10 Haunting Films to Watch Halfway to Halloween
Welcome, foolish mortals to Celebrations’ Halfway to Halloween blog post! We’re officially counting down the days until the spooky season begins, especially with Walt Disney World announcing their plans for Boo Bash, a new holiday celebration inside the Magic Kingdom. It promises to be a frightfully good time.
While we wait for fall, pumpkin spice, and all things ghostly, here are 10 ghoulishly delightful films to watch.
10. The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion is one of the most beloved attractions in Disney history, so it only makes sense that it would become a Disney movie. Released in 2003, The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy was the fifth movie Disney created based on an existing attraction. More of a family comedy than a true horror film, the movie was full of little nods to the attraction such as the line, “There’s always my way…” and the singing graveyard busts.
9. The Tower of Terror
In 1994, the Tower of Terror debuted at Walt Disney World. The attraction took guests into the Hollywood Tower Hotel, essentially thrusting them into an episode of The Twilight Zone. Three years after the attraction opened, Disney released a made for TV movie based on the attraction. It starred Steve Guttenberg and a young Kirsten Dunst. A portion of the movie was actually filmed in the attraction itself.
8. The Watcher in the Woods
The famous Mahoning Drive In Theater Pennsylvania recently hosted a double feature they dubbed “The Dark Side of Disney,” which included the films Return to Oz and The Watcher in the Woods. The film is something of a cult classic, and a bit of a curiosity in the Disney pantheon. It was an attempt to garner older, teenage fans for Disney movies. The 1980 movie is a supernatural thriller and features legend of the silver screen Bette Davis. When the film was originally pitched to executive Ron Miller, producer Tom Leetch declared, “This could be our Exorcist!” As though that weren’t a peculiar enough statement regarding a Disney movie, the film’s director, John Hough, was fresh off directing the film “The Legend of Hell House.”
7. Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Watcher in the Woods was not the only film Disney created to draw in more “mature” audiences. Three years after Watcher, Disney released Something Wicked This Way Comes, based off the novel of the same name by Ray Bradbury. A longtime friend of Walt Disney, Bradbury also wrote the script for Spaceship Earth in Epcot. As a curious side note, a truly groundbreaking animation scene was removed from the final version of the film. Had it remained in place, it would have marked one of the first uses of CGI in a major motion picture.
Another made for TV movie, Halloweentown has become something of a phenomenon. The movie starred the legendary Debbie Reynolds and told the story of a family of witches. It generated three sequels and an annual celebration known as “The Spirit of Halloweentown” held in St. Helens, Oregon (one of two Oregon cities where the movie was filmed). Essentially, the town turns itself back into Halloweentown each October for a month-long celebration that has drawn thousands of Guests. The movie itself is as charming as you’d expect from a movie with Debbie Reynolds and has become an annual re-watch for countless Disney fans.
5. Trick or Treat
Released in 1952, Trick or Treat is a classic Disney short featuring Donald Duck. The film was directed by Jack Hannah. In addition to Donald, the film features Huey, Dewey, and Louie, along with a delightful old crone named Witch Hazel. As if these elements weren’t enough, the cartoon has one of the catchiest Disney songs ever composed: “Trick or Treat for Halloween.” The tune was written by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and David Livingston. It was performed by the Mellomen, a vocal group which included legendary Disney voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft. Once you hear the song, I can guarantee that you’ll be humming it for the rest of the day. Maybe longer.
4. Lonesome Ghosts
Another animated short, Lonesome Ghosts made its debut in 1937. Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy star in the film as the Ajax Ghost Hunters. Without giving too much plot away, the story follows the ghost hunters as they attempt to drive ghosts out of an old, abandoned house. However, our heroes are unaware that they were hired by the ghosts themselves. Walt Disney was still providing the voice of Mickey at this time, and the film also introduces the phrase, “Somethin’ wrong here!” which would become a regular line for Goofy.
3. The Skeleton Dance
The Skeleton Dance holds a hallowed place in Disney history. It was the very first of the Silly Symphonies, a groundbreaking series of animated shorts that would eventually span 75 films and gave birth to the character of Donald Duck. Carl Stalling, a friend of Walt Disney’s and an organist, pitched Walt on the Silly Symphonies idea as well as the concept for The Skeleton Dance. The short follows a series of skeletons in a graveyard who dance and turn their bodies into musical instruments, all to the tune of Edvard Grieg’s “March of the Trolls.”
2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Let’s skip the debate over whether or not Nightmare is a Halloween or Christmas movie shall we? This animated masterpiece based on a three page poem written by Tim Burton (who was then working for Disney), follows Jack Skellington and the residents of Halloweentown as they attempt to take over Christmas. With music by Danny Elfman and directed by Henry Selick, the film is a masterpiece of stop motion animation and storytelling.
1. Hocus Pocus
This is the Disney Halloween movie to end all Disney Halloween movies. It’s the big one. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, the movie tells the story of the Sanderson Sisters. They’re a trio of witches executed in Salem in the 17th century who have come back from the dead 300 years later (to the very day). Disney legend Kenny Ortega directed the movie, which overflows with delightfully campy silliness. It has become beloved over the years since its release, even becoming part of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party with the Sanderson Sisters Villain Spelltacular.
Hopefully you enjoyed our list of happy haunts. Don’t be afraid. Halloween will be here before you know it. Just be sure to bring…your death certificate.