Ask the Reader: best Halloween films for people who hate horror

 – Shaun of the Dead

The ultimate 2000’s horror-comedy, this zombie-apocalypse gem from esteemed technical director Edgar Wright might not keep you up at night, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film follows average-joe protagonist Shaun (Simon Pegg). He eats, sleeps, smokes, chops pints at the local, plays video games with his slacker roommate (Nick Frost) and his serious lack of game is threatening his relationship with girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). 

No, he’s not a fresher, he’s an electronics salesman whose lack of imagination sees him meander through life with little excitement or adventure.  But things are about to take a very supernatural turn. Although jumpscares are few and the tone is more akin to Snatch than The Shining, if you don’t cope well with gore (zombie-woman-impaled-on-a-garden-ornament kind of gore) then this is not the Halloween movie for you. 

But if you are the sort of person who enjoys gratuitously gory, incredibly soundtracked, zombie-killing rampages, you will also be treated to some fantastic performances from the main and supporting cast (Bill Nighy gives an unexpectedly moving performance as Shaun’s unfortunate, zomb-afflicted stepfather Philip). 

If you’re not a horror fan don’t worry, this film won’t make you lose sleep.

Wright’s meticulous directing style elevates this film from what could’ve been a one-note spoof into a masterfully edited, pacy, unrelentingly funny feature with a surprising amount of heart (never before has a fart-joke brought me closer to tears). And if you can’t get enough of Wright’s zombie flick, there are two more punchy comedies with a sinister edge to enjoy from his Cornetto Trilogy: cop-comedy Hot Fuzz and apocalypse caper The World’s End. If you’re not a horror fan don’t worry, this film won’t make you lose sleep, but next time you see one of your flatmates swaying and groaning in the corridor, ask yourself this: are they just recovering from one too many vodka-cokes at Klute, or is it time to grab a baseball bat and run for your life?

 – Practical Magic

A late 90s film about witch sisters dealing with an abusive ex-boyfriend who just won’t go away, Practical Magic is the perfect October watch to get in the Halloween mood. We follow sisters Sally (Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (Nicole Kidman) who live with their eccentric and fabulous aunts (Stockard Channing and Diane West) in a beautiful house by the sea with a greenhouse and herb garden. 

The family are haunted by an ancient curse: any man they love will die, with the buzzing of a beetle providing advance warning. The sisters support each other as Sally grieves the death of her husband and Gillian tries to escape the relentless pursuit of an ex-boyfriend. Practical Magic is largely a cozy comedy, but it should be noted that while this film isn’t a horror, there are creepy and more disturbing elements. 

The understated special effects weave in fantasy elements and spells with a delightful normality that brings magic into the every day.

While the plot is a little inconsistent and messy, what makes this film ideal for Halloween is its autumnal, witchy atmosphere and how it captures late 90s nostalgia. Given the 90s fashion revival, Makovsky’s costume design provides some great outfit inspiration. The film’s lighting and cinematography are perfect, with a gothic haze covering the whole film, and beautiful shots of the house and scenery. The understated special effects weave in fantasy elements and spells with delightful normality that brings magic into the everyday. The soundtrack also stands out, full of hits including Stevie Nicks, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell.

Practical Magic is the ideal film for the season due to its 90s charm and soft witch aesthetic that we’re seeing revived now. Full of iconic music and actors, and with a strong theme of female empowerment, this is a must-watch for autumn lovers. 


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