/Answers: Your Favorite Movie To Watch On Halloween

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. With this week's edition arriving on October 31, today we're asking "What is your favorite movie to watch on Halloween?"

Ben Pearson: Trick 'R' Treat

In the hands of a lesser writer/director, Trick 'r Treat might be slightly off-putting. After all, it seems practically engineered to enter into your annual Halloween movie rotation, and sometimes a goal like that can come off as desperate or presumptuous. But there's nothing calculated about Michael Dougherty's movie, and you can feel his passion for the material leaping off the screen in every frame. It's obvious he loves this holiday and relishes in crafting his own mythology around it, and one of my favorite aspects of Trick 'r Treat is how effortless the film's mythos seeped into my association of All Hallow's Eve. When I think about Halloween, shots from this movie are some of the first images that come to my mind. From the moment I first saw it in a special theatrical screening in 2009, Trick 'r Treat instantly became my favorite film to watch on Halloween.

Instead of tracking a deranged serial killer or a monster on the loose, this film is about traditions – ones the public no longer remembers or respects. It's a story caught in the throes of nostalgia for a different era, but that seems especially fitting for Halloween, a holiday that was birthed through ancient traditions that most of us have either forgotten or never knew. It's cliche to say, but Halloween itself is as important a character in Trick 'r Treat as any of its human protagonists (or the spooky Sam, with his jagged lollipop and creepy mask). The film plays with genre tropes and expectations in a fun and unexpected way, and like the best holiday films, it actually earns its spot in the annual rotation instead of limping in based on the power of its name alone.

Vanessa Bogart: Practical Magic

The Stevie Nicks-heavy soundtrack and themes of feminism and sisterhood in Practical Magic don't immediately make it stick out as a Halloween film. But every year on Halloween, I like to start the day with a hot cup of coffee and the story of the Owens family.

Halloween isn't all about horror. There is a lot of sentimentality involved, especially when you grow up in a household that goes all-out for the holiday. Halloween can be just as much of a family holiday as any other. My childhood memories of Halloween make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Like settling into watch Muppet Christmas Carol or It's A Wonderful Life on Christmas morning, starting Halloween with Practical Magic is a way to embrace the holiday cheer instead of the holiday fear. 

Practical Magic is the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of Halloween. It fills you with hope and love and a strong appreciation for the women in your life. I grew up in a family of very strong women. From my mother and grandmothers, to my aunts, and my sister, the bonds of sisterhood were ever-present. I remember watching Practical Magic with my mom and my sister when it was released in 1998, and we immediately fell under its spell. Our love for the film spread to my cousin, and just like that, this little storybook film became a family classic...but just for us girls. Separated by hundreds of miles in our adulthood, a quick "Watching Practical Magic, miss you," text is not uncommon between us.

Practical Magic wasn't always a go-to Halloween film for me. It may have always been on my short list of go-to chick-flicks, but Practical Magic didn't become a Halloween tradition for me until I moved away from the nation of my birth four years ago. Living in a foreign country, I woke up Halloween morning completely alone for the first time in my life. I sat down with my coffee and a heavy feeling of, "Now what?" But when I saw Practical Magic sitting on my shelf, something clicked. I put it on, smiled from ear-to-ear, and the rest is history.

Matt Donato: Re-Animator

While Bride Of Chucky comes in at a neck-and-neck second place on my "Ultimate Halloween"flick list, Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator gets my top October 31 billing. Die-hard genre fans can bask the classic nostalgia of a deliciously cheeseball production that earn its weight in morbid madness. A silent, projector-screen background play gives Halloween parties plenty of spooky-fun visuals to glance up at, be it the reanimated black cat or full morgue scene. Or maybe you're showing Re-Animator to friends for the first time on Halloween? No better way to pay homage to the Gods of Horror and educate any soon-to-be converts.

It's impossible to reject the tonal grasp of actors like Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, David Gale and more as they dance about a proverbial graveyard of Lovecraftian regard. Combs, so out-of-touch and brimming with scientific curiosity as a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein trapped on campus grounds. Crampton, as so much more than a damsel in distress (even when staring downwind at a pervy decapitated head). Gale, said talking noggin with a severed mind for revenge. It's all so popcorn-ready fun, even if Gordon airs more on the side of comedy than outright horror. A time capsule of the 80s if you will, bolstered by on-the-nose execution, not just nostalgia.

When I think Halloween, I think practical effects and those front-lawn displays people create with fake bloody limbs. Know what comes to mind when I think Re-Animator? That same kind of gross-out magic once Dr. Hill injects all those morgue corpses with West's glowing green serum (even the colors are so Halloween to me, a luminescent neon ooze). Cold-slab bodies rise and start dancing, strangling, and being mutilated as the living must lash out against the dead. It's all something out of a Halloween display window – body bags being split open so cadavers can roam free – and, once again, it feels like one gigantic monster-mashin' party.

To me, October should be celebrated with midnight, crowd-pleasing horror. Not everyone is scared by the same setups, and while comedy works in equally personal ways, you have much more of a chance to win audiences over with horror that's lively, ridiculous and oh-so demented. Re-Animator checks all those boxes, along with being a classic slice of H.P. Lovecraft. It's too much fun to pass up, much like Return Of The Living Dead or other equally play-by-my-own-rules genre watches. None better than Re-Animator in my book.

Jacob Hall: House on Haunted Hill

William Castle's 1959 B-movie gem is one of my favorite movies of all time, a film that breathes in the chilly October air and exhales pumpkin spice. It's spooky, but not scary. It's irreverent, but totally fine for kids. It's dark as hell, but it always has a mischievous grin on its face. It's campy, but it's totally in on the joke and wants you to laugh with it, not at it. At the center of it all is the great Vincent Price, a man who might as well be the mascot for the Halloween season, giving what may be his funniest, wryest, and most entertaining performance.

The set-up is so simple: a millionaire offers a group of people a bunch of money to spend the night in a haunted house. Things go bump in the night. Not everyone survives. Are the ghosts actually around or are people the real monsters? How many ways can the characters threaten each other's lives behind fake smiles? How many old school scares can Castle jam into that brisk 75-minute running time?

House on Haunted Hill (and the rest of Castle's filmography) often feels like the cheaper, schlockier cousins to the Universal Monster movies, but they carve out of their own special identity. They're preposterous and high-concept, movies meant to drag in audiences looking for a cheap thrill. The fact that they're good (and funny and self-aware and often experimental in ways you don't expect) is a miracle. A Halloween miracle!

Also, the 1999 remake, while dumb as a pile of bones, is charming in its own special ways.

Lindsey Romain: Hocus Pocus

It's very clichéd Millennial of me, but Hocus Pocus is on a near constant rotation in my house in the month of October, and especially on Halloween night. I'm a tried and true horror fan, and gorge on the gory, spooky stuff throughout the season, but Hocus Pocus is the primal return to childhood that I also crave this time of year.

It terrified me as a kid – Billy, Bette Midler's zombie boyfriend (played by Doug Jones!), and his decapitated head was my nightmare fuel – but it also galvanized me. It's the first time I remember seeing women characters like that: zany, crazy, single, fearful of children, flirty, loud, uncompromising. Witches have always been powerful symbols of female empowerment, and Hocus Pocus was my first run-in with that sort of riotous, wicked feminine spirit that continues to inspire me. And it's not just the Sanderson sisters – the two younger women are also great characters. Thora Birch's Dani and Vinessa Shaw's Alison are both plucky, headstrong, and empowered, and certainly smarter than Max, the lame virgin brother who thinks he's far more suave than he actually is. Throw in a talking cat, local dumbass (but delightful) bullies Ice and Jay, and all of that decadent Salem imagery, and I'm reminded of why I love stepping into this world over and over again.

Chris Evangelista: Lake Mungo

As a horror movie fanatic, I've grown somewhat desensitized to horror as a genre. I still love horror movies, of course. But very rarely do they scare me. So when I come across something that genuinely gives me the heebie jeebies, it's a wonderful feeling. One such film that managed this feat is the criminally underseen 2008 chiller Lake Mungo.

This faux documentary tracks an Australian family reeling from the death of oldest child Alice. Alice's brother sets up a series of cameras around the family home, and captures what he thinks might be Alice's ghost. It's a very simple set-up, yet it unfolds in an unnerving, truly spooky manner. It's the type of film that gives you a chill – the type of autumnal chill that rustles dead leaves down October streets. I can distinctly remember the first time I saw Lake Mungo: after the credits rolled, I had to go down into the basement of my house to retrieve something. Usually, I don't think twice about the basement. But after seeing this film, I found myself nervously peering into the basement's darker corners, an uneasy feeling prevailing over me.

Since Lake Mungo is so effective at giving me the creeps, I make sure to break it out every Halloween. I usually watch it as the sun is starting to set, so that by the time full night is on the film is coming to an end, and I'm jumping at shadows. There's something magical about that; about the power a specific film can hold over you, especially on Halloween.

Ethan Anderton: Halloween

For me, there is no better horror movie than Halloween. Yes, this is probably the most easy and obvious answer, but I've been watching this movie every Halloween since my mother decided to terrify me as an adolescent. It was the first real slasher movie of its kind, and it's the inspiration for what would become signature horror tropes for decades to come. From a killer who just won't seem to die to unnecessarily illicit teenage behavior, this is classic horror through and through.

For my money, you wont find a better killer than Michael Myers. The fact that he seems to be more than a man makes him terrifying, but within the confines of this first movie, what makes Myers even more terrifying is that he seems to be killing without rhyme or reason. Combine that with the way he skulks around Haddonfield, Illinois, his breathing audible from under that expressionless mask, and the haunting score making every step he takes that much more suspenseful, and it's no wonder why Halloween is the blueprint for the string of slasher movies that would follow in the 1980s.

If you need me, I'll be watching Halloween tonight, and I'll probably watch Halloween II right after that.

hocus pocus remake

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