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7 Classic Movies To Get You In The Halloween Spirit


a witch on a broom in front of a bunch of pumpkins and a cauldron

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Hot cider, donuts, chocolate, and all things spooky Halloween is one of our favorite days of the year. Whether you plan on dressing up, handing out candy, or sinking into the couch and keeping the treats for yourself, these 1940s and 1950s classic movies are a great balance of festive and timeless to get you in the spooky spirit.

I Married A Witch 1942

1. I Married A Witch, 1942

This American fantasy romantic comedy film (yes, a Halloween comedy from the ‘40’s) was directed by René Clair and stars Veronica Lake, who plays Jennifer, a witch with a vengeance. Just as she’s about to be burned at the stake, Jennifer casts a curse on the entire family of the accuser (why not?), dooming all the men of future generations to marry the wrong women. After being freed from a creepy prison 250 years later, Jennifer decides to bring misery to a present-day descendant of her accuser using a love potion to make him fall for her — witches do what witches gotta do. She soon discovers that so-called revenge has unexpected results.

the seventh victim 1943

2. The Seventh Victim, 1943

WWII era horror films are renowned for their creative uses of lighting to deliver supernaturally spooky tones, and this film is no exception. After young Mary Gibson finds out her older sister Jacqueline has gone missing, she flees boarding school to track her down in New York City. With her sister nowhere to be found, she starts noticing signs of trouble, and gets dragged deeper and deeper into the mystery, uncovering evidence that there’s a cult involved. This film sweeps from beginning to end in enjoyable, unhurried but untiring ways that move the narrative comfortably forward. Halloween is also the best time for this creepy film — its views on death and suicide are boldly daring for the time period.

arsenic and old lace 1944

3. Arsenic and Old Lace, 1944

Based on a 1941 play, writer and notorious marriage critic Mortimer Brewster (played by Cary Grant) ironically ends up in love with the girl-next-door Elaine Harper, and they marry on Halloween day. Panic strikes when he suspects that his seemingly sweet, unmarried aunts harbor a dark secret. When he and Elaine return to their respective families to give the nuptial news, Mortimer spots a dead corpse hidden in a window seat (so much for their honeymoon). Be thankful for your not-so-nutty families this Halloween when you see these eccentric aunts, perturbed uncle, and homicidal brother. This “black comedy” is colorful and not too elaborate, and lets levity overrule the creepiness of death — a must see.

dead of night

4. Dead of Night, 1945

When architect Walter Craig visits a farm to meet a prospective client, he begins to feel as if he’s not only been there before, but has seen this same group of people before too. He tells them that he dreamt about each of them, and begins to rattle off things that happened in his dream. This piques more conversation among the group, each admitting to having experienced a weird and unexplainable event. This film offers the same sort of spine-cooling you get from listening to a group of professional liars swapping fireside ghost stories like teenage boys. It’s an amazing film for that reason alone. It’s one of the first and best “horror anthologies,” and its influence on the subgenre is obvious (horror with connected stories and people). Spoiler alert — the directors were clever to save the best for last, per usual, and twist the plot.

the thing from another world 1951

5. The Thing From Another World, 1951

This film plays into the curiosities and obsessions we have with the possibility of alien life — and sets the template for invasion-type movies of the decades to follow. When scientist Dr. Carrington reports a UFO near his research base in the North Pole, the Air Force sends him and a team under Capt. Patrick Hendry to investigate. They find the wrecked spaceship and an alien-like creature frozen in ice, sparking a tense argument over what to do next. Meanwhile, the creature is accidentally thawed out, gets loose, and chaos ensues. An instant classic that’s as fun today as it was in the 50s.

from the black lagoon

6. Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954

A prehistoric beast wanders the depths of the Amazon while a group of scientists try to figure out if it’s just a figment of their imaginations or a real undiscovered animal. They mus travel through some of the most treacherous terrains one could find in South America to get to it, and oncethere, this ungodly creature puts their lives in serious danger. This has a great atmosphere and the film is much more experiential and daring than some of the others you’ll find because it’s still old-school but kicks off America’s growing thirst for cheap thrills. It’s got enough juice to warm your heart for the sad creature while also making you gasp.

horror of Dracula

7. Horror of Dracula, 1958

This film has ranked one of Britain’s best films of all time, with Christopher Lee’s portrayal as Count Dracula being nothing short of magical as his rendition became ubiquitous with the famous vampire. Harker is responsible for the fury of Dracula after he takes a job at the castle under false pretenses, forcing his colleague Dr. Van Helsing to help him fight. Upon arrival, Dr. Helsing finds Harker in Dracula’s crypt and learns that Dracula’s next victim is Harker’s fiancée, Lucy. With the help of Lucy’s brother, Arthur, Dr. Helsing grapples to save her and put an end to sickening terror. In the United States, the film was retitled Horror of Dracula to avoid confusion with the older U.S. original, 1931’s Dracula.

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