Treat your family to some fun Halloween movies

Published 6:25 pm Friday, October 23, 2020

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Like many things this year, Halloween will look different than usual because of the ongoing pandemic. I think if there’s anything we’ve learned from the experience, it’s that we’re all capable of being innovative and thinking outside the box for new ways to enjoy the things we usually do in a safer manner.

I mentioned in my column a few weeks ago that there are guidelines from the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) on how to celebrate Halloween in a way that won’t also spread the virus to other people. I know plenty of children look forward to the traditional “trick-or-treating” but this year can be an opportunity to start a new tradition. Or to at least try something out of the ordinary for one year until we can resume life as usual again.

Full disclosure: I don’t have children myself, but the recommendations do seem like fun activities for the whole family. They include things like pumpkin carving and Halloween-themed scavenger hunts. If you really want the trick-or-treat experience without leaving your house, maybe send your kids from room to room in your home and let them pretend they’re visiting other houses. (That one actually isn’t a NCDHHS recommendation, but I think it seems like a nice way to get the whole family involved in Halloween fun.)

Another option to celebrate while staying home is to gather around the TV and enjoy some holiday-themed movies or series. Here are a few of my recommendations (some of which I’ve mentioned in this space before but are worth repeating):

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is probably the first Halloween movie that comes to my mind. (It also technically doubles as a Christmas movie!) Jack Skellington, the “pumpkin king” of Halloweentown, sets off to break out of his usual scary routine and try to celebrate Christmas instead… though with its own ghoulish spin. The movie has several memorable songs and the stop-motion animation is not something you see much these days. With a theme of “trying something new,” I think this movie is particularly apt for this year.

Disney’s 2017 film “Coco” isn’t actually a Halloween movie at all, but it’s appropriate for this time of year too since it takes place during a Day of the Dead celebration, a Mexican holiday held on the day after Halloween. Not only is the story of young Miguel’s journey home very entertaining, but the movie is a good way to expose children to how a different culture celebrates its own holiday. The movie emphasizes the importance of family, and I think many of us have been reminded this year how much we should treasure our family.

Things are not always what the seem to be in “Over the Garden Wall”, an Emmy-winning miniseries which first aired on Cartoon Network in 2014. I just recently watched the series for the first time and really enjoyed the story, which centers on two lost brothers (and a talking bluebird) trying to find their way home after stumbling into a forest called The Unknown. The series has an autumnal vibe throughout and a connection to Halloween that isn’t revealed until the series is almost over. The story is quite charming and draws some inspiration from older cartoons, making it a somewhat nostalgic watch for adults too.

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is, of course, the ultimate Halloween classic. (“I got a rock” is perhaps the most memorable line from the special for me. I used to quote it all the time.) There’s just something about the Peanuts characters that always puts a smile on people’s faces. Usually you can catch the short cartoon, which first aired in 1966, on TV as the holiday approaches, but apparently this year it won’t be on network TV at all! Apple TV, one of the many streaming services out there, recently acquired the rights to all the Charlie Brown holiday specials.

It’s a bit disappointing that families aren’t able to enjoy the wait for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch alongside Linus this year. But perhaps now is a good time to find the cartoon on DVD so you don’t have to rely on paying for a streaming service to watch something you really enjoy.

Actually, maybe you should try to find all of these recommendations on DVD if you, like myself, have unreliable internet access and aren’t able to sign up for all these different streaming services! Perhaps you’ll start a new Halloween moving-watching tradition this year that you’ll want to continue in the future.

Though all these stories contain a few tricks along the way, I think they’re really more of a treat for the whole family.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.