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  • Donovan Darling

Reel Reviews: Spooky Cinema

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“Coraline” (2009)

The Carolanne Movie Poster

“You probably think this world is a dream come true, but you’re wrong.” Based on Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, it’s very much in the same vein as “A Nightmare Before Christmas” — dark and otherworldly. You’d think this is a Tim Burton film but it’s not — it was actually the feature film from Portland, OR-based LAIKA Studios, who went on to make “ParaNorman,” “Corpse Bride,” and many more. And it stands on its own! While definitely dark, it’s also whimsical, deeply imaginative and always adventurous. In the movie, Coraline (Dakota Fanning) discovers a parallel world with an alternate family and friends — while fun at first, it quickly becomes more of a nightmare. Also starring Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr. and Ian McShane, this is a great movie for the family. Rated PG for scary images, some language and suggestive humor.

“Hocus Pocus” (1993)

The Movie Poster for "Hocus Pocus"

“Why was I cursed with such idiot sisters?” A family-friendly ‘90s classic, “Hocus Pocus” is one of my Halloween go-tos. Starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy as three Salem witches who are resurrected for Halloween, it’s a story which follows new kids Max (Omri Katz ) and Dani (Thora Birch), as well as Allison (Vinessa Shaw ), local witch expert and Max’s girlfriend, as they battle The Sanderson Sisters to the grave! Although fictional, it’s partly based on a true story — the three sisters were indeed charged with witchcraft, one escaped while the other two were hanged. The movie, however, is pretty lightweight, fun and adventurous, including musical numbers and one-liner after one-liner — it’s plenty funny for adults but silly enough for kids. It’s a mature PG due to being scary to younger children and some mature language — I would say 6 and older. Rated PG.

“The Shining” (1980)

The movie poster for "The Shining"

“Here’s Johnny!” Stanley Kubrick’s iconic horror-thriller is of course based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. While the book was twice as long as needed, the film is as tight as you’d expect, starting off painstakingly calm and eerie until it builds to a horrifying and dramatic crescendo. Starring Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance), Shelley Duvall (Wendy) and Danny Lloyd (Danny), this story follows the Torrance family as they agree to caretake the huge and remote Overlook Hotel during wintertime. If you’ve somehow never seen it, this is classic horror cinema — a mystery unfolding in a place that isn’t what it seems — and the seemingly ordinary family is anything but. It’s a masterclass overall in acting, directing and score — a must-see for Halloween. Teens and older only. Rated R for mature content, language, and violence.

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