Confession: I’m a wimp who doesn’t like scary movies or TV shows. Last year, I forced myself to watch Midsommar and had brightly-lit, flower-laden nightmares for days. Unsolved Mysteries gives me anxiety. I’ve never seen a single episode of American Horror Story.
If you’re like me, you won’t be streaming any horror movies on Netflix or creepy series on Halloween. But if you want to binge watch something this holiday weekend, here are the top 10 not-too-scary, Halloween-adjacent recommendations ranging from lighthearted comedies to supernatural teen dramas to animated romps.
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What We Do in the Shadows
The mockumentary-style series was created by Jemaine Clement based on the 2014 film he co-wrote with Taika Waititi (available on Amazon) – so its comedic heritage is sterling. The story follows three vampires (plus an energy vampire) living in Staten Island with a much-put-upon human familiar. What We Do in the Shadows is wickedly, drily funny but it also has a surprising amount of heart.
Where to watch: Hulu (free with subscription)
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
The beloved animated special aired on broadcast television for decades — until this year, when Apple TV Plus took it hostage. On the bright side: the streaming service is making it free for anyone, including non-subscribers, from Oct. 30 through Nov. 1. It’s not the same, but in 2020, what is? The Great Pumpkin especially resonates right now, with its melancholy tone and themes of despair and delusion. Oh, and you know, believing in conspiracy theories.
Where to watch: Apple TV Plus (free, no subscription required until Nov. 2)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Halloween is the perfect time to rewatch Steven Spielberg’s classic film. Not only does it include the the holiday itself — E.T. dresses up as a ghost, remember? — but it's perfect to consume with all the Reeses Pieces you can find. More than that, it captures the wonder and mystery and excitement that you felt as a kid trick-or-treating with friends on Halloween.
The premise of this 1993 cult classic is pretty dark: A trio of witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy) want to suck the souls out of kids so they can live forever. But Hocus Pocus winds up being campy and absurd, thanks to the kooky outfits and performances of the lead actresses.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Summon Tim Burton’s horror-comedy, which stars Michael Keaton as the eponymous demon who’s trying to haunt a family away from their home. While there are some creepy moments, the movie is more funny than frightening and Beetlejuice ends up being more charming than monstrous.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Halloween episodes
Many long-running sitcoms have annual holiday episodes, like Friends did with Thanksgiving. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has their hilarious annual Halloween Heists, which pit the officers of the precinct against each other in a battle to steal a certain object. The winner is named Ultimate Detective/Genius. There are seven heists, one for each season, and all of them will make you LOL.
Where to watch: Hulu (with subscription)
Pixar’s gorgeous, heart-tugging movie is literally adjacent to Halloween — on the calendar. It centers on Dia de Los Muertos, the Mexican holiday on November 1 that honors loved ones who have passed away. A boy named Miguel goes on an adventure in the Land of the Dead to find a way to reverse his family’s ban on music. Young kids may find some parts slightly scary but overall, Coco is a reaffirming, inspiring and soaring tale.
Shaun of the Dead
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s witty take on a zombie flick is a perfect Halloween watch for wimps. It’s got monsters and thrills, but it’s also droll, sarcastic and uproarious. There’s no time to be scared when you’re laughing at all the jokes that Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis and the rest are throwing around as they fight for survival in the local pub.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Another Tim Burton classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas celebrates two holidays in one story! It follows Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, who stumbles into Christmas Town and decides to take over from Santa Claus. The movie is sometimes creepy and macabre, but in an endearing way, and ultimately uplifting and even touching.
The Vampire Diaries
Put attractive vampires, werewolves and witches into a teen romance setting and you get a pretty and pretty addicting result. Some of the characters are monsters because they drink blood; others are monsters because they’re, like, bad boyfriends. For a heady potion of the supernatural and love triangles, binge the eight seasons of The Vampire Diaries.
Where to watch: Netflix
The Addams Family
The eccentric family featured in a new animated film last year, but my heart lays with the 1991 version with Raul Julia and Anjelica Houston as Gomez and Morticia Addams. Each and every family member — from Uncle Fester to Cousin Itt to Lurch — is weird and strange, but they’re all lovable oddballs. While the plot doesn’t involve Halloween at all, The Addams Family are the true essence of the holiday.