Fear not! 10 Halloween movies for scaredy cats

These festive films won’t keep you up at night, promise.

These festive films won’t keep you up at night, promise

(Source, left: Unison Films; middle: Happy Madison Productions/Netflix; right: Amazon Studios)

When it comes to Halloween films, the only thing I'm not afraid of is admitting that I'm terrified of scary movies. I clutch my face, peek through my fingers, yell at the screen and just generally cannot deal — especially not this year. 

This Halloween, between the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and the anxiety-inducing U.S. election, real life is frightening enough. So instead, I choose to snuggle up with a bowl of bite-size candy and celebrate the season with films that feel more like a treat than a trick. 

If you're like me (i.e. a proud fraidy cat), here are some not-so-scary Halloween movies, including a few Canadian gems, to check out: 

Hubie Halloween (Netflix) 

Halloween has a new hero in this Netflix film written by and starring Adam Sandler. Set in Salem, Massachusetts, Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, Halloween's biggest fan and the unfortunate target of much mockery — until he becomes his hometown's last hope against a mysterious, and potentially monstrous, threat. 

With Sandler at the helm, it's no surprise that Hubie Halloween has more humour than horror, especially since the all-star cast includes everyone from Shaquille O'Neal to multiple Saturday Night Live alumni. Sandler admitted that he personally isn't a fan of things that go bump in the night (relatable). "In real life, I get scared pretty easy," he said in an interview with Polygon, so fellow fraidy cats, this one is a safe bet. 

Knives Out (Amazon) 

This critically acclaimed murder mystery is basically Clue come to life. There's plenty of suspense and action in the campy whodunit, without any actually frightening scenes. The ensemble cast is absolutely packed with A-list names, including Daniel Craig, LaKeith Stanfield, Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis, but the true scene-stealer is Chris Evans' perfect fall sweater, which has since become iconic. 

Pumpkin Movie (CBC Gem) 

It's a setup that feels all-too-familiar right now: two friends call each other over Skype to continue their annual Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins together. While hollowing out their gourds, the friends swap stories about creepy encounters with men. This 2018 documentary short from filmmaker Sophy Romvari isn't overtly scary, but the way it depicts the realities of gender inequality experience is definitely chilling.

Ghostbusters (Netflix) 

I'll admit, this film isn't perfect, but it is still a wildly good time with an outrageously funny all-female cast. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones star in this 2016 reboot of the 1984 classic film where a rag tag group of scientists and friends team up to battle New York City's pesky ghost problems. 

While we wait for the next generation of Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, to hit theatres in 2021, hunker down for a ghost-busting marathon, starting with the original Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, both available on Crave, and ending with the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot on Netflix.

Blood Quantum (Crave) 

Disclaimer: this film is absolutely not for anyone squeamish. That said, if you can stomach it (or watch it during the day, like I did), this highly-anticipated Canadian horror film from writer and director Jeff Barnaby is far less scary than it appears. Set on a fictitious Mi'kmaq reserve, Barnaby, who is Mi'kmaw from Listuguj, Que., puts a unique spin on the genre by creating a zombie apocalypse where the Mi'kmaq community are the only ones immune to bites. Yes, there's lots of blood, guts and gore, but what will stay with you is Blood Quantum's incisive commentary on Indigenous issues in Canada.   

Hocus Pocus (Disney+)

Originally released in 1993, the magic of Hocus Pocus has endured for decades. Set in Salem, this family-friendly Halloween classic was originally inspired by a bedtime story writers David Kirschner and Mike Garris used to tell their children about 17th century witches who are brought back from the dead. From witches and talking cats to teen romance, Hocus Pocus has it all — plus a particularly catchy rendition of "I Put a Spell on You" that you'll be singing well into November. 

October Kiss (Netflix) 

Fall in love (I'm so sorry, I had to) with a Halloween spin on the delightful romance we've come to expect from Hallmark. This 2015 film, now streaming on Netflix, tells the story of vivacious Poppy Summerhall (Ashley Williams) who is hired by hunky, workaholic single dad Ryan Lawson to be a temporary nanny. In true Hallmark fashion, October Kiss involves absolutely no surprises, but with scenes involving a harvest festival, homemade costumes, Halloween cookies and pumpkin carving. This is the perfect Halloween film for those who want something sweet and not at all scary. 

Evil Eye (Amazon) 

In this recently released thriller, Mississippi Masala's Sarita Choudhury stars as a superstitious mother fearful that her violent ex has been reincarnated and is now dating her daughter (Glow's Sunita Mani). Evil Eye one of four films released as part of Welcome to the Blumhouse's partnership with Amazon, celebrating work from diverse emerging filmmakers. I'll admit, this film is super predictable, but as someone who doesn't deal well with jump scares or tense scenes, it is a very watchable thriller — and ultimately an important allegory for the trauma of intimate partner violence.   

Backcountry (CBC Gem)

Filmed in Northern Ontario, this thriller is the epitome of man/woman versus nature. Jenn (Missy Peregrym) and husband Alex (Jeff Roop) set out on a camping expedition, hoping to find their way back to each other along the way. Instead, the urban couple find themselves being hunted by a predatory black bear. While this film doesn't have murderers, ghouls or goblins, critics have called it a subtle, tension-filled "slow-burn backwoods thriller" that is well worth a watch.   

What We Do in the Shadows (for rent on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video) 

Vampires, they're just like us — at least that's the premise of What We Do in the Shadows. This biting horror comedy follows roommates Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) and Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) as they figure out everyday tasks like paying rent, household chores and roommate tension. With overwhelmingly positive reviews, this film has been "Certified Fresh" by Rotten Tomatoes and the hilarious concept has since been turned into a highly acclaimed FX series, set to air its third season in 2021.

Ishani Nath is a freelance entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She has appeared as a pop culture expert on CBC, CTV and Global Radio and has bylines in Maclean's, FLARE, Chatelaine and more. Follow her @ishaninath.

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