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Halloween Movies for Wimps

A selection of spooky, but not too stomach curdling films for those who want to bring the Halloween spirit but not turn their Fall Fest into a Fear Fest

I love Halloween, I really do: Watching all the elaborate, scary decorations pop up in the lawns of the best houses in your neighborhood. Packing your kitchen full of pumpkin spice treats, Count Chocula cereal, and those brilliant little Halloween Oreos with the funny orange filling. Planning a list of costumes months in advance. No one gets more involved than me, okay? Halloween starts with September, not October, in my house. But there’s one part of the festivities that you’ll never catch me participating in, and it’s because of one big problem I have. I’m a massive wimp. Well, maybe massive is a bit too far. Let’s just say I’m a wimp. Plain, old wimp. A low caliber, casual living wimp. 

Being a low caliber, casual living wimp, but still wanting to  watch some horror movies isn’t easy. Especially as I am a very analytical, prone-to-overthinking wimp. Google never really has all the answers for me. Not even the Redditors have addressed all my plights. “Are the Scream movies really that scary?” will not give the right information. My questions range way outside that limited scope – Is it gory? Or does it just have scary monsters? Will it make me paranoid? Provoke anxiety? How realistic is the gore? Is there possession? If so, what kind? Will there be creepy Catholic elements or allusions? (Former Catholic school student here, cannot stand the evil nuns, brings back memories…)  There’s a lot to consider; the possibilities are endless. Don’t worry though, because I love movies, I love Halloween, and I’m willing to dedicate my time to stupid things. And with that dedication, I hope to provide a list of some 10+ great Halloween media for wimps!


Scream (1996),  Scream 2 (1997)

My first major recommendation is the Scream franchise, specifically the first two movies in the original trilogy. Filled with clever dramatic irony, engaging commentary, and laughable scenes, they are the perfect not-so-scary scary movies for wimpy film fanatics. After hyping myself up to finally brave the first movie, I was pleasantly surprised at my reaction, and the quality of the film itself. Not only is it a good movie, it was the perfect intro to horror to me. By the end of the franchise, I had even become a  somewhat-full-fledged horror fan. Actually, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… the whole point of this article is that it was not very scary.  

Any jumpscare you may fearfully anticipate will not be without warning. When Ghostface is about to barge into the house armed with his handy-dandy knife, you will know – He called ahead! You may not know the exact second, but it’s coming, you’ve been warned. There’s no monsters, ghouls, possession, or anything supernatural, just a fella in a mask. You even see him squirm and struggle trying to get to his victims, humbling the character a bit and bringing you back down to earth; he’s human too, not transcending into supreme spooky power in any way.  

To me, the man-behind-the-mask aspect, that continues in every film with a new masked killer, made the film feel like more of a mystery than anything. You get to make guesses, look at clues and motivations. Who has donned the Ghostface mask this time around? 

With the killing, there of course comes the gore. Don’t worry though, you see way more of the result than the process. Ghostface dismembers his victims, but you don’t see his ‘artistic process’. Gutting, stabbing, bone-breaking, a little bit of everything, but not for the viewer. You will see the gutted man, the stabbing victim, the pools of blood, the broken bones, but not very often will you see how they occurred. 

For the first, and most kills, you see the initial realization of the victim. They realize they’ve been talking to a killer, and he’ll be here any second. You see him break in after a few moments of anticipation. You see them play a game of cat and mouse. Running and hiding, throwing things, trying to escape. Then, he finally does it. The initial mark is made. From there, the perspective will be switched to the merciless killer- the mask, and the man behind it making stabbing motions, but not always is the victim shown in the process.

In most situations, Ghostface is kind enough to only show the initial stab, the success in finally getting his victim. Besides that, the focus is only on the before and after. This provides for thrilling tension but minimal moments of squirming. Emotional, but not physical, discomfort. Predictable but tense formula makes for a perfect movie that combines horror and fear with a measure of control that makes it bearable for any wimp.


Death Becomes Her (1996)

I highly encourage anyone, not just the wimps, to indulge themselves in the campy comedy and soon-to-be classic that is Death Becomes Her (1992). Equipped with a total all-star cast, Death Becomes Her shows Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis in some of the most underrated, quirky roles of their careers. The film is certainly not scary, but has enough supernatural and beyond-the-grave elements to make you feel like you’re watching a Halloween movie. Resilient, silly, over-the-top characters paired with hilarious dialogue and situations make the film incredibly entertaining. There is a bit of ‘body horror’, but it is all very obviously fake and done with cheesy-looking CGI. For example, a character falls down the stairs and you see her head and bones all turn around backwards. It is treated as a funny moment, and she is still alive and walking around. The movie’s poster shows you just about the worst thing you’ll see in the movie: Meryl Streep’s head on backwards. 

Revolving around main character Helen’s revenge plan against her arch-romantic nemesis Madeline, the mediocre man that fueled it, and the otherworldly potion that got swept up into it. To the film savvy viewer, this creative, colorful almost-scary supernatural romp is a 90’s gem that has been long over-looked.

As seen in many 90’s movies, the one major flaw is that a fat person is used at the expense of a makeover, or transformation. Helen, having gone off the rail after Madeline has stolen yet another of her fiances, is shown to have gained weight and is living in a dirty, hoarding state. This part of the movie is only shown as a prequel at the beginning of the movie to jumpstart the plot in which Helen has had a full “transformation” many years later, and is now “fabulous.” Additionally, a lot of the movie focuses around unrealistic beauty standards, as characters are motivated to do whatever it takes to look young again, and are shown receiving various plastic surgeries, and even taking magic potions. Although it is present, it is not promoting the behavior, as it shows the characters in a heavily exaggerated manner, and highlights what their greed for beauty drives them to in a non-serious way. Despite the fact that the aforementioned unrealistic beauty standards can be a heavy topic, the movie does not treat it as such, primarily approaching it as a comedy.

With all these components combined, this makes for a film that is more thoughtful than scary. The best part there is that if any of the supernatural elements are not to your taste, the comedy and commentary will give you something you can always consider on the side, looking into the deeper messages that this Halloween-esque performance hides.


Practical Magic (1998)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Practical Magic. Zero issues. Zero complaints. Involving an actual and effective story for the main characters, a heart-warming portrayal of sisterhood, beautiful witchy fashions, revenge against an abusive boyfriend (via hexes?! Even better!), and so, so much more! This movie is maybe, if I say so myself, the best ever. Perhaps I got a bit ahead of myself, but it’s definitely up there. 

Regarding any horror elements, there’s not a lot to worry about. Although there is possession, any fear you may experience will be majorly undermined by all the fun you’ll be having and the love you will be feeling. A man is killed, and the girls use some witchcraft to bring him back (warning: it goes wrong), his spirit haunts them for a bit, and at some point, he also possesses one of the sisters. Despite this, none of it is very frightening. It is very clearly not real because of the quality, and is presented lightheartedly with the other elements of the movie.

I wouldn’t want to give away too much of the magic, because this movie is very much worth the “untainted” watch, but just always remember to check warnings, and have some fun with it! Go watch it, then come back and we can talk. I promise, it’s worth it.


Scooby-Doo (2002)

Now I know what you might be thinking: Really? My rebuttal is simple: Yes, really, definitely, certainly! Imagine being responsible for just the casting on this movie. Just iconic. And every part from cast to post follows suit. I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but I’m not not saying it’s a masterpiece… let’s just leave it at that. 

You might notice a bit of a ‘90s to early 2000s’ pattern in my recommendations now, but not without good reason. It was certainly a great time for movies, and Scooby-Doo brings all the best teen-flick actors of the period together for a scarily-fun movie. Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lilard, and Linda Cardellini all bring their characters to life in a way I imagine no one else could, and that alone is enough to warrant a watch from me. 

There is really nothing scary about Scooby-Doo. I promise. Go ahead, take my word for it. I dare you. Seriously though, there is nothing to worry about here, since Scooby Doo is (technically) a children’s movie, any depicted ghouls or goblins are goofy-looking, and the subpar CGI definitely contributes to that. 

Since this movie may not always be the absolute most engaging, I recommend putting it on in the background during your awesome wimp-themed Halloween party whilst you gather around and get up to whatever festivities you desire. Also, it’s great for a watch with friends of whom you are not 100% sure of their tolerance to horror, but still want to present some Halloween themed media. That is, of course, unless you are incredibly invested in Scooby-Doo, and dedicated to properly analyzing it to its fullest potential. In that case, you could always have a solo, “serious” watch. That’s always an option, too. 


The Craft (1996)

When it comes to the battle between scary and disturbing, The Craft is a bit of a difficult case to solve. The Craft disturbed me, but it did not scare me. If you, like me, are able to handle heavy subjects like self-harm and mental health issues, and weirdly enough, not handle fictional things such as vampires, then you might like The Craft. The first half of the movie feels like a dark, witchy Mean Girls, but just as you experience in Mean Girls, the second half shows the characters’ descent as the situation consumes them – except this time with a little more hallucinations, erratic behavior from crazed teenage witches, and self-harm imagery. Sounds like fun, right?

 The only monsters in The Craft are the teenage witches themselves, whose downfall is portrayed quite heavily and directly. There are no masked lunatics on the loose. There is no possession, and although the girls do attend Catholic school, religious imagery and allusions are at a minimum. The girls practice a type of witchcraft revolving around Manon, a fictional figure exclusively associated with the movie. 

The main “scary”, or possible phobia issue you will encounter is a completely, unnecessarily insane amount of bugs. Just absurd, really. Little cockroaches and creepy crawlies and even scorpions. And snakes – They’re a very present motif in the film, even when not being directly or obviously present. There are walls of snakes, sinks filled with snakes, fingers turning into snakes. You name it, the snakes became it! 

The Craft includes a lot of 90’s elements you might expect in a movie revolving around a group of teenage girls, but it also contains a lot that tries to go against the 90’s stereotypical vein. There is a montage of a well-dressed female friend group sauntering through the halls after a makeover (bonus point: they’re gothic!), revenge plots against bullies and jerky “exes”, and sleepovers. This is all, of course, in addition to witchcraft, (minor) murder, manipulation, and assault. 

There are so many specific triggers to cover with this one, so just as I would advise you to with any prospective watch, make sure to check trigger warnings online! This movie includes depictions of sexual assault, self-harm, abuse, mental health issues, attempted suicide, racism, and more. No one knows your limits better than you. A very helpful resource that will include a lot of specific triggers is

But, because it combines all these elements so tactfully, and it plays them against a backdrop that simultaneously embraces stereotypical 90’s highschool hijinks and comments on the superficiality of those very same stereotypes, the horror can often be an easily approachable aesthetic backdrop to what ends up being an excellent teenage drama. If you’re up for heavy topics, the light horror of this film will not disappoint. 


Twilight (2008)

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “First Scooby Doo, now this? Who does she think I am?” First, let’s humble ourselves a bit, wimps. Second, watching Twilight for the first time with my mom was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m not even kidding. I’m not going to say it’s a bad movie, but the quality is definitely, at times, laughable – but that, in addition to some silly dialogue, is what makes it so much fun. 

This might just be an opinion influenced by my love for What We Do in the Shadows, but vampires can’t be scary to me. I mean, they’re just silly guys. I promise though, in terms of any possibly frightening vampires, the Cullen family does not need to be on your list. No matter how much of a wimp you are, I’m going to go ahead and assume you already have some knowledge of the fact that Twilight is not traditionally called a horror movie. Or, if you don’t let me be the first to tell you. Twilight is not a horror movie, it’s a fun movie.

Twilight, therefore, ends up being convenient in the same way Scooby Doo was. Perfect for group settings where Halloween motifs are required, but horror is not. Even more than that, I swear you will be impacted by this movie in a way you wouldn’t, or maybe don’t want to expect. Just pretend its a normal vampire film, and let the fun of the ride carry you along!


Bonus: Halloween specials on TV! 

As a wimp and an avid sitcom and cartoon enjoyer, there is still a lot of Halloween content at my disposal, despite a lack of interest in especially scary movies. Watching all the seasonal episodes for your favorite shows is always something to look forward to as holidays come around. Halloween is no exception: there are plenty of great Halloween episodes out there! Sitcoms are especially great for Halloween specials. With the format of a sitcom, there are traditionally many episodes and seasons – so, you get used to, and fond of, the characters. Watching a sitcom episode where the characters, who are portrayed as genuine real-life people, celebrate the same holiday you’re celebrating is something so special. There’s nothing more comforting, more familiar. 

Two of my favorite cartoons growing up, Gravity Falls and Phineas and Ferb, both have incredible halloween specials. While Gravity Falls, weighing in at only two seasons, has only one Halloween episode, as opposed to Phineas and Ferb’s eight over the span of four seasons, Gravity Falls is able to make up for it with the astounding quality of each episode. I am able to confidently recommend that you watch any or all of these Halloween episodes. I just don’t think it ever gets more fun than this. Cartoons? Halloween? TOGETHER? Yes, please! 

Gravity Falls: 

“Summerween” Season 1, episode 12. 

Phineas and Ferb: 

“One Good Scare Ought to Do It!” Season 1, episode 39.

 “The Monster of Phineas-n-Ferbenstein” Season 1: episode 40, 

“That’s the Spirit“ Season 3: episode 22,

 “The Curse of Candace“ Season 3: episode 23, 

“Druselsteinoween“ Season 4: episode 17, 

“Face Your Fear” Season 4: episode 19,

“Terrifying Tri-State Trilogy of Terror” Season 4: episode 26,

“Night of the Living Pharmacists“ Season 4: episode 44.


I would also be totally remiss to not mention Over the Garden Wall. Coming in at a svelte hour and fifty minutes, this episodic collection of fall themed vignettes took the artistic, autumn-enthusiast, and general cartoon-enjoying world by storm when it came out in 2014, and became an instant classic. If you enjoy talking frogs, Victorian Americana, nostalgic locales, and quirky characters, or if you just want to watch the only piece of media to include both Elijah Wood and John Cleese (as a witch!), then you must watch Over the Garden Wall. Again, no spoilers here, just go watch, then come back and we can chat.

Finally, two of my favorite sitcoms both have their own collections of great Halloween episodes. Even if you’ve never seen any episodes of the series, I recommend still watching these episodes if you’re looking for more Halloween content. My all-time favorite sitcom, Community, and the one that made me fall in love with sitcoms, Modern Family, are both full of lively characters who love Halloween as much as I do. Another sitcom that has a great Halloween episode is Abbott Elementary. The show has recently begun its second season, so here’s to hoping that in the future, there will be new Halloween episodes to come. 



I hope you are able to enjoy the movies I’ve included as much as I do. Of course, there are a lot of basic recommendations I’m missing here: classics like Beetlejuice, The Corpse Bride, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, but mainly I wanted to recommend some you either may not have thought of, or did not know you’d like. Lastly, I’d like to reiterate that before watching any of these movies, you should always check trigger warnings online yourself (Trigger warning website). You are the only person who knows your limits, and there are things I may have missed. Thank you for reading, and happy Halloween!

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    Vivi CNov 3, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    wonderfully written !!! i will have to rewatch the scooby doo movie tho… don’t know if i trust this recommendation