Horror movies are a Halloween staple, but often the best Halloween movies aren’t truly horrifying. For many, watching horror movies is a year-round pursuit, but the Halloween season is a special time for horror fans. Whether it’s a brand new horror experience or another entry in an existing franchise, October always brings a wave of horror to theaters.
Unsurprisingly, given the folklore around October 31 and the long history of horror cinema, Halloween has an understandable association with scary films. From iconic movies like the eponymous Halloween series to modern hits such as Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, there are plenty of examples of executives using the holiday as a marketing opportunity. Naturally, the supernatural connotations means that the emphasis is often on terrifying the audience.
However, despite this, not all of the best Halloween movies have to be scary. At the end of the day, despite the holiday’s macabre stylings, Halloween is supposed to be fun. A good horror movie has the power to genuinely disturb the audience, creating a sense of unease that can linger long after the credits have rolled. While that kind of grim foreboding is undeniably spooky, it’s not really compatible with a day best known for distributing candy to children. This is why, for all the associations with death and darkness, many of the best Halloween movies are those that put horror to one side.
Genuinely scary movies are simply too divisive to be crowd-pleasing. Ari Aster’s Midsommar, for instance, is hailed by many as a modern horror classic, celebrated by fans of the genre and critics alike. It’s well made and certifiably scary. But even a movie as highly regarded as Midsommar ultimately divides audiences. While many love that kind of horror experience, any movie that tries to be scary will also be met by viewers unmoved by the terrifying images, and those so off-put by the prospect that they wouldn’t even consider a watch. Everyone has their own personal barometer for what’s scary and when being scared stops being fun, but that scale varies widely from person to person. Just by the nature of being scary, a truly scary Halloween movie will always be offputting for some.
Halloween is for kids. That’s not to say that adults can’t enjoy it as well, but the modern celebration of Halloween is centered around spooky activities for the young and young at heart. Even many of the best Halloween pastimes for adults, such as making a Halloween costume, harken back to childhood memories. While gruesome violence and unsettling body horror are both integral parts of the horror genre at large, they couldn’t be further from kid-friendly. The best Halloween movies can’t leave out such an important part of the audience.
Ultimately, something feeling “Halloweeny” is different from feeling scary. One looks like Hocus Pocus, and the other looks like The Strangers. That difference comes from the holiday itself. Halloween is a day best spent enjoying a bit of spooky mischief with friends and family. When on the hunt for the best Halloween movies, a truly terrifying experience leaves too many out of the fun.