a spooky, scary evening.
Coincidentally, exactly three hundred years before 1993, lived the three Sanderson sisters of Salem, who used witchcraft to regain their youth by sucking the life out of children. When they capture teenage farmer Binx’s little sister, he and an angry mob run to rescue her. Unfortunately for Binx, the sisters end up turning him into a black cat, and take his sister’s energy after all. The mob hangs the three sisters, but not before their magic book casts a spell to bring them back from the dead if a virgin just happens to light their candle on Halloween. Binx, now in cat form, guards their house to keep this from happening.
In ultra-modern 1993, when an unwitting teenager named Max inadvertently resurrects the sisters on Halloween, he must save his little sister from their evil clutches with the help of his new crush and Binx the cat. There’s a zombie ex-boyfriend, parents cursed to dance until they die, and bullies who get their comeuppance. This movie’s sure to put you in the spooky Halloween spirit without scaring you even the slightest bit.
Hollywood took a New Age-y approach to witchcraft in the 90s, all but abandoning the crooked green noses and big black hats, a romanticism mostly reserved for vampires these days. Following this tradition, Practical Magic may well be a glorified Charmed for the big screen (which premiered a mere 9 days before Practical Magic), but it’s full of heart, whimsy, and snappy one-liners. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as sisters in a long line of witches, all doomed by a curse in which any man they love inevitably dies. Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing provide much-needed comic relief as sassy witch aunts, prone to practical jokes and magic – yes, the title could have multiple meanings, if one is willing to indulge it. But don’t think too hard: Practical Magic is a feel-good romantic comedy wrapped up in a package of covens, zombies and magic frogs, perfect for those faint of heart who want to be serenaded by Stevie Nicks into a quieter, gore-free Halloween.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Like Halloween itself, the Peanuts Halloween special often gets overlooked in favour of its Yuletide cousin. However, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is top-of-the-heap among Halloween specials for the same reason A Charlie Brown Christmas is required annual viewing: it’s sincere. Sure, there’s no divine messiahs, but it’s got trick-or-treating, candy insanity, and enough bizarro mysticism to really hit the sweet spot of anybody who loves Halloween.